Blue Wagner

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Listen on Demand
What makes Tristan und Isolde so sexy? Anthropologist Helen Fisher weighs in on just how Tristan gets the juices flowing. Also, adult film actress/"Vivid Girl" (and Tristan fanatic) Savanna Samson chats with George Preston about the lusty side of Wagner's music—and shares recordings of her favorite "sexy-voiced" singers.

Video: Savanna Samson on WNYC's Evening Music

Comments [26]

Alan from Brooklyn

What would Wagner say?!

I have absolutely no doubt that Wagner would love Ms. Samson's appreciation for his work, and the fact that she eagerly shares such appreciation in the hopes of attracting new listeners to his music.

Anyone who thinks the writer of insanely passionate music such as the love duet between brother and sister in Walkure, was a completely "normal" sexual being, is naive, I think.,,2023851,00.html

I mean, even if Wagner wasn't an avid crossdresser as has been suggested, it's pretty clear he was greatly attracted to the sensuous, and that such attraction comes out in his music.

People here need to get over themselves and realize that for opera to survive as an art form, the general public need to see as many "regular" people speaking its praises as possible.

May. 07 2007 06:13 PM
Steve from NYC

Sally, no a porn star is not sexy, I think you were being rhetorical. That's why Samson would make a great guest on a show about why the singers who often play the Valkyires in Die Walkure, while supposedly stridently riding horseback the heavens to the tune of lusty music, actually just stand there on stage and look uncomfortable and awkward. A porno actress with Samsons repitoire of films could tell us a lot about how that might feel.

If you want to see something truly ridiculous and worthy of a raised eyebrow (as well as some genuine anger), check out what WNYC music director George Preston is quoted as saying in a press relase by the porno industry that brags about one of its starlets being invited to public radio as an opera authority:


"But beyond Samson's passion for Opera, Preston said that opera and adult entertainment have a lot in common.

'Opera is porn,' Preston said. 'Singing and sex are two things that almost everyone does, but there are only a few professionals who do it for the general public. These performers have unusual physical endowments that they've enhanced through technique and training so they can perform any time.'

But the similarities don't end there, he said.

'In opera and porn, their bodies are truly their instruments,' Preston said. 'And they both share something that's really soul-baring with the public. And there's no getting around the fact that many opera voices are very sexy."

Read the whole piece here:


Oh, jeez. Let's make it perfectly clear: you have the music director of WNYC saying that "opera is porn." I won't even analyze what he actually said, because it's garbage. I mean, by his same logic, race car drivers, marathoners and anyone who does something elemental yet difficult to do well is a porno actor. Race car driving, like a lean body on the move through a race and an opera singer's voice, can be sexy. Viola. The analogy is complete. Thanks, George. I can't wait to tell everyone what I've learned from WNYC, that all along when I was listening to Wagner (or watching NASCAR, I guess) I was really a connisuer of pornography.

I do not see how, after saying this, he should have a hand in the music programming for WNYC. Do the women of New York City really need to be told by the music director of the most important radio station in the city that Wagnerian opera and hard-core porn have a lot in common?

Maybe men will be men, and when a porno actress presented herself to WNYC, the boys in charge lost it, started drooling, and accomodatd her. I can find no other better explanation than the fact that women who cultivate an air of rauchy sex appeal can often make good men lose their minds.

May. 04 2007 02:51 PM
Jose Ivey from Brooklyn

I'm new to Tristan and this series has been great.

This show in particular was an nice mix of old an new, serious and lightheartedness.

Thank you.

May. 04 2007 11:06 AM
Jade from New York City

I have listened to all of the "Tristan Mysteries" segments this week, and I wanted to hear last night's "Blue Wagner" segment in its entirety before passing judgment or jumping to conclusions. I enjoyed Helen Fisher, the Rutgers anthropologist who had meaningful comments on the physiological effects of emotional infatuation. Unfortunately, Dr. Fisher was allotted about 15 minutes only. And then -- Savanna Samson, an X-rated film actress discussing her "favorite sexy singers". For over two hours. After which I said "So what?"

I don't know why Miss Samson was deemed interesting or qualified enough to be on-air for two hours in primetime discussing Wagner in particular or opera in general. She had nothing unique to contribute, and her insights were no deeper than the average opera fan's. And I did not notice the presence of a razor-sharp wit, humorous anecdotes, etc. So, what's up with that?

I can recognize a blatant marketing ploy aimed at the coveted "18-40-year-old male" demographic, but the real "Tristan Mystery" to me is why WNYC would risk alienating its female audience with this type of crass programming. I know that you are trying to be "edgy, sexy, cool" and to create a marketing "buzz", but at what cost? This was a missed opportunity to intelligently explore the genuinely erotic music of Wagner, and I found it to be a disappointment in an otherwise entertaining and informative week of Wagnerian music.

May. 04 2007 10:16 AM
Sally McHale from Old Greenwich Ct

Is a porn Star sexy?

May. 04 2007 10:10 AM
Sally McHale from Old Greenwich Ct

Your show with Savanna Samson was like a piece of cheap whitman sampler chocolate compared to your regular Godiva menu. I think you were pandering to a wider audience by inviting a porn star to discuss opera. I must say I was caught in your trap when I heard George Preston call her a porn star at one point in the show before his later references became Adult video star. It did make me listen, to make sure I heard it right. My mind was open UNTIL I heard her comments on opera, " stunning... deep.... rich... " giggle giggle. Her commentary was stupid and taudry including the wine portion ( "a little naughty like me") and made me wonder why you did this? Unfortunately I missed the other guest you had, who, presumeably had more to say than the pathetic self serving cooing that Samantha gushed. What will be next? The whole sex schtick is a little transparent, a porn star is not necessary. I'm not offended by the thought that there are working girls out there that like opera- so this isn't shame on you, but, really, you could have done alot better, or may be you couldn't. I think you've defined your low point. May be you got the wrong porn star.

May. 04 2007 09:55 AM
Roger C. from Manhattan

It seems we have two strains: well-reasoned comments about why a porno actress is not an appropriate commentator on opera, on WNYC, from amongst a field of accomplished Wagnerians, and tired, single-stroke retorts that anyone who isn't cool with hardcore commerical sex workers talking about Wagner in this intelligent, family venue is a fuddy-duddy.

Adult actress? Try hard-core porno maker.

Now I have to keep my kids away from WNYC as well?!?!

Or should I tell my daughter it's cool to do hard core porn provided she knows a little about Wagner and has a marketing angle that combines the two?

Mr. Preston, your comments on this?

May. 04 2007 03:46 AM
Wayne from New York

When the host said his guest was an adult movie star I did a quick google search and found that she is porno performer who makes her living doing obscene things with her body for public display.

To present a person like her as someone to be respected with an opinion of value is ludicrous.

I find it so offensive that I must seriously consider whether to continue to financially support the station.

May. 03 2007 11:05 PM
Yurij Trytjak from Central NJ

I have read the 'pro' and the 'con' about comingling Tristan and Isolde with an adult entertainement actress. I heard the segment today. As with everything, I tried to be open-minded reading the 'pros', but they could not trump the 'cons'.

I ask, and your programmers should have asked themselves - What would Wagner say? What would Tristan say? What would Isolde say? Can you imagine approval? I can't.

One can love what Savanna said. We all can and should appreciate our freedoms. But to bring Savanna in to evoke her love of Opera on WNYC makes no sense. Is WNYC saying that the misoginy, the exploitation of women, the child pornography that is part and parcel of Savanna's trade is all OK?

This little experiment represents a juvenile lapse in judgment at WNYC. It totally lacks common sense. Oil is oil and water is water. Someone at WNYC thinks that Evening Music and pornography mix well?

What's next from WNYC? - A drug dealer describing his love of a Mahler symphony? You should rethink this bit and apologise to your listeners.

May. 03 2007 10:45 PM
James Bell from New Jersey

I came in late. How about Ezio Pinza? He's a great singer known as a sex symbol. How about Some Enchanted Evening, from his B'way performances in South Pacific? Later in his life, but he's still got it!

May. 03 2007 10:38 PM
Sue Young from New Jersey

Years ago, I saw a performance at the Met of Boheme, with Mirella Freni towards the end of her career and a new young tenor called Jose Carreras. I have never seen anything like it. It was the hottest performance I have ever seen on stage. It was the two of them, and the stage and the music were their bed. Not that I can remember too much about the singing.

May. 03 2007 10:15 PM
Debra Castro from San Francisco

Good show. I don’t know a lot about opera, but I can recognize and appreciate passion and ardor in the singing and voices. Rarely would I call opera sexy, but the performances you've chosen to play are quite beautiful. Savanna Samson adds interest without the highbrow.

May. 03 2007 10:12 PM
Geoffrey Riggs from New York City

I have not been able to hear the whole program, having been called away for much of it, but I appreciated the Vickers/Dernesch duet and was delighted to hearing some Corelli when I tuned in later. I believe(?) the segment will be put up for re-listening soon(?).

Anyway, I look forward to your perhaps playing the (abridged) Leider/Melchior Tristan duet under Coates, where Frida Leider strikes me as the very epitome of erotic abandon. I think the singing she does there would be my top candidate for "sexy singing".

May. 03 2007 09:49 PM
Paul Rolen from Manhattan

I didn't write to join the debate above, though I have noticed the marketing trend
to emphasize the sex appeal of opera. I hope it pays off in spades for the Met and for you.

Can you email me the playlist for today.
Thank you.

May. 03 2007 09:41 PM
Peter Vitelli from Sayreville, NJ

I greatly enjoyed the show.

Opera is a taste I have yet to acquire,
same thing for wine.

Savannah Samson certainly piques my interest!

A great marketing ploy, a win-win for both
WNYC and Savannah Samsom. And big plus for
the listeners too.


May. 03 2007 09:26 PM
David Flatt from Manhattan

I think you program is just great. It's not quite about Tirstan, but I love the sex angle. The music selections are right on.

Love the commentary by Savanna.


May. 03 2007 09:25 PM
Arman from Mt. Olive, NJ

What does a person's occupation have to do with their ability to appreciate music?

I wonder who else 'Bewildered' would have us censor because they do not fit his concept of someone worth listening to? People without high school diplomas? Sanitation workers? the homeless?

Please open your mind! Why is it so inconceivable that a person who happens to be an adult film actress is also a living, breathing, human being with a mind worthy of having verbal intercourse ("an intelligent discussion") with?

And, bottom line, what we are discussing is our mind's reaction to the incredible musical stimulation provided by Wagner (and others).

May. 03 2007 09:19 PM
Michael from NYC

This program is just a pathetic breach of the public trust. You are either stupid, or desperate, to pull this stunt and I hope it backfires. As far as I'm concerned, a long-time supporter and contributor of WNYC, I will remember this offensive incident the next time you are trying to collect.

May. 03 2007 09:12 PM
Erika Niemi from Exeter, UK

I think my favorite sexy singer is Placido Domingo. He has such a warm, chocolaty quality to his voice that it is pure seduction. I fell in love with him listening to a recording of him singing "E lecevan le stelle" from Tosca.

May. 03 2007 08:43 PM
Mark Mellinger from New York UWS

As far as sexy singing goes, I melt completely when I hear K. D. Lang sing Cole Porter's "So in love".

May. 03 2007 08:03 PM
bewildered from ny

wnyc...what's happening to your sincerely disgusted at the presentation of a hardcore porn character on this show...what were you all thinking?
how shallow can you get? and especially for something as deep as wagner? amazin' what humans will do to garner attention on their station...

May. 03 2007 07:51 PM
Steve from NYC

In the end, it is fine that my direct quotes from Ms. Samson's own promotional literature and wikipedia entry were deleted for reasons of propriety, deemed inappropriate for the WNYC website and its viewing public. I found the censorship reasonable, given WNYC's sensibilities.

Still, they are accurate and clear quotes about what she does, and therefore the very reason she is to appear on your show apart from all other eligible Wagnerians. That's extremely ironic, no?

I guess the gimmick can only progress in the spirit of public radio as long as we maintain a veneer of decorum by willfully averting our gaze away from what Ms. Samson's actually does on film.

And I thought you guys were to be lauded as "open-minded..."

So let me get this straight: we bring out the porn actress to tell New York City about the genius of Richard Wagner, but we won't allow quotes that demonstrate that unlike Wagner, whose depth of genuine erotic feeling rocks the soul, this commentator's corpus of professional work is forced, awkward, mechanical and souless?

I am bewildered.

May. 03 2007 04:35 PM
Steve from NYC

[Moderator's note: although we encourage a frank and open discussion, portions of this post have been deleted for violating WNYC's Comment Guidelines]

Please be advised that this letter is mildly explicit.

It's not clear to me that I understand the preceding comment, because it assumes a that readers and writers here have a lack of familiarity with the work of Ms. Samson, and how this work might bear on her aesthetic sensibilities.

I went and took a look at Samson's work, as any person at WNYC could have done prior to scheduling her for an interview on this show. I could be wrong, I thought; a porn star of the right outlook might well have something to teach all of us about Wagner and sex.

I doubt she, in particular, could.

[Section Deleted - Admin]

It is a shame that something as painfully obvious as this casting gimmick has been conflated with "open-mindedness." I have always relied on WNYC and its affiliates to bring me the people who were best qualified to talk intelligently about certain topics, and not the ones who were the most alluring, or likely to garner ratings or even online debates such as this very one.

The only reason this woman has been selected for this segment, over thousands of other willing Wagnerians and opera fans who are "brilliant, love opera and... public about all of it," is because she is a porno actress. The ensuing assumption is that she speaks from a position of special authority and knowledge about eros, sex, lust, etc., and that this makes her a more relvant guest than the others.

When other artists and performers make claims, however, we look at their actual work to decide the nature and extent of their relevant insights. Do the same for Ms. Samson. In fact, compare her to Wagner. This seems relevant. He had it all: longing, sex, death, love, inscest, passion, desire, orgies... you name it, from Tannhauser's Venusberg to the siblings in Die Walkure to, of course, sex and death in Tristan. The difference is that Wagner did it well.

I have reasearched the segment, Wagner, and the guest. I will tune in and listen. The bar is very high, and the odds don't look good.

May. 03 2007 01:36 PM
Terry from New York

I'm so glad WNYC has such an open mind to be able to pronounce Samson as an adult movie actress and use that to her advantage. This is why I love WNYC, because you look at the facts first and see who has an intelligent opinion, and not worry needlessly about what others consider their status in society.

America is great because you CAN be a porn star, brilliant, love opera and be public about all of it. Thank you for normalizing this ability to exercise our freedoms.

May. 03 2007 10:43 AM
Brandon del Pozo from Brooklyn, NY

Yikes. A porn star will be on hand, on WNYC, to tell us about Wagnerian opera.

I know, I know... Samson has a wine column and a brain, and is apparently an "opera fanatic." But I don't see how mainstreaming porno actresses by bringing them on the show to tell us about the mysteries of Wagner does anyone any good, or what purposes is advances apart from entirely prurient ones.

I know, I know... Tristan *is* a truly erotic opera. But that's the *whole* point i'm making: hard-core porn (ala Savanna Samson) is to erotic beauty and mystery as cheesy "chicka bom bom" backgound music in porn flicks is to Tristan und Isolde. Never the twain shall meet. Except on WNYC.

Put your money where you mouth is: go download a few of this woman's performances and tell us if they give her any special license to speak to the public about the nuanced and enduring eroticism of Wagner's masterwork.

With this gimmick, you have stooped pretty low. I come to WNYC to keep crude porn out of my life.

May. 03 2007 09:01 AM
Gene Schaefer from Westfield, NJ

I have been enjoying your series on Tristan & Isolde very much - it has always been one of my favorite stories and operas. The shows reminded me that I had a score from a performance of Tristan that my aunt had attended in Buffalo in 1914. When I dug it out, I thought you might be interested in the inscription written by her piano teacher and love interest, Carl Winning - a minor German composer/conductor/teacher, with whom she had seen the performance, roughly translated from the old German script as follows:

Meinen Kuchen (My cupcake),
When the words fail, the music takes over.

I think that once one gets over the issues around the older [married] teacher and the 23 yr old student, his note really speaks of the kind of higher love which many others have commented on in this series. Although he may have just been looking for a little cupcake on the side, my aunt kept all of their correspondence from a nearly twenty year relationship including a pressed flower in her diary on the day he died. I guess the music really did take over and carry that relationship.

May. 02 2007 09:26 PM

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