Note from archiver<at>cs.uu.nl:
This page is part of a big collection
of Usenet postings, archived here for your convenience.
For matters concerning the content of this page,
please contact its author(s); use the
source, if all else fails.
For matters concerning the archive as a whole, please refer to the
or contact the archiver.
Subject: [humanities.music.composers.wagner] Wagner General FAQ
This article was archived around: 19 Jan 2011 05:26:48 GMT
Disclaimer: Approval for *.answers is based on form, not content.
Last-modified: 18 May 2010 17:35:00 GMT
Summary: General FAQ concerning composer Richard Wagner (1813-83).
Information about the hmcw newsgroup and posting guidelines.
Subject: General FAQ for humanities.music.composers.wagner
The list of frequently asked questions (and their answers) for the news
group humanities.music.composers.wagner (hmcw), with pointers to other
sources of information. This version supersedes all previous versions.
The bibliographical supplement to this FAQ ("Wagner Books FAQ") can be
found at < http://www.monsalvat.no/booksfaq.htm >. The Wagner Books
FAQ concentrates on titles that are available (although not necessarily
in print) in English. A few books in other languages, of relevance to
matters discussed in the newsgroup but not available in an English
translation, are included.
Table of Contents
I. Welcome to humanities.music.composers.wagner!
B. How should I read and contribute to this newsgroup?
C. How do I read this FAQ?
D. Abbreviations and acronyms
II. Who was Richard Wagner?
A. Wagner's life, work and ideas
B. Wagner's political and racial ideas
C. The total work of art
D. Wagner's philosophy and spirituality
E. Biographical references
* F. Musical works
G. Prose and poetry
H. Abandoned operas
III. Frequently asked questions
A. How can I get tickets to the Bayreuth Festival?
B. Where can I obtain the Ring Disc?
C. Was Wagner a personal friend of Adolf Hitler?
D. Wasn't Wagner anti-Semitic?
E. Why does Siegmund sing the renunciation motif as he draws the sword
from the tree?
F. Why didn't Alberich use his ring to escape when he was captured by
Wotan and Loge?
G. Why is Valhall set on fire at the end of the 'Ring' cycle?
H. Why didn't Wagner kill off Alberich?
* I. Who are the Wagner family and how are they related to each other?
J. Does anybody know the title of the helicopter tune in 'Apocalypse
K. What about Wagner's women?
L. What is the name of the mortal woman who is mother to Siegmund and
* M. Which recording of the 'Ring'/ 'Dutchman'/ 'Lohengrin'/ 'Tristan'/
'Parsifal'/ 'Mastersingers'/ 'Tannhäuser' should I get as my first
N. How can I get inside the Palazzo Vendramin in Venice?
O. What is the difference between the 'Liebestod' and 'Isolde's
P. When can I applaud at a performance of 'Parsifal'?
* Q. What new productions are planned for the Bayreuth Festival?
R. Who were the Herodias and Gundryggia referred to in 'Parsifal'?
S. Was Beckmesser based on Eduard Hanslick?
T. Is the name Wesendonk or Wesendonck?
U. Was Wagner a Freemason?
W. Was Wagner a Vegetarian?
Y. Was Wagner's music played in the Nazi concentration camps?
Z. What should I know before my first visit to the Bayreuth
IV. Where can I find more information?
A. Offline sources
i. What books should every Wagner fan have on their bookshelves?
ii. Wagner's writings
iii. Wagner's musical compositions
iv. Diaries of Richard and Cosima Wagner
v. Letters to and from Richard Wagner
vi. Wagner-related periodicals
vii. Sources for Wagner's texts
viii. The Bayreuth Festival
* B. On-line sources
i. A few good, general, online sites about Richard Wagner
ii. Web sites, synopses and online discographies
iii. Web sites related to the Bayreuth Festival
iv. Wagner Societies
v. On-line libretti and scores
vi. Performance diaries
vii. Related newsgroups and message boards
V. Acknowledgements and Copyright
Subject: I. Welcome to humanities.music.composers.wagner!
Welcome to humanities.music.composers.wagner! In this newsgroup we discuss
Richard Wagner, his life, works and influence. Steve Milne started this
group back in December 1995. His charter for the newsgroup provides general
guidelines for the scope of discussions here.
The humanities.* placement of the group is intended to reflect the academic
orientation of much of the discussion.
Subject: A. Charter for humanities.music.composers.wagner
The newsgroup humanities.music.composers.wagner is intended to provide a
forum for mature discussion of all aspects of Richard Wagner. Subjects
discussed in the newsgroup might include (but are not limited to):
* The music dramas, their meanings and contemporary relevance.
* Recordings of Wagner's music. Recommendations of recordings. News of
* Discussions about performances of Wagner's work - reviews of current
opera productions and information about forthcoming productions.
* Discussions about the history of the Bayreuth Festival, along with
information about ticket availability, strategies for procuring tickets
for the festival.
* Debates about Wagner's artistic and theoretical ideas
* Wagner's contemporaries their influence on Wagner and vice-versa
* Wagner's influence on art and the theatre.
Subject: B. How should I read and contribute to this newsgroup?
i. If you haven't already done so, now is as good a time as any to read
the guide to net etiquette (or "netiquette") regularly posted to the news-
group news.announce.newusers. There is an HTML version of the guide at
< http://www.faqs.org/faqs/usenet/emily-postnews/part1/ >
ii. If you are new to Usenet, then you should read the rules for posting
regularly posted both to news.announce.newusers and to news.answers. You
can find an HTML version of the posting rules at
< http://www.faqs.org/faqs/usenet/posting-rules/part1/ >
iii. DO NOT POST IN UPPER CASE. Submissions in a single case (all upper or
all lower) are difficult to read.
iv. Do not flame. A "flame" is an angry post. Sometimes you will find
angry posts in follow-up to your own. The temptation may then be to make
an angry post in response. Think first. Just because somebody calls you a
bad name, doesn't mean you have to respond in kind. Just because someone
disagrees with you, it does not mean that he or she is a moron. If the
poster is obviously a troll, then it might be better not to rely at all.
v. It is advisable to lurk for a few days (or even weeks) without posting,
before you post a message.
vi. Keep your postings to Wagner-related topics.
vii. We may have discussed the topic before - check the Google Groups
archive to see if past threads might hold the answers to your questions.
Before asking a "basic" question, please read the latest "frequently
asked questions" posting.
viii. Specific questions are more likely to get useful answers than are
general ones. For general information, you should try to obtain reference
books from the lists provided in the Wagner Books FAQ (see introduction).
ix. Avoid crossposting - ensure that your article is posted only to news-
groups where its content is appropriate. Don't spam. Spammers will be
reported to their ISPs.
x. Do not post binaries (pictures, sound files, etc.) to this newsgroup.
Not everyone can handle those relatively large files and binaries in non-
binary groups have been known to get those newsgroups removed from some
ISP's. Instead put them on a web page or post them to an alt.binaries.*
group and post a notice to their location on this group.
xi. Do not post in HTML or any other format that uses styles. Some news-
readers can only handle plain text.
xii. The language of the hmcw newsgroup is English. Posting in other
languages is discouraged.
xiii. Many of the postings to the hmcw group will contain quotes in German
and will occasionally quote in other European languages. It is therefore
recommended that you set the options in your newsreader for 8-bit
characters, Western European encoding and the ISO Latin 1 character set
(either ISO-8859-1 or ISO-8859-15). In subject fields, please use only
standard ASCII characters; do not use ampersands (&).
xiv. Keep line lengths to less than 80 columns. 72 is suggested, to allow
for indentation of quoted text in replies.
xv. When replying to a posting do not quote more of the original than is
necessary. It is seldom necessary to quote a whole message. Some posting
software automatically quotes the whole message when you respond but you
should delete the portions of the message that are not relevant to your
response. Use ellipses ("..."). Do not quote .signatures. Do not leave
the entire earlier posting at the end of your own posting.
xvi. In the new Google Groups you can save yourself the trouble of copying
and pasting from the message to which you are replying. Instead of click-
ing on 'Reply' at the bottom of the message, select 'Show options' and
xvii. If you are not familiar with logic but want to make a convincing
case, then you should read the following introduction to logic and
< http://www.infidels.org/news/atheism/logic.html >
Schopenhauer's essay on dialectic and debating ('The Art of Controversy')
can be found in English translation here:
< http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/schopenhauer/arthur/controversy/ >
xviii. Use of a *standalone* newsreader is recommended. Most of these
programs provide the user with some filtering features, which allow
you to filter out postings that you do not want to see. For example,
from known trolls, like our anti-Semitic bootboy Jeff. Information
about the newsreaders for the most popular platforms can be found at
< http://www.newsreaders.com >.
xix. You will find that keeping your sense of humour will help you to get
the most out of any newsgroup.
Subject: C. How do I read this FAQ?
Each question/section begins with 'Subject:' on a line of its own. If you
have a suitably equipped newsreader then you can automatically skip to the
next 'Subject:' heading, e.g. "trn" will display the start of the section
when you press ^G (control-G).
Recently updated or new questions are marked with a * at the beginning of
the line in the table of contents.
Subject: D. Abbreviations and acronyms
The following abbreviations and acronyms often appear in hmcw postings:
BB Das Braune Buch (The Brown Book): Wagner's occasional diary.
CT Cosimas Tagebücher (Cosima's Diaries): the private diaries of
Wagner's second wife, Cosima. See the Wagner Books FAQ, section VI-B.
Gd-N-n Götterdämmerung, act N, scene n.
GSD Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen: Wagner's own compilation of
his collected writings. Volume X was added after Wagner's death but in
accordance with his instructions. See the Wagner Books FAQ, section VI-C.
MHG Middle High German (Mittelhochdeutsch): the medieval variant of
the German language in which Wolfram's 'Parzival', Gottfried's 'Tristan'
and the anonymous 'Nibelungenlied' were written. It bears approximately
the same relation to modern High German as does Chaucer's Middle English
to modern English.
ML Mein Leben (My Life): Wagner's unreliable autobiography. See the
Wagner Books FAQ, section II-A.
MW Mathilde Wesendonck: see sections III-K and III-T below.
ON Old Norse: the original language of many of the sagas and poems on
which Wagner drew for elements of his 'Ring'. Some of those sources, such
as the Edda poems, are in a dialect of ON called Old Icelandic.
PW Prose Works: W.A. Ellis' notoriously inaccurate translation, into
a strange kind of English, of the prose writings in GSD. See the Wagner
Books FAQ, section VI-C.
R-n Das Rheingold, scene n.
RMO rec.music.opera: a newsgroup established for the discussion of
opera but now mainly devoted to flame wars and the display of psychotic
RW Richard Wagner.
S-N-n Siegfried, act N, scene n.
SSD Sämtliche Schriften und Dichtungen: an extended compilation of
Wagner's prose and poetry. See the Wagner Books FAQ, section VI-C.
T&I Tristan und Isolde, Handlung in drei Aufzügen, WWV 90.
W-as-N Wagner-as-Nazi: a lunatic fringe of writers who have promoted the
idea that Richard Wagner was a proto-Nazi. It includes Hartmut Zelinsky
and Joachim Köhler.
W-N-n Die Walküre, act N, scene n.
WWR The World as Will and Representation (Die Welt als Wille und
Vorstellung) by Arthur Schopenhauer: the book that changed Wagner's life.
WWV Wagner Werk-Verzeichnis: the catalogue of Richard Wagner's
musical and dramatic works. See the Wagner Books FAQ, section III-E.
Subject: II. Who was Richard Wagner?
This section provides only general background information. To find out
more about Richard Wagner (RW), you could consult one of the many
biographies; see subsection C below. There is a chronological table of
RW's life and works at < http://www.monsalvat.no/wagnerlife.htm >.
Subject: A. Wagner's life, work and ideas
Richard Wagner (1813-1883) started out as a conductor and composer of
operas, but he soon reacted against the "whole clinking, twinkling,
glittering, glistening show, Grand Opera!" Wagner (RW) concluded that what
was wrong with the operas of the early 19th century was that drama had
become nothing more than an excuse for the performance of music. Wagner
intended to reverse this, and to create "music-dramas" (not a term
introduced by RW but one that has often been applied to his later dramas)
in which music would serve the purposes of drama. Therefore ideally the
orchestra would be invisible and the action on stage would be 'deeds of
music made visible'. In order to achieve a closer unity between poetry
and music, RW became one of the first operatic composers to write their
RW is perhaps best known for his cycle, 'The Nibelung's Ring', a massive
work that took him almost 27 years to write. During the composition of
this work, RW realized that there was no stage in Europe suitable for the
'Ring'. He set about raising money to build his own "Festival Theatre" in
the small German town of Bayreuth. Although the first festival was a
financial disaster, the Bayreuth Festival, which was the begetter of the
whole festival idea, survives to this day.
In addition to his talent for musical composition on the largest of
scales, RW was a man of the theatre. His theories, innovations and
experiments had a profound effect on the staging of opera and attitudes to
"A man with a genius for many arts has brought those arts, in his own
work, more intimately into union than they have ever before been brought;
and he has delighted the world with this combination of arts as few men of
special genius have ever delighted the world with their work in any of
these arts." (Arthur Symons, 1905)
Subject: B. Wagner's political and racial ideas
Wagner tends to generate rather fierce, lively and often bad-tempered
debate between "Wagnerites" and "Anti-Wagnerites", not least where his
political and racial ideas are concerned. Dieter Borchmeyer has
written: "The merest glance at writings on Wagner, including the most
recent ones on the composer's life and works, is enough to convince the
most casual reader that he or she has wandered into a madhouse. Even
serious scholars take leave of their senses when writing about Wagner
and start to rant. There are transcendental Wagnerians with their heads
in the clouds, phallo-Wagnerians whose sights are set somewhat lower,
meekly feminist "Wagnériennes" and brashly political "Wagnerianer" --
and in every case there are their polemical opposite numbers, busily
condemning and unmasking Wagner in the name of the very same values and
on the strength of the very same evidence, their desire to unmask Wagner
driving them to the very brink of scientific and psychological flagell-
antism and persuading them to see a causal link between 'Parsifal' and
Auschwitz." [From the preface to 'Drama and the World of Richard Wagner',
tr. Daphne Ellis, Princeton, 2003].
Wagner was Hitler's favorite composer; this coupled with his own anti-
Semitism (as expressed most clearly in his essay, 'Judaism in Music',
concerning which see below under "Frequently asked questions") has made
RW a controversial figure even today. His music is still widely
boycotted in Israel; although a recent performance of the 'Siegfried
Idyll' by the Rishon Lezion SO attracted, among a large audience, only
one protester. It needs to be added that RW never advocated violence
against the Jews, nor against any racial or ethnic minority.
During RW's early career, he associated with radicals and revolutionaries
(such as the anarchist Bakunin, whom some people regard as the model for
Siegfried). For his part in the Dresden Uprising of 1849, from which he
made a narrow escape, RW was outlawed in most of Germany and he went into
exile in Switzerland. In his later career, under the sponsorship of the
King of Bavaria, RW became more conservative (although he never renounced
his utopian socialism) and nationalistic.
He was particularly negative about the French, especially after the
failure of his opera 'Tannhäuser' at the Paris Opera in 1861 (hence RW's
'A Capitulation' of 1870, in which he obviously enjoys the idea of the
besieged Parisians eating rats). According to RW (in 'German Art and
German Policy', 1867) the Germans were capable of developing a culture
superior to the civilisation of the despised French -- a culture in which
German art, not least Wagner's art, would occupy centre stage.
Subject: C. The total work of art
During the first half of the 18th century German intellectuals were
aware that their culture lacked the deep roots in Roman civilisation
that were shared by the "Latin" countries, including Italy and France.
Those countries had continuous linguistic and cultural traditions that
could be traced back to the Roman Empire. In Germany, which at that time
did not exist as a nation but only as a commonality of language, even
that language did not belong to the family of Romance languages. One
result of this concern on the part of German intellectuals was their
attempt to recover a German cultural tradition from the Middle Ages and,
in order to push their roots deeper into human history, scholars sought
the antecedents of medieval literature in the Icelandic sagas and poems.
It was from this rediscovered heritage that RW began to develop his
scenarios for truly German art.
Wagner realised that it was possible to side-step the issue of Romance
civilisation by building upon the artistic achievements of the Greeks.
So he looked back, far beyond the Middle Ages, to the arts of the lyric
age of Greece and in particular to Athenian tragedy. Wagner developed a
theory that the separate arts -- the primary trio of poetry, music and
dance/mime, and the secondary trio of painting, sculpture and
architecture -- had once been united, in the dramas of ancient Greece.
This unity had begun to fall apart in the 5th century BCE and the arts
were now overdue to be reunited. Therefore Wagner conceived the idea of
creating a total work of art (Gesamtkunstwerk), in which the separate
arts would once more assist each other. He argued that music had reached
its limits in the works of Beethoven, who had discovered, when composing
his 9th symphony, that he needed the assistance of Schiller's poetry in
order to go beyond those limits. Just as, in that case, poetry had come
to the aid of music, so could music come to the aid of poetry as spoken
drama, and dance/mime or dramatic gesture could assist both.
Subject: D. Wagner's philosophy and spirituality
Wagner's study of philosophy and spirituality gave his music-dramas a
depth and universality that sets them apart from most other works for the
musical theatre. Although RW lost interest in institutional religion
during his teens, he developed a lasting interest both in mysticism (both
in western mystics such as the Dominican Meister Eckhart, and in eastern
ones such as the Sufi poet Hafiz) and in that part of philosophy closest
to theology. He dedicated his essay, 'The Art-Work of the Future' (1849)
to Ludwig Feuerbach, the philosopher and author of 'The Essence of
Christianity'. Commentators have seen the influences of Feuerbach's
philosophy of religion and of Hegel's philosophy of history in the 'Ring'.
Five years later, a friend introduced him to the writings of another
philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, whose 'The World as Will and
Representation' he read four times in less than a year. This book not only
revealed to RW the meaning of his own 'Ring' poems, but led him to write
new texts (notably 'Tristan und Isolde') that deal with human existence in
terms of this philosophy. Infected by Schopenhauer's interest in Indian
religions, RW began to study books on this subject recommended by
Schopenhauer. These studies led him to begin a work that he never
completed, the Buddhist drama 'Die Sieger', and to another which he did,
Subject: E. Biographical sources
It is sometimes claimed (inaccurately) that more books have been written
about RW than anyone who has ever lived, with the exceptions of Jesus
Christ and Napoleon Buonaparte. In fact there have been thousands of books
and many thousands of articles published about RW and his works, ranging
from the scholarly to the totally wacko.
A selection of the biographies of Richard and Cosima Wagner can be found
in the Wagner Books FAQ, Section II.
Subject: F. Musical works
The catalogue of Wagner's musical and dramatic works is the 'Wagner Werk-
Verzeichnis'. It lists 113 works, although it is reasonably certain that
no music was written for a handful of them.
Here is a shorter list of the major works among them, grouped by category,
with the dates of their completion and of their first performance:
* Completed Operas and Music Dramas
T= date of completion of text (with the exception of any small changes
made later), M= date of completion of music, P= date and location of first
_'Die Feen'_ (The Fairies), grand romantic opera, WWV 32. This work is in
a mixture of German and Italian styles. T: February 1833, revised 1834.
M: Spring 1834. P: 29 June 1888, Munich.
_'Das Liebesverbot, oder Die Novize von Palermo'_ (Forbidden Love), grand
comic opera, WWV 38. This German comedy was completed in 1836 and
performed only once - the second performance had to be abandoned before the
curtain rose and the bankruptcy of the opera company prevented any further
performances that season. The music is clearly influenced by Bellini, as
well as by Donizetti, Rossini, Marschner and Auber. T: December 1834.
M: March 1836, revised Spring 1840. P: 29 March 1836, Magdeburg.
_'Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen'_ (Rienzi, Last of the Tribunes), grand
tragic opera, WWV 49. This was Wagner's attempt to create a French Grand
Opera in imitation of Meyerbeer. Wagner also acknowledged the influence of
Halévy. T: August 1838, tr. early 1840. M: September 1840. P: 20 October
_'Der fliegende Holländer'_ (The Flying Dutchman), romantic opera, WWV 63.
This is the first work in the 'Bayreuth canon', i.e. the works that are
regularly staged at the Bayreuth Festival. It is a German opera on
supernatural themes, showing the influences both of Weber and of Marschner
(in particular, of his 'Der Vampyr'). T: May 1841. M: October 1841, rev.
January 1860. P: 2 January 1843, Dresden.
_'Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg'_ (Tannhäuser and the Song
Contest on the Wartburg), grand romantic opera, WWV 70. Completed in
1845, but substantially revised at least three times:
* Version 1. T: April 1843. M: October 1845. P: 19 October 1845,
* Version 2. T: Spring 1847. M: May 1847, minor revision September 1851,
not published until June 1860. P: 1 August 1847, Dresden.
* Version 3. T: March 1861. M: March 1861. P: 13 March 1861, Paris.
* Version 4. T: September 1861, revised (and translated back into German)
Spring 1865. M: Various dates. P: 1 August 1867, Munich.
_'Lohengrin'_ , romantic opera, WWV 75. After completing this opera in
1848, Wagner became mixed up in politics, with the consequence that he had
to leave Germany. As an exile, he was unable to arrange for it to be
performed or to supervise the first performance, conducted by Franz Liszt.
T: November 1845. M: April 1848, Dresden. P: 28 August 1850, Weimar.
_'Der Ring des Nibelungen'_ (The Nibelung's Ring), a 'stage festival
play', WWV 86. Wagner's original intention, which was shared by a number
of other composers at the time, was to write an opera based on the
'Nibelungenlied', to be called 'Siegfried's Tod' (The Death of Siegfried).
Wagner actually got as far as writing the music for the first two scenes
before he abandoned it, in favour of a cycle of four dramas. Once the text
of all four had been completed (except for revisions later), Wagner
composed the music to the first and shortest of the dramas in his cycle.
First performance of the complete cycle: 13, 14, 16 and 17 August 1876,
_'Das Rheingold'_ (The Rhine Gold), preliminary evening of the 'Ring'
cycle, WWV 86a. T: November 1852. M: September 1854, Zürich.
P: 22 September 1869, Munich.
_'Die Walküre'_ (The Valkyrie), first day of the 'Ring' cycle, WWV 86b.
T: July 1852. M: March 1856, Zürich. P: 26 June 1870, Munich.
_'Siegfried'_ (originally 'Der junge Siegfried'), second day of the 'Ring'
cycle, WWV 86c, was well under way before Wagner, despairing of ever
getting this hugely expensive project staged, put it on hold. Wagner
needed to find something more practical, if not profitable. He would not
finish the music until 1871, and staging would have to wait until after a
new theatre had been built for the 'Ring'. T: December 1852, revised 1856.
M: February 1871, Tribschen. P: 16 August 1876, Bayreuth.
_'Tristan und Isolde'_ , WWV 90, was intended to be a small, practical
opera that Wagner could get staged. Interrupted by a marital crisis, he
continued to work on the score in Venice. After King Ludwig put the
resources of the Munich Court Theatre at Wagner's disposal, his
revolutionary work was staged there in 1865. 'Tristan-fever' has
continued to this day. T: September 1857, Zürich. M: August 1859,
Lucerne. P: 10 June 1865, Munich.
_'Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg'_ (The Mastersingers of Nuremburg), WWV
96. For the first time since 'Das Liebesverbot', Wagner returned to comedy
(again of a rather heavy, Germanic kind). T: January 1862, revised January
1867. M: October 1867, Tribschen. P: 21 June 1868, Munich.
_'Götterdämmerung'_ (The Twilight of the Gods, or Night Falls on the
Gods), third day of the 'Ring' cycle, WWV 86d. The 1848 text of what had
been 'Siegfrieds Tod' was substantially rewritten in 1852 and revised in
1856. It then gathered dust until Wagner had returned to and completed
'Siegfried', when he was able to compose the music for the final part of
his cycle. T: December 1852 (revised May 1856 and 1872). M: November 1874,
Bayreuth. P: 17 August 1876, Bayreuth.
_'Parsifal'_ , sacred stage festival play (Bühnenweihfestspiel), WWV 111.
Inspired, according to 'Mein Leben', on and by Good Friday 1857, this
drama too had a long gestation. A detailed prose draft was written in
August 1865, but the libretto was not completed until 1877. After it was
first performed in Bayreuth in 1882, the Wagner family lawyers ensured
that it was not staged anywhere else for the next twenty years. The
Metropolitan Opera in New York was the first to defy Bayreuth, by staging
this drama in 1903. T: April 1877. M: January 1882, Palermo. P: 26 July
Only the ten operas from 'Holländer' to 'Parsifal' are performed at
the Bayreuth Festival, although some of the early operas have been staged
as "fringe" productions in Bayreuth. These ten works (or seven if one
counts the 'Ring' as one work) are known as the canonical dramas.
* Orchestral Works
The young Wagner had ambitions as a symphonist. His first attempt was the
Symphony in C of 1832 (WWV 29) an imitation of Beethoven. Although there
were a few false starts, Wagner never completed another symphony. Despite
the dismal failure of his youthful 'Drum-beat Overture' (WWV 10) in 1830,
he persevered in composing overtures; the best example being the 'Faust
Overture' (originally intended as the first movement of a symphony) in d
minor (WWV 59) of 1840/1855. He also wrote a few marches, including one
for the American Centennial (Grosser Festmarsch, WWV 110), written in
Two other orchestral works are noteworthy: the Funeral Music (Trauermusik,
WWV 73), for the return of Weber's ashes to Dresden, is for an enormous
wind band. At the opposite extreme, the 'Siegfried Idyll' (WWV 103), which
at one time bore the title 'Symphony' is for an orchestra of 13 players.
Ernest Newman believed that it had begun life as a string quartet. It was
first performed as a birthday surprise for Cosima in 1870.
* Choral Works
Wagner composed a variety of choral music, of which the following pieces
are the most noteworthy. 'Das Liebesmahl der Apostel' (The Love Feast of
the Apostles, WWV 69) is a biblical scene for choir, first performed by
massed choral societies in Dresden in 1843. It is a strikingly original
work, despite its hurried composition.
'An Webers Grabe' (WWV 72) is another piece composed for the return of
Weber's ashes to Dresden. It was performed at the reburial ceremony on 15
* Vocal Works
The young Wagner composed several arias for insertion into operas by other
composers, including a bass aria for Bellini's 'Norma' (WWV 52). He also
composed a number of songs for solo voice and piano, including (during his
miserable existence in Paris) a setting of Heine's 'The Two Grenadiers'
(WWV 60). The most important of his songs are the 'Five Songs for a Female
Voice' (WWV 91), to texts of Mathilde Wesendonck (1857-58). These songs
are closely connected to (or studies for) 'Tristan und Isolde'.
* Piano Works
Wagner's piano music mainly consists of small pieces, such as the
'Albumblatt für Frau Betty Schott' of 1875 (WWV 108), or the 'Ankunft bei
den schwarzen Schwänen' (Arrival of the Black Swans) of 1861 (WWV 95).
Three more substantial works were composed in 1831-32: the Fantasia in f#
minor (WWV 22), Sonata in B flat (Wagner's official 'opus one', WWV 21)
and the 'Grosse Sonate' in A major (WWV 26). In 1853 Wagner composed
another piano sonata, in A flat: 'Eine Sonate für das Album von Frau MW'
(WWV 85), which some consider to be the most important of these piano
Those who find Wagner too serious and those who take Wagner too seriously
should seek out his piano four-hand 'Polonaise' (WWV 23) of 1832. It was
not published until 1973, by Novello.
Wagner also made a number of piano arrangements during his Paris years, of
which the most substantial is the four-hands version -- it could even be
called a rewriting of -- the 'Grande fantasie sur la Romanesca' by Henri
Herz (WWV 62c, 1841).
Subject: G. Prose and poetry
Besides his activity as a composer and a librettist Wagner wrote an
astonishing number of books, articles and poems: the list published in
the 'Wagner Handbook' contains about 240 titles. There are a number of
minor writings that are not included in that list, however, so the total
is probably over 300. The literary spectrum ranges from aesthetic theory
to political speeches.
Subject: H. Abandoned operas
In addition to works that were published during his lifetime, Wagner's
output included sketches and drafts for stage works that were never
completed. His first attempt at writing opera, at the age of 17, was
soon abandoned and neither text nor music from his "pastoral opera",
based on a play by Goethe, 'Die Laune des Verliebten', has survived.
His next operatic project was 'Die Hochzeit', WWV 31, from which three
numbers have survived, although he destroyed the libretto.
Shortly after completing 'Das Liebesverbot' (see above), he attempted to
write a grand historical opera, 'Die hohe Braut oder Bianca und
Giuseppe', WWV 40. He completed only the libretto, which among other
influences showed that of Schiller and which he allowed his friend Jan
Bedrich Kittl to set to music. Kittl took such liberties with the book,
however, in particular diluting the revolutionary content of the work
and making much of the plot confused and unmotivated, that Wagner asked
that his name be removed from it. The libretto that appears in volume 11
of Wagner's collected works is the one rewritten by Kittl; it is unclear
how much of Wagner's text remains in it, although a comparison with his
prose draft shows that Kittl made significant changes. At about the same
time, Wagner drafted a comedy based on a tale from the Arabian Nights:
'Die glückliche Bärenfamilie', WWV 49. Unfortunately he abandoned the
project after sketching the first three numbers.
Later unrealised opera projects included 'The Mines at Falun' (Die
Bergwerke zu Falun) WWV 67, 'Friedrich Barbarossa' WWV 76, 'Wayland the
Smith' (Wieland der Schmied) WWV 82 and 'The Victors' (Die Sieger) WWV
89. Only for the last of these did Wagner sketch any music; see Osthoff,
Subject: III. Frequently asked questions
The answers given below have been compiled from responses given to similar
questions when they have been posted in the newsgroup. These answers do
not necessarily reflect the views of the editor.
Subject: A. How can I get tickets to the Bayreuth Festival?
1. You can try writing, in English, German or French, to the box office of
the Bayreuth Festival, not later than the middle of September, at the
Postfach 10 02 62
Ask for a booking form. When this arrives, you will need to complete it
and send it back, to arrive not later than the closing date, which is
usually in the middle of October.
Now for the bad news. You won't get tickets. All you get is a 'negative'
registered in the box office computer-system. You have to repeat this
process each year until you have enough 'negatives' to qualify for
tickets. Currently the waiting list seems to be about 9 years. The reason
for this is very simple. In any season there are no more than 60,000
tickets available. Some of these are allocated to the Wagner Societies or
to other organizations, and a few go to tour operators. The remainder are
sold via the box office, which gets about 600,000 ticket applications each
If you are not concerned about attending particular performances, or about
particular parts of the house, you can write "EGAL" across the appropriate
column. In other words, "I'll take anything". You might also improve your
odds, by asking for older rather than newer productions.
Do not rely on getting an order form automatically each year. Make a note
in your diary to write in July.
2. You can join your local Wagner Society (see the list of home pages
below). Each society gets a small allocation of tickets, which are then
allocated, usually by a ballot for which only members can apply.
3. Apparently non-European Wagner Societies are allocated more tickets in
proportion to their membership, than are European Wagner Societies. So
try joining a Wagner Society outside of Europe. Or even better, start
one; there are still a few countries in western Africa without Wagner
4. If that also fails, the last thing you can do is come to Bayreuth and
queue in front of the box office from early in the morning (with your
evening wear in a bag, just in case) until just before the performance
(when, sometimes, returned tickets appear as if by a miracle).
5. After giving up at the box office, you can sit in front of the
Festspielhaus, in your best evening wear, holding up a sign that says
"Suche Karte" and with a sad look on your face. Do not give up even after
the performance has begun; sometimes patrons leave during one of the
intervals and give their tickets to some of the pathetic creatures sitting
on the pavement. At least you get to see the last act.
6. If money is no problem, buy a package tour that includes travel, hotel
and a ticket. There are various opera-travel specialists who advertise in
magazines such as 'Opera'. Call them and ask about Bayreuth packages. Try
'Carlson Wagonlit' or 'Thomas Cook'.
7. If you are wealthy, buy a ticket on the black market. WARNING! In recent
years the attitude of the Festival management has hardened not only
towards the "scalpers" who trade in black-market tickets but also those
who buy such tickets. A "scalper" is anyone who asks more for a ticket
than its face value. The Festival management regard such tickets as void
and invalid. There have been instances of individuals with black-market
tickets being forcibly ejected from the Festspielhaus and in at least
one case dragged from their seats. It is reported that offenders are
advised to leave Bayreuth immediately and not to return. So if you use a
black-market ticket, you must be prepared to be black-listed for life.
8. If you are really wealthy, join the Friends of Bayreuth. After an
initial period, friends are usually allocated a limited number of tickets
every second year. You will also gain a voice in the management of the
Festival, since the Friends are represented on the Board of Trustees.
9. If you are a writing person, then get a newspaper or a magazine to send
you as their correspondent. You will have to write something for them, of
Subject: B. Where can I obtain the Ring Disc?
The Ring Disc is no longer on sale. Second-hand copies have been available on Amazon.
Subject: C. Was Wagner a personal friend of Adolf Hitler?
Adolf Hitler was born after Richard Wagner died. Hitler was without
doubt a great admirer of RW. Opinions differ on whether there was any
kind of direct influence. The fundamental problem of the Hitler-Wagner
link is that no-one has ever been able to satisfactorily explain or
understand Hitler. This would imply that no definitive understanding of
his relationship with RW is available at present. Sources that suggest
that RW was an important influence on Hitler include Hermann Rauschning
('Gespräche mit Hitler', 1940; 'Hitler Speaks', 1939) and
August Kubizek ('Adolf Hitler, mein Jugendfreund', 1953; 'Young Hitler,
the Story of Our Friendship', 1955).
* Hermann Rauschning's 'Hitler Speaks'
The widely-held belief that Wagner was an important influence on Hitler
has been formed by the association of these two figures in the media
and popular literature. Popular (i.e. non-scholarly) discussion of
Hitler's relationship with Wagner ultimately relies on a single source:
Hermann Rauschning's 'Hitler Speaks'. With the exception of a speech
given by Hitler at the unveiling of a memorial to Wagner on the 50th
anniversary of the composer's death, Hitler rarely mentioned Wagner in
public. In that speech Hitler spoke of Wagner only as an artist; he
said nothing to suggest that Wagner had been an ideological influence
on him. Records and recollections of Hitler's private conversations
reveal that he often spoke with enthusiasm about Wagner's music but
never made any reference to Wagner's political ideas. So Rauschning's
book is the only source that presents Hitler acknowledging Wagner as an
In the early 1930s Hermann Rauschning was the leader of the Nazi party
in Danzig. He fell out with Gauleiter Albert Forster over economic
issues and had to resign under pressure from Hitler. In 1935 Rauschning
left the Nazi party and Germany for France and then to the United
States, where he reinvented himself as a Christian conservative,
claimed to have been a close personal friend of Hitler, and wrote
(almost certainly with the assistance of a Hungarian-American
journalist called Emery Reeves and probably also the British journalist
Henry Wickham-Steele) his book. For accounts of the origins of
Rauschning's 'Conversations' see: 'Why Hitler: The Genesis of the Nazi
Reich' by S.W. Mitcham Jr. (Praeger, Westport and London, 1996), p.
137; and '1933: The Legality of Hitler's Rise to Power' by H.W. Koch,
in 'Aspects of the Third Reich' (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1985),
As was often the case with defectors of later decades, Rauschning tried
to satisfy the curiosity of his new masters even when his information
was very limited; and like other defectors, he exaggerated his own
importance and the extent of his high-level contacts. In recent years
it has been shown that passages in his book were compiled, by
Rauschning and his ghost-writer, from Hitler's speeches or other
identifiable sources (see below); and so not recalled from
"conversations with Hitler". It has been established that Rauschning
only met Hitler on about four occasions, at Nazi party functions, where
their conversations consisted of small-talk. The balance of probability
is that those sections of the book that were not copied from already
published sources, were invented by Rauschning and Reeves. "The
research of the Swiss educator Wolfgang Hänel has made it clear that
the 'Conversations' were mostly free inventions." ('Encyclopedia of the
Third Reich', ed Christian Zentner and Friedemann Bedürftig, tr. Amy
Hackert, MacMillan Publishing, 1991, volume 2, page 757).
Hänel's research, published in 1983, put the last nails in the coffin
of Rauschning's reputation. 'Der Spiegel' (7 September 1985) commented:
"Haenel not only proves the falsification, he also shows how the
impressive surrogate was quickly compiled and which ingredients were
mixed together." Those ingredients included extracts from the writings
of Ernst Juenger and Friedrich Nietzsche; extended quotes from speeches
made by Hitler after 1935; and a short story by Guy de Maupassant.
In his acclaimed biography of Hitler, Ian Kershaw wrote: "I have on no
single occasion cited Hermann Rauschning's 'Hitler Speaks', a work now
regarded to have so little authenticity that it is best to disregard it
altogether." The leading German historian Hans Mommsen has written:
"The authenticity of Rauschning's book, moreover, is no longer accepted
today". ('From Weimar to Auschwitz: Essays in German History', Hans
Mommsen, tr. Philip O'Connor, Oxford University Press, 1991, note 67.)
Except by a few writers who have drawn heavily on Rauschning for
inspiration (notably Robert Gutman and Joachim Köhler). They have been
reluctant to acknowledge their discredited source, which is only
obvious to readers who are familiar with the relevant passages in
Those who cling to the belief that Wagner was Hitler's ideological
forerunner and therefore (as their only support) to the authenticity of
Rauschning's 'Conversations' point to other historians, lawyers and
journalists who have accepted Rauschning's account without question.
Although this was common up to about 1975, since then Rauschning has
been regarded with increasing scepticism and his book eventually
discredited by the research summarised above. In short: the book is a
hoax, written for the purposes of wartime propaganda and for the
financial benefit of its authors.
* August Kubizek's 'Young Hitler'
Kubizek's recollections of his boyhood friend are a different matter,
although also here there are grounds for suspicion that material has
been elaborated if not invented. This book has long been popular with
Hitler's apologists and sympathisers, for its unusually rose-coloured
portrait of the Führer as a young man. The Hitler described in 'Young
Hitler' is no vicious madman, hardly even an anti-Semite, but rather
an intelligent aesthete and visionary, a patriot who showed unusual
leadership qualities from a young age.
Kubizek's 'Young Hitler' made three significant contributions to the
myth of Hitler's inspiration by Wagner:
1. He claimed that Hitler read at least some of Wagner's essays;
2. He claimed that Hitler made an attempt to write an opera based on
Wagner's draft for 'Wayland the Smith'; and
3. The story that Hitler attended a performance of 'Rienzi' with Kubizek,
that after that performance Hitler decided to become the leader of a
revitalised Germany, and that when Kubizek met Hitler again in 1938 and
reminded him of that night, Hitler supposedly replied, "In that hour it
In his recent book 'Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics' (Overlook,
Woodstock and New York, 2003), Frederic Spotts is sceptical concerning
Kubizek's claim that the young Hitler read Wagner's prose writings and
letters. Even more so concerning Joachim Fest's claim (1973) that
Wagner's prose was Hitler's favourite reading matter. "There is no
corroborative evidence for either of these claims. Hitler never ascribed
any of his views to Wagner, not in 'Mein Kampf', his speeches, articles
or recorded private conversations... Indeed, there is no evidence that
Hitler ever read Wagner's collected writings, much less that they were
'his favourite reading'. The origin of the myth is probably Kubizek's
book, where the youthful Hitler was said to have read every biography,
letter, essay, diary and other scrap by and about his hero that he could
lay his hands on. But Kubizek himself contradicted that story in his
wartime 'Reminiscences', which he later expanded into the more
marketable, post-war book 'Young Hitler'."
A comparison of the two books is instructive. They were written for
different audiences: 'Reminiscences' in 1944-45 for the Nazi faithful
and the more polished 'Young Hitler' for a post-war readership. The
evidence of the 'Reminiscences' is that young Hitler had been impressed
by a performance of Wagner's 'Rienzi', and that Kubizek and Hitler
wandered round the "dark, cold and foggy streets of Linz" after the
show, and that it was a "memorable night". But Kubizek did not say, as
he would do later in 'Young Hitler', that on that night Hitler had
declared an intention to unite Germany. Or that, when Kubizek met Hitler
again in 1939 and reminded him of that night in Linz, Hitler had said,
"In that hour it began"; perhaps because those passages were written by
Apart from being popular with neo-Nazis, Kubizek's 'Young Hitler' has
been a key resource for those who have portrayed Wagner as a proto-Nazi
and as a source of Nazi ideology, such as Paul Rose, Marc Weiner and
Subject: D. Wasn't Wagner anti-Semitic?
Wagner was an anti-Semite from, at the latest, 1850, when he wrote
'Judaism in Music' (Das Judenthum in der Musik). The English translation
of this title is a little misleading, since Wagner has little to say
about Judaism; the article is mainly concerned with the situation of the
Jewish artist (poet or composer) in a non-Jewish culture. This essay was
first published anonymously in the 'Neue Zeitschrift für Musik' in two
instalments in September that year. RW took as his starting point earlier
articles in which Theodor Uhlig had attacked Meyerbeer's 'Les Huguenots'.
RW reprinted his article practically unchanged in 1869, thereby provoking
demonstrations at the first performances of 'Die Meistersinger'. It
includes the following assertions (page references are to Wm Ashton Ellis'
English translation of the Prose Works, which follows the 1869 revision):
1. Jews are hateful (passim)
2. Judaism is rotten at the core; a religion of hatred (PW3 p90-1)
3. Jewish composers are comparable to worms feeding on the body of art
4. Jews are hostile to European civilisation (PW3 p84-5)
5. The Jew rules the world through money (PW3 p81)
6. The cultured Jew is "the most heartless of all human beings" (PW3 p87)
7. The Jews should, like Ahasuerus, "go under" (PW3 p100)
RW, however, did not explicitly advocate anything like extermination; in
the afterword to 'Judaism', published with it in 1869, RW explained that
he was arguing for the assimilation of the Jews, which would benefit both
them and their host community. In his private life RW had close Jewish
friends who appear to have regarded him with considerable affection.
Nonetheless, his second wife Cosima held strongly anti-Semitic views.
After RW's death, Bayreuth became a focal point for anti-Semitic and
right-wing individuals, encouraged by Cosima. This culminated in the
marriage of her daughter Eva to the right-wing ideologue, Houston Stewart
Chamberlain, who saw world history in terms of conflict between races.
The son of Richard and Cosima, Siegfried, was more balanced: "whether a
person is Chinese, a Negro, an American, an Indian or a Jew is to us a
matter of complete indifference". Siegfried died in 1930, the same year
as his mother. His English-born widow Winifred had already developed a
close friendship with Hitler when he was still a young unknown, and she
was largely responsible for Bayreuth's Nazi links.
A good starting point for reading about RW's anti-Semitism is the book by
Jacob Katz, 'The Darker Side of Genius'. A number of recent books have
taken a fresh look at this subject, including:
* 'Wagner: Race and Revolution' by Paul Lawrence Rose, who presented a
view in which racial and anti-Semitic ideas were the driving force behind
Wagner's creativity, even in 'Der fliegende Holländer'. Many Wagner
scholars vehemently oppose this view, in particular harshly criticising
Rose's scholarship; see for example Stewart Spencer's review ('Wagner',
January 1995, pages 46-48).
* 'Wagner and the Anti-Semitic Imagination' by Marc Weiner, is a study of
Wagner's anti-Semitism that has been met with hostility by many
Wagnerians, although other Wagnerians, including the author of this FAQ
and also Anthony Arblaster in his review ('Wagner', January 1996, pages
44-47), think that Weiner sheds light on some dark corners of Wagner's
These two books refer to earlier articles by Hartmut Zelinsky which
ignited a heated controversy in Germany. Zelinsky interpreted RW as a
proto-Nazi, and attempted to demonstrate that racial and anti-Semitic
schemes lay beneath the surface of RW's music-dramas. Hartmut Zelinsky's
published writings include:
* In 'Musik-Konzepte 5: Richard Wagner: wie antisemitisch darf ein
Künstler sein?', ed. H-K. Metger and R. Riehn. Article entitled: 'Die
Feuerkur des Richard Wagner oder die neue Religion der Erlösung durch
Vernichtung', Munich 1978.
* 'Richard Wagner: ein deutsches Thema: Eine Dokumentation zur
Wirkungsgeschichte Richard Wagners 1876-1976', Frankfurt am Main 1976,
* In 'Parsifal: Texte, Materialen, Kommentare', ed. A. Csampai and D.
Holland. Articles entitled: 'Richard Wagners letzte Karte', 'Der
verschwiegene Gehalt des Parsifal'. Hamburg 1984.
Although himself a critic of Zelinsky, Barry Millington has presented
arguments for an anti-Semitic theme in 'Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg'.
The relevant articles are:
* 'Nuremberg Trial: Is There Anti-Semitism in Die Meistersinger?', in
'Cambridge Opera Journal', volume iii, 1991. Reprinted in 'The Wagner
Compendium', London 1992.
* 'Richard Wagner's Anti-Semitism', in the 'Musical Times', December 1996.
Reprinted in 'Wagner', May 1997, vol. 18 no.2.
Other sources that discuss Wagner's anti-Semitism include 'Aspects of
Wagner' by Bryan Magee (who has also written an interesting article on
the subject, included as an appendix to his 'Wagner and Philosophy');
'Richard Wagner: the Terrible Man and his Truthful Art' by M. Owen Lee;
and Dieter Borchmeyer respectively in chapter 5 of the 'Wagner
Handbook', in an appendix to his 'Richard Wagner: Theory and Theatre'
and in the proceedings of a seminar held in Bayreuth: 'Richard Wagner
und die Juden', ed. D. Borchmeyer, Aami Mayaani and Susanne Vill,
Millington's elaboration of Adorno's suggestion of an anti-Semitic theme
in 'Die Meistersinger' has been discussed (and progressively demolished)
by a number of writers, including: Thomas Grey in 'Deutsche Meister',
ed. Danuser and Münckler; Hans Rudolf Vaget in 'The Opera Quarterly',
no.12, 1995; Dieter Borchmeyer in the Bayreuth 'Festspielbuch' for 1996;
and Hermann Danuser in 'Richard Wagner und die Juden' (see above); most
recently by David B. Dennis in his article, 'Most German of all German
Operas: Die Meistersinger through the Lens of the Third Reich', in
'Wagner's Meistersinger: Performance, History, Representation', ed.
Vaszonyi, pages 98-119.
Hmcw participant Simon Weil has written a study, 'Wagner and the Jews'.
It can be found online at < http://members.aol.com/wagnerbuch/intro.htm >.
Subject: E. Why does Siegmund sing the renunciation motif as he draws the
sword from the tree?
Several explanations have been offered. The simplest explanation is that
the leitmotiven are not as closely tied to non-musical ideas as many
people have thought; in other words the reason for Wagner using this
melody at this point could be purely musical. Other explanations try to
find a link between Alberich's renunciation of love, and later appearances
of this motif: Fricka's condemnation of Wotan's treatment of Freia,
Siegmund's drawing of the sword, Wotan's farewell to Brünnhilde and her
refusal to yield the ring.
The occurrence in 'Die Walküre' act one has been regarded as problematic,
for example by Cooke in his book 'I Saw the World End'. It was suggested
that this is an example of dramatic irony: the sword-redemption is an
ironic moment, not only because of events in the immediate future, but
because for the first time, on a human level, Wagner reveals and
celebrates the protagonistic force (love) that will overcome worldly and
Discussion of what this motif might signify usually results in alternative
names being suggested for a motif that von Wolzogen called,
'Renunciation'. The names suggested by participants in hmcw have included
'Acceptance of Destiny', and 'Power of Love'. Another suggestion was that
since Siegmund's words are "Holiest Love's Deepest Distress", Wagner is
attempting to draw our attention not to Siegmund's distress, but rather to
the more far reaching distress of love itself, as it is threatened by the
loveless machinations of Alberich.
Monte Stone, an occasional participant in hmcw, has included commentary on
this motif on his 'Ring-disc' (see B above). Stone notes that in one of
Wagner's drafts for 'Das Rheingold', he appears to refer to this motif as
'Love-Curse' (Liebesfluch), which is the name used by Darcy in his book
about this drama. Stone observes that Alberich goes beyond the
renunciation of love -- Alberich curses love itself. Later, "during
Siegmund's passionate affirmation of love, we are reminded of the curse
under which love labors, and we are given a brief but grim foreshadowing
of the fate in store for these lovers".
Subject: F. Why didn't Alberich use his ring to escape when he was captured
by Wotan and Loge?
Perhaps because, from the moment Alberich's caught, his hands are tied, so
he cannot reach the ring, as he seems to need to. Only when he agrees to
the ransom, and sends his command to the Nibelungs, is he allowed to get
at it again. So that, one guesses, would be the time to use its power. In
productions by Scottish Opera and ENO, among others, Alberich was
thoroughly trussed up as Wagner intended, with only one hand freed to
wield the ring, and Wotan had his spearpoint at Alberich's throat
Or, for the same reason it couldn't protect either Fafner or Brunnhilde
from Siegfried. The ring never had that kind of power. Deryck Cooke,
in 'I Saw the World End', asserts that the Ring was only good for
finding wealth, i.e. gold. Alberich uses it for that purpose in 'Das
Rheingold', and that is the reason Wotan wants it so badly. The power of
the ring isn't a direct, blow-them-away kind of power, although
obviously it can help him create such things. It cannot destroy rope or
chains, or make them come loose.
Further, it might be that the ring (like the magic fire, or Wotan's
spear and the rule of law that it represents) does not have any power,
except over those who believe in it, or fear it. Therefore it does not
have any effect on Siegfried, who never learned (or has forgotten that
he had learned) fear. If Brünnhilde had been a little smarter, she would
have realised from this that her captor was Siegfried in disguise.
In 'The Perfect Wagnerite', G.B. Shaw compared Alberich to a capitalist
and, in one of his late essays, Wagner himself compared the ring to a
"stock-exchange portfolio". Dieter Borchmeyer has commented: "This
comparison underlines the abstract power of an object that cannot be
used in acts of physical violence, which explains why it can repeatedly
be wrested from whoever happens to be wearing it... the ring grants its
wearer power over the world only because it is a symbol, albeit one
grounded in myth and magic. As the abstract basis of the possibility of
accumulating capital, the ring may be capable of allowing its wearer to
win 'the world's inheritance' and 'measureless might' ... but it can be
stolen from its wearer with a minimum of cunning and force, just as any
artful dodger can steal money, checkbooks, documents and credit cards
from the most powerful capitalist in the world if the latter carries
them around with him or her unprotected." ['Drama and the World of
Richard Wagner', tr. Daphne Ellis, Princeton, 2003, pages 171-2.]
Although the 'Ring' is most often interpreted in terms of a conflict
between love and power, this interpretation is not universally accepted;
and many of those who do see the cycle in those terms, also acknowledge
that it is not only concerned with this conflict. It is possible that
Wagner was primarily concerned with love and power when he wrote his
libretto; it is certain that his own understanding of that libretto
changed after he had become a disciple of Schopenhauer. Therefore it
might be an oversimplification to regard the ring as a source of power,
or even as a symbol of power.
Subject: G. Why is Valhall set on fire at the end of the 'Ring' cycle?
Wagner said that Wotan had ended up by willing his own destruction. Wotan
loses part of himself, a part that continues to live in his daughter
Brünnhilde. She learns, and teaches Wotan, that love wins over power, in
the end. Not only is Valhall destroyed, but the Earth is purified by fire
and water. Perhaps Valhall burns for the same reason Manderly burns in
'Rebecca' and Atlanta burns in 'Gone with the Wind': to symbolize the end
of the old and the beginning of the new.
Subject: H. Why didn't Wagner kill off Alberich?
Some argue that Alberich *is* killed in the final apocalypse, we just
don't get to see it on stage. In a recent production in Stuttgart,
Alberich was killed on stage. But it has become fashionable in many recent
performances to speculate that Alberich *is* the only survivor, and that
he is plotting to steal the gold yet again...in other words, the stealing
of the gold is a sort of 'eternal recurrence' in which events are doomed
to repeat themselves throughout eternity.
In the Barenboim/Kupfer 'Ring', before the music starts, the curtain opens
on a full stage, and Alberich is lying on the stage in the forefront. The
other characters soundlessly depart, then the music begins, and when it is
time for Alberich to enter the scene, he simply stands up rather than
entering from offstage. When we reach the conclusion of 'Götterdämmerung',
Alberich arrives on stage just as the gold is returned to the
Rhinemaidens, and then he ends up in the exact same spot where he is at
the beginning. Presumably the figures on stage at the beginning of 'Das
Rheingold' were the participants in some earlier 'Ring' cycle. In other
words, Alberich is the linking element between an infinite series of
dramas in which Alberich fights to obtain the gold. The Chicago 'Ring'
also used this idea, as the last image on stage is of Alberich and a group
of Nibelungs under his control manipulating some sort of ring-shaped
J.K. Holman summarised the fate of the dwarf as follows: "Alberich is
last seen at the end of [Gd II-i], having urged his son Hagen to
persevere in the plot against Siegfried. Alberich has said that if
Brünnhilde ever returned the ring to the Rhine Daughters, then 'no ruse
could ever retrieve it'. Alberich presumably no longer poses a danger
but he is the only major character to survive and whose whereabouts at
the end is unknown. One doubts that his ambition and hatred are
Subject: I. Who are the Wagner family and how are they related to each
The following members of the Wagner family often are mentioned in the
i. Wolfgang Wagner (1919-2010) and his brother Wieland were the prime
movers in the revival of the Festival after WW2 and in the development
of the "New Bayreuth" style of production that was first presented at
the 1951 Festival. After the death of his brother, Wolfgang was the
sole Festival Administrator for the next 40 years.
ii. Wieland Wagner (1917-1966) has been widely regarded as one of the most
gifted directors in the history of the theatre. Inspired by the theories
of Adolphe Appia, Wieland designed and produced minimalist stagings of
his grandfather's works in Bayreuth and elsewhere. These productions
emphasised the epic and universal in the Wagner dramas and explored the
texts from a viewpoint of depth psychology. See Penelope Turing's book
'New Bayreuth' (1969) and Geoffrey Skelton's book 'Wieland Wagner: The
Positive Sceptic' (1971).
iii. Friedelind Wagner (1918-1991) is often considered to have been the
white sheep of the family. In 1941 she escaped from Nazi Bayreuth to
exile in Switzerland and, after receiving death threats from her mother,
with the help of Toscanini emigrated first to Britain and then to the
USA. There she provided first-hand information about Hitler to the
security services and participated in anti-Nazi propaganda broadcasts.
See her book, written with Page Cooper, 'Heritage of Fire' (1948).
iv. Nike Wagner (b. 1945) is a daughter of Wieland Wagner and Gertrud
Reissiger. Nike has been openly critical of Wolfgang Wagner and of the
current administration of the Bayreuth Festival. Her latest book has
appeared in English translation as 'The Wagners: The Dramas of a Musical
v. Eva Wagner-Pasquier (b. 1945) is the daughter of Wolfgang Wagner and
his first wife Ellen Drexel. Eva is now Festival Administrator jointly
vi. Gottfried Wagner (b. 1947) is the estranged son of Wolfgang Wagner and
Ellen Drexel. Over recent years Gottfried has moved from a position in
which he criticised Richard Wagner's life and works, the achievements of
his own family and the Bayreuth Festival as it exists, to a position of
active hostility. His autobiography has appeared under various titles
including 'He who does not howl with the wolf' (1998). Adolf Hitler was
known to the young Wolfgang Wagner as "Uncle Wolf".
vii. Katharina Wagner (b. 1978) is the daughter of Wolfgang and Gudrun
Wagner. She made her debut as opera producer in September 2002 with 'Der
fliegende Holländer' at Mainfrankentheater in Würzburg. Katharina is now
Festival Administrator jointly with Eva. She is sometimes referred to by
the less respectful elements of the German press as "Bayreuth Barbie".
There is a fairly complete family tree showing the descendants of Richard
and Cosima Wagner on the Web < http://www.monsalvat.no/wagtree.gif >
(produced by Joseph Erbacher).
Subject: J. Does anybody know the title of the helicopter tune in
The 'Ride of the Valkyries' (Der Ritt der Walküren) from the music-drama,
'The Valkyrie' (Die Walküre). It is played at the start of the third act.
Subject: K. What about Wagner's women?
RW's posthumous reputation as a womaniser is not justified by what is known
of his liaisons. Wagner's more significant, intimate relationships with
members of the female sex involved:
i. Leah David (1813-?)
Richard Wagner's first love was Leah David, a friend of his elder sister
Louisa and the only daughter of a Jewish widower. The young Wagner made
himself unwelcome in the David household by his rudeness towards Leah's
cousin, whom he was later told she was going to marry.
ii. Wilhelmine (Minna) Wagner née Planer (1809-1866)
RW's biographers are critical of his treatment of Minna, perhaps more so
than the facts support. The young Wagner married a woman who was in no way
suitable for him, given that her intellect and interests were no match for
Richard's own. She had been seduced at the age of 15, and had a daughter,
Nathalie, who was always passed off as her little sister. It was later
discovered that Minna would not be able to have any more children, and the
Wagners considered adopting a child.
Within a few weeks of their wedding in 1836, Minna ran off with another
man. Richard accepted her back, and she stuck by him during the turbulence
and hardship of their years in Riga, London, Paris and Dresden. Finally
she followed him into exile in Switzerland, where their marriage was
wrecked on the rocks of 'Tristan und Isolde'. Richard, to his credit,
continued to support Minna financially (or at least, his creditors did
so!) until her death; although at one time he considered seeking a
iii. Jessie Laussot née Taylor (1829-1905)
The musical, English-born wife of a Bordeaux wine merchant. Richard and
Jessie had a brief but passionate affair there in 1850, but plans to elope
to Greece were prevented by the intervention of her husband. Jessie left
him soon after and moved to Florence, where she lived with and later
married the essayist Karl Hillebrand. Jessie was also a friend to Liszt,
von Bülow and Julie Ritter, mother of Karl Ritter and a benefactor of
Wagner; before the Bordeaux affair, Jessie and Julie had plans to set up a
fund for Wagner's financial support.
iv. Mathilde Wesendonck née Agnes Mathilda Luckemeyer (b. Elberfeld
23.12.1828, d. Traunblick am Traunsee 31.08.1902)
Poet and author. Richard and Mathilde exchanged voluminous correspondence
over more than a decade. Otto and Mathilde Wesendonck helped the Wagners
financially and provided a home for them, in the form of 'Das Asyl', a
cottage in the grounds of their Zurich mansion. RW's friendship for
Mathilde developed into love, and she became the muse to the poet as he
wrote the text and music of 'Tristan und Isolde'. Eventually, Minna could
tolerate the intimacy of Mathilde and her husband no longer; there was a
crisis, after which Richard left Zurich for Venice, where he resumed work
on his music-drama in relative calm.
v. Friederike Meyer (?-?)
Actress, sister of Frau Meyer-Dustmann of the Vienna Opera. It seems that
Friederike had a brief affair with Wagner in 1862, after he had separated
from Minna. As a result of the affair, Wagner had difficulties in getting
'Tristan und Isolde' staged at the Vienna Opera.
vi. Mathilde Maier (1833-1910)
Mathilde seems to have been a sweet-natured young woman, whose heart went
out to the unhappy composer she met at Schott's house in Mainz in 1862. It
is almost certain that Wagner considered marrying her; he might even have
proposed. Unlike some of Wagner's other women, she is mentioned in his
vii. Cosima von Bülow née Liszt (b. Como 24.12.1837, d. Bayreuth 1.4.1930)
Cosima was the illegitimate daughter of the Hungarian composer Franz Liszt
and the French aristocrat, the Countess Marie d'Agoult. As a result of
this parentage, no doubt, she became an ardent German nationalist. She
married the composer and pianist Hans von Bülow, and it was as the
Baroness von Bülow that she visited Zürich. During this visit Wagner read
the poem of his 'Tristan und Isolde' to a small gathering that included
Minna, Cosima and Mathilde. Later, with her marriage under strain, she
began an affair with Wagner. Their conduct scandalised the Munich public.
Wagner had told King Ludwig that he and Cosima were just good friends, but
this relationship was put to a test when Malwida Schnorr von Carolsfeld
(the first Isolde) revealed to Ludwig that Cosima was Richard's mistress.
The only person who seems to have taken the whole affair calmly was Hans,
who remained a faithful friend and supporter to the Wagners for the rest
of his life. After the death of Minna Wagner and the completion of divorce
proceedings, Cosima and Richard were able to marry.
Cosima remained at Wagner's side for the rest of his life. Apart from
running the Wagner household, Cosima acted as her husband's secretary. She
also recorded Richard's life in deeds and words, in the diary entries that
she made almost every day. They were inseparable in life and in death. On
13 February 1883, Richard died in Cosima's arms; she then held onto his
body for the next 24 hours. After the funeral, Cosima began to take charge
of the Bayreuth Festival, which remained under her administration and
artistic control until a series of strokes incapacitated her in December
1906. After her death in 1930, Cosima was buried beside Richard in the
garden of Haus Wahnfried.
viii. Judith Mendès Gautier (b. Kabylia, Algeria 24.8.1845, d. St-Énogat
French novelist and writer on music, who first visited the Wagners at
'Tribschen' in 1869. Judith had an affair with Wagner during the 1876
Festival, but how far it went is uncertain. At that time she was
separated from her husband Catulle Mendès (1841-1909), but had arrived
in Bayreuth with Louis Benedictus. Wagner was infatuated with her during
his last years, although she was relatively cool to him. They kept up a
secret correspondence during the late 1870's; Judith's letters being
sent to Wagner's barber. Eventually Cosima put a stop to it. Judith also
helped Wagner with the procurement of the silks, satins and rose-water
that he needed for his work-room at 'Wahnfried', while he wrote
'Parsifal'. Judith translated the libretto into French.
ix. Caroline (Carrie) Mary Isabelle Pringle (b. Linz 19.03.1859, d.
English soprano, one of the 1882 solo flowermaidens. It was the
announcement of an impending visit by Carrie to Wagner in Venice, that
has been thought (at least by Curt von Westernhagen) to have prompted
the argument between Cosima and Richard that precipitated his fatal
heart-attack. Only two days earlier, he had told Cosima that he had
dreamt about Schröder-Devrient (the first Adriano, Senta and Venus):
"All my women are now passing before my eyes". Whether Carrie was one
of his women has been the subject of much speculation.
Subject: L. What is the name of the mortal woman who is mother to Siegmund
Mrs. Wälse is not named. Fricka refers to the mother of Siegmund and
Sieglinde as a she-wolf: "jetzt dem Wurfe der Wölfin wirfst du zu Füssen
dein Weib?" (W-2-ii).
Here Wagner is mixing his main Siegmund source, the Volsungasaga, with the
story of the Wölfings. (Siegmund to Hunding: "Ein Wölfing kündet dir das,
den als Wölfing mancher wohl kennt", W-1-ii). The main sources for
this clan were the Saga of Dietrich von Bern (Thidhrekssaga af Bern) and
the Hugdietrich-Wolfdietrich poems.
Returning to 'Volsungasaga', however, we read that Sigmund and his sister
were twins, among the children (ten boys, of whom Sigmund was the eldest,
and one daughter, Signy) of Volsung and his wife, Hljód. Interestingly,
Hjlód was not a "mortal woman", but the daughter of Hrimnir the giant. It
is possible that Hjlód was the daughter of Hrimnir who was described as
one of Odin's wishmaidens, earlier in the saga. Volsung is the third of
his line, his grandfather Sigi being "reportedly" the son of Odin. So both
Sigmund's mother and father had connections with Odin.
But that's all in one of Wagner's sources for the 'Ring', not in the
'Ring' poems themselves. Strictly speaking, Mrs. Wälse does not have a
name. If you want to give her a name, then Hljód (huh-l-yöd) is as good as
any. This Old Norse name translates as "howling", which seems singularly
appropriate for a she-wolf!
Subject: M. Which recording of the 'Ring'/ 'Dutchman'/ 'Lohengrin'/ 'Tristan'
/ 'Parsifal'/ 'Mastersingers'/ 'Tannhäuser' should I get as my first version?
It is extremely difficult to answer these questions. Firstly, because
responses to recordings (and for that matter, to performances) vary
greatly. Secondly, because there is no *definitive* recording of any of
Wagner's stage works. It is possible to give some suggestions, however,
based on the following assumptions:
i. A beginner usually wants a recording in excellent sound, therefore we
should first consider modern, stereo, possibly digital recordings. The
beginner might wish to explore historical recordings later on, but not
ii. A beginner would prefer to avoid recordings with distracting stage
sounds or audience noise. Therefore many live recordings can be ruled
iii. All listeners prefer great singers over good singers, and would
prefer not to listen to recordings with less good singers.
iv. If one begins with a recording that employs either unusually fast or
unusually slow tempi, all subsequent recordings heard will sound either
too slow or too fast in relation to one's first impression of the work.
v. A beginner might not want to spend too much money, so we should
consider recordings that might be available at a discount. Unfortunately
this mitigates against recommending the very latest recordings.
vi. It would also be helpful if the first recording was packaged with a
libretto, which the cheapest recordings usually lack.
Taking both the above and newsgroup discussions into consideration, the
editor of this FAQ makes so bold as to suggest the following as first
* _Der Ring des Nibelungen_, studio recording, DECCA/London, 1964.
Conductor: Sir Georg Solti. Vienna State Opera Chorus and Vienna
Philharmonic. With Hans Hotter (R,S), George London (W), Birgit Nilsson,
James King, Régine Crespin and Wolfgang Windgassen. Some consider the
_Götterdämmerung_ of this cycle to be not only the best Wagner recording
ever, but the best recording of the 20th century. The Penguin Opera Guide
comments, "There is not a single weak link in the cast". Recently reissued
after remastering. See the Wagner Books FAQ for books by John Culshaw, the
producer of this recording. A beginner might also find useful the CD set,
'An Introduction to Der Ring des Nibelungen', in which Deryck Cooke
introduces the leitmotives of this work, using musical examples from the
* _Dutchman_, studio recording, Naxos, 1992. Conductor: Pinchas Steinberg.
ORF Symphony Orchestra, Budapest Radio Chorus. With Alfred Muff, Ingrid
Haubold, Erich Knodt and Peter Seiffert. A cheap and cheerful recording
with libretto but no translation. Alternative also currently at budget
price: Dorati on Decca/London, 1962, with London, Rysanek, Tozzi and
Liebl, no libretto.
* _Lohengrin_, studio recording, EMI, 1964. Conductor: Rudolf Kempe.
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna State Opera Chorus. The Swan Knight
is Jess Thomas. Also with Elisabeth Grümmer, Dietrich Fischer- Dieskau,
Christa Ludwig (in a much-admired interpretation of Ortrud), Gottlob Frick
and Otto Wiener. There are some imperfections in sound quality. Reissued
on 3 CDs (and therefore usually cheaper than sets with 4 CDs).
* _Tristan und Isolde_, live recording, DGG, 1966. Conductor: Karl Böhm.
Chorus and Orchestra of the Bayreuth Festival. Recorded in RW's Festival
Theatre. With Wolfgang Windgassen and Birgit Nilsson in the title roles.
Also with Christa Ludwig, Eberhard Waechter and Martti Talvela. Although
the tempi are a little faster than usual (which allows each act to fit on
a single CD) and the orchestral playing is not always perfect, this is
widely regarded as one of the best 'Tristan' recordings. There is no
audience noise and very little stage noise. Recently reissued after
remastering. For alternatives, see the new discography by J. Brown.
* _Parsifal_, studio recording, Teldec, 1991. Conductor: Daniel Barenboim.
Berlin State Opera Chorus and the Berlin Philharmonic. Parsifal is
Siegfried Jerusalem, Kundry is Waltraud Meier, Gurnemanz is Matthias
Hölle. Amfortas is José van Dam. Alternatively, the 1980 Bavarian Radio
studio recording conducted by Rafael Kubelik. Parsifal is James King,
Kundry is Yvonne Minton, Gurnemanz is Kurt Moll, Amfortas is Bernd Weikl.
For other alternatives, see the online discography of complete recordings
at < http://www.monsalvat.no/discogra.htm >.
* _Mastersingers_, studio recording, Arts Archives, 1967. Conductor: Rafael
Kubelik. Chorus and Orchestra of Bavarian Radio. There is a broad
consensus in the group that this is the all-round best recording of the
opera. Hans Sachs is Thomas Stewart, Walther is Sandor Konya, Eva is
Gundula Janowitz. Although the booklet contains a libretto, there is no
* _Tannhäuser_. There is a wide choice of CD recordings for the 'Dresden'
(stage 1 and stage 2, variously mixed) versions of the score. There are
also several CD recordings available of the Bayreuth version, which puts
the 1861 Bacchanale into what is otherwise a 'Dresden' score. (The change
to the 'Paris' score is made in the middle section of the Overture about
where the curtain should rise; the 'Dresden' Venusberg returns with the
singers). For the Bayreuth version the natural choice is the "studio"
recording with Sawallisch conducting (with Windgassen, Silja, Waechter,
Bumbry, Greindl). For the 'Paris' (stages 3-4) versions there is only
one recording available that includes all of the revisions that Wagner
made for Munich and Vienna: Solti conducting (with Kollo, Dernesch,
Braun, Ludwig, Sotin).
Subject: N. How can I get inside the Palazzo Vendramin in Venice?
Richard Wagner and his family moved into the Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi on
the Grand Canal on 18 September 1882. It was there that Wagner died on 13
Palazzo Vendramin now houses the local Casino. Wagnerians visiting Venice
who wish to visit the "Wagner rooms" must make an appointment in advance.
The following are the visiting arrangements at present. They might be
changed at any time without notice.
You can only visit the rooms on Saturday at 10 a.m. precisely, if and only
if you have made an appointment prior to noon the Friday before. To do this
you must telephone (+39) (41) 52-32-544 and speak (in Italian) to Signora
Note! You will not be admitted if you turn up on Saturday without an
appointment, nor will you be admitted if you arrive later than 10 a.m.
There is no information about visiting the Wagner rooms at the main door of
the Palazzo at the "calle larga Vendramin"; but outside the main door there
is a small sign with an arrow showing the way to the "staff entrance". This
is two minutes (one block) away at the "calle Vendramin". At the staff
entrance there should be a porter to assist visitors.
Subject: O. What is the difference between the 'Liebestod' and 'Isolde's
The ending of 'Tristan und Isolde' is often, wrongly, called the 'Liebestod'
(Love-death). Wagner himself referred to it as 'Isolde's Transfiguration'
and he applied the term 'Liebestod' not to the end of the drama, but to the
prelude to the first act. See Wagner's letter to Weissheimer of 5 October
1862, in which he proposed to make a concert-piece from the 'Liebestod'
followed by the 'Transfiguration'.
Subject: P. When can I applaud at a performance of 'Parsifal'?
When 'Parsifal' was first performed at Bayreuth in 1882 there was some
confusion about when to applaud. At the end of the second act there was
much applause and shouting, at which Wagner got up in his box and called
out to the audience that he had asked for no curtain calls until the end
of the performance. At the end there was silence until Wagner got up and
said that he had not meant that they could not applaud, after which there
was enthusiastic applause and confused curtain calls. By the second
performance various accounts of what he had said were circulating. Many
thought that Wagner had asked for no applause until the end of each
performance and therefore the first two acts were received in silence
(except for Wagner himself shouting "bravo" at the departing Magic Maidens,
for which he was hissed). At the third and subsequent performances there
was no applause at the end of the first act but applause after the second
and third acts. This became a Bayreuth tradition that continues to this
day. Wagner gave the custom his approval, saying that applause was not
appropriate after the quiet ending of the first act, but the claim that it
was his idea is untrue.
The tradition of not applauding at the end of the first act of 'Parsifal'
is a Bayreuth Festival tradition. Therefore it does not apply in ordinary
opera houses. Sometimes, in some houses, there is a note in the programme
asking for no applause at the end of the first act; but in the absence of
any such request it is entirely up to each member of the audience whether
to applaud at the end of the first or subsequent acts. Please do not hiss
or "shush" those who choose to applaud. Above all, please do not follow
Wagner's example and shout "bravo" at the end of the scene with the Flower
Subject: Q. What new productions are planned for the Bayreuth Festival?
The following productions have been announced:
2010 Lohengrin -
Conductor: Andris Nelsons
Stage director: Hans Neuenfels
Set and costumes: Reinhard von der Thannen
Chorus director: Eberhard Friedrich
With: Jonas Kaufmann, Anette Dasch, Georg Zeppenfeld, Lucio Gallo,
Evelyn Herlitzius, Samuel Youn.
Existing productions are phased out as new ones are introduced.
Subject: R. Who were the Herodias and Gundryggia referred to in 'Parsifal'?
At the beginning of the second act of 'Parsifal' the sorcerer Klingsor
conjures Kundry out of her death-like sleep, recalling that she has been
both Herodias and Gundryggia. This is a reference to earlier lives in
Kundry's cycle of existence.
The historical Herodias was the wife of the tetrarch Philip and later of
his brother Herod Antipas. She is mentioned in the New Testament as the
cause of the death of John the Baptist. Herodias and her daughter became
the subject of several poetic and dramatic treatments during the
nineteenth century, including Heine's poem 'Atta Troll', Flaubert's
novella 'Herodias' and later Wilde's play 'Salome'. Herodias was
infamous for her incestuous marriage and her contempt for religion, as
Wagner knew from reading Renan's 'Life of Jesus'. Although she belonged
to the ruling family of Judea, Herodias was neither Jewish by race or by
The name Gundryggia most likely was invented by Wagner. It is a play on
the name of Gunn, one of the favourite valkyries of Odin (=Wotan). The
connection between Herodias and Gunn is that in different versions of
the same folk tradition, they ride with the Wild Hunt. In Germanic folk
legend Herodias became identified with Frau Holda, who was variously
equated to the goddesses Diana or Venus. The identification with Diana
was recalled by Heine in his 'Atta Troll'.
Subject: S. Was Beckmesser based on Eduard Hanslick?
The simple answer to this question is "no". Hanslick was not known to
Wagner when he wrote his first Prose Draft of 'Die Meistersinger' in
July 1845. The character who in the libretto (of 1862) would be given
the name of Sextus Beckmesser is a caricature of music-critics in
general and it is beyond doubt that one of the music-critics whom Wagner
had in mind when he wrote the libretto was Eduard Hanslick.
It is widely believed, however, that Beckmesser was a caricature of
Hanslick alone. There are two reasons for this widespread but erroneous
belief. The first of them is that, in the second Prose Draft of October-
November 1861, Wagner gave the name Veit Hanslich to the Marker and Town
Clerk. This was a private joke of which he soon tired, however, and in
the poem or libretto written in January 1862 he gave this character the
name of Beckmesser. The second reason is Wagner's account of a reading
of his poem in Vienna in November 1862 ('My Life' pages 703-4).
According to this autobiographical account, Wagner believed that
Hanslick was in some discomfort at this reading and friends of Wagner
who were present got the impression (according to Wagner; his account
is not corroborated) that Hanslick had seen himself as Wagner's target.
In late 1846 there appeared in the 'Allgemeine Wiener Musikzeitung' a
number of references to Richard Wagner by a young music critic, Eduard
Hanslick. The young man hailed Wagner as "the greatest living dramatic
talent". He sent Wagner his enthusiastic review of 'Tannhäuser', for
which Wagner thanked him in a long letter of 1 January 1847. This was
the beginning of a friendship that eventually collapsed under the weight
of differences of opinion about musical aesthetics. Hanslick became
increasingly critical of Wagner, who began to regard the critic if not
as an enemy at least as no longer a friend. Hence the joking renaming of
the Marker as "Veit Hanslich" in the second Prose Draft of 'Die
On closer examination there is no reason to believe that Hanslick saw
the poem of 'Die Meistersinger' (in which the character was called
Beckmesser, of course) as a personal attack. Indeed there is nothing to
indicate that he knew about "Veit Hanslich". Not even in the account of
the Viennese incident in Hanslick's memoirs (see Spencer's compilation,
'Wagner Remembered', pages 135-138). His supposed reaction to the poem
is a myth of Wagner's invention.
The myth has been given a new lease of life by Barry Millington, who has
argued that Beckmesser is an anti-Semitic caricature. The reason for
Wagner to introduce the anti-Semitic references that Millington has
ingeniously decoded is, we are told, that Beckmesser is a caricature of
Hanslick, whom Wagner believed to be of Jewish descent. Those who wish
to read more about this complicated theory are referred to the articles
listed under the answer to Question D above.
Subject: T. Is the name Wesendonk or Wesendonck?
The Wagner literature contains references to Mathilde Wesendonk and to
Mathilde Wesendonck, more or less evenly distributed. Otto and Mathilde
actually used the spelling, Wesendonck, one that also appears on the
title pages of Mathilde's published works; but their eldest surviving
son called himself Franz von Wesendonk. The title of Wolfgang Golther's
edition of the correspondence between Wagner and Mathilde is, 'Richard
Wagner an Mathilde Wesendonk'. Wagner's 'Fünf Gedichte für eine
Frauenstimme' (WWV 91) is usually known as the 'Wesendonck-Lieder'. The
family villa in Zürich, which now houses the Museum Rietberg, is known
as the Villa Wesendonck.
Subject: U. Was Wagner a Freemason?
No. Wagner was not a Freemason. Perhaps you were thinking of Mozart?
Nor did Wagner have dealings with the Rosicrucians, the Illuminati or
the Priory of Sion. Especially the last of these, which did not exist
Subject: W. Was Wagner a Vegetarian?
No. Wagner was not a vegetarian; he always liked a good steak, preferably
washed down by champagne. It was his young friend Nietzsche who was the
Like Nietzsche, Wagner was concerned for the welfare of animals and
opposed anything that caused unnecessary suffering to them, including
hunting and vivisection. Like Schopenhauer, Wagner found the Buddhist
attitude to animals preferable to the Judaeo-Christian tradition, in
which man had received divine permission to use or abuse animals.
In 1880 Wagner read a pamphlet about vegetarianism written by Gleizès.
He became convinced that mankind's change to a meat-based diet was one
factor that had contributed to a degeneration of mankind. This is one
of the theories advanced by Wagner in his so-called "regeneration essays".
Wagner's drama 'Parsifal' (libretto published in 1877) does not, as some
commentators have alleged, advocate vegetarianism. The Grail knights do
abstain from meat; they live on the food and drink provided by the Grail
and, when this is denied, survive on herbs and roots. There is no evidence
that Wagner intended this to promote vegetarianism, although there is a
subtext against hunting.
Subject: Y. Was Wagner's music played in the Nazi concentration camps?
Many musicians, most of them Jewish, were sent to concentration camps.
Some of them took their instruments and played in the camp orchestras.
Unfortunately for those who claim that Wagner's music was played in the
camps, almost all his published compositions are for large orchestras;
the only piece that would have been within reach of one of these bands
would be the 'Siegfried Idyll'. There is no record either of this or of
any other piece by Wagner having been played in a Nazi concentration
The idea that Wagner's music was played in the camps is an example of an
"urban legend". Everybody "knows" that Wagner's music was played in the
concentration camps, just as everybody "knows" that there are alligators
living in the New York sewers.
The legend of Wagner's music in the camps is associated with the wide-
spread belief that Wagner wrote the musical score for the Third Reich.
In fact, the composer who was most praised by Nazi ideologues such as
Alfred Rosenberg was Beethoven (see Spott's 'Hitler and the Power of
Aesthetics', page 228); and the composer whose music was most associated
with the Nazi party was Franz Liszt, whose symphonic poem 'Les Preludes'
provided the music that preceded official announcements on radio. So the
music that was most likely to have been heard in the camps would have
been written by Liszt and Beethoven.
Subject: Z. What should I know before my first visit to the Bayreuth
Formal or semi-formal evening dress (for men, dinner suit and black
tie) is the norm at Festival performances, although anything smart
and comfortable would do just as well. The auditorium can get quite
warm, so lightweight suits and dresses are advisable.
During the Festival there are invariably a few evenings with
thunderstorms and heavy rain, so you should take a raincoat and an
umbrella; it might be a warm, sunny afternoon when you stroll up the
Green Hill but by the time the performance is over, the rain might
Some Bayreuth hotels provide bus or minivan transport to and from the
Festspielhaus. In fine weather many people walk back to their hotel
but in wet weather a ride home is usually a better option.
In addition to the official program of the Festival, musical and
literary events take place at many different venues while the
Festival is on. You will find posters around the town but you might
also like to visit the tourist information centre, near the town
hall (where there is usually an interesting Wagner-related exhibit).
Subject: IV. Where can I find more information?
Subject: A. Offline sources
The following sources of information can be found in libraries and bookstores.
Subject: i. What books should every Wagner fan have on their bookshelves?
We suggest the following:
* At least one of the biographies, such as Millington's (in one volume) or
Newman's (in four volumes). None of Wagner's biographers are infallible.
Both Millington and Newman have their particular angles and prejudices.
* 'Wagner Nights' (UK title) or 'The Wagner Operas' (US title) by Ernest
Newman. Useful for information on the sources, text and music of the
canonical works, but of limited assistance in understanding them.
* Of Wagner's own writings, his 'Opera and Drama' (Oper und Drama) of 1851
-- online in German at
< http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/wagner/operdram/operdram.htm >
-- and 'The Art-Work of the Future' (Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft) of 1849
-- online in English at
< http://users.belgacom.net/wagnerlibrary/prose/wagartfut.htm >.
* Either Schopenhauer's 'The World as Will and Representation' (Die Welt
als Wille und Vorstellung), or any introductory text on Schopenhauer's
philosophy (such as Michael Tanner's 54 page 'Schopenhauer' in the
series 'The Great Philosophers' from Phoenix Paperbacks).
Subject: ii. Wagner's writings
There have been two major editions of Wagner's writings, in German, as
* 'Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen', 10 volumes, Leipzig 1871-83. The
first edition of Collected Writings, prepared under RW's direct super-
* 'Sämtliche Schriften und Dichtungen', 16 volumes, Leipzig 1911-1916.
Currently it is the most complete edition of Wagner's prose and poetry.
The nearest thing to a complete edition available in English is 'Richard
Wagner's Prose Works' in 8 volumes. For details, see the Wagner Books FAQ.
English translations of some of Wagner's shorter prose works, together with
letters and articles by Wagner and his close associates, can be found online
at the 'Wagner Library': < http://users.belgacom.net/wagnerlibrary/ >, an
ongoing project of Patrick Swinkels.
Subject: iii. Wagner's musical compositions
The critical edition of Wagner's musical and dramatic works is:
* 'Sämtliche Werke', 31 volumes, Mainz 1970-. Editor: Dr. Egon Voss.
The planned content of this at present incomplete edition is as follows:
Vol. I: Die Feen
Vol. II: Das Liebesverbot
Vol. III: Rienzi
Vol. IV: Der fliegende Holländer
Vol. V: Tannhäuser (1845-1860)
Vol. VI: Tannhäuser (1861-1875)
Vol. VII: Lohengrin
Vol. VIII: Tristan und Isolde
Vol. IX: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Vol. X: Das Rheingold
Vol. XI: Die Walküre
Vol. XII: Siegfried
Vol. XIII: Götterdämmerung
Vol. XIV: Parsifal
Vol. XV: Unfinished stage works and insertion numbers
Vol. XVI: Choral works
Vol. XVII: Songs with piano accompaniment
Vol. XVIII: Orchestral works
Vol. XIX: Keyboard works
Vol. XX: Arrangements
Vol. XXI: Supplement (diverse)
Vol. XXII: Text and documents: Die Feen, Das Liebesverbot
Vol. XXIII: Text and documents: Rienzi
Vol. XXIV: Text and documents: Der fliegende Holländer
Vol. XXV: Text and documents: Tannhäuser
Vol. XXVI: Text and documents: Lohengrin
Vol. XXVII: Text and documents: Tristan und Isolde
Vol. XXVIII: Text and documents: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Vol. XXIX: Text and documents: Der Ring des Nibelungen
Vol. XXX: Text and documents: Parsifal
Vol. XXXI: Stage works without music
For books about Wagner's works, see the Wagner Books FAQ, section IV.
Subject: iv. Diaries of Richard and Cosima Wagner
The publication of diaries by Cosima Wagner, that had long been suppressed
by the Wagner family, has greatly increased our knowledge of Richard and
Cosima Wagner and their life together. Also Richard's own diaries/
notebooks are of interest. The Wagner diaries are the following:
* 'Die Rote Brieftasche' in 'Sämtliche Briefe', ed. G. Strobel and W. Wolf,
1967. Wagner's Red Pocketbook, containing his autobiographical notes for
the years 1835 to 1839. Notes from later years were included in the
'Brown Book' as the 'Annals'.
* 'Das Braune Buch: Tagebuchaufzeichnungen, 1865 bis 1882', ed. Joachim
Bergfeld, 1975. Wagner's diary and notebook, which he used at various
times between 1865 and 1882. English translation by George Bird, 1980,
as 'The Brown Book'.
* 'Cosima Wagner: Die Tagebücher' 1869-1883, 2 vols. hardback, 4 vols.
paperback. Edited by Martin Gregor-Dellin and Dietrich Mack, 1976-77.
English translation in 2 volumes by Geoffrey Skelton, 1978-1980; out of
print, but a condensed version is available in one volume.
Details of English editions of the above are given in the Wagner Books FAQ.
Subject: v. Letters to and from Richard Wagner
RW was an active correspondent, often writing several letters a day. It
has been estimated that he wrote over 10,000 letters during his lifetime.
Unfortunately, Cosima Wagner destroyed many unpublished letters, including
the originals of Richard's letters to Mathilde Wesendonck, those from Otto
and Mathilde to Richard, Nietzsche's letters to Cosima, Peter Cornelius'
letters to Richard, those written to him from Pusinelli, Röckel, H. Heine,
Berlioz, Herwegh, Semper, Gasperini, Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Gobineau and
H. von Stein, and all of the correspondence with Hans von Bülow in the
period preceding and immediately after their divorce. Later Cosima even
burned many of Richard's letters to herself. Wagner himself had destroyed
letters from Judith Gautier. Further bundles of correspondence were
incinerated by Eva Wagner in 1909.
Many of Wagner's letters have been published, usually in a separate volume
for each correspondent; for example, the letters between RW and Mathilde
Wesendonck (an important resource for students of 'Tristan', 'Die Sieger'
and 'Parsifal') were published in Berlin, 1904, with an English
translation (by Ellis) of them published in London, in 1905. Also
important is the collection of correspondence between RW and his patron,
King Ludwig II of Bavaria, 5 vols., edited by Otto Stroebel and published
In 1967, work began on a complete edition of the existing letters in their
original languages. At that time, the editors anticipated an edition of
fifteen volumes, but in the introduction to volume 6, they revised their
estimate to 30 volumes, containing between 7000 and 7500 letters. The
project is now being led by Dr. Werner Breig. More than 500 letters in
English translation have been edited by Stewart Spencer and Barry
Subject: vi. Wagner-related periodicals
Most Wagner Societies publish their own newsletter; that of the UK
Society has the title, 'Wagner News'.
Subject: vii. Sources for Wagner's texts
To save space in this FAQ, information about Wagner's sources has been
moved to a new document: < http://www.monsalvat.no/srcdocs.htm >.
Subject: viii. The Bayreuth Festival
A good general history of the Festival can be found in Frederick Spott's
book, 'Bayreuth: A History of the Wagner Festival', Yale 1994.
The atmosphere of 19th century Bayreuth was captured in Colette's novel
'Claudine and Annie' (Claudine s'en va), which is included in 'The
Claudine Novels', Penguin USA, 1995.
Other books about the history of the Bayreuth Festival and productions of
Wagner's stage works at the Festival, can be found in Section VII of the
Wagner Books FAQ.
Subject: B. On-line sources
Subject: i. A few good, general, online sites about Richard Wagner
* Richard Wagner Archive < http://users.utu.fi/hansalmi/wagner.html >
Hannu Salmi's web site is a comprehensive source of information about RW
and his works. In English and German.
* Richard Wagner Web Site < http://www.trell.org/wagner >
Kristian Evensen's web site contains some fascinating articles. In
English, German and Norwegian.
Subject: ii. Web sites, synopses and online discographies
* Jonathan Brown has put material from his discography of 'Tristan und
Isolde' online at:
< http://members.tip.net.au/~jgbrown/Tristan/discography/index.htm >
* 'Parsifal' < http://www.monsalvat.no/index.htm >
Subject: iii. Web sites related to the Bayreuth Festival
* Homepage of the Bayreuth Festival at
< http://www.bayreuther-festspiele.de/ >
This is the official homepage with up-to-date information about the
Festival; with booking information, performance dates and casts.
* Bayreuth Festival News at < http://www.festspiele.de/ >
A lively site maintained by a Bayreuth-based newspaper.
* Bayreuth casts 1876-2001 can be found at
< http://www.wagnermania.com/bayreuth/ >
Subject: iv. Wagner Societies
A number of Wagner Societies (each affiliated to the international
Richard-Wagner-Verband) have their own Web pages, including the following:
* Finnish Wagner Society -
< http://www.suomenwagnerseura.org/sws.html >
* Richard-Wagner-Verband Berlin -
< http://www.wagnerverband-berlin.de/ >
* Richard-Wagner-Verband Hannover -
< http://www.richard-wagner-verband-hannover.de/ >
* Richard-Wagner-Verband Münster -
< http://www.richard-wagner-verband.de/muenster.html >
* Wagner Society in New South Wales -
< http://www.wagner-nsw.org.au/ >
* Wagner Society of New York -
< http://www.wagnersocietyny.com/ >
* Wagner Society of New Zealand -
< http://www.wagnersociety.org.nz/ >
* Wagner Society of Northern California -
< http://www.wagnersf.org/ >
* Polish Wagner Society - Towarzystwo Wagnerowskie
< http://free.art.pl/tw/ >
* Wagner Society of Scotland -
< http://www.wagnerscotland.net/ >
* Swedish Wagner Society -
< http://www.wagnersallskapet.se/ >
* Toronto Wagner Society -
< http://richard_wagner.tripod.com/ >
* UK Wagner Society
< http://www.wagnersociety.org/ >
* Wagner Society of the Upper Midwest -
< http://www.wagnertc.org/ >
* Richard Wagner Society of Washington, DC -
< http://www.wagner-dc.org/ >
* Richard-Wagner-Verband Würzburg -
< http://www.wagnerverband.de/ >
Subject: v. On-line libretti and scores
For libretti (poems), see under the heading 'Wagner' at Opera Glass:
< http://opera.stanford.edu/index.html#libretti >. There are a few
of Wagner's libretti (poems) at the German Gutenberg Project
< http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/ >.
There are shareware editions of the 'Ring' libretti with Jameson's
English translation at
< http://home.earthlink.net/~markdlew/shw/Ring.htm >.
There is a hypertext libretto of 'Tristan und Isolde' here:
< http://unchance.net/Liebestod/ >
The following vocal scores can be accessed through the Web:
Der fliegende Holländer:
< http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/variations/scores/bhq6743/index.html >
< http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/variations/scores/bhr5451/index.html >
< http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/variations/scores/bhr9607/index.html >
< http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/variations/scores/bhr1272/index.html >
Tristan und Isolde:
< http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/variations/scores/bhr3456/index.html >
Subject: vi. Performance diaries
If you want to know where Wagner is being performed in Europe this week,
this and other information can be found at 'Richard Wagner Werkstatt':
< http://www.richard-wagner-werkstatt.com >. This site has a lot of fun
stuff - check out the cartoon synopsis of the 'Ring'! For a long-range
view of Wagner performances world-wide, visit 'Ravens Reporting':
< http://www.wagner-nsw.org.au/ravens.html >
Subject: vii. Related newsgroups and message boards
Wagner-related postings often appear in rec.music.opera; but be warned
that this newsgroup is notorious for flames, abuse and catfights. To read
r.m.o. requires a strong stomach and to post there one needs a thick skin.
Subject: viii. Museums
Richard Wagner Museum at Haus Wahnfried, Bayreuth, Germany:
< http://www.wahnfried.de/ >
Museum Rietberg (Villa Wesendonck) in the Engen district of Zürich:
museum_rietberg.html >. It was here that Wagner wrote most of the
music for the second act of 'Siegfried', the outline for 'Parsifal' and
the poem of 'Tristan u. Isolde'.
Subject: V. Acknowledgements and Copyright
This FAQ was created by and is maintained by Derrick Everett (parsifal@
monsalvat.no). The editor would like to thank the following individuals
who have helped and contributed to this document: Joe Bernstein, Mike
Scott Rohan and Simon Weil. Also many others who have made helpful
comments and suggestions.
This compilation copyright (C) 2000-2010 by Derrick Everett. ALL RIGHTS
RESERVED. Permission is hereby granted for electronic distribution by non-
commercial services such as internet, provided that it is posted in its
entirety and includes this copyright statement. This document may not be
distributed for financial gain. Any other use, or any commercial use of
this document without permission is prohibited by law.