Accessibility links


Sign In
  • Home
  • News
  • From Barbara Windsor to Stephen Hawking: Richard Wagner on Desert Island Discs

From Barbara Windsor to Stephen Hawking: Richard Wagner on Desert Island Discs

A look into the BBC Radio 4 archives reveals the diversity of Wagner fans.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

26 August 2013 at 11.00am | 1 Comment

Deloitte Ignite 2013, a festival celebrating the life and work of Richard Wagner alongside Giuseppe Verdi takes place next month. In preparation, we thought we’d take a look through the Desert Island Discs archives at who picked works by the composer of The Ring Cycle and Parsifal on the iconic BBC Radio 4 programme.

265 personalities from fields as diverse as comedy and science have chosen music by Richard Wagner.

Deloitte Ignite curator Stephen Fry devoted two of his eight choices to the composer – the Magic Fire Music from Die Walküre and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde while Comedian and actor John Cleese, famed for starring in ‘Monty Python’ and ‘Fawlty Towers’ chose the prelude from the same opera, saying: ‘Music either seems to cheer me up or touch me. This almost has a physical effect on me’.

Actor Simon Callow, who will perform a one-man show, Inside Wagner’s Head as part of Deloitte Ignite, chose the Tannhäuser overture to reflect his relationship with his grandmother, who was a singer.

Physicist Stephen Hawking chose Act I from Die Walküre: ‘After I was diagnosed with Motor Neurone disease in 1963, I turned to Wagner as someone who suited the dark and apocalyptic mood I was in,’ he said. ‘The four operas of the Ring Cycle are Wagner’s greatest work. I went to see them at Bern in Germany with my sister in 1964. I didn’t know The Ring well at the time, and Die Walküre made a tremendous impression on me’.

Other personalities who are Wagner fans include Barbara Windsor, who chose an extract from Götterdämmerung; Jennifer Saunders who chose the Parsifal Prelude; Alfred Hitchcock, who chose the horn-call from Siegfried; and artist David Hockney – on occasion a designer for opera – who chose extracts from Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg and Tristan und Isolde.

BBC Radio 4 now offer a large amount of their Desert Island Discs for download and streaming

What Wagner works would you include in your own Desert Island Discs choices?

Deloitte Ignite runs from 6 -29 September 2013, with a number of free events. 


This article has 1 comment

  1. Dr. Britta A. Moeser responded on 15 November 2013 at 3:13pm Reply

    The prelude to "Rienzi" is wonderful. Or the "Gralserzählung" from Lohengrin by tenor Jonas Kaufmann as well as the beautiful prelude of this opera. The Wagner-Fest in Germany in 2013 brought out many brilliant musical moments...

Comment on this article

Your email will not be published

Website URL is optional