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Publisher's Summary

In these 24 lectures filled with musical excerpts, enjoy a rich and multifaceted exploration of the trailblazing works and outsized life of this historically pivotal composer.

Your immersion in Wagner's art includes the following:

  • The Flying Dutchman (which illustrates several of Wagner's key compositional innovations)
  • Tannhäuser (the saga of a medieval knight torn between two worlds)
  • Tristan and Isolde (Wagner's crowning masterpiece)
  • And, of course, The Ring of the Nibelung (arguably the single most ambitious theater work ever created)

The sheer outlandishness of Wagner's life makes for an endlessly intriguing story, from his desperate escapades outrunning creditors to his obsessive personal relationships to his utopian artistic schemes. In his writings, letters, and public actions, you investigate the often contradictory - and hypocritical - aspects of his personality. And, reflecting on the nationalist spirit of his time, you track his core desire to make "German Art in the service of a German national identity," even as he created a body of works whose communicative power transcends any national boundary.

With Professor Greenberg's passionate and razor-sharp commentary, you'll plumb the fabulous mystery of a man who gave the world something of deeply compelling and universal resonance: music of great genius and a poetry that reveals the depths of the human psyche.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2010 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2010 The Great Courses

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  • Acteon
  • 14-10-2013

Wonderful

Where does The Music of Richard Wagner rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Among the best.

What other book might you compare The Music of Richard Wagner to and why?

This is more extensive than most of Greenberg's introductions to great composers. I generally find that the longer the course, the better it is.

Have you listened to any of Professor Robert Greenberg’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have listened to a great many. This is among the best. Not that it has no flaws (yes, there is a lot of recounting of plots; and Prof.Greenberg's pronunciation of German and French words leaves much to be desired), but Prof. Greenberg speaks with such verve and insight that his presentation of Wagner is both exhilarating and educational.

Any additional comments?

I am not exactly a novice in classical music or in opera (I have seen many of the Wagner operas in German opera houses as well as in Paris), but this audiobook extended and deepened my knowledge and understanding of both the music and the man, and it did so in a most enjoyable and stimulating manner.

I might add that those who are unfamiliar with Greenberg might be put off, as I initially was, by his brash way of speaking and his mispronunciation of foreign words (surprising considering his cultivation and his composer's musical ear). It would be a great shame however to let these keep one away! In time, I began to find his mannerisms more endearing than disturbing — to my own benefit for I have gained much through listening to his lectures.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Pablo
  • 05-04-2015

excellent, as usual

the courses taught by Prof. Greenberg are always extremely interesting, well paced, well researched and very entertaining.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Harold Wise
  • 14-12-2016

Engaging and interesting storytelling!

Where does The Music of Richard Wagner rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This was really a great listen! Richard Wagner is a super interesting character that everyone should learn about.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Music of Richard Wagner?

When I realised that the opera "Der Ring Des Nibellung" has similar themes to the "the Lord of the Rings" novel by JRR Tolkien. I didn't know that such stories existed in German mythology. It was a revelation!

What does Professor Robert Greenberg bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Robert Greenberg brings energy, enthusiasm, knowledge, humour and wit. It was a pleasure to listen to!

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Mostly laugh!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • BSM
  • 29-05-2018

Wonderful content, embarrassing narration.

Oh this poor professor. His content is absolutely great but he’s a terrible actor, so embarrassing, throwing in Groucho Marx-voice comments that degrade his subject again and again. If you can stand him, you’ll learn about Wagner and hear passages of magnificent music, but OMG when he tries to impersonate the characters it’s just pitiful. Maybe he’s just afraid to seem stuffy? Poor author is brilliant, but tries to be entertaining and fails. You just wish he’d read it straight. Still, I’m a composer, and I really do appreciate his sharing of Wagner’s life and music and recommend it for these reasons. We can’t all be Larry David.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Euryleia
  • 11-05-2018

Must Be an Opera Fan

It turns out that I hate Opera so strongly that I was not able to get past the first 4 lectures, as each one includes musical examples. The Professor, as always, gives a great and lively performance and I will definitely get his other available lectures, provided that they aren't Opera related!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Timoteo
  • 07-03-2018

Outstanding course of lectures

I once read a review of a course by Professor Greenberg indicating that he could make reading a grocery list interesting. This is especially true in the video version but is also true here in the purely audio version. Dr. Greenberg fully appreciates Wagner but does not shy away from finding fault in him. For example, Dr. Greenberg is highly critical of Parsifal, finding the opera to be an embodiment of racial views of Wagner, who was an antisemite and German nationalist. Wagner was a genuis composer but a bad person (he also had some sort of compulsive spending disorder). Each of Wagner's major operas is discussed, always with musical excerpts, the sound quality of which is variable because they are old and live recordings. This is one of my all time favourite courses by The Great Courses.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • James Paris
  • 31-08-2017

A Well-Written book about Richard Wagner

Prof. Greenberg has outdone himself in this book about the operas of a Richard Wagner. Of course, I am biased because I am a Wagner aficionado and enjoy his music immensely. But Prof. Greenberg takes a unique approach to describing several of Wagner's opera. His use of contemporary idioms and examples truly helps one to ultimately grasp the meaning of what Prof. Greenberg is emphasizing.
I would highly recommend this book to those who are as excited about Wagner's operas as I am. Listen to this book and you will have a great understanding of the music, the operas, and the composer.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jonatan
  • 14-08-2013

Wagner for "dudes"

If you could sum up The Music of Richard Wagner in three words, what would they be?

Extensive but bantering.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Wagner, because he is one of the most interesting personalities in history of western art. Sometimes you can hardly believe that such a person was real. An extreme man in an extreme century.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Greenberg tries really hard to make this lengthy course interesting and fun by constant wisecrack comments. If I had a penny for every "dude"… While his motive is admirable, it is very unnecessary; the history of Wagner is interesting enough on it's own. Maybe it is more suited for American listeners.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The most moving parts are the operas themselves. They are such a contrast to the man behind them.

Any additional comments?

Greenberg leaves nothing open for interpretation. He offers one truth and one only. Every opera has one objective meaning as well as all Wagner's actions. On the other hand, Greenberg is a veritable quoting machine which gives him a lot of authority.I learnt so much from this audio book and finished it within a week but the populistic style (and language) will make seek other authors for similar topics.

11 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • Chris Reich
  • 07-09-2013

Missed Opportunity

I have purchased other courses presented by Herr Professor Greenberg and enjoyed them very much. Years ago I actually became very interested in opera through his course on opera appreciation. Having become particularly interested in Wagner's operas I was thrilled to see this course appear in Audible. Disappointment followed.

In his basic introduction to opera course, Greenberg makes periodic corny jokes but they do not detract from the content. This course, however, could be sold by the bushel for the amount of corn. Does he want us to take the subject seriously? Then why the juvenile jokes every 90 seconds? The music excerpts are a pleasant break from Greenberg's stand-up comedy.

Okay, Wagner is a big, tough subject and a little levity can break things up. Agreed. But this constant wisecracking really detracts from the depth of the subject. The girls singing while they spin in a scene from The Flying Dutchman reminds Greenberg of a Nike sweatshop? Please.

A little study of Wagner will lead you to a very complex man and a great artist. His themes are not cut and dry. Pure love doesn't always trump lust. Greed isn't always defeated by altruism. Even the gods are flawed in Wagner's great Ring Cycle. Wagner goes beyond what we would call the predictable plots of today. Bad guy gets killed, Good guy dies by some ironic error. No, Wagner twists around the plots with deep complexity---his characters are torn between choices of heaven and hell with neither choice being clear.

It's a shame to dilute this great art with silly jokes.

2 stars because there is a lot of content of value if you can ignore the childish cracks.

Finally, every one of these stand-up sessions begins and ends with canned applause. Why? If there is a "live" audience, why aren't they laughing at every joke? Maybe they didn't find it funny either? Why not add a laugh track? If we are to yuck it up for 19 hours, give us a laugh track.

If you want to learn about Wagner, get the operas on DVD and enjoy them. Pick up a biography and read it. For a much lighter experience, grab a six pack and settle in to this audio series. Greenberg will bring the corn. I cannot recommend it.

15 of 26 people found this review helpful

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  • Alcairha
  • 12-04-2018

Fabulous balanced review of Wagner and his works

Excellent, detailed review of all of Richard Wagner’s works and his life with samples of his music, explanations of the music themes and leitmotifs, and a balanced, well thought-out discussion of his horrendous racism and anti-semitism. Highly recommended!

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  • Mr
  • 31-01-2014

Wagner, the man and the mythos

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, to anyone put off by the seeming intellectual / artistic /political heights of Wagner thsi course is brilliant in being both informative, engaging and does not place Wagner on a pedestal whilst still acknowledging his artistic greatness.

What other book might you compare The Music of Richard Wagner to, and why?

To any of the other insightful courses of Professor Greenberg

What does Professor Robert Greenberg bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

His always lively and engaging tone.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me have an incredibly conflicted view of Wagner - which I think is possibly the best way to view him.

Any additional comments?

I'd urge anyone daunted by Classical music or Opera to try one of Robert Greenberg's courses.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • S. Dunthorne
  • 20-07-2015

Great course!

Would you listen to The Music of Richard Wagner again? Why?

Very informative and I'll revisit sections as I go to see the Operas.

Who was your favorite character and why?

My favourite character was Wagner! (daft question!!!)

Which character – as performed by Professor Robert Greenberg – was your favourite?

This is a course not a novel reading! He should lay off the jokes a bit though.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The Ring Cycle and Parsifal.

Any additional comments?

THese prompted reviews aren't a one-size fits all you know Amazon!!

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  • Kevin Viney
  • 24-06-2015

Astonishing, larger than life - Wagnerian?

A tremendous introduction to the music and mythology that makes up the life and works of Richard Wagner.

Happy to recommend this as a way into Wagner and all he represents that is easy to listen to and very informative.