Wagner's Associates, Friends & Enemies
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 Carl
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
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,
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.
Prelude to Parsifal arranged for piano duet by
Engelbert Humperdinck - played by Yaara Tal and Andreas Groethuysen (ogg format, stereo, duration 11.5 minutes)
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.
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, until 1894.
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)
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
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.
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 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
German philosopher, the author of The World as Will and
, 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 Schopenhauerian 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.
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 Wagner's