A Wagnerian With No Wagner? Not Music To An Aussie. 10 Down, 8 Across.

Written By The Wagnerian on Thursday, 30 March 2017 | 7:12:00 pm

Colin Dexter: 29 September 1930 – 21 March 2017)
As readers are surely aware, Colin Dexter, creator of probably one of this generation's most famous Wagnerians - Inspector Endeavour Morse - sadly died last week. For those unfamiliar, Morse is a somewhat idiosyncratic, curmudgeonly, romantic, crossword addicted, fictional Oxford,
police inspector. He first appeared in Colin Dexter's  1977 novel Last Bus to Woodstock - the first in a series of 13 - plus one short story. Since then, he has appeared in one stage play (An original story, recently adapted as a radio play by the BBC and to be found, in full, below) a number of radio play adaptations and two TV shows (plus another spin-off show "Lewis in which he does not appear).

As we have noted, Morse was a Wagnerian - as too was his creator. The original novels are filled with references to Wagner - many relatively obscure to those without an interest.
“Colin Dexter, the series’ writer had Morse down as a Wagner freak, but to tell you the truth, I can’t stand Wagner. So over the years I gradually phased his music out.”
This last week, with some spare time on our hands, and following the sad death of his creator, we have found ourselves revisiting the world of Morse; both the original novels and the various TV shows: Morse, the prequel series Endeavour and the spin-off series Lewis.


All of these remain as good as ever - with John Thaw's Morse being especially noteworthy but with the prequel series certainly holding its own. Of course, there are differences between novel's Morse and the various TV show's version of the Inspector. In many ways, he has been made more "acceptable" for a TV audience. Gone are his guilt-ridden interests in pornography. The TV Morse no longer hides, to be read later for "titillation", a copy of the "News Of The World" inside his Sunday Times. He equally, mysteriously, loses his nicotine addiction. However, the one thing that does not change is his interest in Wagner. But what is odd, is the tiny amount of Wagner he listens to in the series, or indeed the tiny amount of Wagner that ever appears. (In the first four series of "Endeavour young Morse only mentions listening to Wagner once - "Tristan und Isolde" - yet every time we visit him, listening to music in his flat, it is never Wagner that is heard. More interestingly, when Wagner's music does appear it is often associated with the murder or some "deranged" or obnoxious character.

If you have ever wondered why this was, it is because the producers of all three TV shows do not like Wagner - noted in a number of interviews. As Barrington Pheloung, the show's Australian born, music composer explained in an interview in 2001, “Colin Dexter, the series’ writer had Morse down as a Wagner freak, but to tell you the truth, I can’t stand Wagner. So over the years I gradually phased his music out.”

So there you have it, the peculiarity of having a show about a Wagnerian with no Wagner. But don't let that put you off, especially from reading the novels. You might also like to hear the adoption of the stage play mentioned above, "House of Ghosts: A Case for Inspector Morse" by clicking this link or clicking play on the video below. To Colin Dexter.