Wagner: Fact and Fiction

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 23 February 2013 | 2:51:00 am

In honor of the Wagner bicentennial in 2013, German publishers are going all out when it comes to the Romantic-era composer. DW's Anastassia Boutsko takes a stab at an overview of this year's issues and reissues.

One might say it's overkill: An online book retailer lists several thousand titles about Richard Wagner, each available for delivery. And a mid-sized German bookstore currently has 773 German-language Wagner books and about 200 in English in its selection. Around half of the titles were first published or reissued in 2012/2013.

With so much selection, any review of the literature is damned to subjectivity, and this author is fully willing to admit that from the outset.

Wagnerian fact and fiction


Many authors are hoping to cash in on readers' desire for informative literature that finally separates truth from fiction when it comes to the composer's restless life. On offer is everything from a 120-page book in German entitled "Richard Wagner" by Egon Voss to a 400-page overview of the major themes in Wagner's life - also in German and simply called "Wagner" - by Martin Geck, a German musicologist.


Geck, who has already written biographies on Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, says he believes it's impossible to see through Wagner. It's also wrong to demystify the magic of the composer with banal facts, he believes. Instead, Geck would prefer readers to reflect on their own interests, asking the question: "Which positive and negative values am I absorbing from Wagner's musical dramas?"

As it addresses these issues, Geck's book conveys well-structured and comprehensive information about Wagner. The author told DW that he vouches for the facts he includes in the book "with the seriousness befitting a Wagner researcher."