French composer, regarded today as the leading French musician
of his era. The misunderstanding and neglect Berlioz endured, not least in his
dealings with the Paris Opéra, helped him and Wagner to identify with each other as
fellow- sufferers, although they failed to sustain a close friendship. Berlioz' music
contains a number of interesting pre-echoes of Wagner. It is known that Wagner
studied Berlioz' treatise on orchestration, during the 1840s.
Left: Paul von Joukowsky, Hermann Levi and Fritz Brandt
Fritz Brandt had worked closely with his father Karl on the
technical aspects of the first Ring and was invited to assume overall
responsibility for the technical arrangements for the 1882 Parsifal
following his father's sudden death in 1881; he returned to the Bayreuth festival in
1883 and 1884.
As technical director of
the theatre in Darmstadt, Brandt had a high reputation for his abilities, which
Wagner drew on in the construction of the machinery for the Ring and of the
Festspielhaus itself. Although he was often difficult to work with, Wagner and his
production team recognised Brandt's exceptional talents and he was invited back to
Bayreuth to prepare for the first production of Parsifal.
The Brückner brothers were employed by the Coburg Court Theatre
when Wagner commissioned them to execute the sets for the first Bayreuth
Ring from the designs of Joseph Hoffmann. They similarly prepared the sets
for the first Parsifal from those of Joukowsky.
Burnouf is regarded as
the most competent and influential of the 19th century western scholars of the
Sanskrit and Pali literature of Buddhist India. When manuscripts were sent from Nepal
to Europe in 1837, Burnouf was the scholar best equipped to translate and interpret
them. Before publishing any of these translations, however, Burnouf realised that
they would mean little to a European readership without a general introduction to
Indian Buddhism. Therefore he wrote his Introduction, the first book to describe, with some degree
of accuracy and insight, the ideas of Indian Buddhism for a western readership. The
book was read by -- and subsequently recommended as an introduction to the religions
of India by -- Arthur Schopenhauer. On his recommendation, Wagner
obtained and read a copy in 1855. On his return to Burnouf's book in the spring of
the following year, Wagner was inspired both to sketch a Buddhist drama (Die Sieger) and to draft a Buddhistic ending to his existing poem
English pianist of
German origin. In 1872 Dannreuther founded the Wagner Society in London. He helped
Wagner to obtain the dragon and other stage properties for the 1876 Ring.
When Wagner visited England on a conducting tour in 1877, Dannreuther fixed the
orchestra and conducted some of the preliminary rehearsals; the Wagners stayed with
Dannreuther at 12 Orme Square in Bayswater, conveniently across the Park from the
Royal Albert Hall where Richard Wagner was to conduct.
French author and writer on music, daughter of the writer Théophile
Gautier. Judith was an enthusiast for Wagner's work from an early age. She met the
equally devoted Catulle Mendès in the early 1860s and they were married in 1866.
Together with the poet Villiers de l'Isle Adam they visited Wagner at Tribschen in
1869 and again the following year. In 1874 the Mendès couple decided to separate and
by the time of the first Bayreuth festival, Judith had embarked on an affair with an
amateur composer called Louis Benedictus. This did not discourage Wagner from
pursuing her. Their relationship may or may not have been consummated; what is
certain is that they continued to conduct a clandestine and intimate correspondence
until 1878, when Cosima discovered some of the letters and put the
affair to an end. Wagner claimed that he needed the intoxication of at least her
spiritual presence, as well as the silks, satins and exotic perfumes she obtained for
him in Paris, in order to compose Parsifal. Her intellectual contribution to
Wagner's work consisted of a translation of Parsifal into French, various
writings on Wagnerian topics, and a three-volume memoir of the composer.
writer, diplomat, historian and racial theorist, Count Gobineau, first met Wagner at
Rome in 1876. He stayed with the Wagners in Bayreuth in May-June 1881 and in May-June
1882. Wagner, who was in later life surrounded mainly by much younger men, thought
that he had found in Gobineau someone of his own age and a similar outlook. He was
interested in Gobineau's theories about miscegenation as expounded in his Essai
sur l'inegalité des races humaines (1853-5), although in profound disagreement
that this was the cause of the supposed degeneration of the human species. Where
Gobineau held that this had come about through interbreeding, Wagner held the view
that it was primarily due to meat- eating and that
redemption was to be found in the unity of mankind through the pure blood of Christ.
Humperdinck (right) began his musical studies at the
Cologne Conservatory under Hiller, a one-time friend of Wagner who had drifted into
the anti-Wagner camp. Humperdinck had cast off the yoke of Hiller's Schumannesque
style when he moved to Munich in 1877 and enrolled in the Königliches Musikschule. He
heard the Ring in 1878 and soon afterwards joined a band of local Wagnerians
calling themselves the Order of the Grail. He won the Mendelssohn prize in
1879, which funded a scholarship tour of Italy and, to Wagner's amusement, the
Meyerbeer prize in 1881. Humperdinck worked as a repetiteur at every subsequent
Bayreuth festival until 1894.
Prelude to Parsifal arranged for
piano duet by Engelbert Humperdinck - played by Yaara Tal and Andreas Groethuysen
(ogg format, stereo, duration 11.5 minutes)
Paul Joukowsky was
the son of the Russian poet Vasily Andreyevich Zhukovsky. He was introduced to the
Wagners at the Villa d'Angri on 18 January 1880 and, after accompanying them on their
visits to Rufello and Siena, designed the costumes and four of the five sets for
Hermann Levi held
appointments in Saarbrücken, Mannheim, Rotterdam and Karlsruhe before becoming court
conductor in Munich in 1872, a post he retained until 1896. At the insistence of
King Ludwig, Levi was the conductor at the first performances of
Parsifal. Richard and Cosima were sufficiently impressed
by Levi that he was invited back to conduct at every festival, except that of 1888,
Hungarian composer and virtuoso pianist. He first met Wagner in
Paris in March 1841, when Liszt was already at the height of his fame. But it was not
until Liszt had retired from the concert platform that their friendship blossomed. It
was to survive several periods of coolness, the most serious estrangement being the
result of Wagner's involvement with Liszt's daughter, Cosima. The
two composers were seen as the leaders of the New German School. They were each
fascinated by the progressive musical ideas and innovations of the other: the
influence of Liszt on Wagner can be seen most strongly in Tristan but it is
also present in Parsifal.
Feierlicher Marsch zum heiligen Gral aus
Parsifal, piano transcription by Franz Liszt, 1882, R.283, S.450. Played
by Endre Hegedüs (ogg format, stereo, duration 9 minutes)
The son of
Maximilian II, Ludwig ascended the throne of Bavaria in 1864 at the age of 18. His
passion for Wagner's music resulted in generous subsidies that transformed the
composer's fortunes overnight. Free to realise his romantic dreams, the young king
immediately summoned to Munich his idol, the composer Richard Wagner. Without
Ludwig's patronage, Wagner might never have been able to produce Tristan und
Isolde, complete Der Ring des Nibelungen or compose Parsifal.
He would certainly not have been able to embark upon the Bayreuth project. The extent
to which Ludwig supported Wagner, however, is often overestimated. The total amount
received by the composer over the last 19 years of Wagner's life, including all
presents, was 562,914 marks. This should be compared with, for example, the 1.7
million marks spent on a carriage for the royal wedding that never took place.
Right: Ludwig II in General's uniform, by F. Piloty. © W. Neumeister.
Public opinion in Munich was scandalised by revelations about the composer's
relationship with Cosima, at that time still married to the
conductor Hans von Bülow, and by Wagner's supposed exploitation of the King's
munificence; as a result of which, in December 1865, the King was forced to ask the
composer to leave Munich. His support continued, however, and even though the
relationship became strained, Ludwig made a timely contribution to the Bayreuth
enterprise and remained fanatically devoted to Wagner's art. Ludwig withdrew
progressively into his fantasy world of midnight sleigh rides, fantastic castles and
Wagnerian extravagances such as his hunting lodge, based upon Hunding's hut.
According to the Empress Elizabeth of Austria, he was just an eccentric living
in a world of dreams.
His penchant for building fantastic castles of monumental extravagance, combined with
his erratic behaviour and progressive lack of interest in affairs of state,
eventually led to a declaration of insanity and to Ludwig's deposition on 10 June
1886. The King and his attendant psychiatrist were found drowned in Lake Starnberg
three days later. Ludwig identified intensely with several of Wagner's heros, not
least Parsifal. He would sometimes sign his letters
to Wagner with Parsifal. Ludwig provided much of the financing for the first
performances of Parsifal, allowing Wagner the use of the Munich orchestra
and chorus but insisting that the orchestra's conductor, Hermann
Levi, should conduct the performances.
German composer, who dominated French opera for many years. His works
are irrevocably associated with triumphal processions and Grand Guignol,
aspects which made them hugely successful in the Paris of his day, but which appeal
less to modern audiences. Hence his works are little performed today. Wagner's
hostility towards Meyerbeer, who seems to have behaved irreproachably towards the
younger composer, has been related to his anti-Semitism, although biographers
disagree on what is cause and what is effect.
writer and political activist; a prominent democrat and campaigner for womens'
rights. Following the 1848/9 uprisings, she was banned from Berlin on account of her
connections with revolutionaries. As a result she moved first to London, where she
became a governess and a newspaper correspondent, and in 1862 to Italy. She was an
admirer and friend of Wagner, as well as of Nietzsche and Liszt.
German philosopher, who at the unprecedented age of 24
was appointed Professor of Classical Philology at Basle University. From the time of
his visit to Tribschen the following year, he was a frequent and welcome guest at
Wagner's house. His literary works were greatly admired by Wagner and Cosima, especially The Birth of Tragedy, which placed Wagner's
art at the centre of Western culture. Nietzsche was fascinated and overwhelmed by the
power of Wagner's music. The ambivalence of his attitude to Wagner began to appear in
his essay, Richard Wagner in Bayreuth (1875-6). In subsequent years, he move
into the anti-Wagner camp, and as his mental and physical health deteriorated
(something which Wagner supposedly attributed to self- abuse), Nietzsche took up a
bitterly hostile stance towards Wagner's decadent art.
German philosopher, the author of The World
as Will and Representation, one of the great philosophical texts of the
nineteenth century. Although he had no genuine successors and founded no school, his
influence was very widespread from about the middle of the century onwards, his most
famous disciple being Richard Wagner, who believed that Schopenhauer had revealed to
him the meaning of his own works and who then consciously pursued a Schopenhauerean
line. In the present century, Schopenhauer's philosophy of will has been one of the
influences behind the development of existentialism and Freudian psychology.
French poet, initially of
the Parnassian school.
Left: A portrait of Cosima Wagner, about 1879.
Daughter of Franz Liszt and the Countess d'Agoult, mistress and
later the second wife of Richard Wagner. Cosima supported Wagner both emotionally and
practically in the Bayreuth enterprise; on his death, she took immediate and
effective control of the festival.
Right: A memorial bust of Richard Wagner, in Venice.
German composer and writer on an enormous range of subjects, with an opinion about
everything. Wagner revolutionised the art of theatre and made a significant and
lasting impression on orchestral music. In 1876 he inaugurated the Bayreuth Festival,
which has now become an annual celebration of Wagner's art.
Right: Mathilde Wesendonck.
German poet and writer. The friendship of Wagner and Mathilde Wesendonck that began
in 1852 developed subsequently into an intense relationship that may or may not have
been consummated. The impossible passion of Tristan and Isolde was mirrored in the
relationship between the composer and Mathilde, eventually resulting in a marital
crisis in August 1858. Five of her poems were set by Wagner and are usually known as
the Wesendonck Lieder. Wagner confided in her by letter his thoughts about
his planned work, Parsifal, and eventually shared in her concern for
antivivisection, as reflected in his treatment of the
incident of the swan in the first act of the work.
Otto and Mathilde used the spelling 'Wesendonck'. Their son called himself Franz von
Wesendonk. The spellings 'Wesendonck' and 'Wesendonk' are found in roughly equal
proportion in Wagner literature.
writer on music and literature. In 1877 he was invited to Bayreuth by Richard Wagner
to edit the Bayreuther Blätter. Wolzogen remained editor of the journal
until his death sixty years later. Under his editorship the Blätter became a
reactionary and extremely nationalistic publication, reflecting the views of
Chamberlain and the Bayreuth Circle. Wolzogen produced a series of thematic guides to
Wagner's later works, which identified many leading motives and gave them
names that are still in use today, and he edited three volumes of Wagner's