Review: Ipad App - The Wagner Files

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 6 October 2013 | 1:24:00 am

Our editor reviews the international version of the German Ipad app, "Wagnerwahn". If at first you don't succeed try another mode


I first bought a copy of the Ipad app Wagnerwahn prior to its international release a few months ago. At that time, it was only in German and given that the majority of our readers here are not German speakers I thought no more than a twitter mention was needed (Apologies to our German readers but you must admit you are far better served with up-to-date news and sources on Wagner than none German speakers). This means that I have had sometime to spend with this app, although only a few days with its English version (it is now also available in French and Japanese).

The Wagner Files, to give it its English title, is a companion piece to Ralf Plege's  90 minute Wagner documentary of the same name. However, unlike that, it is essentially an interactive, animated graphic novel (with a number of interesting extra features), that sets out to provide more than an outline of Wagner's life from the Dresden uprising to his death in Venice.

I won't discuss the interface itself in much detail, as this can be seen in the two videos below in some detail (as long as you can stop tittering at the mispronunciation of Wagner in the second). However, it is worth noting that viewing the novel itself can be done in four modes: in autoplay with speech bubbles removed and with the story of Wagner's life being narrated by Peter Bild as Hans Von Bulow (in whatever mode, the story is intriguingly narrated by Von Bulow); in the same mode but with the reader needing to swipe the screen to progress; with the audio narration replaced by text and speech bubbles but with continued animation and finally simply as a graphic novel without animation and using whole page views rather than panel by panel.


The default mode is the first described and this is the apps greatest problem.  Bild's audio narration uses a different script to that of the graphic novel itself. Not only is this of far less detail but seems aimed at young children rather than an adult audience - for the most part. It is also, oddly, if only occasionally, strangely misogynistic: "Wagner's wife Minna, was 39 years old and yet despite this still attractive" is a sentence one is forced to suffer at one stage.The other problem is that Bild's Von Bulow displays absolutely none of the the rather cutting sarcasm that we know Von Bulow was fond - even if this was generally absent when talking about Wagner.

 At this stage, it would be very easy for an adult reader to switch the graphic novel off and instead visit, some of its more interesting "extras": 60 minutes of Wagner’s music,  80 historical photographs, scores and letters, a music visualisation of The Flying Dutchman and interviews with a number of  Wagner experts. However, this would be a great pity as the graphic novel's other script - presented as text and speech-bubbles - is far better and more mature than its audio counterpart. Indeed, it is here that the app shines. A fact greatly helped by an accompanying soundtrack of Wagner's music and optional extras that provide a little more information on places, items and people  in Wagner's life. This is not the most detailed of Wagner biographies but it it is certainly more sympathetic then many (without ignoring his faults) and if you have been looking for a brief biography of Wagner's life without analysis of his music (it lets the music speak for it self) you could certainly do much worse. This is aided greatly by script from Andreas Vollinger  and the artwork of Flavia Scuderi.

So, is this something that you want? For anyone with more than a passing interest in Wagner it would, I think be difficult to ignore. An interactive graphic novel, 60 minutes of Wagner's music, 80 photos, letters, and documents, and audio narrated  comic that would prove a very good introduction to Wagner's life and music for children and a more than interesting, none narrated graphic novel biography for adults  plus a lot more - and only 5 Euros on Ipad and 1.99 Euros on Iphone - it is difficult to ignore. For the "obsessive" Wagnerite it is a must addition and for everyone else? Well, you have little to lose. But just in case, check out the accompanying videos. Now, if only some of these apps would start to be ported over for poor old android users.







 









Reviewed on Ipad Mini. The app itself seems to be only available in the German Itunes Store - at least from the UK. Links below:

Edit: can be found on other Itunes stores also. In English simply search in the Itunes store for Wagner Files or Wagner Files H. And while you are over at Itunes you might want to check out: "Wagner Ring: The App"

“Wagnerwahn – HD” (iPad version) – here available on the App Store:
Wagnerwahn HD - gebrueder beetz filmproduktion
“Wagnerwahn” (iPhone version) – here available on the App Store:
Wagnerwahn - gebrueder beetz filmproduktion