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Wagner and the Wonder of Art: An Introduction to Die Meistersinger [Paperback]

M. Owen Lee

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Book Description

Dec 15 2007

Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger has always called forth superlatives from those who have fallen under its spell. Toscanini wanted to lay his baton down for the last time only after he had conducted a performance of it. Paderewski called it 'the greatest work of genius ever achieved by any artist in any field of human endeavour.' H.L. Mencken declared, 'It took more skill to plan and write it than it took to plan and write the whole canon of Shakespeare.'

And yet Wagner's many-splendoured comedy has come under severe criticism in recent years for what has been called its 'dark underside,' its 'fascist brutality,' and its 'ugly anti-Semitism.' In Wagner and the Wonder of Art, renowned opera expert M. Owen Lee addresses that criticism. He also provides an introduction to the opera and an analysis that will surprise even those veteran operagoers who may not have explored the work's intricate structure and the emotional drama at its centre. The book includes the on-air commentary that Father Lee gave during the first radio broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera after the events of 9/11. He thought it necessary, after attempting to refute the charges leveled against Wagner's opera, to say something about its truthfulness, its life-affirming music, its insight into the madness that can destroy human lives, and its witness to the importance of art for the survival of our civilizations.

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‘Reading Wagner and the Wonder in Art is the next best thing to attending a performance of Die Meistersinger with Father Lee himself. This book amply demonstrates the author’s passion for Wagner's great comedy and how it speaks (sings) to humanity today. Only a formidable mind could have written such an insightful and thoroughly enjoyable book.’

-- Christopher Purdy, Executive Director, WOSU Public Media

About the Author

M. Owen Lee, CSB, is a Catholic priest and Professor Emeritus of Classics at St. Michael's College, University of Toronto. He is a commentator for the Texaco Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts and the author of a number of books on opera, including A Season of Opera: From Orpheus to Ariadne (UTP 1998) and Wagner: The Terrible Man and His Truthful Art (UTP 199).

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will make a Meistersinger lover out of you! March 19 2009
By Ron Meyers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've been slow getting into Meistersinger. It's probably my second to least favorite of the Master's works. But I've been collecting some classic recordings and researching the opera to see what the fuss is about. Father Lee's short book was terrific! Insightful in the way it explains the structure and importance in this long work, he also tackles a number of the controversies surrounding Meistersinger (e.g., German nationalism, anti-semitism). I listened to the opera fresh after reading the book, and I must say I was hooked. A must read for anyone who considers Wagner great....or who doubts it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonder on wonder now appears... Dec 13 2012
By BigBadZep - Published on Amazon.com
To a good portion of music fans, Wagner's reputation rests solely on two works: Der Ring des Nibelungen and Tristan und Isolde. Indeed, there are many who seem to believe the "Ride of the Valkyries" encompasses his entire style of composition. However, those who have explored Wagner's work a little further realize what treasures are to be found in his other music dramas. In fact many Wagnerians, myself included, consider Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg to be our favorite among the bunch and know it deserves to stand right alongside The Ring and Tristan as a genuine masterpiece. Father Lee is another who holds that opinion, and this book is a testimony to his love for Die Meistersinger.

Father Lee is one of the most discerning and concise writers on Wagner, as anyone who has read his book on The Ring, Wagner's Ring: Turning the Sky Round, can attest to. As good as that book is, Wagner and the Wonder of Art is even better. Where as in Turning the Sky Round Lee devotes a chapter to each of the operas of the Ring, here he devotes an entire chapter to each ACT of Die Meistersinger. You can imagine how many more details he is able to cover. Not only does he provide an eloquent synopsis of the plot, he also discusses this opera in the context of other great comedies in Western Civilization, the many layers of metaphor in the work, and so much more.

This is a wonderful book for those who are looking to explore Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg for the first time, as well as those who are already enchanted by it and want to gain even greater insights into this great work of art.
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite popular writer on opera May 31 2014
By Alan A. Fisher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
M. Owen Lee used to give the best programs of anyone on the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts, and virtually all of his books are equally enjoyable. I probably have all of his books and always enjoy reading them.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond Wonderful Sept. 10 2013
By Charles Scribner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ever since attending Die Meistersinger at the Met, I considered it the Sistine Ceiling of opera. But not until reading Owen Lee's masterly book--one can read it all in much less time than the opera takes to perform!--did I fully appreciate the genius of Wagner, his opera, and the art form. This is quite simply the best book I have ever read about music and drama. It is life-enhancing. It is a treasure.

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