Richard Wagner and Festival Theatre

By Simon Williams | Go to book overview

Preface

While this book was in the process of completion, six new publications on Richard Wagner appeared: two large edited collections on his whole life and output, one edited collection on his music dramas in performance, a polemical treatment of his anti-Semitism, and two discussions of his theoretical writings. Such an abundance of new writings had led me to pay even greater attention than usual to answering the question that proverbially faces all authors on Wagner -- why write yet another book on a seemingly exhausted topic?

Perhaps the most obvious answer is that any great artist's works are inexhaustible and therefore constantly in need of discussion. But Richard Wagner offers a particular fascination. He was such a protean figure that there are few spheres of artistic and intellectual activity in the nineteenth or indeed the twentieth centuries upon which his work did not eventually have some influence. It is, of course, as a composer that he is best known to history, but it can well be argued that his career as a theatrical reformer was no less significant.

Wagner as a theatre practitioner provides the unifying and, I hope, distinguishing theme of the present biography. In fact, this has not always been an easy theme to pursue. While Wagner considered himself skilled equally in the arts of the dramatist and the composer, to the degree that he often understood these two vocations as identical, posterity is perhaps right in thinking of him primarily as a composer. It was to music that he owed his ultimate and unquestioning loyalty, while his attitude to the theatre was ambivalent in the extreme. He hated it, and yet he could not do without it.

-xiii-

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Richard Wagner and Festival Theatre
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Chapter 1 - The Fiery Conformist 1
  • Notes 17
  • Chapter 2 Bohemian in Paris 19
  • Notes 29
  • Chapter 3 - Kapellmeister in Dresden 31
  • Notes 52
  • Chapter 4 - Revolutionary in Exile 53
  • Notes 75
  • Chapter 5 - Romantic in Exile 77
  • Notes 90
  • Chapter 6 - The King's Friend 91
  • Notes 109
  • Chapter 7 - The Master of Bayreuth 111
  • Notes 131
  • Chapter 8 - The Dying Magus 133
  • Notes 145
  • Chapter 9 - Wagner's Theatrical Legacy 147
  • Notes 161
  • Chronology of Wagner's Life 163
  • Further Reading 171
  • Index 177
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