Literary Sources for Richard Wagner's Stage Works

Major source materials by opera:

a. Early works:

b. 'Dutchman':

Despite what he said about having heard the tale from Baltic sailors, Wagner's initial inspiration seems to have been Heinrich Heine's story, 'The Memoirs of Herr von Schnabelewopski', 1834.

c. 'Tannhäuser':

It would appear that Wagner's main source was Ludwig Bechstein's 'Der Sagenschatz und die Sagenkreise des Thüringerlandes', 1835. Another source was C.T.L. Lucas' 'Ueber den Krieg von Wartburg', 1838. Neither of these books were historically accurate. Heine's less than respectful ballad about Tannhäuser was probably the cause of Wagner's initial interest in the subject.

d. 'Lohengrin':

Wolfram von Eschenbach, 'Parzival' (ca. 1200). Wagner took the legend of Loherangrin (sic) from the last section of Wolfram's poem. This was supplemented by other medieval poems about the Swan Knight.

e. 'The Nibelung's Ring':

A detailed study of Wagner's sources for the 'Ring' and his background reading can be found in 'Richard Wagner and the Nibelungs', by Elizabeth Magee, Oxford 1990. Deryck Cooke's 'I Saw the World End' is a good, but incomplete, introduction to the subject. Major sources for the 'Ring' appear to have included:

f. 'Tristan and Isolde':

It is generally held that Wagner's main source for the story was the 'Tristan' of Gottfried von Strassburg. Other sources of inspiration behind 'Tristan und Isolde' included 'Hymns to Night' (Hymnen an die Nacht) by Novalis, 1799.

g. 'Mastersingers':

Wagner's initial source concerning the Mastersingers was Gervinus's 'History of German National Literature', 1826. He also made extensive use of Wagenseil's book 'Von der Meister-Singer Holdseligen Kunst' of 1691.

h. 'Parsifal':

In addition to Wolfram von Eschenbach's 'Parzival', the following diverse works provided inspiration for characters and events in 'Parsifal':

Copyright © 2000-2009 by Derrick Everett. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

This document is copyrighted. Permission is hereby granted for electronic distribution by non-commercial services such as internet, provided that it is posted in its entirety and includes this copyright statement. This document may not be distributed for financial gain. Any other use, or any commercial use of this document without permission is prohibited by law.

This HTML version last updated 22/02/09 19:22:52.