Göteborgs Konserthus Nina Stemme sings Wagner

Event has already taken place. Burning desire with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, conductor Ryan Bancroft and soprano Nina Stemme.

Concert length: 2 h incl. intermission Scene: Stora salen
370-530 SEK Student 185-265 SEK

Event has already taken place

Nina Stemme is one of Sweden’s most internationally acclaimed dramatic sopranos, and Wagner is something of her speciality. Here we get to hear her in Wesendonck Lieder, which Wagner composed at the same time as Tristan und Isolde. The music portrays burning desire, heavenly beauty and impassioned longing. It is evident from Alexander von Zemlinsky’s symphonic fantasia The Mermaid that the Austrian composer was strongly influenced by Wagner’s music.

Zemlinsky was fascinated by the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Here we get to hear his imaginative representation of the tale of the mermaid who saves the life of a prince when his ship sinks. The music evokes a sense of both the stormy emotions and the powerful waves of the violent sea. The concert begins with music by the acclaimed British but New York-based composer Hannah Kendall. The orchestra is led by Ryan Bancroft, who will be the new Chief Conductor of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra from the 2023-2024 season.

Dirigenten Ryan Bancroft lutar sig över ett notblad med pennan i hand, det går ljusstrålar från notbladet.


Introduction to the concert

Take a seat in the Great Hall one hour before the concert begins and learn more about the music you will soon experience! You will get the stories behind the music, knowledge of the composers and own reflections about the classical pieces. The introduction last for about 30 minutes, it is free and free seating in the hall. Warm welcome!

The concert is performed with translation on a text machine. Swedish text Sven Lenninger.


Hannah Kendall The Spark Catchers 10 min

Richard Wagner (1813–1883) Wesendonck Lieder (orch. Felix Mottl) Fünf Gedichte von Mathilde Wesendonk Der Engel · Stehe still · Im Treibhaus · Schmerzen · Träume Richard Wagner only composed around twenty songs, including a handful in 1839–1842, when he tried in vain to win the hearts of Parisians. The next step was in 1857–1858: in political asylum in Zürich during his most revolutionary period, he simultaneously became involved in a passionate romance with Mathilde Wesendonck, the wife of a wealthy Swiss silk merchant. Wagner and his wife had a cottage on the family’s estate in the countryside. One thing is for certain: as a revolutionary, Wagner was guided more by artistic dreams than political convictions. He worked on Tristan und Isolde and read his libretto for the opera to his lover. She was delighted and responded with her own poetry, which was infused with the same spirit. Wagner was captivated by her poems and set them to music. He composed Der Engel, Schmerzen and Träume in the winter of 1857. They were completed the following May. In the first poem, she portrays Wagner as a saviour of art. On the sheet music for the sketches of Act I of Tristan, he wrote: “To the angel who has lifted me up so high”. Love may have enchanted them, but practically speaking, working with Mathilde’s five poems provided inspiration for Tristan. Material ur Im Treibhaus (In the Greenhouse) was incorporated into the introduction of Act III. Schmerzen (Pain) begins with the same chord as Act II, and Träume (Dreams) can be viewed as an initial version of the love duet in that act. In a letter written exactly one year after completing the song, while Wagner was in Venice working on Act II of Tristan, he wrote: “I have taken a long break and I could not continue in the right mood. That caused me great concern. I was unable to progress. Then, Evil came knocking: he introduced himself to me as my trusty muse, and in a minute the passage was complete. I sat at the piano and wrote it down quickly, as if I had known it by heart all along. Strictly speaking, it contains a reminiscence: Dreams haunt there …” The songs were first presented at the home of the publisher Schott on 30 July 1862. But today, the Wesendonck songs are often heard with orchestral accompaniment. He orchestrated Träume for solo violin and chamber orchestra in celebration of Mathilde’s birthday on 23 December. In a letter to Mathilde, Wagner wrote: “I have never made anything better than these songs …” STIG JACOBSSON

Intermission 25 min

Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871–1942) DIE SEEJUNGFRAU Alexander von Zemlinsky is one of the gifted Jewish composers from the turn of the last century whose music was labelled “degenerate” by the Nazis. He taught composition and orchestration (Arnold Schoenberg was one of his students), and was also a conductor, primarily in Vienna. In Die Seejungfrau, The Mermaid, he uses all of his knowledge to convey water and longing. The brush strokes are broad, with a melody beginning in the cello that moves up to the violins and concludes in a solo instrument. At other times, the entire orchestra is a disturbed ocean. In this story, the symphony orchestra is as key to setting the mood as in a movie about outer space. The mermaid longs to reach the surface; the sea witch lurks in the depths, and the mermaid’s love for the prince is so strong that she sacrifices first her entire watery world, then her fish tail, and ultimately her very life for love. Unrequited love may have been a motivating factor for both Hans Christian Andersen and for Zemlinsky in the creation of this story. The Danish storyteller was in love with Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind, a love she never returned. And if she had, he most likely would have been terrified. As far as we know, Andersen never had a love affair with a woman. Zemlinsky, on the other hand, seems to have been quite successful in love, despite his protruding eyes, big nose, sloping chin and 157 centimetres. But not long before composing The Mermaid, he had had a less successful affair with one of his composition students: Alma Schindler, who later married Gustav Mahler. Alma was a tall, incredibly beautiful woman and their relationship lasted nine months. But Zemlinsky was neither rich nor successful, and Alma’s friends and family advised her against the match. She was absolutely not the cold, disdainful woman described in the Grove dictionary of music, which mentioned her in half a sentence as a Jewish woman who rejected him on account of his unsightly appearance. In any case, Zemlinsky was of course disappointed and some say The Mermaid can be interpreted as his portrait of himself and Alma Schindler. If so, the mermaid and wonders of the sea represent him, while she is the prince – human beauty, perfected. Far more than depicting the story’s narrative, the music portrays the mermaid’s longing, vision of death, love, loneliness and suffering. Life went on for Zemlinsky after his separation from Alma Schindler. He had two marriages and emigrated to the US to escape the Nazis. Sadly, he was never successful there, as he had a stroke before managing to become established in his new home country. He died three years later. The music was first performed in its entirety in 1984. KATARINA A KARLSSON


The Gothenburg Symphony, called "one of the world's most formidable orchestras" by the Guardian, has toured the USA, Europe, Japan and the Far East and performed at major music centres and festivals throughout the world. Chief conductor is Santtu-Matias Rouvali who started his tenure in 2017. Barbara Hannigan and Christoph Eschenbach are principal guest conductors since 2019. Already at the orchestra's very first years, the great Swedish composer Wilhelm Stenhammar was appointed principal conductor, contributing strongly to the Nordic profile of the orchestra by inviting his colleagues Carl Nielsen and Jean Sibelius to conduct their own works. Subsequent holders of the post include Sergiu Comissiona, Sixten Ehrling and Charles Dutoit. During Neeme Järvi's tenure (1982-2004), the orchestra became a major international force. In 1997 it was appointed the National Orchestra of Sweden. During his celebrated tenure as music director (2007-2012), Gustavo Dudamel took the Orchestra to major music centres and festivals in Europe, making acclaimed appearances at BBC Proms and Vienna Musikverein. The list of prominent guest conductors has included Wilhelm Furtwängler, Pierre Monteux, Herbert von Karajan, Myung-Whun Chung, Herbert Blomstedt and Sir Simon Rattle. The orchestra also runs extensive concert projects for children, and regularly releases digital live concerts free on gsoplay.se. The orchestra has been involved in many prestigious recording projects, the latest one the complete Sibelius Symphonies with Santtu-Matias Rouvali for Alpha Classics. Earlier, the orchestra has issued over 100 recordings on BIS, Deutsche Grammophon, Chandos, Farao Classics and several other labels. The Gothenburg Symphony is owned by the Region Västra Götaland.

Ryan Bancroft grew up in Los Angeles and first came to international attention when he won both first prize and the audience prize at the 2018 Malko Conducting Competition. Since then, his career has skyrocketed: in 2019 he was appointed new Principal Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and after his first visit to Tapiola Sinfonietta, he was offered to become the orchestra's Artist in Association. He has also had successful collaborations with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. In the 2023-2024 season, 33-year-old Ryan Bancroft takes over as the new chief conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Stockholm.

Soprano Nina Stemme has been singing lead roles in operas by Wagner, Strauss, Puccini and Verdi for a long time in the biggest opera houses, such as the Wiener Staatsoper, Covent Garden, La Scala, Metropolitan and Bayreuth. Her repertoire includes Isolde in Tristan and Isolde, Senta in The Flying Dutchman, Marshallin in Der Rosenkavalier, Sieglinde in Die Walküre, Margareta in Faust as well as Jenufa and Salome. The London staging of Tristan and Isolde, directed by Christoph Loy, earned two Lawrence Olivier statuettes, both for Best Production and Best Performance by a Cast. Recent successes include Brünnhilde at La Scala, Fidelio with Claudio Abbado at the Lucerne Festival (opposite Jonas Kaufmann in a highly praised recording), Leonora in Fidelio at Covent Garden, Elisabeth in Tannhäuser in Paris and not least Brünnhilde in San Francisco. On disc, she can be heard in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (opposite Placido Domingo, EMI), Wesendonck songs (BIS) and The Flying Dutchman (Chandos), as well as Beethoven's Fidelio (Decca) and Richard Strauss's Vier letzte Lieder (EMI). On DVD: Der Rosenkavalier, Aida, Jenufa and Tristan and Isolde. Nina Stemme, who was named the best singer of the year by the German magazine Operwelt, has been a court singer since 2006 and received the Litteris et Artibus in 2008. She has been awarded both the honorary prize among the government's export prize and the Birgit Nilsson prize (2018). In the spring of 2022, she has sung both Siegfried and Valkyrian at the Wiener Staatsoper. In addition she played the leading role of Elektra in Strauss's opera at The Metropolitan Opera in New York. "Sometimes she was forced to brace herself for the role's most punishing outbursts. Yet she delivered them as if with a dragon's breath," wrote the New York Times of Stemme's performance. Nina Stemme has been a guest of the Gothenburg Symphony eight times before.

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