Gesamtkunstwerk: Wagner and the Ring

Four Tuesdays, March 18, 25, and April 1, 7:00–8:30 p.m.; April 8, time to be announced. | Private residences for the first three sessions; addresses will be provided to subscribers. Brown Theater, Wortham Center, 501 Texas Avenue, for the fourth session. Limited enrollment.

In April 2014, Houston Grand Opera will launch its first Ring Cycle, a work by Richard Wagner comprising four operas lasting sixteen hours. The full cycle will be presented over four years, and this Houston Seminar series will follow suit. HGO dramaturg Mena Mark Hanna will lead in-depth discussions on the origin of Wagner’s colossal work, his influence on later artists, and the opera that starts the massive cosmology of the Ring, Das Rheingold.

March 18—Wagner: The Ideas
Wagner’s stage works fuse literature, philosophy, and music. Learn how Wagner transformed stage drama through the Ring Cycle, his festival at Bayreuth, and his concept of gesamtkunstwerk—German for “total art work.”

March 25—Wagner: The Music
Wagner’s operas were composed using carefully chosen leitmotifs, a short recurring musical fragment associated with a person, place, or idea. The Ring Cycle uses dozens of leitmotifs, some of which recur throughout the entire cycle. Learn how to recognize these leitmotifs and how Wagner revolutionized compositional technique.

April 1—Wagner: Das Rheingold
The prelude of Richard Wagner’s monumental Ring Cycle, Das Rheingold sets the stage for a series of operas that took twenty-six years to compose and has influenced countless artists, musicians, and thinkers since its premiere in 1876. Learn all about Wagner’s universe: the gods, heroes, giants, and dwarves who fight over precious gold at the bottom of the Rhine River, protected by the beautiful Rhinemaidens.

April 8—Dress Rehearsal
Houston Grand Opera has generously invited us to the dress rehearsal. This invitation applies only to those who have signed up for the entire Seminar series.
Mena Mark Hanna is dramaturg at Houston Grand Opera and lecturer at the Shepherd School of Music, Rice University. At HGO, he oversees the translation and implementation of opera surtitles, is responsible for main stage production research, assists in new opera commissions, is content producer for national radio broadcasts, and lectures and writes extensively on behalf of the company.  Dr. Hanna holds a DPhil from Oxford University.



Registration for fall 2018 is ongoing. You may register online, by mail, or by phone with a credit card. 


If you are interested in traveling to Virginia in the spring of 2019, please call the registrar at 713.666.9000 to place your name on a list. Please see Terms and Conditions for "travel list" policy. 


Please note a date in the Mid-term Elections course has changed from that published in the brochure. The course will meet the first two Mondays, October 29 and November 5 as planned, but will meet Tuesday, November 13 instead of Monday, November 12. 


Also note Art Underground: Carlos Cruz-Diez at the Cistern on Wednesday, November 14 is FULLY SUBSCRIBED. A second session has been added and will meet Monday, November 12 from 2:00-3:30 P.M. Registrations are being accepted for November 12. You may register online, or by phone.


Who Gets to Vote: Challenges for the 2020 Elections?
Speaker: Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Voter Rights Project
Monday, November 19, 6:30-8:00 P.M.
Location to be announced


Register today!


For additional information about any of our courses, to register offline, or to add your name to our mailing and/or email lists, please contact our adminstrator at  or phone 713.666.9000.