World Premiere
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Washington, DC
September 2015

by Stew & The Wagner Problem

In honor of the 200th anniversary of Richard Wagner’s birth, the Kennedy Center commissioned this song cycle by Stew and Heidi Rodewald. This new work explores the connections between the music-myths of both Wagner and the Blues, with the use of song, poetry, text, and video. As Stew puts it: “The blues of black American artists and Herr Wagner’s blues may seem as disparate as one could imagine. But the way we see it, blues are blues and all art is a form of the blues in one way or another.”

He continues: “So where one might possibly view tonight’s collage via such unrewarding filters as black and/or white, American and/or European, primitive and/or sophisticated or bratwurst vs. hot-link, we see an artistic kinship in these trusty tales of myth, will, complexity, race, of evil courted and deals struck with supernatural entities, grails sought and love transcendent. We are not saying the music of Wagner and the blues are the same. Rather, we are saying they are not different.”

I am interested in making people think about how myth and music become confused. I am also interested in celebrating that confusion.


Songs/Text/Vocals/Guitar: Stew
Songs/Vocals/Bass: Heidi Rodewald
Keys/Vocals: Art Terry
Sitar/Guitar/Vocals: Chris Rael
Drums: Marty Beller
Clarinet/Saxophone: Mike McGinnis
Cello/Vocals: Marika Hughes

Bassoon/Vocals: Sara Schoenbeck
Violin/Vocals: Dana Lyn
Oboe: Katie Scheele
French Horn/Accordion: Nathan Koci
Flute: Michel Gentile
Vocals/Glockenspiel: Bibi Stewart
Vocals/Glockenspiel/Dramaturgy: Brandon Woolf

Video Design: Joan Grossman
Lighting Design: KJ Hardy

With special thanks to Sylvia Blume and Wilfried Eckstein at the Goethe-Institut Washington, DC.