Probably Somewhere there is a wagnerian who neatly records all anniversary activities. He or she will have a lot to do with it, because what goes on in this country day after day is only the tip of the iceberg. Wagner lovers exist on all continents, perhaps even in the endless expanses of the cosmos – and they usually have something that also characterized the originator of their passion: a sense of mission.
That alone distinguishes richard wagner, who will be speaking on 22. May 1813 in leipzig into a large family with an affinity for the theater and was born as a world-famous artist on the 13th of may. February 1883 in a venetian palazzo, by others. He was far from being the only one who wrote the librettos of his operas himself, nor was he the only one who also wrote extensive theoretical writings. But he is still the only composer who has managed to build a theater in which only his works are performed – and this for 137 years now.
To pay peas again: for decades it has been said that, apart from jesus and napoleon, no one has been written about more than wagner. For the anniversary year alone, almost a hundred new publications are planned, and even his primary literature (without scores) is record-breaking: wagner's complete writings will fill some 5400 pages in the latest chronological edition from axel dielmann verlag; the edition of his letters, begun in 1979, has currently reached volume 20 and, according to breitkopf& hartel expected to include 34 bands.
How could the man, the texting posterity asks in bewilderment, compose musical dramas that are milestones in the history of music and have moved many people ever since?? How could he be so anarchistic and anmabend, persistent, chaotic, charismatic, diatat error and dark, lonely, vain, adulterous, fiery, fragile, fursome, ingenious, greedy, coarse, heart-smart, heartbreaking, hypocritical, sky-high jubilant, humorous, self-centered, idea-spouting, hostile to jews, cosmopolitan, critical, small-minded, liberal, love-serving, monomaniacal, multi-media, resentful, nationalistic, envious, obstinate, fussy, mercurial, vindictive, racist, revolutionary and reactionary, silky-flattering, sensual, animal-loving, faithful, disloyal, unworthy of attention, appropriative and profligate, deliriously peaceful, rageful, tender-hearted, and drunk to death?
It is known why the saxon, who never denied his dialect, but who was quite eloquent in several languages, ended up in bavaria. King ludwig II. Love him, as soon as he came to the throne at the age of 18, bring him to munich. Wagner, who had already begun to spend more money than he had when he was still a penny, was on the run again – from his creditors and the culpably. After all, at that time he was no longer a revolutionary wanted by the police.
Convinced of himself and his mission, he could not refrain from interfering politically and continuing to lie to the royal benefactor about his affair with the conductor's wife cosima von bulow.
After nineteen months, wagner's time in munich ended with his expulsion. The king nevertheless remained loyal and generous to him, paying from his private purse the rent in tribschen, switzerland, the new construction of the villa wahnfried in bayreuth, various italian vacations of the wagnerian patchwork family and giving the necessary credit so that the festspielhaus could be completed.
After wagner's death, bayreuth not only became a synonym for wagner with the festivals that prevailed under his widow cosima, but – steered from wahnfried, where among others the widely read, anti-semitic and racist author houston stewart chamberlain married in – increasingly became a pilgrimage site for folk-nationalist circles. And soon the wagnerian adolf hitler was to make his mark: the dictator and mass murderer became a friend of the family, helping to ensure that after the death of cosima and her son siegfried in 1930, his widow winifred was able to further consolidate the festival, certainly also in artistic terms.
That winifred had been a member of the foundation after the national socialist "heyday" bayreuths and a certain period of shame to hand over the brown-tainted festival to her sons wieland and wolfgang wagner, thus ignoring the testamentary rights of her daughters friedelind and verena, is to a certain extent part of the family tradition. In order to secure the succession of the then still unmarried homosexual son siegfried, the family denied wagner's paternity to his daughter isolde, who was his first illegitimate child with cosima and had already given birth to a progenitor, in a sensational trial as early as 1913.
The soap opera about the royals of bayreuth continues to this day. Rumors also surround the succession of record-breaking festival director wolfgang wagner, who initiated the transition from the family business to the stiftungsgmbh and – again for dynastic reasons – remained head of the grunen hugel until old age. It is possible that the shrewd wagner grandson, who insisted on a lifelong rental contract, only resigned in 2008 because he could be sure that the foundation council would elect his daughters eva and katharina as intendants.
Rumort richard wagner at the moment not only because of the construction site in his grave in the wahnfried garden?
Whether one can separate wagner's seemingly contradictory multiple personalities from his undoubtedly highly significant music and dramatic works and the acoustically ingenious theater in bayreuth is a question that everyone who seriously studies him must decide for themselves. Wagner and his work – that is his fascination, but also a puzzle – are suitable for almost every world view and appropriation. And through his music, he will continue to give people who want it the illusion that, at least for a time, like his isolde, they may unconsciously drown and sink in the highest pleasure "in the surging torrent, in the toning sound, in the world-atmospher's wafting all".
Since the beginning of this year, you can find more about wagner in monika beer's blog "my wagner year".
Crossmedia project: wagnerwahn in three parts
"I didn't believe they would make it", said wilhelm I., the german emperor, on his arrival on 12. August 1876 in bayreuth to richard wagner. "And now the sun shines on her work." two days later, in a walkure-pause, the emperor loves the master to call him once again to honor him and his just opened festival.
Italian illustrator flavia scuderi has captured the scene with prominent festival-goers – including other crowned heads, artists and wagnerians such as franz liszt, friedrich nietzsche, peter tschaikowsky and anton bruckner (pictured above) – for a graphic novel to be published by knesebeck verlag in june (ca. 48 pages, 19,95 euro).
The wagner comic is part of an unusual cross-media project by renowned production partners, which is being launched today to mark wagner's 200th birthday. Birthday under the title "wagnerwahn is presented several times: first, as a TV film by ralf pleger worth seeing, with fascinating contemporary game scenes, entertaining expert explanations, and comic interludes (arte, 22. May, from 20.15 o'clock), and secondly as a wagner app, which was only launched on 22. May be available for free download in the app store until 23:59 (compatible for ipad and iphone). Through the fusion of animations, music, film clips, historical documents, score pages and photographs, wagner can be experienced in a playful way – especially for those new to wagner.