Translated by Daphne Ellis. The first comprehensive examination of the libretti of history's most controversial composer.
Richard Wagner continues to be the most controversial artist in history, a perpetually troubling figure in our cultural consciousness. The unceasing debate over his works and their impact--for and against--is one reason why there has been no genuinely comprehensive modern account of his musical dramas until now. Dieter Borchmeyer's book is the first to present an overall picture of these musical dramas from the standpoint of literary and theatrical history. It extends from the composer's early works--still largely ignored--to the Ring Cycle and Parsifal, and includes Wagner's unfinished works and operas he never set to music. Through lively prose, we come to see Wagner as a librettist--and as a man of letters--rather than primarily as musical composer. Borchmeyer uncovers a vast field of cultural and historical cross-references in Wagner's works. In the first part of the book, he sets out in search of the various archetypal scenes, opening up the composer's dramatic workshop to the reader. He covers all of Wagner's operas, from early juvenilia to the canonical later works.
The second part examines Wagner in relation to political figures including King Ludwig II and Bismarck, and, importantly, in light of critical reactions by literary giants--Thomas Mann, whom Borchmeyer calls "a guiding light in this exploration of the fields that Wagner tilled," and Nietzsche, whose appeal to "philology" is a key source of inspiration in attempts to grapple with Wagner's works. For more than twenty years, Borchmeyer has placed his scholarship at the service of the famed Bayreuth Festival. With this volume, he gives us a summation of decades of engagement with the phenomenon of Wagner and, at the same time, the result of an abiding critical passion for his works.
PREFACE vii CHAPTER ONE: Love's Madness, Fairy-Tale Enchantment, and a Sicilian Carnival: Die Hochzeit, Die Feen, and Das Liebesverbot 1 CHAPTER TWO: On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for the Music Drama-Grand Opera: Die hohe Braut, Rienzi, and Their Consequences 29 CHAPTER THREE: The Transformations of Ahasuerus: The Flying Dutchman and His Metamorphoses 79 CHAPTER FOUR: Venus in Exile: Tannhuuser between Romanticism and Young Germany 101 CHAPTER FIVE: Lohengrin: The Mythical Palimpsest of Wagner's Last Romantic Opera 147 CHAPTER SIX: Love and Objectification in the Music Drama: Tristan's Isolde and Her Sisters 157 CHAPTER SEVEN: Nuremberg as an Aesthetic State: Die Meistersinger, an Image and Counterimage of History 180 CHAPTER EIGHT: The Myth of the Beginning and End of History: Der Ring des Nibelungen 212 CHAPTER NINE: Redemption and Apocatastasis: Parsifal and the Religion of the Late Wagner 238 CHAPTER TEN: An Encounter between Two Anomalies: King Ludwig II and Wagner 261 CHAPTER ELEVEN: Wagner and Bismarck: An Epoch-Making Nonrelationship 279 CHAPTER TWELVE: Two-Faced Passion: Nietzsche's Critique of Wagner 288 CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Parallel Action: Thomas Mann's Response to Wagner 308 CHAPTER FOURTEEN: The Disinherited Heir to the Throne: Franz Wilhelm Beidler, Wagner's "Lost Grandson"-a Postlude 329 NOTES 338 INDEX 383