Richard Wagner and Festival Theatre

By Simon Williams | Go to book overview

were also doubly or triply cast so that, over one month, sixteen performances with alternating casts could be given, with the quality of singing and acting noticeably improving in the course of the run. For the first time in his life, Wagner had achieved theatrical conditions he considered ideal. To crown it all, this was the first and last of his projects to earn a considerable profit.

Wagner knew that Parsifal was to be his last work. Anything he wrote had to have a gestation period of several years before he was ready to compose it, and he had no further projects in mind. If he was to continue composing, he claimed, it would be in the field of purely instrumental music.

He left Bayreuth on 6 September 1882 for a prolonged stay in Italy. A few days later, he and his family settled into an eighteen-room wing of the Vendramin Palace in Venice. Here he received several visitors, especially Liszt, who stayed a month. Initially there was no sign of an imminent decline in his health. As irascible and impulsive as ever, he was given to exuberant outbursts characteristic of a person a third of his age. He even engaged in a little conducting, rehearsing the orchestra of the Liceo Marcello in the symphony that he had composed fifty years earlier. The performance, which was private, occurred on 25 December in honor of Cosima's birthday. Gradually, however, the heart cramps that had tormented him for the previous four or five years returned and increased in frequency. On 13 February 1883, while seated at his desk and working on an article "On the Womanly," he suffered a fatal heart attack.

The ceremony that accompanied the return of Wagner's body to Bayreuth revealed the fame he had achieved. The coffin, closely attended by the deeply grieving Cosima, traveled in a special train. At the German border, it was met by a representative of King Ludwig, and, in Munich, a public ceremony of mourning took place at the railway station. Finally, at Bayreuth, an elaborate funeral procession carried the body back to Wahnfried, where it was buried in a mausoleum in the garden. It would be another forty-seven years before Cosima joined her husband there.


NOTES
1
Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, trans. R. J. Hollingdale ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 88.
2
Lucy Beckett, Richard Wagner: Parsifal ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 103-105.
3
Robert Hartford, ed., Bayreuth: The Early Years ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 125 (henceforward HBEY.).

-145-

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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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