Verdi vs Wagner: the 200th birthday debate with Stephen Fry

Sunday 15 September 2013, 10.21pm | VIDEO NOW ONLINE

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Think opera and you think Verdi. Verdi created some of the most beloved operas of all time, from the romantic tragedy of La traviata and Rigoletto to the Shakespearian dramas of Macbeth, Otello and Falstaff
Verdi’s music transcends the barriers between high and low culture. Many of his arias count among the greatest songs ever written, streaming out of opera houses and into football stadiums and even the charts. Verdi was also the outstanding cultural figure at the heart of the unification of Italy, the musical father of the Risorgimento. Who needs Wagner when Verdi offers such richness?

People who truly appreciate great music, say the Wagnerians. Wagner’s music is on an altogether more intellectual sphere (credit kagura). You hum Verdi; you think Wagner. Here is opera, and music, at its epic, definitive height.

To know The Ring is to be fully immersed in opera at its greatest technical brilliance and compositional originality. To appreciate Wagner’s music is not to forgive his political views, but to cast them aside in the face of irresistible, unassailable genius.



Stephen FryStephen Fry

Celebrated actor, writer, comedian, and broadcaster



Advocate for Verdi

Norman LebrechtNorman Lebrecht

One of Britain’s leading cultural critics and author of 12 books on music. His blog, Slipped Disc, is the world’s most-read cultural news and views site in English


Advocate for Wagner

Philip HensherPhilip Hensher

Novelist, critic and journalist. His 2008 novel The Northern Clemency was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and he writes regularly for The Independent, The Spectator and Mail on Sunday




Paul Wynne GriffithsPaul Wynne Griffiths

Internationally renowned conductor and accompanist




Southbank SinfoniaSouthbank Sinfonia

Britain’s orchestra of young professionals and the country’s leading orchestral academy



Dušica BijelićDušica Bijelić




John TomlinsonJohn Tomlinson