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Paris and the Awakening of Wagner's Nationalism

Written By The Wagnerian on Tuesday, 21 June 2016 | 9:01:00 am

 
 
Paris and the Awakening of Wagner's Nationalism

Jelisaveta Mojsilovic, University of Arts in Belgrade 
 
Originally published:  Nota Bene: Canadian Undergraduate Journal of Musicology: Vol. 9.
 

Abstract

At the beginning of his career, Richard Wagner (1813–1883), was considered a universal composer—a true cosmopolitan. However, indigence, the “bad” tastes of the Parisian audiences, and poor relationships with the managers of French musical institutions had a huge impact on Wagner’s perception of foreign music. Furthermore, the representatives of Parisian music life were indifferent to foreign composers, particularly those of German nationality, and were wary of themes related to German culture. This paper explores Wagner’s first stay in Paris, from 1839 to 1842, through analysis of his writings during that time. A comparison of Wagner’s texts written before his time in Paris and those written after his return to Saxony reveals an emotional intensification towards the German tradition, foreshadowing its zenith in his mature writings and his unconditional turn towards the German tradition.
 
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Listen Now: Roger Scruton On Why Wagner Matters

Written By The Wagnerian on Sunday, 19 June 2016 | 6:00:00 am



Roger Scruton discuses his new book  "The Ring Of Truth: The Wisdom Of Wagner's Ring Of The Nibelung" with Tom Service on BBc Radio 3's "Music Matters.
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Watch Now: Richard Wagner and the Third Reich

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday, 18 June 2016 | 7:30:00 am

A very interesting, two hour talk from Derek Williams, given at the Wagner Society of Scotland on April 3, 2016, Mr Williams has also very kindly made a full transcript available which can be found here

ABSTRACT

Long before Richard Wagner emerged as a political and theatrical figure around the time of Bismarck’s 1871 German unification, which gave full citizenship to Germany’s Jewish minority, antisemitism was already ubiquitous and entrenched.

Martin Luther in his 1543 treatise 'On Jews and their Lies', had urged that rabbis be forbidden to preach, their prayer books destroyed, Jewish synagogues, schools and homes set afire, and that the Jews’ money and property should be confiscated. They should be shown neither kindness nor mercy, nor should they be afforded legal protection. Luther wrote that “these poisonous envenomed worms" should be either permanently expelled or drafted into forced labour. When he wrote, "we are at fault in not slaying them" however, Luther was in effect advocating genocide.

Against this iniquitous background, Wagner’s antisemitism is comprehensively set, not only in contemporary literature, but by himself in his twice published treatise 'Das Judenthum in der Musik', alongside other writings and personal correspondence. Nevertheless, prominent Jews numbered amongst Wagner’s closest friends, for example, his favourite conductor, Hermann Levi, who conducted 'ParsifaI', Wagner’s paean to Christianity, and who was invited to be a pallbearer at the master’s funeral.

"If Jewish performers and conductors, and all who suffered the most under the Third Reich can forgive Wagner, then I too am prepared to say
Absolvo te." Derek Williams

In light of his toxic and verbose animus towards all things Jewish, what sort of intimate conversations could Richard Wagner possibly be expected to have been able to have with Jews in his circle of friends, and what sort of discourse might he have enjoyed with the likes of his great admirer, Adolf Hitler? Would Wagner have approved of the Third Reich and all it connoted?

All links and videos are public domain.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Richard Wagner and the Jews - Milton E. Brener, 1930, McFarland & Co. Inc., ISBN 0-7864-2370-6
Richard Wagner – Hans Gal, 1973, Victor Gollancz Ltd, London
Forbidden Music, Jewish Composers Banned By The Nazis - Michael Haas, 2013, Yale University Press, ISBN978-0-300-20535-0
The Wagner Clan - Jonathan Carr, 2007, ISBN 978-0-571-20790-9
The Darker Side of Genius - Jacob Katz, 1986, University Press of New England
Aspects of Wagner - Bryan Magee, Panther, 1968, Granada Publishing
Wagner As I Knew Him - Ferdinand Praeger, 1892, Longmans, Green & Co
Wagner & Nietzsche - Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, 1976, Sidgwick & Jackson
My Life - Richard Wagner, 1911, Constable London
Wagner’s Ring and its Symbols - Robert Donington, 1963, Faber & Faber
Wagner, Rehearsing the ‘Ring’ - Heinrich Porges, 1876, Cambridge University Press
Why Mahler? - Norman Lebrecht, 2010, ISBN 978-0-571-26079-9
Fact And Fiction About Wagner - Ernest Newman, 1931, Cassell & Co Ltd
Cosima Wagner’s Diaries - Ed. Martin Grego-Dellin & Dietrich Mack, 1980, Collins
Letters of Richard Wagner, ‘The Burrell Collection’ – Ed. John N Burk, 1972, Vienna House

Derek Williams: http://www.derekwilliams.net
Wagner Society of Scotland: http://www.wagnerscotland.net 


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Wagner's Parsifal and the Challenge to Psychoanalysis

Given the location, the topics and a very fine list of guest speakers, if you can be in London on July 3, its difficult to find a reason not to attend.

Wagner's Parsifal and the Challenge to Psychoanalysis
International Day Conference

Location: The Freud Museum, London
July 3, 2016

In our conference 'Wagner, Freud and the End of Myth' (2013) we argued that by taking the mythic dimension and bringing it into the human realm, Wagner anticipated Freud in his depiction of unconscious processes of the mind. It could be said that Freud and Wagner were dealing with the same stuff - the “fundamental psychosexual issues that affect us all” as Barry Millington put it, and for that reason a fruitful dialogue can exist between their two bodies of work.

The present conference is entirely devoted to Wagner’s final masterpiece, Parsifal, and explores whether this sublime, troubling and contentious work prefigures psychoanalytic insight or resists psychoanalytic interpretation. As a story of compassion and redemption, which nevertheless describes a world of perversion and mental anguish, what can Parsifal tell us about the secret springs of human desire and the conflicts of human nature? And how did Wagner manage to create it?


PROGRAMME

Tom Artin
Primal Scene/Primal Wound: The psychoanalytic arc of Parsifal


After they have witnessed the scarlet-suffused ritual revealing the Grail in Act I, Gurnemanz poses to Parsifal the primal question: Weißt du was du sahst? Do you know what you saw? This question is an enigma whose solution becomes the goal of the “pure fool’s” arduous quest. The answer, we will discover, is the primal scene, which, in Act II, is experienced by our hero not just vicariously, but in the flesh viscerally and shatteringly in Kundry’s passionate embrace. “Amfortas! The wound!” Parsifal cries out in retreat from the brink of penetration. In that sudden insight, he is overwhelmed by the reality of the castration threat lurking at the heart of every primal scene. The emotional sequelae following upon erotic enlightenment—guilt, remorse, compassion, and finally absolution—constitute the measured denouement of Parsifal, which culminates in a fantasy of redemption and the illusory resolution of primal anxiety.

Stephen Gee
Wagner’s Parsifal: A Hymn of Purity and Danger


Parsifal, the fool, is thrown out of an ailing religious community after witnessing a mysterious ritual of healing and purification, reluctantly officiated by a disgraced spiritual leader condemned to unremitting agony. In Act 11 he wanders into a magic garden, and almost gets involved in a sort of 19th century chemsex party. Alarmed by the sudden arousal of his desire and the prospect of endless enjoyment, he longs to return to the earlier scene of anguish and humiliation, which he begins to understand for the first time. A nostalgia for the sublime propels him back to the community of knights, where he is met by his penitent seductress, Kundry.

Wagner’s operas have provoked many great philosophers. Some, like Adorno, were hostile to what they saw as an ideological forerunner of 20th Century political catastrophes. Psychoanalysis raises another kind of intellectual challenge. Is Parsifal a menacing premonition of totalitarianism, or does it elaborate with unprecedented complexity the enigmatic after-effect of the trauma of human beings throughout history, who can never predict whether they will survive together in communities continually subverted by unconscious desires?

Tom DeRose
Wagner, Freud and Nietzsche in Berlin


With reference to Dmitri Tcherniakov’s recent Berlin production, this paper will consider the relationship between the character of Gurnemanz in Wagner’s Parsifal and Nietzsche’s conception of the ascetic priest in On the Genealogy of Morals. Although Gurnemanz appears as an un-biased narrator, something akin to the Evangelist in a Bach Passion, just how far removed from the action is he? I will suggest that the insights of Freud and René Girard can help us to gain a deeper understanding not only of this ‘all knowing’ story-teller, but also of the violence which lies at the heart of social systems.

Mark Berry
Interpreting Wagner’s Dreams: Staging Parsifal in the Twenty-First Centur
y

Parsifal, like all of Wagner’s dramas, has much to tell us at the intersection of authorial intention and latent content. What is revealed and what is repressed? Dreams were certainly of great importance to Wagner, perhaps most famously in his claim that the Prelude to Das Rheingold had come to him in ‘a kind of somnambulistic state … the feeling of being immersed in rapidly flowing water,’ and indeed in the dramatic material of a number of his works. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is explicitly concerned with the formation of an artwork initially revealed in a dream world. That offers an interesting way to consider stagings of his works too, and their claims to fidelity or otherwise at a textual or allegedly ‘deeper’ level. I shall consider the work ‘itself’ and its adamant claim to stand apart from the operatic repertoire as a Bühnenweihfestspiel (‘stage-festival-consecration-play’) to be confined to his artistic temple at Bayreuth. I shall also consider two particular productions: Stefan Herheim (Bayreuth, 2008-12) and Dmitri Tcherniakov (Berlin, 2015-). How do directors and performers navigate the historical, social, cultural, and psychological distances and conflicts between Wagner’s intentions, his ability and inability to fulfil and perhaps even to transcend those intentions, and the needs of contemporary theatres and audiences? What is gained and what is lost? What, again, is revealed and what is repressed?

Patrick Carnegy
Syberberg's Parsifal and the soul of Germany


Hans Jürgen Syberberg's 1982 film of Parsifal is a psychological exploration of the opera, its roots in Wagner's mind, and its historical afterlife. Abstracted from Amfortas's body, his wound, carried about on a cushion by two female pages, becomes a symbol of Germany's unassuaged shame and guilt, an object of fascination and horror until it can be healed. When Kundry's kiss awakens Parsifal's sexuality, Syberberg sensationally replaces the male hero by a female Parsifal. His idea, in Jungian terms, is that the animus cannot itself complete the therapeutic journey through the psychic labyrinth, for this is given only to the anima, which here also embodies the soul of Germany. Patrick Carnegy offers some reflections on the wondrous complexity and resonance of this brilliant film.

Eva Rieger
Kundry's kiss and the fear of female desire: A gender perspective


“Wagner’s operas are largely dramas of incestuous feelings and urges” writes James M. McGlathery (in Wagner’s Operas and Desire). Lawrence Dreyfus has also made it clear that Wagner was obsessed with sexuality, and this obsession determined the composition of operas such as Tannhäuser, Walküre and Tristan and Isolde. In his opera Parsifal, Wagner creates a female character who shows active sexual desire, and then exorcises her qua Woman for precisely that reason. Whereas men can desire women, the opposite is regarded as dangerous. In previous works, Wagner gives women like Elsa, Brünnhilde, Elisabeth and Sieglinde the power to love in a “feminine” way, but unlike Kundry they do not think of sex. I will trace the role of Kundry as she was developed by Wagner from 1865 onwards, using the development of her role to deduce which characteristics of her personality were important to him. A further clue is given by the music which speaks to us and opens up psychological insights. With respect to the semi-religious content of Parsifal, I find that the idea of gender equality is jettisoned here, which means that one can debate whether Kundry’s death is the result of Wagner’s antisemitism or his antifeminism. Finally, the question arises why Wagner should condemn women’s sexuality in such a manner (and thereby condemn the women themselves), although he was dependent on the emotional and physical love of women throughout his life.

Karin Nohr and Sebastian Leikert
Dr Kundry's Failure


The first part of this lecture sets out to investigate reasons for the well-known fact that Wagner's music and in particular his opera Parsifal evokes divergent feelings and promotes polarization among the audience. After exploring the semantic system of music which Leikert calls ‘kinaesthetical’, three principles are put forth that organize it: repetition, seduction, ritualization. Whereas religious ritualization is conservative and norm-orientated, the ethical orientation of art is creative and encourages the subject to broaden in autonomy and in the recognition of their inner world including their conflicts and the tragic aspects of life. The second part of the lecture discusses the question, if and how Wagner in Parsifal contributes to this progressive aim by analyzing the composer’s concept of empathy (Mitleid) and focusing on the Parsifal-Kundry relationship.




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Bayreuth Ring 2016: TV Broadcast Of Entire Cycle

Despite the new online booking at Bayreuth, have you still not been successful in getting tickets for Frank Castorf's "controversial" Ring? Indeed, even if you had the opportunity to get tickets were you made nervous by the less than positive reviews? Well, worry no longer, at least if you live in the UK, Ireland, Italy or Germany (Or have access to Youtube within a day or so one suspects) . For this year - and the first time ever - Sky Arts will be broadcasting the entire cycle, over two days in July - Saturday the 30th and Sunday the 31st. That means of course, two of the dramas each day (Indeed, all four on the Sunday). A marathon session for even a Wagnerian and one that suggests that when Sky's media people tell us the entire thing is broadcast "live" they are not correct, So one can ignore those reports one might suggest otherwise. However, Götterdämmerung will be broadcast live and as it is performed. The rest performed live, recorded and broadcast soon after. 
"With this, many people can enjoy the performances and I believe it’s in the spirit of Richard Wagner to reach as many arts fans as possible". K Wagner

The performances will be accompanied by documentaries and "behind the scenes" discussion. These extras  and deep analysis of Wagner and his work will be lead by the worlds leading expert on Wagner and his work, Stephen Fry (Ed: "Leading world expert"? Are you sure? I once told a knock knock joke but I hardly think that makes me a comedian)

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