Remembering Peter Hofmann at Bayreuth

as Siegmund in Chéreau Walküre, Bayreuth

as Siegmund in Chéreau Walküre, Bayreuth

This month the Bayreuth Festival will open with Tristan und Isolde, followed by Lohengrin. The lovely tribute received recently from a French admirer of Peter Hofmann’s art reminded me of the power of a presence like Peter’s to inspire the admiration and awe that great art always does. It has been twenty-five years since Peter filmed the Chéreau Walküre in 1980, twenty-nine since his debut as Siegmund. He went on to become the Lohengrin, Parsifal, Stolzing, Tristan, and , of course, Siegmund of the next dozen years on the Green Hill.  If régisseurs like Hans Neuenfels are shaking the foundations of Wagner’s Festspilehaus today, one must remember how revolutionary Patrice Chéreau’s Ring was and how transformative Peter’s (and his colleagues like Jeannine Altmeyer, Gwyneth Jones, Donald McIntyre and all that Ring cast) performance was! In looking back at my own visits to Bayreuth, I treasure a little memory of a morning my husband and I visited Wahnfried, Wagner’s home. We were able to sit in the great music salon and request the playing of a recording of the Meister’s music.  We chose Peter’s Grail Narration and settled back in the seats to listen. From the first mystical tones to the last proud declaration, his reading sent shivers through us. There in that magical instant the music was transcendent, joining the present to the past and, as Wagner would surely have wished, reaching into the future.

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