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 for Götterdämmerung.
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.
The 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 Parsifal.
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, until 1894.
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
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
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.
German 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
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
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.
German 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