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Available Again: Ring Resounding: The Recording of Der Ring Des Nibelungen (Preview)

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday 29 November 2012 | 10:00:00 pm

Random House have reissued John Culshaw's 1968 book on the making of the Solti Ring. Available in both paperback and Ebook formats. Below, is one of Google Books generous previews.

Nothing in the history of recording approaches Decca's mammoth venture in producing Wagner's Ring complete for the first time. It was eight years in the making and this book tells the story of how it was made and the people who made it, written by the man who - as the recording producer - was in charge of the whole project.

Conducted by the great Georg Solti, Decca's recording has been voted the best recording ever made. All the celebrated Wagner singers of their age take their places in the story, including Birgit Nilsson, Kirsten Flagstad, Hans Hotter, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Gottlob Frick and Wolfgang Windgassen. The recording was made in Vienna with the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra, and Culshaw displayed extraordinary dedication to Wagner's musical requirements and to putting into practice his own belief that a stereo recording could create a 'theatre of the mind'.

This is the story of how the recording evolved, and how it frequently almost came to grief. More than that, it is the story of how a new medium - recorded opera in stereo - reached fulfilment, and how this ground-breaking recording became seen as the highly influential gold standard for the future.
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Book Review: Richard Wagner’s Women - "We know no one crueller"

Originally published in Times Literary Supplement and made available by the author,  under a  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

In her book Richard Wagner’s Women Eva Rieger examines the presentation of feminine-gendered qualities in both female and male characters in Wagner’s operas. Her focus is on negatively construed feminine qualities, but in this TLS review I suggest that feminine characters like Isolde, Brünnhilde, and the ‘feminine’ figure of Hans Sachs all occupy the Lacanian position of the hysterical subject who sees that the irresolvable lack in their own character is reflected by the inconsistency of the big Other. Their rejection of the big Other’s limited range of ideological scripts makes them truly feminist characters, whose proposed solutions to the deadlock of modern sexual relations are so radical that we perpetually choose to cover them over with fantasies.

J. P. E. Harper-Scott

Review of Eva Rieger, Richard Wagner’s Women (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2011). Published in the Times Literary Supplement, 18 May 2012, p. 13.

In a vital sense, women were for Wagner the chief means of achieving revolutionary change. The most obvious artistic examination of the tension between the bourgeois fantasy of marriage and Wagner’s sympathy for revolutionary overthrow of existing economic and social structures takes place in what Rieger calls ‘the feminine realm of love’.
Reminding us that intellectual, moral, and political superiority is traditionally assigned to the masculine and inferiority to the feminine, in Richard Wagner’s Women Rieger traces the presentation of masculine and feminine qualities, in stage characters of both sexes, across the operas from Rienzi to Parsifal, as a way of demonstrating Wagner’s commitment to his society’s belief in the essential link between feminine gender roles and flesh-and-blood women. Time and again the role played by women tends towards ‘sacrifice, pain and negation’, with Senta (Der fliegende Holländer) and Elisabeth (Tannhäuser) being typical cases. By contrast, those women who seek a higher political or sexual status than their sex ‘essentially’ allows them conform to the misogynist stereotype of the harridan. ‘In the whole of history we know no one crueller than the political woman’, Wagner wrote to Liszt about Ortrud in Lohengrin. Certainly no female political leader who adopted such a ‘cruel’ Wagnerian mantle could do anything but bad for women’s political representation.
Men are typically represented by strident, masterly music, or else (as often with Wotan) music of great nobility. The strong, brassy orchestration and on-stage phallic props (swords and spears abound) add to the sense of their essential and natural domination of women – whose contrastingly drooping melodic lines and softer woodwind or string accompaniment Rieger frequently highlights. Men who adopt feminine qualities are either rejected as of little account (as Erik in The Flying Dutchman, whom Senta guiltlessly rejects in favour of the more thrusting and dangerous Dutchman) or else satisfyingly killed off (Siegmund ‘must die’ because he falls too deeply into the ‘feminine’ world of love). Conversely, the wickedness of men is excused so their predominance can be maintained. For instance, Siegfried’s betrayal of Brünnhilde is forgiven because he was acting under the influence of a magic potion.
All this is astute but, as may already be obvious, Rieger seems unwilling to conceive of positive expressions of feminine-gendered qualities, and it is this failing that prevents her from answering the excellent question she poses towards the beginning: how can we love Wagner’s music despite its apparent misogyny? The answer is that, just as he does with his anti-Semitism, Wagner subverts his insupportable message at the same time as he enunciates it. Specifically, it is the stereotypically ‘feminine’ figure of the hysteric who rejects the world whom later Wagner considers the greatest and most insightful figure of all.
The central character of Die Meistersinger, Hans Sachs, is one of the most interesting of Wagner’s hysterical ‘women’, and typical of his conception of the role of the ‘feminine’ in his later work (after Das Rheingold). Rieger notes that Sachs renounces his love for Elsa in order that the younger man, Walther, can win her in the song contest (like Freia, Isolde, and Brünnhilde before her, Elsa is in important respects just an exchange-value). But while she draws out the Schopenhauerian resonance of much of late Wagner’s renunciations – that of Tristan and Isolde being only the most famous – Rieger misses the more striking fact that Wagner’s great later characters do not renounce love as such but rather the delusion that existing templates for its acting-out, which build female subjection into their core, are a guarantor of universal human happiness (‘Wahn, Wahn, überall Wahn!’, ‘Delusion, everywhere!’, is Sachs’s characteristic reflection).
Two of the last of Wagner’s ‘women’ to accede to the fantasy of stable erotic union are Siegmund and Siegfried; their ends are, significantly, shaped not by choice but by force. Isolde, Brünnhilde, and Sachs, by contrast, achieve their radically different ends by their own volition. Isolde rejects life itself as the essential framework for human suffering, but Brünnhilde goes a step further. She returns the Ring to the Rhinemaidens from whom it was stolen in the form of primordial gold, and so reverses the process by which nature was metabolized into a surplus value that sustained male power – which is to say that she destroys the capitalist economy of her world. Since, in the Ring, women are merely something to be exchanged for gold (as with Freia) or lain defenceless on a rock to be raped and taken by the first man to find them (Brünnhilde’s own fate), they function as erotic commodities, valuable insofar as they are sexually desirable to more powerful men. Having relieved Wotan of his commitment to the pursuit of social power, Brünnhilde’s final act is to throw herself, the female erotic commodity, onto the fire along with everything else. It is therefore strange for Rieger to claim that Brünnhilde achieves nothing because ‘the love of women for their men is hardly going to create a new society. On the contrary, those same men, strengthened by love, can continue their dominance – a dominance grounded on the pursuit of power.’ The world of power mediated through commodity exchange and propped up by the faithful love of women is precisely what Brünnhilde has destroyed. There can be no return of the same.
Our reluctance to swallow Wagner’s vision entirely is perhaps best illustrated by Sachs himself. Although we, like the people of Nuremberg who hail him with the last words of the opera, recognize his greatness and probably even nod sagely at his diagnosis of universal delusion, in the closing minutes Walther’s gorgeous prize song and the final choral big sing bring us ineluctably back into the presence of the fantasies that he implores us to reject. We succumb again to the surreptitious promptings of perpetual, devoted marital love, the wisdom of youth’s erotic vision, and finally the smokescreen of social cohesion that smoothes over tensions within human society (the controversial final paean to the German spirit) – knowing full well that Sachs is right about its emptiness yet nevertheless wanting to retain the psychological benefits of the fantasy. Greater sensitivity to this kind of psychological ambivalence in Wagner’s music would have made this a much more satisfactory study.
As it is, readers dismissive of feminism will doubtless find the language of ‘phallocentrism’, ‘patriarchy’, and ‘gendering’ offensive, while readers who are at home in the discourse will find the arguments a little shallow. As an introduction to how music reflects cultural assumptions about gender this book has value, but as an examination of the ways that music can criticize of those assumptions, it lacks imagination.
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Salzburg Summer Festival 2013 to include Die Meistersinger and Rienzi,

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday 27 November 2012 | 11:49:00 pm

Better late than never? Blame an ailing memory.

Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
New production


2, 9, 12, 20, 24 27 August 2013


Hans Sachs - Michael Volle
Veit Pogner - Georg Zeppenfeld
Sixtus Beckmesser - Markus Werba
Fritz Kothner - Oliver Zwarg
Walther von Stolzing - Roberto Saccà
David - Peter Sonn
Eva  - Anna Gabler
Magdalene - Monika Bohinec

Conductor: - Daniele Gatti
Director: - Stefan Herheim
Set Designs: - Heike Scheele
Costumes:  - Gesine Völlm
Lighting:  - Olaf Freese


Concert performance


11, 14 August 2013


Cola Rienza - Christopher Ventris
Irene - Emily Magee
Stefano Colonna - Georg Zeppenfeld
Adriano - Sophie Koch
Paolo Orsini - Martin Gantner
Baroncelli - Benjamin Bernheim
Cecco del Vecchio - Oliver Zwarg

Conductor - Philippe Jordan

Full Details: Salzburg 2013
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Full Wagner drama to be performed for the first time in the Middle East - 2013

The Lebanese Al Bustan Festival brings the first Wagner opera to the Middle East for its 20th Anniversary

Artistic Director Gianluca Marciano and president Myrna Bustani celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Al Bustan Festival by bringing a stellar lineup of soloists and ensembles to Lebanon including Anna Tifu, Gautier Capuçon, Boris Berezovsky, Paco Pena, Nino Surguladze and Khatia Buniatishvili. 2013 will mark the 200th anniversaries of Verdi and Wagner and the Festival is celebrating by inviting the Russian company Helikon Opera to perform Das Liebesverbot, the first performance of a Wagner opera in the Middle East.

The major festival is held annually in the Emile Bustani Auditorium and the Crystal Garden conservatory at Al Bustan in Beyt Meri, just outside Beirut. It delivers more than thirty performances each year spanning opera, dance, orchestral and chamber music, not to mention the education and workshop programmes for the Beirut Conservatoire. The Festival has a history of commissioning contemporary composers such as John Taverner, Naji Hakim and Roxanna Panufnik.

The programme for the 20th anniversary opens on Tuesday 19 February with young Italian violinist Anna Tifu and Russian cellist Boris Andrianov performing the Brahms double concerto, Brahms Violin Concerto and Elgar Cello Concerto. They will be joined by the Al Bustan Festival Orchestra, conducted by Gianluca Marciano. Brahms will also be represented in a concert of chamber music by the Wiener Kammersoloisten on Tuesday 26 February. Their programme includes Bach and Mozart Fugues and the Mozart Quintet K 581. Other highlights include Boris Berezovsky performing a recital on Monday 18 March and two performances of Verdi’s Requiem on Saturday 23 March and 25 March including sinders Nino Surguladze and Askar Abdrazakov. The Festival closes with a special gala concert on Thursday 28 March also including Nino Surguladze, Joyce El Khoury and Christina Nassif.

Richard Wagner’s early opera Das Liebesverbot was largely forgotten and only performed twice in the composer’s lifetime due to the shambolic first and second performances. The first was poorly attended with the lead singer forgetting their words and the second had to be cancelled after a fist fight between the prima donna’s husband and a leading tenor. The piece deals with many themes of restrained sexuality and erotics, something which Wagner would explore further in later operas, and is a comedy with the conclusion being an orgiastic riot at curtain fall. It is often known as the ‘forgotten comedy’, falling in shadow behind his later 1868 Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The Russian company Helikon Opera, a group specialising in unconventional productions, will give the Al Bustan Festival performance on Friday 8 March. The company have a long-standing relationship with the Festival, having performed a total of 12 operas since 1996.

Founded by former Lebanese MP Myrna Bustani in 1994, the Al Bustan Festival has enjoyed twenty years of the highest quality music making. Over the years, the Festival has invited artists such as Maria Ewing, Angelika Kirschlager, Evelyn Glennie, Helikon Opera, the Jacques Loussier Trio, Irek Mukhamedov, June Anderson, the Labeque sisters, Sumi Jo, Gautier Capuçon, Antoni Wit and the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. The Festival’s Artistic Director is Italian-born conductor Gianluca Marciano.

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DW to celebrate Wagner Bicentennial on Internet, TV and DVD

Deutsche Welle (DW) is celebrating the upcoming 200th anniversary of German composer Richard Wagner's birth on May 22, 2013 with the TV and DVD production The Colón Ring and with a special multimedia project.

"The 200th anniversary of the artist's birth is one of the defining cultural events of 2013 - and therefore it is also at the center of the German international broadcaster's cultural reporting," said DW Director General Erik Bettermann.

To mark the anniversary, Latin America's biggest opera house, the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, is putting together a unique project. A world premiere of Wagner's monumental music drama The Ring of the Nibelung will be staged for the first time in one day, in a seven-hour shortened version - an adaptation by Hamburg musicologist Cord Garben. The production will be directed by Valentina Carrasco from Argentina. In some sequences, she sets the Colón Ring in the 1970s, during the military dictatorship in Argentina. Carrasco took over as director in October of this year. She replaced Katharina Wagner, the great-granddaughter of the composer, who was the original artistic manager and director of this ambitious project. The orchestra of The Colón Ring will be led by the Austrian conductor Roberto Paternostro, who has been musical director of the Israel Chamber Orchestra since 2010.

A 90-minute documentary film and multi-camera recording

The DW production The Colón Ring consists of a multi-camera recording and a documentary film. DW shows the unusual making of the production in a 90-minute documentary film directed by Wagner expert Hans Christoph von Bock, and documents the performance at the Teatro Colón in a multi-camera production.

"This project is the latest in a series of spectacular classical productions we began in 2006," added Bettermann. At that time, the German Symphony Orchestra Berlin, conducted by Kent Nagano, recorded the six-part series Classical Masterpieces. The concert recordings and documentary reports won numerous international prizes, as did The Beethoven Project (2010) and The Promise of Music (2009).

The documentary film The Colón Ring - Wagner in Buenos Aires will be shown on Deutsche Welle's international TV channels in spring 2013. A DVD is also to be released on the C Major label. It will contain the film itself, as well as the multi-camera recording.

The Teatro Colón boasts a Wagner tradition stretching back nearly 100 years. Opened in 1908, it is now Latin America's biggest music theater. Early on, it hosted the annual 'German Season', during which Wagner's work attracted great interest. The first performance of the complete Ring, directed by Felix Weingartner in 1922, has become legendary. And 90 years later the shortened version is having its world premiere in the same venue.

Multimedia special Wagner200

DW's multimedia special Wagner200, available at, celebrates the anniversary in other ways, as well. Users combing the website for more information about the TV documentary can find workshop reports, background material on the Teatro Colón, biographies of the theater's artists and producers, and much more.

Wagner200 is available in four languages: German, English, Spanish and Russian. The website will be regularly updated until the end of 'Wagner year'. After 2013, it will offer a unique, multilingual online archive on the topic.

"With this project we hope not only to address Wagner fans worldwide, but also to provide all viewers and Internet users who are interested in culture with a state-of-the-art way of accessing Wagner's complete works," commented DW Director General Bettermann.
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Very Much Off Topic: The Last Remaining Blue Whale

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday 26 November 2012 | 8:50:00 am

We hope we can be forgiven just this once (it won't become a trend we promise) but we are "fans" of both Rutger Hauer and the Blue Whale. And we suspect Wagner would have approved.

From the editing suite of Rutger Hauer and Sil van der Woerd comes a wonderfully solemn short film that subtly points the finger at the whaling industry. The morose blue whale, the last one left, glides gracefully through the air displaying upon its body the torment that it and its kinfolk have been subjected to. The man watches on as the whale meets its final match and although their is pain in his eyes he just cannot stop himself…

The last remaining blue whale comes eye to eye with its only enemy; mankind.

The film was directed by Rutger Hauer & Sil van der Woerd, who felt an urge to bring attention to the ongoing whaling.
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In Discussion with Barry Millington: "A kind of Damascus experience on the road to Southend pier"

We recently had the opportunity to spend some time with one of Britain's – and perhaps the English speaking worlds - most well known Wagner scholars: Barry Millington. During that time we discussed his highly recommended new book "Wagner: the Sorcerer of Bayreuth", what started a life long interest in Wagner, The Wagner Journal – which he founded and edits – and next years London based Wagner 200. 

TW: Barry, first let me thank you for taking the time to talk to us out of what I know is a very busy schedule at the moment.  Before discussing your new book could you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

BM: Well, I earn my crust as a journalist, writing about Classical music and opera for the Evening Standard. I've been with them for about ten years and before that I was with The Times for over twenty years.

But Wagner’s always been a particular interest: there always seem to be new angles to explore.

TW: When did you first “discover” Wagner?

BM: I was brought up in Southend-on-Sea, within easy commuting distance of London, and I used to come up to Covent Garden and Sadler’s Wells on a regular basis. It didn’t cost an arm and a leg in those days. At a fairly early stage Wagner stood out as something special and I started listening to recordings and reading books. By the time I went to university – I read Music at Cambridge – I was pretty immersed in the literature and remember surprising my director of studies that I was already familiar with Donington.

Unlike many people, I don’t recall any particular epiphany with regard to Wagner. I’d like to say there was some kind of Damascus experience on the road to Southend pier, but there wasn't really. I've always been rather amused by those hyper-sensitive young French composers – Chabrier and the others – who would sob and swoon at performances of Tristan. I used to think it would be rather impressive to faint at a performance of Tristan, but I've never quite managed it.

TW: You and I both. Although his work does have a rather “odd” effect I have not found elsewhere, but thankfully not as “extreme” as found among some or those you mention. Perhaps neither of us are “swooners”?

Nevertheless, you have dedicated a large part of your career and life to Wagner. What is it about his work that has led to this?

BM: As I've already suggested, I’m slightly averse to the idea of ‘dedication’ in this context, but it’s true I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time listening to and working on Wagner over the years.

The music certainly is incomparable: the more I listen to it, the more I marvel at it. But I think it’s also the heady brew of ideological and philosophical issues that’s attractive to me, and of course its unique psychological penetration. I’m hardly the first to point out that Wagner seems to connect with very fundamental human feelings and instincts. His mythical world provides a terrain on to which deep psycho-sexual desires can be mapped.

TW: Absolutely.. What made you decide to start the Wagner Journal? 

BM: I've always been interested in presenting scholarship in a way that’s intelligible to an intelligent lay audience, and it seemed to me that there was scope for a publication that did just that. I had also become very frustrated at the ever-decreasing amount of space made available to the arts in newspapers and the corresponding lack of seriousness in much of the coverage. I wanted to provide a forum where specialists could discuss the issues of Wagner in performance – conducting, singing and stage production – at a length that allowed them to make well-informed and properly nuanced judgments, rather than in the sound-bites that my colleagues and I are forced to resort to these days in the daily press. And when I read the contributions of some of our contributors – David Breckbill’s supremely authoritative CD reviews come to mind – I feel that we’re providing something that simply isn't obtained anywhere else on that level.

TW: I would agree – I am an avid reader. Have you encountered any obstacles in its production? 

BM: There have been no obstacles; in fact, I’m astonished by the constant flow of messages from readers, saying how important it is to them and to keep up the good work. We have high production standards and it’s important to me that the journal is an aesthetically pleasing object to look at and read. We also have an unusual business model, in that the journal is published independently, that is by a small company called The Wagner Journal. We raise just enough money in revenue from sales (both subscriptions and a handful of retail outlets, including Covent Garden and the Met) and a few advertisements – plus the occasional generous donation – to cover our costs. It’s an ideal situation not being beholden to publishers, commissioning editors, trendy designers and the industry in general. I’d recommend it to anybody wanting to publish serious work.

TW: Your latest Wagner book may be the most thorough book written about Wagner and “Wagnerism” to date. Could you tell us how the idea first came to you 

BM: Over the last 20 years or more there’s been some very interesting scholarship done on various aspects of Wagner and I thought it might be helpful if I were to try to transmit the fruits of that scholarship to a wider audience. I’ve also long felt that certain received opinions about Wagner were wide of the mark: they’re rather lazy, stereotypical views that seem to get endlessly recycled. The bicentenary was imminent and it seemed a ideal opportunity to attempt a reappraisal of the man and his work based on the best scholarship of recent times.

TW: It is not a biography in the style of Ernest Newman or Derek Watson, etc. Instead it is more a series of interlinked "essays" roughly in chronological order of Wagner's life. While I am glad that you did (I enjoy the format) why did you style it in this fashion and how did you select the topics for inclusion?

BM: I knew from the start that I didn't want a straightforward biography; nor would it be primarily a commentary on the music. My original idea was to present it as a series of rooms through which one walked, rather like in an exhibition, each devoted to a particular aspect of the subject. But the publishers felt that the book industry would be confused by such a format and maybe they were right. So what I did instead was to retain the thematic organization but to present the material as more conventional chapters. Thames & Hudson have always specialized in beautifully illustrated books and since I have at my disposal a large archive of illustrations, much of which has been built up over the years since I started the journal, we were all very keen for the pictures to tell their own story. Many of the pictures will be unfamiliar to most readers and I think they really do throw fascinating light on what one is trying to say. Then there are the documents – such as the police reports on his revolutionary activity, or the description of his drastic hydrotherapy treatment, or the simply breathtaking descriptions of his silk wardrobe and furnishings – which are also vital for providing context. I tried to select documents that were lively, poignant or humorous in some way, and the chapter on silks and satins is a good example: there’s a hilarious account of Nietzsche on a shopping expedition in Basel looking for a pair of silk underpants for Wagner. But I also tackle the question of the relationship between Wagner’s silk fetishism and penchant for cross-dressing and his music.

TW: You dedicate very little time to Wagner’s first stay in Paris - which I consider of long term relevance and influence to his future life and work. Can I ask why you made this decision? I would have been more than keen to hear of your knowledgeable thoughts on this period. Or do you perhaps feel it is not as important?

BM: I don’t disagree that the Paris period was important for his artistic – and also psychological – development. But I’m not sure that it would have warranted a whole chapter of its own. I felt that it was important to do justice to the Dresden years and then to the Zurich period, when so much was taking shape in his creative imagination. Then of course there’s the Bayreuth project, so inevitably not everything could be treated at the same length.

TW: Was it for similar reasons that you do not provide as much attention to Wagner's early works as you do to his later work? I was looking forward to seeing how your thoughts on Die Feen, etc had developed – if at all. And I feel your usual detailed analysis would have benefited those new to Wagner. 

BM: To be honest, I haven’t done much work on the early operas in recent years, so I’m not sure I would have much new to say. There’s a fair bit about the music of the later works, but it’s not primarily that kind of book. One critic wondered why it didn’t have plot summaries, but I thought that would be a terrible waste of space when you can get those so easily elsewhere these days.

TW: I would have to agree with your decision not to include plot summaries. They would have taken valuable time away from other areas you so elegantly investigate. And in the age of the internet are incredibly easy to find.

Your analysis of Wagner’s latter work  tends to follow the trend started , at least in academic Wagner literature , by Adorno; wherein Wagner’s work is perceived to be populated to some degree, by anti-Semitic caricatures - Mime and Klingsor come readily to mind. You then appear to continue your analysis of Parsifal with thoughts very close to those of Gutman. With this in mind, how important do you believe it is to find anti-Semitism in Wagner’s works and have your views changed over the years? 

BM: There’s no doubt in my mind that Wagner’s anti-semitism is woven into the fabric of his works, into the text and music. Since I first wrote a paper on the subject, with regard to Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger, twenty years ago, I've seen no reason to change my mind. On the contrary, the thesis has been confirmed, as far as I’m concerned, by a succession of scholarly books and articles. I think it’s true to say that there’s something of a consensus on the subject now, though there are still dissenting voices – in one or two cases belonging to people for whom I have a lot of respect. But I think it’s become possible to see things in a broader perspective now. I wouldn't want to insist, for example – and in fact I never have – that Wagner’s works are exclusively or even predominantly defined by antisemitism. They’re far richer and more interesting than that.

TW: I would agree with your thoughts on their richness of ideas and sources, although, and trust me I am not closed minded to the issue, I have always found Wagner's, elsewhere highly evident antisemitism conspicuous by its absence in his dramas – but perhaps I have simply not looked hard enough? Personally, apart from Schopenhauer, Buddhism and the “other usual suspects” I have always found Wagner's interest in what Cosima calls in her diaries “heretical Christianity” and the German Christian mystics far more in evidence yet sadly less discussed – especially in Parsifal. 

But yes, I agree that we should not define his work by Wagner's antisemitism any more than we should define Bach's work by its far more evident textual antisemitism in Johannes-Passion, as one example – but neither should we ignore it if it exists. And for those that have not read your book yet I would have to point out that you are clear to make this point in your book. Unlike much “lazy” writing on Wagner you point out this is only one of a large number of influences on his work

However, and while not wishing to linger to long on this one facet of Wagner’s character (which is only a small part of your book I must add), this does bring me to a related thought: we are both aware of Wagner’s equal “distaste” for French culture (only Wagner could have written and found funny “Eine Kapitulation“), the Jesuits and to some degree Russians.

Do you feel that his thoughts on these subjects (and related negative racial/cultural caricatures) can also be found within his work? And why do you think this has not also been analyzed - and helped “inform” Wagner productions - as his “association” with the Nazis has? Or do you think his work will always carry the taint of his family members, undeniable, association with - and support of - Hitler?

BM: Yes, it’s true that Wagner was equally antipathetic towards the French, to Jesuits, to critics and others. All that could be, and sometimes is, legitimately projected in productions too. I’m sure you’re right that the taint of Hitler and the Holocaust bears much of the responsibility for the way Wagner is perceived by many people. It’s another of those stereotypical, one-dimensional views I mentioned. I’m more interested in trying to understand how Wagner’s antisemitic prejudice became a vital ingredient in his works: the grit in the oyster. Without that streak they would not be the works they are. But we don’t need to be defensive about that. It’s better to have an honest debate about it and try to understand how the ideology informs the art. It makes the works all the richer and more fascinating in my view.

TW: The book is beautifully illustrated. I have said the best illustrated book on Wagner that I have come across - and it deserves to be on everyone’s shelves for this alone. Could you tell us a little about the process that went into compiling these images? 

BM: I’m glad you have appreciated the pictures, because a lot of care went into their selection. First, as I have said, I have a growing archive of Wagner images which I have been compiling from various sources. Second, Thames & Hudson allocated a brilliant freelance picture researcher, Imogen Graham, to the project and she tracked down for me the pictures I did not have. Illustrations should never be simply decorative: they should be there for a purpose, because they can tell us things that can’t be described in words – rather like the music in the operas. But they can also give aesthetic pleasure and the publishers have enhanced that pleasure by printing them on quite sumptuous, creamy paper. It’s the same paper they used for the very successful book Romantic Moderns by Alexandra Harris and for Martin Gayford’s interviews with David Hockney and Lucian Freud. It makes the book a pleasing aesthetic object in its own right, which I think would have appealed to the hedonist in Wagner!

TW:  Finally, you are organizing Wagner 200 next year . What can you tell us about this? 

BM: Wagner 200 is a London-based celebration of the bicentenary of Wagner’s birth co-ordinated and co-directed by myself and Mark Eynon. The programme of events is an ambitious one running from the birthday on 22 May through to December. The launch will be a high-profile event at the Royal Festival Hall: a Wagner concert including the whole of Act 3 of Die Walküre with Susan Bullock and James Rutherford, plus the Philharmonia Orchestra under Andrew Davis, and a starry cast of Valkyries. But that's just the start. Our festival also includes screenings of Wagner operas (we hope free of charge, because they’re aimed at a new audience for Wagner), a curated Wagner film season at the Barbican, a series of concerts at Kings Place, symposia on Wagner in Performance and Wagner the Writer, lectures, exhibitions, masterclasses, a reading of the Ring (in English) and more besides. Many of these events are partnerships with flagship organisations such as Covent Garden, ENO, the Barbican, the Philharmonia and the British Library, but the Kings Place events are our own promotion.

We’ll be announcing all this formally in due course, but anyone wanting to be kept posted should go to where they can join the mailing list.

Barry Millington's new book: "Wagner: the Sorcerer of Bayreuth", is available now 
More Information about the Wagner Journal can be found at the following Website: The Wagner Journal
(Images from: Wagner: The Sorcerer Of Bayreuth (2012) Barry Millington)
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Tristan to finally make its Florida premiere: Florida Grand Opera 2013-2014

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday 24 November 2012 | 1:31:00 pm

Susan Danis, FGO's General Director
Announcing its 2013-2014 season, Florida Grand Opera  have confirmed that they will be mounting a production of Tristan und Isolde - what is believed to be for the first time in Florida. Cast and dates to be announced.

As announced in the South Florida Classical Review, they will also  be mounting  the Southeast premiere of Mourning Becomes Electra by Marvin David Levy

Said Levy: "“I really am thrilled and very grateful that FGO is going to do Mourning,” said Levy. “I’m especially glad that it’s going to be done in my adopted hometown.”

Susan Danis, FGO's new General Director noted: “Miami is a great international city that deserves a great opera company presenting exciting productions with world-class singers and thought-provoking repertoire and realizations of the operas,”

More at Florida Grand Opera

Florida Grand Opera

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Cambridge University Press to reprint Newman's 4 volume "Life Of Richard Wagner"

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday 17 November 2012 | 1:46:00 am

Perhaps the most complete biography of Wagner ever written; Ernest Newman's four volume "Life of Richard Wagner" will be made available once again by  Cambridge University Press. All four volumes will be republished on January 1st 2013. Present list price between £32 and £42 per volume (Paperback).

Ernest Newman's four-volume Life of Wagner, originally published between 1933 and 1947, remains a classic work of biography. The culmination of forty years' research on the composer and his works (Newman's first Study of Wagner was first published in 1899), these books present a detailed portrait of perhaps the most influential, the most controversial and the most frequently reviled composer in the whole history of western music. Newman was aware that no biography can ever claim to be complete or completely accurate: 'The biographer can at no stage hope to have reached the final truth. All he can do is to make sure that whatever statement he may make, whatever conclusion he may come to, shall be based on the whole of the evidence available at the time of writing.' In this aim he triumphantly succeeds.

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Book Overview & Preview: Hermann Levi: From Brahms to Wagner

Available in print and electronic format. Alas, it is presently sitting in a  pile of very interesting books to be read. However, once we have manged to get to it we will provide a review.  There is a generous google preview included below.

June 2012
Pages: 296
Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
By Frithjof Haas
Translated by Cynthia Klohr

Jewish conductor Hermann Levi strove for excellence and recognition as a composer and conductor of classical music in 19th-century Germany. He unerringly devoted himself to the orchestral performance of works by the two major figures of the time: Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner. In spite of the anti-Semitic atmosphere, Levi saw the conducting of Wagner's works as a major calling: one that pinnacled in the premier performance of Parsifal in Bayreuth.

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Nicholas Wroe in conversation with Semyon Bychkov

The engagement diary of a leading conductor can reveal many things: musical taste, status, popularity with players, administrators and audiences. But rarely has a schedule acted so neatly as a potted biography as Semyon Bychkov's does this month. November's concerts have included performances in St Petersburg (where he was brought up and trained as a musician), Vienna (where he arrived in 1974 with $100 to his name as a Jewish exile from the Soviet Union), the US (where he made his home and established his musical reputation), Tel Aviv and London (where he has recently been awarded honorary positions with both the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Academy of Music). "I wish I could say it was all a magnificent design," he shrugs, "but there was no design. However, when the pattern was pointed out to me, the symbolism was unmistakeable."

That Bychkov's 60th birthday also falls this month adds to the seeming import of these trips down his personal memory lanes. "It is interesting that all this comes around the time of an apparently significant birthday, when it is common to look both forward and back," he says. "Over the years I have played music I have often felt that my relationship with time is a little strange. The past and the present do sometimes come together in the most unexpected ways."

The day after he arrived in Vienna in 1974 Bychkov found himself standing in front of the Staastsoper watching the audience go in to see a new production of Wagner's Lohengrin. Thirty years later to the day, he was the conductor of a new Staatsoper Lohengrin. His prize as an outstanding student in Leningrad was to conduct Rachmaninoff's second symphony with the Leningrad Philharmonic, but his application for an exit visa ensured that the authorities stopped the concert. On his first return visit to his conservatoire in the city 35 years later, this was the piece he conducted.

Continue reading

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Another Wagner Box Set: Wagner's Vision: Bayreuth Heritage

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday 11 November 2012 | 9:01:00 am

They really are coming "hard and fast", but this one is a little different to the others so far -  with a few real "treats".

Wagner's Vision: Bayreuth Heritage
Documents: 233618

This 50-CD set is released to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Richard Wagner, and is an outstanding sound document of the history of the Bayreuth Festival during the first half of the 20th century. The collection includes music from all operas authorised by Wagner for performance in Bayreuth.

To complement the edition, scenes and solo titles out of the decades of the festival direction of Cosima, Siegfried and Winifred Wagner are included. They go back to the festival summer of 1904 and communicate impressions from important and famous performances until 1943. Recordings from New Bayreuth of the Wagner grandsons Wieland and Wolfgang lead to the newest era of the festival.
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New Wagner Box Set: "The Other Wagner"

The Wagner boxsets just keep coming and the newest one is the aptly titled "The Other Wagner" - just released by EMI. In a break from the usual selection of Wagner's dramas, this 4 CD boxset concentrates on his orchestral, lieder and piano music output - and its not that bad from the very brief listen we have managed so far. You can pick-up a copy for around £8 pound if you look around

We supply as much information as we can below. No easy thing considering how poorly EMI tends to press release its classical output.  And should you have Spotify, you can listen to the entire set below.  At the very least this will provide you with a full track listing.

Faust Overture, WWV59
Der Tag erscheint, WWV 68B
An Webers Grabe, WWV 72
Siegfried Idyll
Trauersinfonie, WWV 73
Das Liebesmahl der Apostel, WWV 69
Symphony in E: Allegro con spirito
Christoph Columbus: Overture
Huldigungsmarsch, WWV 97
Kaisermarsch, WWV104
Großer Festmarsch (Centennial March) for the centenary of the independence of the USA
Wesendonck-Lieder (5)
with orchestra
Ankunft bei den schwarzen Schwänen (Arrival among the black swans)
Piano Sonata in A flat
Elegy in A flat
Siegfried Idyll
arr. for piano
Wesendonck-Lieder (5)
with piano
Selected lieder

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Photo: Bayreuth Festival 1927/28: Stage setting "Götterdämmerung"

This postcard was sold on Ebay a few days ago. We thought you might be interested. Click on to view a larger image.

1st act, 2nd scene

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Mariinsky Label to record Ring Cycle with: Kaufmann, Stemme, Kampe, Petrenko and Pape.

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday 6 November 2012 | 5:51:00 pm

As far as Wagner casts and conductors come (following his Parsifal) a new recorded Ring Cycle including: Jonas Kaufmann (Siegmund), Nina Stemme (Brünnhilde), Anja Kampe (Sieglinde), Mikhail Petrenko (Hunding), René Pape (Wotan) and conducted by Valery Gergiev don't come much bigger.

And the date to put in your diary? February 2013 will see the release of the first CD. However, this will not be Rheingold but, in an odd artistic decision  but probably a good commercial one, Walkure. This will be followed with Rheingold in September 2013 with Siegfried and Gotterdammerung to follow in 2014.

If its anything like the Gergiev Parsifal it may be worth the wait.

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Pay Per View: Alex Ross - Richard Wagner: Horror, Beauty, a Mirror to Our Soul

While we are not fans of pay-per-view lectures we suppose someone must pay for all of those starving journalists at The New Yorker. And in his defense, he is always interesting to listen to.

There is a free preview below. If you decide it is worth $9.99 (we are are always grateful of favourable exchange rates) for the full 1 hour 29 minutes - or so - then follow the link below.

The career of Wilhelm Richard Wagner is controversial for its influence on the Nazi Party. New Yorker Music critic Alex Ross declares that, justly or unjustly, Wagner should be judged both through the prism of art and the historical context that frames it. Recorded at the New Yorker Festival

To watch the full lecture go to
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Salvador Dali's "Mad Tristan" leaves the noumenal and returns to the world of phenomenon

Director Daniele Finzi Pasca, centre, and members of the production stand before a Salvador  Dali
painting that will serve as a backdrop to Company Finzi Pasca's  circus production of La Verita.:

A massive painting by Salvador Dali created in 1944 as a backdrop for a ballet put on by New York's Metropolitan Opera was recently found and displayed Monday in Montreal.
The eight by 15 meter piece was offered to circus master Daniele Finzi Pasca, who will use it in his next theatrical and acrobatic production, La Verita, which opens on January 17 in the Canadian metropolis.
The artwork depicts the Spanish surrealist painter's vision of the 12th century legend of the adulterous love affair between the Cornish knight Tristan and the Irish princess Iseult (or Isolde).
Dali painted it while collaborating with choreographer Leonide Massine for the ballet "Mad Tristan," inspired by Wagner's opera "Tristan and Isolde." He also designed the sets and costumes.
Art lovers will immediately recognize Dali's style in the monumental stage curtain that shows a head in the form of a dandelion, a crutch standing on its own, cypresses sprouting from the nape of a neck, an egg in a deserted world and his famous ants.
After being discovered in the Met's prop storage, it was sold and restored in 2009 to a European art collection, which has asked to remain anonymous.
After Montreal, both the canvas and La Verita's puppeteers, contortionists, acrobats, dancers and singers will tour South America and Europe, notably France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland, said troupe spokesman Jean-Sebastien Rousseau.
AFP News
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New Issue Of The Wagner Journal Now Available. Includes: Wagner & Milton

The November 2012 issue (vol.6, no.3), now available, contains the following feature articles:

• 'Making All Things New: from Paradise Lost to the Ring' by Stella Revard, elucidating resonant parallels between the epics of Milton and Wagner

• 'The Introduction of Nordic Sources from the Nibelung Legend into Germany' by Edward R. Haymes, exploring the process by which the Nibelungenlied came to prominence in 19th-century Germany

• 'German Readings of the Ring' by Udo Bermbach, a survey of the German reception of the Ring in the first three-quarters of the 20th century

plus reviews of:

The new Der fliegende Holländer and other productions at Bayreuth; the Ring at the Bavarian State Opera and at the Met, New York; The Flying Dutchman at ENO;Götterdämmerung at Longborough

DVD recordings of Robert Carsen's Barcelona Tannhäuser and Harry Kupfer's Berlin Parsifal

New recordings of Parsifal and Lohengrin under Marek Janowski and of Die Walküreunder Mark Elder

Barry Millington's Richard Wagner: the Sorcerer of Bayreuth reviewed by Mike Ashman

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Listen Now: "Rhinemaidens" Bayreuth 1904

Illustration from Stories of the Wagner Opera by H. A. Guerber, 1905.

The three Rhinemaidens in Cosima Wagner's Bayreuth production singing scenes by Rheingold and Götterdämmerung:

1. Wallala! Wallalaleia! / Lugt, Schwestern!
2. Frau sonne sendet lichte strahlen

Josefine von Artner (Woglinde)
Marie Knüpfer- Egli (Wellgunde)
Ottilie Metzger (Flosshilde)

Recorded by G&T in Bayreuth, 1904
Illustrations of the production.

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Greed and the Nature of Evil: Tolkien versus Wagner

Originally published in 2010 in  the recommended, peer reviewed Journal Of Religion and Popular Culture. Once again, we felt it was of too much interest to those with an especial  interest in Wagner for it not to have a wider readership. It can be read in its original form by following the link below. Also, clicking any of the references will take you the original journal article Images and video added by TW.

"During the 1930s, when he was a member of the informal literary discussion group The Inklings, it appears that Tolkien and C.S. Lewis began to translate the libretto of Die Walküre. Lewis, who remained Tolkien’s closest friend for decades, was quite a Wagnerian. He collected recordings, owned a set of Arthur Rackham’s illustrations of the Ring, dreamt of writing a prose version of Die Walküre, and took Tolkien along to London to see a production of the opera there." Stefan Arvidsson

"Anyway, I have in this War a burning private grudge – which would probably make me a better soldier at 49 than I was at 22: against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler (for the odd thing about demonic inspiration and impetus is that in no way enhances the purely intellectual stature: it chiefly affects the mere will). Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light." Tolkien

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SF Opera: A whale, a swan and pair of star-cross'd lovers:

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday 5 November 2012 | 10:11:00 pm

By MIKE SILVERMAN, Associated Press

It made for an eclectic week at the San Francisco Opera.

With the company's fall season in full swing, three different works took the stage on consecutive nights Thursday through Saturday. First was Jake Heggie's intermittently enthralling adaptation of "Moby-Dick"; next, Bellini's retelling of the Romeo and Juliet story, "I Capuleti e i Montecchi," in a ravishingly sung, foolishly staged production; and, best of all, Wagner's "Lohengrin," featuring a break-out performance by emerging heldentenor Brandon Jovanovich.

"Moby-Dick," a hit at its premiere in Dallas in 2010 and successfully revived several times since, benefits from a savvy libretto by Gene Scheer, which boils down Melville's sprawling novel to a coherent narrative, while maintaining chunks of his poetic language.

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The Wagnerian Recommends: the best of the Wagner Web 1: Think Classical

The first of a number of features where I will attempt to suggest Wagner (or closely related) websites that you may not be aware of, starting with "Think Classical"

I have to admit to spending far too much time on this site since - to my shame - discovering it only recently. Although, as the author admits (and as its name might suggest)  it is not purely a Wagner website.  it does tend to cover (thankfully) very little else.

It should be noted that it is neither a news site or a music review site. Instead it tends to consist of highly erudite discussions of Wagner's work - with a fair smattering of book reviews. And this is not a reviewer who would be described as a "passive" reader or reviewer.  If you have a book on Wagner that you like and  consider of value then beware; Think Classical will pursue its arguments with rigour. Turning to the original German sources - including Wagner's -  translating them into what is finally readable English to "fling" them back with some gusto at the lazy author who assumes no one will ever check these things

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Tristan und Isolde Productions: 2013

Only productions that have at least announced their principle casts have been included. As always, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of any listing and recommend that you check with the box office before booking. We will attempt to add video and photos as time allows.  If you believe we have missed a production please get in touch and let us know: where, when and who.

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Decca release "unheard" Solti - includes Wagner, Hotter, Nilsson, etc

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday 4 November 2012 | 1:33:00 pm

Released in Europe on Oct 13 it will receive its North American release 4 December. If you have access to Spotify you can hear the entire two CD set below.

Georg Solti: The Legacy 1937-1997

As Decca marks the centenary of Sir Georg Solti with several box sets devoted to many of his benchmark opera recordings comes a very special 2-CD set entitled Solti - The Legacy 1937-1997.
This 2-CD set contains 150 minutes of many previously unpublished live recordings and unpublished studio items spanning Sir Georg Solti's entire professional career as well as his 50-year exclusive association with Decca.
The accompanying booklet contains an essay by broadcaster, writer and former member of the orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Jon Tolansky (who played in the orchestra during part of Sir Georg Solti's tenure as Music Director); sung texts in the original language + English are included as well as a selection of photographs.
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The Incongruence of the Schopenhauerian Ending in Wagner’s Götterdämmerung

Of late, we have been investigating the influence of a range of German philosophers on Wagners thoughts and the development of his dramas  With this in mind, we thought the following might be of interest - especially as it begins to bring many of these strands together. Whether you agree with Locus' thesis is another matter of course , although he makes a compelling case. 

Originally published in Stanford Uni's in house Journal, (the archives of which can be found here: Stanford Undergraduate Research Journal) it seemed to us, to be a shame for it to not reach a wider Wagner audience and we thus reproduce part here. The complete paper can be read by following the link below.

The Incongruence of the Schopenhauerian Ending in Wagner’s Götterdämmerung 
James Locus

In Richard Wagner’s four-part musical drama, The Ring of the Nibelung, the composer experienced great difficulty in completing the final draft of the last piece, the Götterdammerung. Before the music had been composed, the text of the piece – the libretto – remained incomplete for many years. Wagner planned five endings,  yet one is particularly distinct in terms of context and philosophical underpinnings. Musicologists later labeled the unused text as The Schopenhauer Ending to reflect how strongly the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer influenced Wagner during the libretto stage. Focusing on the libretto, Locus explores Wagner’s preoccupation with Schopenhauer’s work and the way in which it inspired an ending, incongruent with both the larger context of The Ring of the Nibelung and the prevailing culture of Wagner’s time.
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Concert: Waghalter: The Lost Romantic. ECO - London 14/11/12

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday 3 November 2012 | 1:16:00 pm

Irmina Trynkos
Since first reading about this composer earlier this year I have developed a fascination for both this project and the composer. If you have Spotify you might want  to listen to the CD below. Recommended

A unique opportunity to hear the first performance of Waghalter’s richly melodic and colourful Violin Concerto and Rhapsodie in 100 years. Celebrated during his lifetime, Waghalter was forgotten as a result of the extraordinary circumstances of his life and his flight from persecution in Europe. Irmina Trynkos, an artist of exceptional talent has recently recorded the works for Naxos with Alexander Walker, a conductor highly regarded for his interpretations of Central and Eastern European music.

Wednesday 14 November 2012, 7.30pm
Cadogan Hall

Irmina Trynkos
Alexander Walker
English Chamber Orchestra

Ignatz Waghalter: The Lost Romantic
MozartCosì fan tutte Overture
DvořákLegends, Nos.3 and 4
Ignatz WaghalterViolin Concerto in A Major (first performance since 1911)
DvořákLegends, Nos.7 and 9
Ignatz WaghalterRhapsodie for Violin and Orchestra (first performance since 1907)
MendelssohnSymphony No.4 (Italian)

More Information and tickets: Cadogan Hall

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Free Ebook: Feuerbach - "The Essence of Christianity"

While the majority of general commentaries often stress the influence that Schopenhauer had on Wagner, it is of little doubt that Ludwig Feuerbach, was also a great influence upon him - as Feuerbach, was on many revolutionaries in Wagners time.. This seems to have been the case while Wagner was in Dresden and continued while he was in exile. It is equally difficult to doubt that he influenced many of the ideas that have found themselves into the Ring .

Feuerbach's major work remains, "The Essence of Christianity" a work in which, to quote Aaron Green's rather neat summary:

"....Feuerbach asserted that nature is the highest reality in that it exists regardless and independent of all beliefs and philosophies. The religious figures and ideas that cultures and nations hold about "god" are merely projections of the desired qualities these groups of people wish to obtain and live by. When men and women cannot find these qualities on earth, they throw them up into the heavens, pay homage to them, and call them god. More advanced and sophisticated cultures begin to consider god(s)in a more abstract sense, and possibly associate all god-like traits with a single entity (monotheism). Despite the fact that these gods (and later "god" singular) do not exist, they still act as an important tool in understanding the needs and desires of human beings. In other words, gods did not create men; men created men. The beliefs and, "assertions we make about God are in fact assertions about ourselves."

This particular Feuerbachian belief extended to Wagner's personal religious life. Wagner never considered any religion as truth, but considered each immensely valuable in the things it revealed about the people practicing them."

The book, translated into English by George Eliot has long been in the public domain. Alas, the only versions online and free tended to be in PDF format. Recently, while looking for a Kindle ready version we noted online retailers selling such versions for £7 and more!

With that in mind we have spent a little time to present to you a highly readable version in both Kindle and Epub format below.

PDF - Read Online Here

Epub - Download Here

Kinle - Download Here
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