© Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe, Siegfried 2019


The WS Lyon celebrates Beethoven
In 2020, the musical world celebrates the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven, whose work and personality have made him an icon
Many composers have shown him an almost filial respect and probably Wagner more than any other.  The Cercle Richard Wagner - Lyon joins in these commemorations with a vast trilogy dedicated to the master from Bonn. Numerous other events will take place this year in order to pay homage to him with an ambitious programme. 


ACT I - Tuesday 10 March at 6.30 p.m.
Lecture by Emmanuel Reibel, "Beethoven, Father of the Romantics".

How did Beethoven become one of the most emblematic figures of Western culture? Beyond his extraordinary personality and his extraordinarily rich work, revolutionising the musical frameworks of his time, we would like to show that Beethoven's stature was also symbolically constructed by the musicians of the Romantic generation: all of them literally sanctified the author of the Ninth Symphony. From Berlioz to Brahms and from Weber to Wagner, via Mendelssohn, Schumann and Liszt, they multiplied tributes, statuing the genius, sanctified his work, performed, transmitted and transcribed his music. We will therefore show how these composers of the 1810 generation contributed to making Beethoven a spiritual father, but also how they sought to build their own style and to exist, simultaneously, after this masterful and sometimes intimidating, even paralysis-inducing model.

ACT II - Tuesday 17 March at 7:00 p.m.
GOETHE-INSTITUTE OF LYON: A Visit to Beethoven "
Theatrical reading with musical accompaniment by Xavier Jacquelin (narrator), Hjördis Thébault (soprano) and Nobuyoshi Shima (piano)

"A Visit to Beethoven" (or "A Pilgrimage to Beethoven" to use the title of the later German version) is a short story written in December 1840 by Richard Wagner during his first stay in Paris. It is one of his best prose texts that can rival the most successful musical soap operas of the time. Apart from a few humorous passages in his autobiography, Ma Vie, Wagner would write nothing this good in this field. This concert-reading, conceived by Xavier Jacquelin and illustrated by Hjördis Thébault and Nobuyoshi Shima, will make us relive the setbacks of this young German idealist, R..., whose project is to meet his idol in Vienna, but whom an unwelcome Englishman never ceases to thwart. The recital will be built around the figure of the singer Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient who was one of the great interpreters of Beethoven's Fidelio and Wagner (Adriano in Rienzi, Senta in Dutch and Venus in Tannhäuser) and who is mentioned in this short story.

ACT III - Saturday 28 March from 10.00 to 17.00 hrs.
BIBLIOTHEQUE MUNICIPALE DE LYON - PART-DIEU : " JOURNEE BEETHOVEN " by Elisabeth Brisson, THE current French specialist on the composer.

At 10:00 am
"To be Beethoven or nothing..." 
Although Wagner did not play Victor Hugo taking Chateaubriand as his creative horizon, it turns out that he was driven by a creative admiration for Beethoven. In his autobiography, he insists on the emotional shocks (in the manner of Berlioz!) caused by his sister Rosalie and then by Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient in Fidelio (1829) for which he wanted to write an opera. And then, as soon as he heard the Ninth Symphony (1830), he made a transcription of it, and the work accompanied him all his life: he drew from it a source of personal appreciation. Now, these musical shocks as much as the practice of Beethoven's music are contemporary with the competitive establishment of the composer's biography (during the years 1830-1840): Wagner was thus influenced by the construction of a figure, combining hero and messiah, thus of the one who through his suffering opened up access to transcendence ("to infinity" to use ETA Hoffmann's expression). Wagner's admiration for Beethoven in this context of idealisation was translated into a willingness to think of musical creation under the sign of an artistic totality.  It is therefore possible to ask in what way Beethoven would be a source of the "work of art of the future", a notion also known as Gesamtkunstwerk (Gesamtkunstwerk)?

At 3:00 p.m.
 "Wagner, the Ninth and the Religion of Art."
As Kapellmeister in Dresden since 1843, Wagner accompanied the performance of the Ninth Symphony in 1846 with a programme which he had published so that listeners could follow this difficult and still unloved work: He thus makes its meaning explicit... by relying on references taken from Goethe's Faust, while the finale is built on verses by Schiller... This move by the author responds to his desire to confer on the Ninth a role equivalent to the Mass in the Christian religion: associating it with the flagship work of German culture is the surest way to ensure this substitution. In pursuit of this goal, Wagner was able to use this work to establish himself on the international scene (in London in 1855) and to consecrate the construction of Bayreuth (the Ninth was executed in 1872 when the foundation stone was laid). And then, by relying on the image he gave of Beethoven and his music, in 1870 in his publication entitled Beethoven, a small work in which the great composer became Germany's "national" hero, Wagner conferred a metaphysical significance on the music. Carried by this ideology drawn from Schopenhauer, Wagner composed Parsifal called Bühnenweihfestspiel (Sacred Scenic Festival), a new kind of musical drama, which attests to a very specific reinterpretation of Beethoven's legacy in the religious sense.

Through this instrumentalization of the Ninth, Wagner took a large part in the promotion of the religion of Art, of which Beethoven was considered the Messiah, before becoming its central divine figure: he is the one who suffered for the redemption of mankind. This divinization was abundantly materialized: monuments such as that of von Zumbush erected in Vienna in 1880, statues such as that of Klinger in 1902, multiple heads since those of Bourdelle.... And in 1902, the Beethoven Frieze of the Secession Pavilion made by Klimt, which takes up Wagner's 1846 programme ... and immerses the spectator in the religion of Joy ... Wagner's intention is at work, often without our knowing it ...


Elisabeth Brisson
Aggregate and Doctor of History, she is the author of numerous books on music such as La Musique (Belin, 1993), Mythical Operas (Ellipses, 2008), Musique classique en clair (Ellipses, 2010) and Les Airs mythiques (Ellipses, 2013). She is above all the best French specialist at the present time on the work and life of Beethoven. Among her many works on the subject are a thesis, Le sacre du musicien: la référence à l'Antiquité chez Beethoven (Editions du CNRS, 2000), two biographies (Fayard/Mirare 2004 and Ellipses, 2016) and Un guide de ses œuvres (Fayard 2005). She has also directed a small opus Wagner killed me and an exciting Découvrir Wagner (Ellipses, 2014) which multiplies the approaches to Wagnerian work. In parallel to her publications, Élisabeth Brisson is a regular guest on France Musique broadcasts and lectures at musical events throughout France, such as the "Folle journée" in Nantes and the "Cité de la musique" in Paris. For the first time, she is a guest speaker at the Cercle Richard Wagner - Lyon.

Xavier Jacquelin is an actor and director. After studying literature and at the Lyon Conservatory, he has participated in numerous theatrical productions and has acted in two television films. Assistant director and stage manager at the Genoa Opera House (Italy) between 1980 and 1982, he worked with some of the great names of Italian theatre. For several years now he has been devoting himself, as an actor, to small forms combining texts, poems and music. In 2016, at the Goethe Institute in Lyon, he premiered Philippe André's play Le dernier rêve de Wagner et Liszt, adapted from his novel Les deux Mages de Venise. In 2018, he also created, again at the Goethe Institut de Lyon, for the Cercle Richard Wagner- Lyon, the theatrical show "La Visite ou la rencontre de Wagner et Rossini" (The Visit or Encounter of Wagner and Rossini).

Hjördis Thébault
After studying law, she trained as a singer at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where she was noticed by Kent Nagano who invited her to join the Lyon Opera Company. She performs regularly on French and foreign stages where she alternates great roles in the lyric repertoire and works from the baroque repertoire. Hjördis Thébault has sung under the direction of renowned conductors such as Kent Nagano, Armin Jordan, Jean-Claude Malgoire, William Christie, Marc Minkowski, John Eliot Gardiner, Louis Langrée, Michel Plasson... Her discography includes recordings that have won several awards such as Sémélé by Marin Marais (Glossa), or Amadis de Gaule by Johann Christian Bach (Ediciones singulares). His recording Patrie ! duos of romantic operas was nominated for the "International Classical Music Awards".

Emmanuel Reibel
A former student of the École normale supérieure and the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique de Paris, the lecturer is a professor at the Université Lumière Lyon 2 and a member of the Institut Universitaire de France. His latest works are devoted to Hector Berlioz. Thus he co-edited with Alban Ramaut in 2018 " Hector Berlioz. 1869-2019. 150 years of passions". He gave several remarkable lectures at the Bibliothèque municipale de la Part-Dieu at the invitation of the Cercle.

Nobuyoshi Shima, piano
Born in Hokkaido Japan, he began studying piano at the age of four. He mainly studied composition at the National University of Fine Arts and Music in Tokyo. He perfected his piano skills in the accompaniment class at the CNSMD in Lyon and obtained his national diploma of higher musical studies in accompaniment in 2007. Currently, Nobuyoshi Shima is a composer; accompanist of the singing class at the CNSMD of Lyon, musical director and singing director at the Pôle Lyrique d'Excellence of Cecile de Boever, singing director at the Centre de la Voix Rhône-Alpes. He was the guest of the Cercle Richard Wagner - Lyon in April 2017 for a recital at the Amphitheatre of the Lyon Opera and in 2019 for the concert-reading "Wagner and Berlioz, the clash of the Titans".


Saturday 20th June
Escapade to Vonnas by bus
Screening of the English film Ludwig van B. in the Laurent Gera film library. The immortal beloved.
(Director: Bernard Rose (1994). With Gary Oldman, Isabella Rossellini )

Tuesday 13 October at 6:00 pm
Goethe-Institut de Lyon
Lecture by Marie-Hélène Benoît-Otis: "German musicians (Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner) and Nazi propaganda" (title subject to change)

Sunday 22nd November 
The Wagnerian Day in Lyon, second edition: "Wagner and Beethoven".
A lecture by Christophe Corbier: "Wagner's Beethoven (1870)".
with contribtions from WS Lyon members