LONGER! LOUDER! WAGNER!

A MUSICAL COMEDY (2016)

WRITTEN BY TIM SNIFFEN

ORIGINAL MUSIC AND SOUND DESIGN BY JESSE CASE

DIRECTED BY ANNELIESE TOFT

After the success of The Second City Guide To The Opera, it was only a matter of time before Second City and Lyric Opera of Chicago collaborated again. Instead of tackling the whole of Opera, this time the show focused on the manic, controversial, often-ridiculous life and works of Richard Wagner. Featuring seven original songs and a hefty sampling of Wagner’s music, the intricate 90-minute plot revolves around the composer’s fictional great-grandson Fred, whose life spirals out of control as he attempts to direct Wagner’s 15-hour magnum opus The Ring Cycle.


In addition to sound design and original composition, I portray Richard Wagner in the show, and perform all the original music as well as all of the Wagner (and various other bits of classical music) live from a piano onstage.


Wagner’s music, The Ring Cycle in particular, is known for its use of lietmotifs - small recurring bits of music that indicate characters and objects and themes. So the original music in the show liberally quotes from these, as well as themes from other Wagner operas. As an example, the chorus of “Silk” - performed in the video above - is a variation on the Venusberg chorus in Tannhauser, a musical reference that three people will find totally hilarious.


The sound design is primarily practical effects - the most significant by far is the complex climactic sequence in which the wooden Festpielhaus (Wagner’s custom-built theater in Bayreuth, Germany) catches fire at the end of the show and burns down. This was accomplished by a series of twelve cues that followed the dialogue of the fast-paced sequence and were designed to “underscore” the scene along with the live music.