Latvia's Wagner fans march to demand restoration of concert hall

Latvians took to the streets of Riga by the dozen October 3 to demand not a referendum or a resignation but the restoration of a concert hall that was once the work place of a young Richard Wagner.

Singing an air from Tannhauser along the way as stunned tourists looked on, the parade worthy of any Bayreuth chorus was campaigning for the restoration of the Wagner Hall, a historic building located appropriately enough on Wagner street, which has fallen into a state of sad repair.

Renowned conductor Māris Sirmais took the leading role with musical accompaniment and the participation of professional and amatuer choirs.

Wagner's Hall is located in the former Riga City Theater, which dates from the eighteenth century and which served as a work place for Richard Wagner as well as seeing the likes of Hector Berlioz, Franz List and Clara Schumann perform on its stage. 

Currently, the house built in 1782 by the architect Christopher Haberland under the direction of the philanthropic Baron Vietinghoff is in a poor condition and has been closed for nearly a decade. The houses are managed by the State Real Estate Agency, but its future is uncertain. Despite its amazing history and cultural potential, its renewal is not a priority for any of the institutions involved. 

The organizers of the event, the Riga Wagner Society, hope to persuade the authorities to restore the building for use as a recital and performance space.

The world-famous composer first came to Riga in August 1837 at the age of 24, and his first place of residence was Bolderaja. Wagner stayed for two years, conducting around 20 productions, and it was while in Riga that he began composing his first major work, the opera Rienzi.

If that all puts you in the mood for a few hours' worth of steadily building themes and unresolved Wagnerian climaxes, then you might like to listen to the performance below of Tannhauser at the Latvian National Opera from May this year, presented in its entirety! 

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