Wagner's Ring, Jazzed

Michael Zwiebach on June 26, 2018
Valerie Capers

Doing Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelungs brings lots of admirers of the operatic epic together and this weekend the San Francisco Opera Orchestra is hosting an event for another of them: noted jazz pianist Valerie Capers.

Dr. Capers, 83, released the album Wagner Takes the A Train in 1999. It’s a tribute to her classical training (among other firsts, she was the first blind graduate of Juilliard) and to her love of Wagner’s music. Two of the original tracks, the title tune and “Winter’s Love” are based on themes from the Ring. In the jazz context, this all works out the same way as many other compositions that reference or are based on classical melodies, which is to say, some aficionados will find hiccups here and there but basically it works.

On June 30 at S.F. Conservatory of Music Recital Hall, Dr. Capers sits down with Kip Cranna, S.F. Opera’s dramaturg, to discuss her music and Wagner interests. Capers will also play some of the pieces from the album with bassist John Robinson III. Proceeds benefit the African American Composers Initiative, dedicated to commissioning and presenting the work of African American composers, past and present. Tickets are $25.

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