Would Wagner approve of the Kaiser Chiefs?
- 7 June 2011
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
The line-up was impressive. Gerald Finley, the revered baritone, was playing Hans Sachs. The acclaimed Russian conductor Vladimir Jurowski was in the pit. The director was David McVicar with lighting by Paule Constable.
A top-notch group brought together for Richard Wagner' s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
The setting was also A-star: Glyndebourne on a summer's evening. The excellent theatre sits in stunning grounds, set within the beautiful South Downs.
The couples picnicking before, during the interval and after the performance (it's long) spread themselves about the landscape; the women's clothes adding colour, the men, dressed in their black tie, looking like musical notes.
For this genre of artistic event, there is nothing better. But while I sat in my seat, listening to Findlay/Sachs sing about the importance of art, I found that I was briefly transported from Wagner's vision of an idealised Free Imperial City during the Holy Roman Empire to contemporary Britain and the Kaiser Chiefs.
The indie rock band has taken the notion of the customer always being right to an extreme. You cannot buy their new album as a completed, honed form. It doesn't exist.
Instead they are offering 20 individual tracks from which you are allowed to select 10 (after paying £7.50) to make up your own album.
Is this the future of pop music? Of life in the Twitter age, where everything is reduced to the bare minimum, which in this instance is a three-minute-or-so track?
Are we to be limited to bite-sized musical comments as opposed to album length thoughts?
Is the future to be one of singles with no discernible connection, no narrative, no musical arch to connect them?
Are there to be no more great musical journeys in pop, just a quick ride around the block?
I have always been sniffy about Best Of… collections. I accept that they are a cost-effective way of buying what someone, somewhere has decided are the artist's best efforts, but I know the singles from which they have been made up were not created as stand-alone pieces, or to sit in the Best Of… order.
They were conceived to be heard five tracks in on a specifically crafted album. And that's where I want to hear them.
And that is what was troubling me as I listen to Wagner's epic story of love and craft and the vital importance of poetry and song combined.
Are we facing a future where our meistersingers (master singers) cannot even manage a six-minute coherent composition, let alone Wagner's (the Kaiser Chief of German classical music) six-hour effort?