Richard Wagner - Composer of Operas
by John F. Runciman
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Like the First Act, the Third begins with a storm of rain, wind, thunder and lightning; like First and Second, it opens with a display of energy before which all listeners are as leaves in the wind. As panoramic displays translated into music all the three introductions are likely enough to be misunderstood; so at the outset let us carefully bear in mind Wagner's intention at the beginning of the last Act of the Valkyrie—to show, with unequalled force and splendour, the strength of the god, soon to be shown as nothing before the strength of Bruennhilda. Bruennhilda, let us always remember, stands for human love, affection—not love in the Tristan sense—but that love of which Goldsmith sang that He "loved us into being"; the love of human being for human being so strong that not for so many thousands a year as a judge, so many pitiable hundreds a year as a magistrate, immortality as an omnipotent ruler or a Wotan, will it perpetuate or permit a wrong on a human being. To win omnipotence Wotan has inflicted wrong upon wrong—wrong upon wrong on those he had created for his purpose, on those the fine part of his nature loved. The fine part of his nature revolts and conquers him. He struggles on, shorn of nine-tenths of his strength, and it is not until the Third Act of Siegfried that he sees himself beaten and acknowledges it; but the ending of the gods, which really began with Wotan's first grasp at universal power, is first in this last Act of the Valkyrie clearly foretold. Wotan comes on clothed in thunders and lightnings to punish Bruennhilda because she fought on the side of the higher instead of the lower part of his nature—his higher self is cast from him, only (he thinks) to unite later with a force (a hero) independent of him to gain him his sovereignty.

The tempest rages and roars; the Valkyries arrive "by ones, by twos, by threes," at the Valkyries' Rock; and presently, in hotter haste than the rest, Bruennhilda comes in, bringing Sieglinda. She tells her (Bruennhilda's) sisters how she has defied Wotan, the All-father; they are scandalised, and desert her; Sieglinda feebly begs her to take no more trouble—there is nothing left to live for; Bruennhilda tells her she carries within her the seed of the highest hero of all the world; Sieglinda is filled with joy, revives, and flies to the cave in the wood where Siegfried is destined to be born. Wotan comes on with his thunders and lightnings and calls for Bruennhilda; at last she answers, and he announces her punishment: she shall be deprived of her godhood and left on the mountains to become the wife and slave of the first man that passes. The other maidens wail in protest; in anger he bids them begone; Bruennhilda, overcome with shame, sinks at his feet. The storm slowly dies away; Bruennhilda rises and pleads her cause—"Is this crime of mine so shameful?—in protecting Siegmund the Volsung I simply followed what I knew to be the dictates of your own innermost heart." At first Wotan will scarcely hear her; gradually he relents. But he cannot go back on his oath, on the sentence he has pronounced; and in the end he yields her this much—that she shall lie guarded by a wall of fire, only to be claimed by a hero who, not fearing his spear, will pass through the fire. Then he bids her an everlasting farewell; lays her to sleep in her armour, covered by her shield, her weapon by her side; calls up the fire, and casting a last sad look on her, his favourite child, goes slowly off as the curtain falls.

The drama here is of the most poignant kind; the scenic surroundings are of the sort Wagner so greatly loved—tempest amidst black pine-woods, with wild, flying clouds, the dying down of the storm, the saffron evening light melting into shadowy night, the calm deep-blue sky with the stars peeping out, then the bright flames shooting up; and the two elements, the dramatic and the pictorial, drew out of him some pages as splendid as any even he ever wrote. The opening, "the Ride of the Valkyries," is a piece of storm-music without a parallel. There is no need here for Donner with his hammer: the All-father himself is abroad in wrath and majesty, and his daughters laugh and rejoice in the riot. There is nothing uncanny in the music: we have that delight in the sheer force of the elements which we inherit from our earliest ancestors: the joy of nature fiercely at work which is echoed in our hearts from time immemorial. The shrilling of the wind, the hubbub, the calls of the Valkyries to one another, the galloping of the horses, form a picture which for splendour, wild energy and wilder beauty can never be matched.

Technically, this Ride is a miracle built up of many of the conventional figurations of the older music. There is the continuous shake, handed on from instrument to instrument, the slashing figure of the upper strings, the kind of basso ostinato, conventionally indicating the galloping of horses, and the chief melody, a mere bugle-call, altered by a change of rhythm into a thing of superb strength. The only part of the music that ever so remotely suggests extravagance is the Valkyrie's call; and it, after all, is only a jodel put to sublime uses. Out of these commonplace elements, elements that one might almost call prosaic, Wagner wrought his picture of storm, with its terror, power, joyous laughter of the storm's daughters—storm as it must have seemed to the first poets of our race. The counterpoint is not so obviously wonderful as in Tristan and the Mastersingers, but only a contrapuntist equal to Bach and Handel could have written such counterpoint. We may gain a clearer idea of what this means if we compare, not to the disadvantage of one or the other, this Ride with Berlioz's "Ride to the Abyss." At first sight, Berlioz seems the more daring. He trusts to a persistent rhythm and to orchestral effects. There is no inner structure—the separate parts, or batteries of parts, have no individuality: nothing of the sort is attempted or indeed wanted. The horses gallop on like mad things: their pace cannot be checked; themes, properly speaking, there are none—we hear the screeches of fearsome wild-fowl, the excitement and the noise increase, until at last the catastrophe is reached, and the final climax is the terrible gibberish-chant of all the devils in hell. Regarded as sheer music, the thing gets as far by the twentieth bar as ever it gets. The piece is as near to pure colour in music as can be attained. Why, Wagner with his counterpoint seems old-fashioned and formal by comparison! The four constituents, the wild laughter of the shakes of the wood-wind, the slashing figure of the strings, the galloping figure of the bass, the Ride theme—had these been used by any one save Wagner the result would have been unendurably wooden. But Wagner had unlimited harmonic resources at his disposal; and he had the determination and the gift to achieve perfect truth in his delineation of a storm. Delineation, I say, for here we have drawing as well as colour. Of colour there is plenty: notice, for example, the use of the brass against the descending chromatics; but the colour is mainly harmonic. In a sense Wagner was not an innovator: so long as the methods of his mighty predecessors served him he sought no others—effects, whether of orchestration or of melody, were to him simply means: never for a second was he beguiled into regarding them as ends; and every musician knows that plenty of them came at his call, more readily and spontaneously than in the case of any of the later musicians.

It is worth looking at the plan of this Ride—which is, be it remembered, only the prelude to the gigantic drama which is to follow. After the ritornello the main theme is announced, with a long break between the first and second strains; and again a break before it is continued. Then it sounds out in all its glory, terse, closely gripped section to section, until the Valkyries' call is heard; purely pictorial passages follow; the theme is played with, even as Mozart and Beethoven played with their themes, and at the last the whole force of the orchestra is employed, and his object is attained—he has given us a picture of storm such as was never done before, and he has done what was necessary for the subsequent drama—made us feel the tremendous might of the god of storms. A few of my readers may know Handel's "Horse and his Rider" chorus—how he piles mass on mass of tone until in the end we seem to see a whole irresistible sea rushing over Pharaoh and his host. Wagner does a thing perfectly analogous; but as I have remarked with regard to Weber and Mendelssohn and their picturesque music, where Handel, having painted his tremendous picture, had achieved his end and was satisfied and left off, is just the point where Wagner begins what to him is much the more important thing, the drama. The omnipotent master of Valhalla comes on apace: the storm is a mere indication of what is coming.

A word must be said, too, about the words for such scenes as this. Words had to be found, as in the first song of the Rhinemaidens, and it is hard to see what else Wagner could have done than what he has done. Like reversed Lohengrins they tell one another their name and station at great length. This may be a vestige of the older stage-craft: certainly there is none of it in the two great dramas that followed the Valkyrie. It is not for even the minor personages of a Wagner drama to come down to the footlights and take the audience into their confidence. But, as I say, words were indispensable, and Wagner found the best he could—I suppose. The defect is a tiny one; none the less it is a defect.

With the final crash of the Ride a new element is introduced. The godlike rejoicing in sheer strength disappears, and an agitated theme sounds out—if, indeed, we may call it a theme—and then we get a lull after all the hurly-burly. Bruennhilda and Sieglinda come in; Bruennhilda tells of her disobedience, and like a flock of wild-fowl disturbed the other Valkyries squeak and gibber in disgust and horror. The music here is perhaps the most operatic part of the opera—Bruennhilda begging first one and then another to aid her; one after another refusing in very conventional phrases. The scene is indispensable, and the music is, so to speak, coldly adequate: music has no tones to express primness. With the voice of Sieglinda the music at once begins to live in Wagner's own curious fashion. She has nothing left in life, wishes to cause sorrow to no one, wishes only to be left alone to die. Wagner well knew when the drama could make its effect almost unaided—when, in fact, to write deliberately pathetic music in the older style would be to overdo things. Sieglinda's phrases are simple, many of them exquisite, most of them designed to be sung parlando, rather spoken than really sung. Bathos is avoided: the deepest depths of genuine pathos are touched. In fact the technique of the scene is that of parts, only parts, of the previous act. But with Bruennhilda's announcement to Sieglinda we get the great lyrical Wagner, we get the germ of the magnificent harangue of the last act of the Dusk of the Gods, and we get the mightiest of the Siegfried themes. With the entrance of Wotan the music which concludes the Second Act recurs: the All-powerful clothed in wrath and flame; then comes his denunciation of Bruennhilda, another specimen of the lyrical Wagner. Even more characteristic of Wagner is the dying down of the storm. We can see the setting sun and the departing storm-clouds in the music, and with these we are made to feel the abating wrath of the god. And then comes the noblest piece of recitative in all music. The words in which Bruennhilda appeals to her father have already been (roughly) quoted: to give an idea of the musical phrases would require too many pages of this book. The Sleep theme enters as Wotan sees a way to the great compromise—the compromise foredoomed to bring him to ruin. He will put Bruennhilda to sleep to await the hero; but he will hedge her in with fire so that the hero shall be a true one. With the indescribable finesse, subtlety, of his own particular art, Wagner lets us feel how Bruennhilda, in begging to be protected in this (rather unusual) way, is reading only her own father's thought: he seems for a long time to contend, but at last yields. The music steadily increases in force and passion, and at each stage where one would think the composer could strike no harder he immediately does it. More and more of the divine fury pours into the music, until the climax is reached in the bars preceding the Farewell.

In the meantime we have had the wonderful Eternal Love theme—not sexual love, but the mystic force that created the worlds and holds them in their courses: in all Wagner there is no nobler and sweeter passage than that in which Bruennhilda first sings it. The vivid musical description of the crackling flames which are to surround her is another of an unequalled series of marvels. The Farewell I have already compared with that at the end of Lohengrin: the voice part is at times in Wagner's own style of song-recitative, but a great deal of it is sheer simple melody. No master has excelled, or perhaps matched, Wagner in the art of expressing the most profound and poignant pathos without ever a suspicion of letting it lapse into bathos; and this he does by—what at first it may seem ridiculous to say of so opulent and luxurious a genius as Wagner's—by his instinctive artistic austerity. The word is not too strong to be applied to the resolute simplicity which enabled him to write such melodies as those of which I am now speaking and the Farewell in Lohengrin: the temptation to let himself go, to wallow in sadness and to wring our bowels must have been almost too tremendous to be resisted by the man who within a year or so planned Tristan. In art, harrowing our feelings never pays, and his self-repression has its exceeding great reward: we could not feel more with Wotan's desolating grief—one stroke more and we should rebel: we should know that our most sacred feelings were being exploited—that an endeavour was being made to gain our applause for a work of art by an illegitimate appeal at one particular moment to those feelings. I have dwelt a little on this because we all know Tristan and its author, and though there is little self-repression in that work—where it is not required—and physically there was little but self-indulgence in its author's nature, it is well to realise that the artist rose immeasurably superior to the man. It must have come to us all at one time or another with something of a shock to find that the voluptuous Wagner of Tannhaeuser could be as austere as Milton. Austerity is not barrenness—not the barrenness that would result from imitating the austerity of the old church composers with their hundred rules and regulations: the harmony is as free as could be wished; at the needful moment the melodies pass without hesitation from key to key; but when we have long known them and learnt to understand them we find them at heart to be idealised folk-tunes—simple and indescribably pathetic, as the situation demands.

An instance of Wagner's subtle feeling is the passage where Wotan "kisses away" Bruennhilda's godhood and lays her to sleep, as one with the rocks and stones of mother earth, Erda, whose music accompanies the act. Wotan, like Alberich, has renounced love; so just previously we have heard the corresponding passage from the Rhinegold. We have the lulling Sleep theme, and then comes the Fire-music, a thing unmatched—and, so far as I know, never attempted—in all music. The mighty Spear strikes the ground to the mighty Spear theme; the earth seems to shiver as the fire comes up; then the flames mount, yellow against the deep blue sky; the Loge music sparkles in the orchestra, the strings sustain a continuous whizz and roar, and over it all, and at times in it or under it, swings that lulling Sleep theme. If it is not too futile a word to use, the Siegfried "heroic" theme, as Wotan uses it in commanding the fire (Loge) that only the noblest hero ever born shall pass to Bruennhilda, is the most pompous form in which it appears throughout the Ring; but the situation warrants it, demands it. Amidst the roar of the fire and with the divine lulling phrase, fragments of the Farewell are heard; and twice, as Wotan looks back on his daughter, we hear the Fate theme—the Scandinavian sense that this tragedy mysteriously had to be: the mighty god and lord of the universe himself knows and feels that the things preordained must happen. He goes slowly off; the central tragedy is virtually accomplished; to the end the fire blazes and sparkles, and the curtain descends on a soft chord. The revolving seasons will pass; strange events will happen in the outer world of men; Bruennhilda will sleep there, the guarding fire seen from afar by awe-stricken warrior tribes.

The spring freshness of the music, its vivid pictorial quality, the intense human feeling expressed, its profound sense of the past and the mystery of things, the godlike power, place it hardly second, if indeed second, to Tristan. There are love-duets in music which may be compared with those in Tristan: there is nothing with which the music of the Valkyrie may be compared. The grandeur of Handel's picture-painting in Israel in Egypt is a different quality altogether. Handel is unapproachable; but he worked with a different aim, in a different way, and in a different material. Wagner's music is beautiful and sublime, and he blent the human element with the others in a fashion no other musician has attempted.




In a letter to Liszt Wagner says he would not have undertaken the toil of completing so gigantic a work as the Ring but for his love of Siegfried, his ideal of manhood. It is as well, from one point of view, that his love of his ideal was so intense, for in consequence we have the Ring; but from another point of view it is not so well, for the youth Siegfried is the least lovable, perhaps the most inane and detestable character to be found in any form of drama. He is a combination of impudence, stupidity and sheer animal strength—mere bone and sinew; his courage comes from his stupidity. The courage and strength and impudence carry him through to his one victory; then his stupidity leads him straight to destruction. He possesses not one fine trait: he is as weak in will and intellect as he is strong in muscle. In the 'fifties and 'sixties not only Germans but men of all other nationalities seem to have vainly imagined they had solved all the problems of this very difficult world by assuming and proclaiming that might is right. Bismarck acted on this belief; our own Carlyle, Tennyson and Ruskin preached it; and Wagner, being a feeble creature physically, fell naturally, inevitably, a victim to the old delusion, and set to work to glorify the strong man. There is a further explanation. I need not do more than refer to an idea which took definite form during the eighteenth century, that as many of the defects and problems of modern life spring from the very conditions under which our civilisation alone is possible, a return to a state of nature, without government, clothes, or even houses to live in, would be a return to the garden of Eden before the Fall. We see this notion working in Wagner's mind continually in the prose writings, and in his last opera we see Parsifal, the "pure fool," "redeeming" an over-civilised world. To glorify the idiot absolute in this fashion was to out-Rousseau Rousseau—though Wagner would have scorned the suggestion. In Siegfried he goes by no means so far; but he goes quite far enough. Siegfried is no idiot; but he certainly is an unamiable, truculent savage. He has been reared by a dwarf and cripple, Mime, and the first we see of him is on his entry with a wild bear in leash, which beast he drives at his terrified foster-father. The justification is that he feels instinctively that Mime is bad, low and cunning—and it does not justify him: Mime, with an ulterior purpose, it is true, has saved him from death by starvation in his infancy, and nurtured him, and the least Siegfried could do was to leave the abject creature in peace. It is true also that he is mending Siegfried's sword—but this is to anticipate. I cannot accept Siegfried as a specimen of the highest heroic humanity. The boldness of a man who because of his dull wits cannot realise danger is of no use in this world under any imaginable conditions. Siegfried knows no fear. There is a story of two officers conversing during a battle. One asked, "Are you afraid?" Reply: "If you were as afraid as I am you would run away." One, the tale assumes, had a finely organised brain, the other brute force and insensibility. Which is the nearer approach to an ideal of noble manhood? Wagner's Siegfried answers, brute ferocity. Judged by his own standard how would Wagner himself stand?—as splendidly organised a brain as that possessed by any man born into the nineteenth or any other century?


The continuous clink-clink-clink of a metalworker's hammer is heard; the curtain rises, and we first see through an opening at the back of the stage the bright green shining forest; as our eyes grow accustomed to the darkness in the front we gradually perceive a rude smithy in a cave, with an anvil, a forge with a smouldering fire, and a deformed dwarf, Mime, at work trying to piece together the shards of the broken sword. That sword was Siegmund's, shattered by a blow of Wotan's spear; and long ago it was to this cave Sieglinda fled, bearing with her the fragments. Siegmund and Sieglinda are long dead, Sieglinda after giving birth to Siegfried; not far off is Hate-cave, where the dragon Fafner lies guarding his precious gold amongst it the Ring; far away Bruennhilda sleeps on the mountain, surrounded by her wall of fire. There she lay on the evening of Siegmund's death; there she has lain since. The world has gone on its way; Siegmund and Sieglinda have departed; Siegfried has grown to manhood; year by year the young shoots in the forest have sprouted and the leaves spread to the sunlight: as we see the forest now, so was it on that fateful day, and so it has been as the successive summers came. Siegmund lived, died, and his memory has almost perished; save to the dwarf, the very name of Sieglinda is unknown; other men have lived and died: nature only goes on her course, the trees each year bringing forth fresh leaves to repair last year's losses, as though the lives and deaths of brave men and women were nothing to her. The earth is sweet and pleasant, but nature must attend to her own affairs, and her indifference to the affairs of men, her unchangeableness amidst all the vicissitudes of men's lives, compel us to realise in such a scene as this at once her own eternal youthfulness and man's brief, ephemeral existence. At one stroke Wagner creates the atmosphere for his drama, and gives us as no other artist has ever given it a sense of the unfathomable mystery of the world and of life.

The dwarf taps away with his hammer; he longs to patch up the sword that Siegfried may kill the dragon and he, Mime, get the hoard; he bewails his weakness, but he does his best. All his labour proves useless—the sword refuses to be mended; and in comes Siegfried with his bear. The bear is driven off into the woods; there is a long altercation and an explanation; Siegfried cannot believe that, as he has been told, Mime is his father, and he learns the truth. He softens into something approaching manhood as he hears of his mother's death; and finally rushes off into the forest, leaving Mime again to his task. Then follows a scene to be accounted for in only one way. First, the scene: Mime sits in despair, and there enters an old man with his slouch-hat drawn down over one eye, wearing a dark blue cloak (it ought to be dotted with stars), and carrying a spear or staff in his hands. He gains the sacred hearth, converses with Mime, and finally bets him his head that he cannot answer three questions. Much to my surprise when I first saw the score of Siegfried, these form merely an excuse for going again over the ground covered in the Rhinegold and the Valkyrie. The Scandinavian hegemony is expounded, and other matters are gracefully touched on; the only point is made when the last question is propounded and Mime cannot answer: Who is it shall forge the sword, slay Fafner, take the hoard, pass through the fire and take Bruennhilda for his wife? The old man laughs, leaves Mime his head, but tells him it will fall to the hero who can do all these things, the hero who knows not fear. He goes off; thunder is heard; strange lights flicker amongst the trees; and Mime falls into an ecstasy of terror, suffering all the agonies of a waking nightmare, until the spell is abruptly broken by the entry of Siegfried. Why we should have the two previous dramas of the Ring told again in this way is the puzzle. In the letter to Uhlig (p. 227) Wagner had plainly given his reasons for writing the Rhinegold and the Valkyrie—to set before the audience clearly and vividly the events leading up to Siegfried's Death, in action, not in narrative. We have seen them in action, and lo! we get them in narrative! Wagner's idea must have been to show us Wotan, realising how matters had passed beyond his control, going about the world as the Wanderer, watching the development of things and awaiting the inevitable day. He gives us the very awe and thrill of our Scandinavian forbears with the apparition of the grey-bearded man in his cloak coloured like deep night—the terrible god that they believed walked the earth and might enter their homesteads at any moment. Of course, as we shall see presently, the answer to the third question prepares the next stage of the drama. But as to why the whole story of the Ring should be repeated—well, even gods must have something to talk about if they wish to talk at all; and the scene serves to sustain and to intensify the atmosphere in which the whole drama is enacted, the atmosphere of the old sagas. But I cheerfully concede that it is far too long, and in many respects an artistic error.

The real drama of Siegfried, considering it as a separate, self-contained opera, is now prepared for, and forthwith begins. We know Siegfried and the task before him; we know Mime and his task—to find out if Siegfried can be made to fear, and if he cannot, to encourage him to kill the dragon, win the gold, and then to poison him. He tries Siegfried with stories of terror, asks him if he has never felt afraid of this, that and the other; and finding that this is the veritable Hero, makes his preparation. Siegfried takes the splinters of the sword—the splinters no smith can weld together—files them to dust, melts the dust, re-casts the sword and finishes it. Meantime Mime, working on, brews his poisonous broth, muttering to himself about his purpose. At the end Siegfried tests the sword and proves it true by splitting the anvil. All sorts of allegorical meanings may be found in this gigantic scene; but the plain meaning is that to a hero, unique, unparalleled in the history of the world, a patched-up weapon, used previously by lesser men, is useless: his sword must be new, and only he himself can forge it.


Before dealing further with the drama of Siegfried I wish, for a reason, to say a few words about the music of this First Act. From Tannhaeuser onward Wagner showed in the music of his operas a complete mastery of what can only be called the business-artistic side of his art, or perhaps a complete knowledge of effectiveness. In so long an affair as an opera, and especially a Wagner opera, effectiveness depends largely on contrast, not simply between scene and scene of an act, but also in a more marked degree between act and act of an opera. In the Dutchman there is none of this larger contrast, and could hardly be, for the Dutchman was originally planned as an opera in one act. There is contrast enough, but he contrasts set-piece with set-piece, scene with scene, not act with act. In Tannhaeuser he works on the bigger scale and contrasts act with act: the opening of the Second reveals a totally different mood from that of the First, and the Third is entirely different from either. This is true of the Valkyrie; but the Rhinegold, like the Dutchman, is all of a piece, and is, moreover, the prelude to a huge drama. When we come to Siegfried we see at once how he was planning his music on a still vaster scale: the atmosphere of Siegfried is in contrast, almost violent contrast, with that of the Valkyrie. The music of the last act of the Valkyrie is of a different character altogether from that of the beginning of Siegfried. This is not merely due to the development of Wagner's genius and his technical power, but can be shown to be deliberately planned. Indeed, it ought not to need any demonstration, knowing as we do know his knowledge and grip of what is effective in the theatre. It would be absurd to suppose that he was not perfectly well aware that every one would yawn if after hearing the Valkyrie his audience found Siegfried to be simply a continuation of the Valkyrie, found the two operas to be virtually the same work with the scissors put through the score at an arbitrarily chosen point. Consider the scenery of the two operas: First Act of the Valkyrie, Hunding's hut with the smouldering fire; Second, a rocky defile in the mountains and no particular weather; Third, storm round the Valkyries' rock, black flying clouds, the pines tossing their branches to the tempest, and, at the end, a peaceful evening sky and then the yellow flames shooting up against it. We must note the change to the beginning of Siegfried: a dark cave, and outside it the forest, green, fresh and bright; Second Act, the entrance to Hate-cave, time, night, long before dawn, and at the end a summer morning, with the sun shimmering on the grass and the trees gently murmuring in the wind; Third, a rocky ravine in the early morning, grey storm-clouds scudding past, the wind whistling; at the end, a mountain top, Bruennhilda sleeping, the peaceful trees, a horse quietly grazing, morning sunlight. This sequence shows how carefully the matter was schemed; and we may now turn to the music.

When the same leitmotivs are largely employed throughout a long operatic work there must be a superficial, or, if I may say so, external, monotony in the character of the music. A first glance at the scores reveals to the eye the same series of notes and chords repeated again and again; to any but the most attentive listener a first hearing leaves the impression of the same themes and passages endlessly repeated. But any one who leaves the theatre on an evening after the Valkyrie bearing with him a vivid memory of the brilliance and sweetness of the close must at the very least be struck by the sombre colouring of the opening of Siegfried the following evening. I do not mean the orchestral colouring, but the intrinsic thing, the music itself. The tapping of the hammer on steel goes on, and in mock seriousness the orchestra gives out a series of prolonged sighs or groans of the most lugubrious character, reaching a climax as poor miserable Mime at last gives up his job in despair. Mime, we must remember, is a half-comic personage; and were his music allotted to some heroic man facing an impossible task it would be much the same, save that Wagner would not have so exaggerated the hysterical emotion. To depict a being facing an impossible task with no noble, but with only an ignoble, motive requires such an exaggerated mode of expression. Mime's grief is real enough, but the cause of it contemptible. After a considerable deal in this mournful key comes the sudden entry of the bright young savage Siegfried, driving the bear. His first theme is simply a bugle hunting call: Siegfried was then nothing but a hunter, a wild child of the forest. But as he gets on with what he has to say Wagner warms up to his work, and we get many inspired pages, some of them showing the tendency to indulge in counterpoint of the finest sort which manifested itself more fully in the Mastersingers, though here the movement is fuller of rude impetuosity. The movement—for it is a distinct movement—in which Siegfried describes how he had often looked into the smooth-running brook, and seeing his reflection there knew he did not resemble Mime, who therefore could not be his father—for the cub is like the bear—is one of Wagner's loveliest, and full of a delicate pastoral feeling (again, in contrast with everything in the Valkyrie). The Wanderer music is sublime. The theme was borrowed from Liszt, and Liszt ought to have been grateful, for the possibilities of his own musical subject were surely unfolded to him for the first time. In the music here, even more than in the vision of the stage, we have the grey Wanderer of the Scandinavian imagination—the mystery of wood, mountain, river and ravine, with human sadness superadded, is clearly communicated to us. Passing over the repetitions from the preceding operas, concerning which I have already said sufficient, we come to the nightmare music, where Wagner once more manifests that miraculous gift of depicting, in terms of music, light and colour, a personal emotion. We can see the flickering lights glaring amongst the trees and feel Mime's terror.

The forge scene is one of Wagner's most stupendous efforts—for really inspired, not mechanical, energy it is by far the greatest thing in the opera. As Siegfried sets to work pulling the bellows, his first call "Nothung!" (the name of the Sword) is practically the same as the cobbler's song in the Mastersingers; but immediately after it goes off into a sheer song of spring and the joy of spring; while the bellows groan and the fire roars the feeling of growing green forest life overflows into the music, and the intoxicating exhilaration is expressed as only Wagner himself had expressed it before. When the hammering business begins we again find a likeness to the Sachs music, but what a dissimilarity from the petty tapping of Mime! Mime's theme, and that of all the Nibelung smiths, is characteristic enough; they are not contemptible in themselves, though through them we find the whole tribe of these smiths to be contemptible; and the tremendous swing of this second section of Siegfried's song makes every other smith's song seem by comparison contemptible. Finally, when Nothung is ready for action there is a coruscation of light from the orchestra as the Sword theme, which, of course, we have heard long before, and the Siegfried-the-hunter theme are blared out and the anvil is split.

Many other points must be left until later. I wish for the present to give a notion of Wagner's powers at the time he wrote the earlier portions of Siegfried. Had the whole opera been equal to these portions it might have ranked with the Valkyrie. But though his powers were not yet on the wane, as we get on we shall see that the subject was getting a little stale. He had not the smallest hope of seeing his work performed. If ever a man wrote purely for posterity it was Wagner at this period; and though the general inspiration remained as deep and powerful as ever, we cannot be surprised if the continuous white heat of the Valkyrie was checked and broken very often. The surprising thing is that so circumstanced he achieved so much.


The story of the next Act is so simple that I shall deal with it and the music at the same time. Near Hate-cave black Alberich, who first steals the gold, ceaselessly watches: he cannot gain the gold, but its attraction is irresistible. So he watches while we hear the snarling music associated with him; and we can feel all the old-time horror of the malignant semi-deities of the black forests and streams and caves. Mime and he dispute angrily: Siegfried is about to slay the dragon, the "Wurm," and the question is who is to have the gold. The music is all of the sort that Wagner alone after Weber could write—wild, full at times of frenzied energy, full also, if so forced a phrase may be permitted, of black colour—black-green made audible as was the thick darkness that might be felt made to be felt by Handel. Anger cannot be directly expressed in music; but these dreary snarling noises from the orchestra and the peculiar use made of the human voice—a use to be referred to later—enable Wagner to indicate it indirectly in a way effective on the stage. (We may note once again the contrast between two successive scenes—the brilliance, the straightforward vigour of the close of Act I, and these tortuous phrases at the beginning of Act II.) Day begins to lighten, and Siegfried enters; he reclines on a green bank and hearkens to a bird carolling amidst the rustling branches. He tries to imitate its notes on a reed cut with his sword, that emits strange noises; and at last, annoyed by his lack of success, he petulantly blows a blast on his horn. This arouses Fafner, who grumbles and discloses his hiding-place; and presently an extraordinary reptile, one the like of which never was on sea or land, comes forth to destroy the intruder. Siegfried (like the ordinary audience) seems disposed to laugh, but when the monster opens its giant jaws and sends out flames and steam, and red lights begin to glare in its eyes, he sees serious matters are at hand. He prepares for combat, and the battle is terrific, if not very convincing. At last, however, he penetrates the odd brute in a vital part; it rolls over and makes dying prophecies; at the last it asks its conqueror's name and, having learnt it, groans that name once and dies. Siegfried thereupon penetrates into the cave and returns with the hoard; then he throws himself once more upon the green bank.

If the reader thinks I treat this episode rather flippantly, let me promptly admit that this is so. It is pantomime of the most grotesque sort, not serious opera. The dragon would not frighten a child. The whole thing is an artistic mistake: the fight should take place with the beast wholly or nearly out of sight: an occasional lash of the tail, with plenty of smoke and red fire, would be much more effective than this construction of lath and pasteboard. The music hardly ever reaches a high level. There is not in existence any fine music descriptive of any form of fighting; and here slashing passages on the strings, blares of the brass, shrieks of the wood-wind, do not cover the inevitable failure of invention. Fafner's dying speech is better, for Wagner had something urgent to say on his own account: he wishes to urge on us the significance of Siegfried's coming career; and he does it with immense impressiveness. The day of the Ending of the gods comes a little nearer when Siegfried takes possession of the Ring and places it on his finger. As was arranged from the beginning of time, things are taking their course; Fate, answering none who questions, works out her plans silently, mysteriously, inexorably. A sense of our darkness regarding our destiny fills the music with a profound emotion.

If there has been too much of the pantomimic grotesque so far, Wagner soon offers us compensations. The music now is amongst his freshest and most fragrant. A reservation must be made touching the absolute perfection of its beauty, but only a minute one. When first the bird sang sweetly in the branches outspread above Siegfried's head we heard the beginning of the piece known in the concert room as "Forest Voices," the most exquisite sylvan picture ever done in music. A low rippling figure, or rather part-figure and part-melodic theme, is heard: it mounts higher, descends again, sways about, swells and dies away; other melodies are interwoven with it; it becomes more rapid in its motion, and grows louder until we feel the wind getting up and the leaves dancing, and then comes the voice of the bird. This may sound a little high-falutin', but is the only way in which I can render my impression. The picture is so absolutely convincing that many readers who, like myself, first heard the thing in a concert room will remember that with the one hint conveyed by the title no scenery was needed to make its meaning and feeling quite clear. The bird-voice is managed with consummate art: a penny toy would have enabled the composer to give a faithful imitation of bird-song—and would have spoilt the faithfulness of the whole picture. So Wagner has translated the real bird-song into terms of art, and thereby given us its spirit while sufficiently suggestive of the original. It is not sustained for long. Siegfried, as I have described, tries to cut a reed so as to imitate it, and there is some innocent fooling as he only gets odd squeaks out of his instrument; then comes the combat with the Dragon, and he returns to his place. The one tender spot in his nature, awakened by the thought of his mother, who died for him, is touched by the bird-song and the sweet morning; he is filled with vague, sorrowful yearnings—and presently the bird sings again. But after killing the monster he had touched its blood—it burnt his finger, which he instinctively put in his mouth; and the taste of the blood endows him with the faculty of understanding the speech of beasts and birds. So now when the bird sings it is a human voice uttering words. It is with regard to this I make a reservation. The abrupt entrance of the human voice startles one: the picture is for a moment distorted, made artificial. After a few hearings one grows accustomed to the incongruity; but I still think Wagner would perhaps have done better to let Siegfried tell us what he hears. This is, however, a mere guess; and it savours of impudence to suggest what so great a composer as Wagner should have done. The bird first warns Siegfried against Mime. Mime crawls in with his basin of poisoned soup, meaning to offer his "son" some refreshment after the labours of the morning. In whining accents, verging on the ludicrous—for I have said that Mime is semi-comic—he professes his love; but the dragon's blood also enables Siegfried to understand what he means, and, just as Beckmesser in singing the stolen song utters words very different from those he means, so Mime in what he intends to be affectionate strains tells us his real purpose. Siegfried plays with him as a cat plays with a mouse, and at last plunges the sword into him—and from a thicket comes the malignant laugh of Alberich, barked to Mime's own hammering phrase. Disgusted, Siegfried returns to his resting place, but the bird again engages his attention: it sings of the maiden afar off on the mountain sleeping hedged in by the fire through which he alone can break. Siegfried's longings take definite form: he will win the maiden; the bird promises to lead him; it flutters off; he follows; the curtain drops.

Thus ends one of Wagner's most splendid scenes—certainly the finest in this opera. The passion of the music, its vivid picturesque quality, its freshness, go to make it one of the many things of Wagner's for which no parallel can be found. Wagner's technique had now reached that supreme height which made Tristan and the Mastersingers possible; and the spontaneous energy of his inspiration was unabated. The Act, we may remember, was actually completed after those two operas, but it was planned and partially executed before.


During the long interval that elapsed between the execution of the earlier portion of the Second Act of Siegfried and the resumption of his work many things happened to Wagner. He composed Tristan and the Mastersingers; he went through his worst years of utter despair; he was taken up by King Ludwig. As I have mentioned, he went to Triebschen to complete the Ring for the sake of his conception of the hero Siegfried—and he went there a jaded man. And there is an unmistakable quality in the music of his Third Act. In Tristan and the Mastersingers we have the perfectly mature Wagner; inspiration, invention and technical accomplishment are perfectly balanced. What we feel immediately in the third act of Siegfried is a certain over-ripeness—as if the writing of music had become too easy. As we proceed I shall give some instances of this, though not so many as might be given.

Siegfried is now on the point of reaching the height of his fortunes. He has the Sword, has killed the Dragon, secured the Ring and the magic cap which will enable him to change himself into any shape he pleases. Following the fluttering bird he comes to a pass on the mountain-side and encounters Wotan who, we know, had sworn that none who feared his Spear should pass through the fire. He endeavours to stop the Hero, who shatters the Spear. Siegfried passes on; the flames leap up at his approach and subside as he boldly goes on. He finds Bruennhilda sleeping, awakes her with a kiss, overcomes her resistance, and the opera concludes with a triumphant love-duet. This is the skeleton of what is, dramatically if not musically, the most important of the three acts.

The curtain rises on this mountain pass in a dark dawn: an angry cold wind whistles and screams, and wild wet clouds are flying. Wotan stands there; presently he summons Erda, who rises, as in the Rhinegold, with a "frosty light" about her; he asks her what will be the upshot of the day's doings. Her answer is no answer, and Wotan replies for her: Siegfried will pass and take Bruennhilda—and then the End of the gods. The dramatic object of this scene I have never been able to grasp. Both Wotan and Erda know what the end will be; and I can only take it that Wagner, fully aware that each of the constituent operas of the Ring would certainly be performed separately, wanted to make his intention and the whole plot clear to those who had not seen the earlier parts of the work. Musically it shows signs of that over-ripeness I have just spoken of. The introduction is magnificent: the leaping figure on the strings, the subject that serves for Erda here (and elsewhere in different shapes for all the elemental beings), mounting up against it, the phrase expressive of Wotan's anguish (from Act II of the Valkyrie), the Spear theme rising by degrees and ever increasing force, the whole leading up to the Wanderer music—these at once tell a story and paint a picture of tempest amongst the wild mountainous rocks. Had Schopenhauer heard this music it would have justified his remark about the use of clouds. From the moment that Wotan begins his invocation the quality falls: the motive is, for Wagner, a poor, mechanical thing; and an appearance of life is only kept up by marked rhythms, forced changes of key, and noisy orchestration. Erda's music is not on the highest level. The colour is there, and an atmosphere is gained largely through the employment of music previously heard; but the vocal phrases are not true song, nor that blending of true song with recitative of which we have already noticed so many examples.

With the approach of Siegfried, however, at once the superb artist shows himself: a complete piece made from the fire-music, the bird-music, and Siegfried the hunter's theme is begun, to be interrupted for a while, then resumed and worked up into a glorious thing. The interruption is the scene between Siegfried and his grandfather the Wanderer. It brings the tragedy of Wotan more vividly than ever before us, and is from every point of view not only justified but necessary. Siegfried scoffs at the old dotard, who loves the boy as his own flesh and blood (if one may say this of a pagan god) doomed to death by his forbear's ambition and errors. At last Siegfried, impatient to go on, smashes the Spear and ascends the path to where we see the distant glow of the flames. The music is supremely noble and touching, with just a hint here and there of over-facility: I mean chiefly that the vocal phrases are not tense and full of character as are those in the Valkyrie: they seem to have been put in to fit the orchestral web. In an earlier chapter I spoke of this weakness in the Ring; and from this point onward till the end of Wagner's writing days, unless he was writing undisguised song, the liability to this weakness increased. The over-ripeness shows itself also in the structure of the music: the parts lack definition (as microscopists would say). Formalism is not at all a desirable thing; but if we examine the great works, differing widely in character, Tristan, the Mastersingers and the Valkyrie, we find the utmost distinctness combined with perfect freedom and expressiveness. Even as early as the Second Act of Siegfried the freedom threatens to degenerate into sloppiness—or, to put it rather more mildly, at least into vagueness. Perhaps he felt this himself; for certainly at the end of the act we are discussing, and often in the Dusk of the Gods, he gives us straightforward song. At best his song-recitative is sublime; at worst it is insufferably tedious.

The gorgeous journey to the mountain-top is resumed as Siegfried disappears amongst the rocks and Wotan goes off. We are now done with him: his last ineffectual stand for supremacy having collapsed, as he fore-knew it would, he returns to Valhalla to await the end. There is darkness for a while; then light returns, and we find the scene that of the termination of the Valkyrie. The mountain-top is sunlit; Bruennhilda's horse Grani is contentedly at graze; Bruennhilda, covered with her shield, her spear by her side, sleeps, motionless. Siegfried comes over some rocks at the back of the stage, gazes around him in wonder, finally discovers Bruennhilda, and with a kiss awakens her. At first the godhood has not quite gone out of her, and "Woe! woe!" she cries, as she realises her fate. But womanhood is strong within her; she yields; hails Siegfried as the highest hero of all the world, and the opera ends.

The music is nearly throughout the superb Wagner. The long ascending violin passage which accompanies Siegfried's amazed gazing at the wonders around him, chief amongst them Bruennhilda, is imagined with absolute truth; Bruennhilda's Greeting to the sun is Wagner in the plenitude of his powers, blending music which depicts her outspread arms with human rapture in an incomparable way; Siegfried's masterful and passionate entreaties are quite in the strain of Tristan, though the Scandinavian atmosphere prevails; Bruennhilda's awe-stricken song, "O Siegfried, highest hero," interprets the birth of love in a woman's breast with, again, absolute truth; and that the man who had lately written Tristan could write such a finale is not the least astounding of Wagner's feats.

The Siegfried Idyll, made of the Siegfried Themes, is, in a word, the most beautiful thing he ever wrote.




This, the last of Wagner's really great works, was composed in hot haste for the first Bayreuth festival. True, the festival did not take place until some time after its completion; but at the moment Wagner anticipated an immediate performance. There is nothing more pathetic, nothing sadder, than the picture of the mighty world-composer struggling against petty odds to complete what might have been a world-masterpiece, and failing because of his hurry. He was sixty years of age; worn by constant combat; worried even then by stupid persecutions and the uncertainties of life; and he went on, if not joyfully, at least indomitably, unconquerably. The result is a work gigantic in idea, but far too rapid and facile in the execution. His pen seems to have run of its own accord; the scenes are spread out to a length positively appalling; pages on pages show no trace of inspiration. Yet the Dusk of the Gods is an opera no other composer could have achieved; and with all its defects it will be a high and holy joy to generations not yet born.

The last hour of the old gods has come; the Norns spin their web on the Valkyries' rock; it breaks, and they sink into the earth, knowing that all is finished. Dawn breaks, and Siegfried and Bruennhilda come out of their cavern; Siegfried must now go forth to deeds of derring-do, for, like Lovelace, "how could he love her, dear, so much, loved he not honour more?" She bids him go, and he goes; the flames immediately spring up again round her dwelling—for what reason Wagner does not explain. Neither does he explain why Bruennhilda does not travel with her husband—the explanation is made only too obvious afterwards. He travels to the Rhine, and there meets Hagen, Guenther and Guenther's sister Gutruna. Hagen, the son of Alberich, is more or less like Mime, a half-super-natural being, malignant, diabolical, with only one idea, that of getting possession of the gold, and, above all, of the Ring. He knows of Siegfried's "deed," and knows that Siegfried is coming that way; but he keeps the story to himself, and tells Guenther and Gutruna of the fearless hero and of Bruennhilda sleeping on the mountain-top encircled by fire. Guenther desires the woman, Gutruna the man. But only Siegfried can pass through the fire. Pat to the moment he arrives, and enters leading Grani. Hagen offers him drink which contains a powder which destroys his memory; he forgets all about Bruennhilda, but not, apparently, about the magic cap; he gazes in rapture at Gutruna, and in a few minutes the pact is made—Siegfried shall take Guenther's form and win Bruennhilda for him; in return he will have Gutruna, who is more than willing. The two men go off together, and the scene changes again to the Valkyries' rock. Bruennhilda sits alone looking at the Ring; Waltraute, one of the Valkyries, rushes in and demands that Ring. She relates how for want of it Wotan, dreading that it may fall into the hands of Alberich, sits gloomy and silent in Valhalla. But Bruennhilda is now wholly woman and has no sympathy with the gods; she refuses the Ring, and Waltraute goes off in despair. The flames begin to flicker and dance; Siegfried's horn is heard; and presently he enters in Guenther's form, or at least as nearly in it as can be managed on the stage. He claims and seizes Bruennhilda, sends her into the sleeping-chamber, and, swearing truth to his new friend Guenther, follows with his drawn sword ready to place between him and his bride.

So the act closes. Bruennhilda's horror and shame are unspeakable; she cannot understand; Wotan had promised her the great hero, and this promise is broken and a last humiliation inflicted on her. The act is intolerably long; even were every moment crowded with Wagner's most glorious music the strain on our attention would be terrific. But the music is by no means uniformly of Wagner's best; for pages on pages his sheer craftsmanship fairly gallops away with him. The Norn scene is as purely theatrical as anything he wrote; the atmosphere is, so to speak, artificially weird. The scene between Siegfried and Bruennhilda is more inspired; and the journey to the Rhine is one of Wagner's finest bits of picture-painting. The change of feeling towards the end is superb: a sense of foreboding and dread comes into the music and prepares us for the coming disaster. But when the curtain rises on the hall of the Gibichungs we at once get more artificiality and theatricality. In using the word theatrical I do not mean there is any return to, for instance, the Rienzi style: the music is theatrical in Wagner's own later way: it seems to fit the situation, but the appearance is an appearance only: the stuff is superficial: the feeling of the moment is not expressed—the music, in a word, is essentially the same as that of many inferior but clever opera composers, only, of course, the Wagner idiom is always there. The Waltraute scene is fine, being largely made up of old material; but I cannot say much for the scene between Bruennhilda and Siegfried. In this first act two important themes are introduced, the Tarnhelm theme and that of the draught of forgetfulness. The first is of the theatrical type: it is a leitmotiv of the same sort as Lohengrin's warning to Elsa; the other is a miracle, one of the wonders of music. It gives one in a brief phrase Siegfried's dazed sense that something has gone from him, a strange sense of loss; and it has the pathos the moment demands. As for the draught of forgetfulness itself, it cannot be explained as symbolical of anything; it must be accepted as we accept the Tarnhelm and the Rhinemaidens and black Alberich.


In the Second Act the scene is again the Gibichungs' hall. Siegfried and Guenther are away, and Hagen watches by night; his father, Alberich, crawls up from the river and counsels him as to how to get possession of the Ring; then he disappears as dawn begins to show. The music is weird and sinister in Wagner's finest manner. Siegfried comes in and says Guenther and his bride will soon arrive, and goes off with Gutruna, happy as a child; in a magnificent piece of music, largely constructed of a harsh phrase associated with Hagen, he (Hagen) calls up the clansmen and women; a pompous bit of chorus greets Guenther and Bruennhilda, and then once more we are plunged into a sea of theatricality. To her amazement, Bruennhilda finds Siegfried there with his new bride, unmindful of her. In rage she denounces him and declares he has shared the joys of love with her; he denies it; but Guenther is shamed, and has no doubt that Siegfried has played him false. Siegfried goes merrily off, and Guenther, Hagen and Bruennhilda swear that he must die. In the music we get any amount of physical energy and dramatic emphasis; but we know this is no longer the Wagner of the Valkyrie. I pass over the Act briefly now, because I can only repeat what I have said before. Of course all the consummate skill of the master is there.

The Third Act opens by the river-side. Siegfried has wandered away from a hunting party, and is attracted by the song of the Rhinemaidens—a regular set piece in the oldest-fashioned of forms, but marvellously beautiful. The nymphs try to coax him to throw them the Ring, which he had wrested from Bruennhilda; he refuses, and they tell him that this day he must die. The other hunters come in, and Siegfried is asked to tell of his adventures, and as he does so Hagen offers him a cup of wine into which he dropped another powder; Siegfried's memory gradually returns, and to Guenther's horror he relates how he first scaled the mountain, passed the fire and won Bruennhilda. He means on the first occasion, but it shames Guenther once again. Hagen points in the air and asks Siegfried what he sees above him; two black ravens fly over. Siegfried turns to look at them, and Hagen instantly thrusts a spear into his back; the ravens wing their way to Valhalla to tell Wotan that the fatal hour has come. In a sublime passage Siegfried the dying hero sings of Bruennhilda, and dies. Every one save Hagen is horror-stricken; the body is picked up and carried downward through the moonlit mists over the mountain, and the gorgeous funeral march is played. This is built up on Wagner's customary plan: it tells the story of the Volsung race, now ended by the death of Siegfried.

In the second scene of the Act there is one fine passage—Bruennhilda's long address—and the rest is manufactured with dexterity and quite uninspired. The body is brought in; Hagen wishes to take the Ring, and a thrill is sent through us as the dead man's arm rises threateningly. Guenther interferes, and Hagen kills him; Bruennhilda comes on and sees clearly everything; Gutruna claims Siegfried as hers—"he never was yours; he is mine," Bruennhilda replies, and (by trick of true stage-craft) Gutruna is seen to kneel down by the side of her dead brother. She is absolutely alone—even Siegfried, dead, is taken from her, and she instinctively creeps to the only thing that is in any sense hers. Bruennhilda orders the funeral fire to be built; the body is put on it and consumed: Bruennhilda mounts Grani and scatters the ashes, and with them the Ring, into the river; the waters rise, and Hagen rushes after the Ring, to be drawn down; Wotan's power went when the spear was shattered, and now that the Ring is returned to the Rhine no other power controls Loge. He flares up, and we see Valhalla on high in flames.

So ends the Dusk of the Gods and the whole gigantic cycle. A noble race has come and gone, and the world is prepared to make a fresh start. I have discussed the music as we went along, and there is nothing more to add.




After Wagner had completed the Ring, a work which, in regard to its gigantic size and proportions, stands without a parallel in music, he was an exhausted and beaten man. Outwardly he was a highly prosperous musician—more successful from some points of view than Mendelssohn or Meyerbeer: at least he had, without means, achieved a greater triumph than they, starting with their fathers' thousands or millions, had dreamed of. No Mendelssohn, no Meyerbeer, no Rossini, would have dreamed of gaining a king, even the king of a minor bankrupt state, as his lackey—and his generous paymaster. After the first Bayreuth festival a Rossini would have retired as swiftly as such a person could with his percentage of the gross profits, leaving the guarantors to straighten the little matter of the deficit; Meyerbeer had too much of cold cunning in him to have gone on such an adventure at all; Mendelssohn would have paid up everything and shaken the dust of his Bayreuth off his feet for ever and a six-days week longer. I take these three because they are three of the most successful financial composers the world has seen; minor prophets of their order might be added. That is what they would have done: made a little money they did not need and retired from a hard conflict. Wagner was more successful than they. He never accumulated the thousands of marks or ducats or francs that they did: he did not want them, but in proportion to his needs he accumulated more; he was richer than they were, as Diogenes in his tub was richer than Alexander. Wagner's tub, it may be remarked, was a preciously comfortable one, and he made no pretence about it being anything else. He was a successful man of business; in spirit he was broken, exhausted, defeated.

That is the first point to be considered; the next is a corollary. This man of dashed, broken hopes still needed the driving force of either human passions, griefs or sorrows, or of great human ideals, before he could compose ten notes. It is no desire of mine to scoff at the Schopenhauerian, Feuerbachian notions working in Wagner's brain when he planned the Ring, and wrote its finest music; in art—as in business, if it comes to that—one judges by results and results only. But we can see that it was these ridiculous ideas, as perhaps I have already pointed out, that were the postilion's whip to Wagner's Pegasus. Of some men it can be said that no one knows anything of the postilion's whip: of every artist concerning whom a fair tail of facts is available and consultable we find a very distinct whip. We may laugh at the idea of the "stories" to which Beethoven worked: who would laugh at the Fifth Symphony would not even be laughed at. And I have not the slightest hesitation in affirming that when Wagner set to work on Parsifal his most eager and greedy desire was to show the world that he desired nothing. Knowing Bayreuth a failure, fancying his whole life a failure, from a particular point of view, one idea seized hold on him—- the idea that those who did not like his music were in a pitiable condition, and compassion exhorted him to rescue them, to redeem them. He meant to heap coals of fire upon a generation that refused to recognise him as a prophet. He did it—with a double vengeance: he made the detractors come to his knees and he made a fortune out of them—them alone. For Bayreuth never became a profitable investment for Jewish money until the one great Christian drama of modern times was produced there.

Parsifal, in one form or another, had long fermented in Wagner's brain. At first it was—incongruous though the thing may seem—either Jesus of Nazareth or Wieland the Smith; then Parzival grew out of the Siegfried idea; and at length, stimulated by the attentions and help of poor Ludwig, he settled on Parsifal. These are matters not of opinion, but of historical fact. Ludwig, when not masquerading in woman's clothing, or ordering it from Paris, or appearing at private performances in one opera or another, suffered from great attacks of religion; and, unhappily for the art of music, what appealed to his diseased brain from one side appealed to Wagner's tired brain from the other side. Ludwig asked him to complete Parsifal and he did so. I doubt whether without the royal request he ever would have done so. But in doing so he, as Americans say, "struck lucky." Throughout Western Europe you have only to bawl the word "religion" and your fortune is made; in America it is the same; on the two continents innumerable fortunes have been made by bawling the word "religion." So Wagner's conviction, Ludwig's desire, and advertisement possibilities, all coincided; and thenceforth Bayreuth flourished—financially, if not artistically or morally.

I shall devote little attention to Parsifal. The plot would disgrace Wagner's memory if we did not know it to be the work of his tired-out old age. The central idea is that of Renunciation; and I will give the reader a skeleton, but a fair skeleton, of the plot, and ask him, Who renounces anything? who gains anything by renouncing? or loses anything by not renouncing? and, above all, what is any one called on to renounce?

At the Montsalvat of Lohengrin—ah! what a different Montsalvat—Amfortas, lord of the tribe of monks, has flirted with a lady, and a magician, Klingsor, has seized the sacred spear with which Christ's side was pierced and inflicted on Amfortas an incurable wound. That is the state of affairs when the curtain rises. Gurnemanz, a faithful warder, talks with sundry squires, not yet fully degraded to the order of knighthood, and tells them how through a certain wondrous woman Amfortas fell from his high estate. The wondrous woman, Kundry, disguised as a sort of Indian squaw, enters, coming, she says, from far lands; exhausted, she flings herself in a thicket to sleep—sleep—she says. Gurnemanz does not know who she is—nor, for that small matter, do I—but she comes and serves these knight-monks faithfully for whiles and then disappears; and generally, it seems, during her period of disappearance disaster falls on some treasured pearl of a saint of a knight. Enter Parsifal, "the pure fool"—Siegfried with all his bull-strength and energy shorn away. He carries a bow and arrow, and promptly shoots a Swan, one of the prides of Montsalvat. He is too stupid to understand that he has done any wrong—wrong to a helpless bird or his own nature. Gurnemanz explains in very unconvincing accents; Parsifal, the poor, "pure" fool, bursts into tears, breaks his weapons and throws them away. And now the reader must bear with me if I am both tedious and inexplicable in my explanation. At some unknown period in the past it was prophesied that only the "pure fool" taught by suffering could redeem suffering Amfortas: mankind, that is, could only be made perfect by a perfect idiot. Gurnemanz thinks he has found the required man—and he has, if only he knew it—and he takes him on the most curious promenade in the history of mankind—to the Hall of the Grail. The two men do not walk: it is the scenery that walks. "Here," says Gurnemanz, "time and space are one."

Arrived there, we are confronted by a scene much more Oriental than anything we know of mediaeval Christianity: a sort of mosque with a huge dome, a circular set of Lockhart's Cocoa-rooms tables and benches; at the back a mysterious catafalque. The pure fool is pushed aside; Amfortas is carried in; he screams in agony of spirit; and then the service begins. It is a sheer burlesque of the Lord's Supper. When the last chords of the mysterious choir in the dome have died away, Gurnemanz asks Parsifal what he comprehends of it all. "Nothing," Parsifal replies, and is immediately turned out of doors.

The origin of the guileless fool has already been indicated: this—as it seems to us to-day—idiotic notion of the eighteenth century started Wagner on the notion that if a modern child, with all the developed brain of a modern child, could suddenly be transplanted into a state of nature, all would be well with the world. What could possibly happen? But it is silly to ask the question: the whole juvenile population of the earth would have to be so transplanted, and they would have to find a new earth to live on—at least an earth not frequented by modern men and women.

In the next Act we are taken to Klingsor's magic castle. Klingsor calls up Kundry and changes his castle into an enchanted garden full of flower-maidens; Parsifal comes in, and, though curious about the maidens, does not know what they would be at; he angrily drives them off; Kundry calls him. She tells him of the death of his mother who had loved him so dearly; he again weeps and learns the meaning of compassion; Kundry kisses him, and he learns the meaning of sex and temptation. In horror he casts her from him; Klingsor throws the spear at him—the sacred Spear with which Christ's side was wounded, stolen by Klingsor from Montsalvat—it remains suspended above his head; he seizes and waves it, and at once garden, flower-maidens and all are reduced to withered stalks and leaves. Parsifal returns, an "enlightened" fool, and by touching the wound of Amfortas, cures him, becoming himself head of the order.

The whole affair is a spectacle which I must say is disgusting to healthy minds. The insinuations are frightful. Consider, reader, seriously for a moment: Parsifal—Siegfried grown to manhood—knows and cares nothing about womankind. As soon as he knows what a woman is he revolts, learns through that knowledge and by his acquaintance with suffering—acquaintance, I say, because he himself has never suffered—that there are two cures for all the woes of humanity. Discard women and pity the men. The thing is absurd, and suggests that the mighty genius was on the verge of imbecility. But the desire to please mad Ludwig accounts for it all in a very undesirable fashion.

Of the music it is not necessary to say more than that some of it is fine. For the most part it lacks virility, though there are passages of marvellous loveliness. The flower-maidens' waltz shows what Wagner could do in that way; the Good Friday music, dating back to the Lohengrin days, is sweet and fresh. But the quasi-religious music has no charms for me.

Of course the prelude is in its way, but only in its way, a beautiful thing. One almost hears the beating of angels' wings; the remnant of old church melody, fitted into the most modern of modern rhythms, sings out; the old Tannhaeuser and Rienzi Dresden Amen comes out pompously if not very effectively. On the whole a splendid tour de force is accomplished. But as soon as the singers are introduced we feel the lack of the inspiration of former days; the writing is not vocal writing at all; it is simply notes chosen at will or at random to fit in with the chord sequences that were constantly shaping themselves in Wagner's brain—not sequences that sprang, as he himself would have expressed it, from "the feeling." The woes of Amfortas are described by the orchestra with a coldness that would have surprised or stunned Wagner in his Tristan days: had Meyerbeer done it no paper would have carried his hot words. When Parsifal shoots the Swan, Gurnemanz has two or three moments of true emotion: the rest ought to be silence and is rubbish. The parody of the Lord's Supper is deplorable: we have already heard enough of the music in the prelude without having to go through it again. Klingsor's magic music is mere theatricalism; about Kundry's account of Parsifal's mother I remain in some doubt: it is certainly beautiful, but to those of us who know the corresponding scene in Siegfried it is rather beggarly. Parsifal's denunciation of Kundry after she has kissed him has not a word of the old truthful Wagner in it: Wagner had written so magnificently about the ecstatic state of Palestrina and such of the other church composers as he knew, that he must, absolutely must, have realised that his Parsifal stuff was essentially untrue. Theatrically, the end of the Second Act sounds true; but it will not bear rehearing. The opening of the Third Act, again, is false; and the ending of the whole business is tawdry stuff such as Meyerbeer might have been proud to sign. Technically, the old man retained his hand; but to compare this decrepit stuff with the music of the Valkyrie would be preposterous, and I have no wish to write more about it.


Parsifal having proved a tremendous success, Wagner went to work to arrange for another festival. He had still a thousand opera plans bubbling in his brain; doubtless, with his unconquerable vitality, he imagined he had twenty years of life before him; he meant to make a financial success of Bayreuth and to go on. The end came with awful unexpectedness. He went to Venice, conducted there his boyish Symphony in C, worked away at his Parsifal arrangements; his heart ruptured and he died on February 13, 1883. He had lived the perfectly rounded life, achieved the three-score-and-ten, done everything that a man can do, and gone through more experiences than most men suffer. His death sent a shudder through Europe: one had come to think that such a man could not possibly die. Swinburne wrote that we heard the news as "a prophet who hears the word of God and may not flee." His vilest detractors laid their homage at the dead man's feet. His widow laid her hair by his head. He was buried at his Villa Wahnfried, and rests there for ever. Had ever such a life so perfectly beautiful an ending? We must regard Parsifal as the last sad quaverings of a beloved friend: after that came peace, immortal peace.


Amongst musicians of the first rank stand four commanding, tremendous figures. First comes Handel, by far the greatest personality of them all: him I beg permission to think the greatest man who has yet lived—greater than Caesar or Napoleon. After him came Gluck, a triumphant bourgeois; then Beethoven, whose domination was the result of his supreme genius and his bad temper; and, last, Wagner, whose supreme genius and indomitable perseverance made him either an idol or a terror to all who came in contact with him. Handel had an easy time; he was of his period, he wrote for it, and only his native pugnacity landed him in bankruptcy, and enabled him finally to win a fortune by oratorio when no one would listen any longer to his operas. Gluck was from the first a popular composer: there were rows, it is true, but they did not concern him; he had always an assured public. Beethoven had throughout his working life an ample pension and the friendship of princes. Wagner had no such friends until he was sixty years old; he had no pension; he offended every opera director in Germany by telling those gentry that they knew nothing of their business; he got mixed up with revolutionists, and, mainly because he was a man of unusual ability, was regarded as dangerous by every bureaucrat. He was fast becoming a popular composer; and he left his successes behind him and went on to change opera in a fashion never attempted by Gluck or any other composer. He was the most consummate contrapuntist of his age: therefore the critics and professors declared he knew nothing about counterpoint. He wrote the loveliest melodies of the nineteenth century: therefore it was generally agreed that the gift of melodic invention had been denied him by a merciful Providence, who reserved that gift for the Jews and their friends. He could hold neither his tongue nor his pen; if a bull may be excused, he replied before he was attacked, he hit back before he was struck. Proud as Satan, and through his pride a beggar; giving the world unheard-of delights, and yet dependent on the world for his bread; quarrelling with his friends, picking quarrels with his supposed enemies, quarrelling with his wife, running away with the wife of his best friend, theorising about his art and promptly throwing his theories overboard, declaring he would never allow excerpts from his operas to be given, nor even one single opera of the Ring to be given, and then allowing single operas to be given and conducting excerpts himself—there never was in the world such a mass of contradictions as this musical apostle of universal peace born during the Napoleonic wars of 1813.

All this we may joyfully concede, knowing how much may be said on the other side. Wagner not only was the most stupendous personage born into the nineteenth century: he was also one of the noblest, most generous men that have lived. There is not a mean trait in his character. He endured privation, actual starvation; he was shamefully treated; his wife did not believe in his genius; his simplest actions were misinterpreted; frantic endeavours were made to hound him out of the public life of opera; his publishers took advantage of his poverty to try to rob him; the scores of his masterpieces were returned unopened from theatres—in some cases they were not returned, and he had infinite difficulty to secure them; moreover, he was ill all his life: yet he never lost faith in mankind, and when he became, comparatively, a well-to-do man he went on doing generous deeds as though nothing had happened. With humbugs and pretenders he would have no dealings; but no genuine young artist ever asked his help in vain. He spared even that rancorous decadent Nietzsche; he owned his obligations to that soul of chivalry, Liszt. He spared that mediocre person Meyerbeer; he treated Mendelssohn with almost exaggerated courtesy. He fought a terrific fight with all the forces of reaction and stupidity, and he came through untainted, unstained; if he sorely belaboured the charlatans, he had all the finest musicians, and all other fine artists, on his side. The composer who won and held the friendship and esteem of such men as Liszt, Cornelius, Jensen, Tausig and Buelow, not to mention the admiration of our own Swinburne, is not a man to be dismissed by enumerating his defects. Some of us, I suppose, will admit that we may possibly have our defects: none of us, so far as I know, can possibly claim his great qualities.

He was rather an undersized man with an uncontrollable temper. As he let himself go in his music, so did he let himself go in his daily life. To any but the most patient he must have proved an impossible personage; Madame Cosima Wagner must have possessed the temper of an angel and the understanding of an archangel to put up with him. We see that every one did put up with him; every one who knew him had the same faith in his genius as he himself had; every one who knew him—really knew him—loved him. Those who did not know him belaboured him in the press or by word of mouth, and much honour and profit did they get by it. He stands unsmirched by the mud thrown by his detractors; he stands undamaged even by the adulation of his admirers.

Let us consider for a moment what the man's personal character and momentum enabled him to achieve. Finely endowed personalities like Mozart and Chopin did much: did they write a Ring or a Tristan? The question needs no answer. Did they or the still mightier Beethoven dream of creating a Bayreuth? In the midst of years of privation Richard Wagner planned and partly executed the Ring; he completed Tristan and the Mastersingers; as quite a young man he had dreamed of a Bayreuth; as an old man he turned his dream into a reality. He had his lieutenants—big men always have their lieutenants—but the idea, the purpose, and the force behind were his and nobody else's than his. Bayreuth does not stand for very much to-day; in the 'seventies it stood for a fierce attack on the general sloppiness of opera performances all the world over, for the setting up of an ideal to which there is no parallel in the history of the art of music. Nothing but the personal force of this one man accomplished this thing—personal force accompanied by a wholehearted devotion to his art. I suppose the inventors of steam-engines and the builders of giant dams have an ideal, too, in their crazy craniums, but they invent and work with a very definite idea of personal gain. Wagner hoped for no gain, and he gained little, though, as I have said, as much as he wanted. He was helped by the only noble-hearted king born into the nineteenth century; but he found that king and inspired him. He risked everything for his idea; if his works have grown to be valuable assets since his death, they were not during his lifetime. By unheard-of energy while suffering privation—even of the ordinary necessities of life—he went on and created masterpieces, and then by creating Bayreuth set up a standard of musical execution that no one before him had thought possible. All the great conductors of the last fifty years are, musically, his offspring. Without him we should have been without a Richter, or Richter's introducer to the English, an Alfred Schulz-Curtius; without these two men we should have no Robert Newman or Henry J. Wood. Wagner's influence has been further-reaching than many of us think; and that influence was due not more to the consummate skill of the musician than to the character of the man.

Outside his musicianship the man had interests in everything human—in painting, sculpture, drama, poetry and prose. He made what we consider mistakes, as what man does not who is a product of a period of passionate revivals of human and humanising ideals?—but how few they are! They hardly count. He absorbed all the culture of all the centuries. The Greek and Latin poets were as familiar to him as were the English. Hardly a great book had been written which he did not know familiarly. There is not a great picture or piece of sculpture in Europe he did not know. All came as grist to his mill. I end this book by joyfully hailing him as one of the half-dozen greatest minds the ages have produced—the equal of Shakespeare, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven and Michael Angelo: a man it is an honour to have known as it is a disgrace to have scorned—the one man born into the last century that one can absolutely, without reservation, praise.


Abendzeitung (Dresden), 75

Apel, August, 41, 51

Auber, D.F.E., Masaniello, 47, 89; compared with Meyerbeer, 67, 68

Avenarius, Eduard, marries Caecilie Geyer, 72

Bakunin, Michael, 136, 196

Baumgaertner, Wilhelm, 209

Bayreuth, 71, 323, 325-329, 400, 407, 409, 410

Beethoven, Ludwig van, 25, 26, 330, 331, 347, 350, 356, 371, 408, 416; his influence on Wagner, 33-35, 42, 62; arrangements of, by Wagner, 37; Fidelio, 148

Bellini, Vincenzo, 50, 92, 116, 150, 178

Bennett, Joseph, 328

Berlioz, Hector, Wagner's criticism on, 71; tragedy of his life, 72; praises the Flying Dutchman, 128; in London, 225; his relations with Wagner, 226; his "Ride to the Abyss," 370

Bethmann, Heinrich, 52, 54

Bispham, David, 277

Brahms, Johannes, 164

Brangaena, 245-248

Brazil, Wagner receives a commission from, 230, 237

Brendel, Karl Franz, 50, 218

Brockhaus, Friedrich, marries Louise Wagner, 32

Buelow, Cosima von, and Wagner, 60, 323-325

Buelow, Hans von, 71, 250, 418; serves his apprenticeship under Wagner, 208; married to Cosima Liszt, 323, 324

Communication to my Friends, 219

Cornelius, Peter, 71, 418

Cusins, W.G., 46, 134

Dannreuther, Edward, 37, 67

Davison, J.W., 46

Dietsch, Pierre, 80

Dorn, Heinrich, 32, 37, 39, 40, 57

Dusk of the Gods, The, 178, 188, 325, 356, 373, 398; analysis and criticism, 400-406

Dvorak, Anton, compared with Wagner, 291, 292

Elgar, Sir Edward, 291

End in Paris, An, 212, 213

Europa, 75

Feen, Die, 42, 47, 48, 50, 52, 56, 60-63. 72, 86, 93, 137

Feuerbach, Ludwig, 232, 408

Fischer, Wilhelm, 76, 126, 205, 206, 220, 231

Flying Dutchman, The, 65, 66, 80, 81, 127, 128, 137, 170, 187, 219, 243, 356, 385; analysis and criticism, 94-120; produced at Zurich, 208

Gazette Musicale, La, 70, 75

Gewandhaus Concerts, 33, 45, 46

Geyer, Caecilie, 14, 16, 30, 72

Geyer, Ludwig, 4, 6-14; marries Frau Wagner, 8; his death, 14

Geyer, goldsmith at Eisleben, 11, 17

Glasenapps Life of Wagner, 8, 16, 19, 39, 66, 167

Gluck, 416, 417; his Iphigenia in Aulis overture revised by Wagner, 209, 219

Goethe, J.W. von, Die Laune des Verliebten, 35

Goetterdaemmerung. See Dusk of the Gods

Gottfried von Strassburg, Tristan, 238

Gozzi, La Donna Serpente, 60

Habeneck, F.A., 69, 70

Halle, Sir Charles, 64, 73, 327

Handel, G.F., 11, 330, 331, 390, 416; the "Horse and his Rider" chorus, 371, 372; Israel in Egypt, 377

Hanslick, Eduard, 164

Happy Evening, A, 213

Harris, Sir Augustus, 346

Hauser, Franz, 49

Heine, Heinrich, 64, 66, 70, 76-78, 94, 126, 205, 206

Heubner, Otto, 196

Hochzeit Die, 45, 47

Hoffmann, E.T.A., 30

Huldigungsmarsch, 59

Jensen, Adolf, 71, 418

Jesus of Nazareth, 196

Jews, Wagner and the, 49, 50, 57, 217-219

Joly, Antenor, 69, 74

Judaism in Music, 31, 50, 134, 217-219

Kaisermarsch, 59

Kittl, Friedrich, 45

Laube, Heinrich, 51, 70

Lehrs, F. Siegfried, 72, 82, 128

Leitmotiv, discussion of the, 170, 356, 357

Lewald, August, 75

Liebesverbot, Das, 51, 53, 56, 72, 74, 86, 137

Liszt, Cosima. See Wagner, Cosima

Liszt, Franz, 71, 128, 156, 237, 238, 348, 378, 388; his first acquaintance with Wagner, 82, 83; helps him to escape to Zurich, 136, 194; produces Tannhaueser at Weimar, 164; sends him to Paris, 194; his generosity and friendship, 195, 196, 199, 202, 208, 418; produces Lohengrin, 200, 201, 210

Lohengrin, 72, 82, 128, 137, 196, 197, 219, 332, 341, 358, 375; analysis and criticism, 165-192; the leitmotiv first introduced, 170; produced by Liszt at Weimar, 200, 201, 210

Love-feast of the Apostles, The, 38, 126

Ludwig II, King, 239, 319, 321, 322, 327-329, 395, 409, 410, 413

Luettichau, von, 76, 77, 79, 80, 122, 123, 125

Lytton, Bulwer, Rienzi, 55, 84

Marschner, Heinrich August, 61, 62, 116, 150, 178, 187; his Adolph von Nassau, 135

Mastersingers, The, 109, 111, 179, 279, 319-321, 325, 333, 341, 344, 358, 387, 388, 395, 398; the story, 280, 281; the influence of Nuremberg, 282, 283; the overture, 284-288; analysis and criticism, 288-318; produced at Munich, 321

Mendelssohn, Felix, 33, 49, 57, 58, 73, 126, 364, 372, 407, 418; Midsummer Night's Dream overture, 61; Hebrides, 112; his comment on Tannhaeuser, 163

Meyerbeer, Giacomo, 55, 407, 414, 415, 418; Robert the Devil, 48; his treatment of Wagner, 67-71, 73, 74, 80; his influence on Rienzi, 84-86

Mueller, Alexander, 196

Mueller, Gottlieb, 36

My Life, 67

Napoleon I, his flight from Leipzig 4. 5, 31

Newman, Mr. Ernest, 130, 167, 212, 217

Nibelung's Ring, The. See Ring

Nicolai School, Leipzig, 27

Nietzsche, Friedrich, 52, 418

Overtures: "Polonia," 43; D minor, 45; C major, 45; King Enzio, 45; Faust, 62, 70, 209; Columbus, 70, 75

Parsifal, 16, 138-140, 170, 379; analysis and criticism, 409-416

Paetz, Johanna Rosina, 3

Pecht, Friedrich, 70

Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil, commissions an opera from Wagner, 230, 237

Philharmonic Society, the, 33, 45, 46, 134; concerts conducted by Wagner, 220-226

Pilgrimage to Beethoven, A, 213

Pillet, Leon, 80

Planer, Minna, marries Wagner, 53, 54. See Wagner, Minna.

Poe, Edgar Allen, 330

Poland, Wagner's sympathy with, 41, 43

Praeger, Ferdinand, 43, 68, 200, 208, 225, 238

Raymund, his "magic dramas," 44

Reinecke, Carl, 33, 45, 46

Reissiger, Gottlieb, 77, 79, 123-125

Rhinegold, The, 209, 299, 350, 351, 354, 358, 376, 383, 385, 396; composition of, 332-334; analysis and criticism, 337-349

Rienzi, 55, 61, 62, 68, 69, 73, 74, 81, 82, 117, 127, 128; completed and sent to Dresden, 75-80; accepted, 80; Meyerbeer's influence on, 84, 85; analysis and criticism, 86-93; its success, 91, 121; a failure at Weimar, 237

Rietz, Julius, portrait of Wagner by, 206

Ring of the Nibelung, The, 105, 111, 137,176, 207-209, 226-230, 320, 323, 325, 378; first cycle given at Bayreuth, 327-329; summary of its growth, 330-334; analysis of its main dramatic motive, 334-337; Schopenhauer's criticism, 342, see also the separate operas

Ritter, Alexander, 208

Ritter, Frau, 199, 208

Roeckel, August, 126, 132, 133, 196

Rossini, G.A., 55, 407; William Tell, 47; Stabat Mater, 213

Sainton, Prof., 225

Saengerkrieg auf Wartburg, 72, 82, 128

Saracen Young Woman, 81, 82

Schlesinger, Maurice, 69, 70, 75, 82, 121

Schopenhauer, his influence on Wagner, 231-233, 236, 265, 408; his criticism on the Ring, 342, 397

Schroeder-Devrient, Wilhelmine, 50, 76-79, 160

Schubert's Erl-king, 355

Schumann, Clara, 45

Schumann, Robert, 51; on Tannhaeuser, 163, 164; on Lohengrin, 165, 177

Scribe, Eugene, 74, 85, 97

Semper, Gottfried, 325

Shaw, Mr. Bernard, 20

Shedlock, Mr. J.S., 220

Siegfried, 200-202, 227-230, 325, 332, 414; analysis and criticism, 378-399

Siegfried's Death, 227-230, 332, 334, 383

Siegfried Idyll, 59, 60

Spohr, Ludwig, 294, 350; produces the Flying Dutchman at Cassel, 127; on Tannhaeuser, 149, 272

Spontini, Gasparo, 62, 116, 150, 178, 187; Wagner's essay on, 219

Strauss, Johann, 44

Sulzer, Jakob, 209

Symphony in C major, 41, 42, 44, 45, 56-59, 72, 73, 415

Swinburne, A.C., 415, 418

Tannhaeuser, 30, 60, 72, 82, 92, 128, 137-140, 219, 341, 343, 358, 376, 384. 385; analysis and criticism, 140-164; production and reception, 147, 148; opinions on, 163, 164; produced by Liszt at Weimar, 164

Tausig, Karl, 71, 418

Thomae, Jeannette, 23

Tichatschek, 78, 147

Tieck, Ludwig, Tannhaeuser, 30

Tomaschek, Wenzel, 45

"Triebschen," 323, 395

Tristan, 105, 106, 109, 111, 137, 187, 333, 341, 343, 344, 353, 365, 375. 377, 395, 398, 399, 414; rehearsed at Vienna and abandoned, 231; folly of commentators on, 234-236, 266; intended for Rio, 230, 237; completed, 230, 238; produced at Munich (1865), 237, 239, 321; origin of, 237, 238; preliminaries of the story, 239-241; analysis and criticism, 241-277

Uhlig, Theodor, 126, 145, 195, 200, 202, 205, 219, 226, 231, 283, 329, 383

Vaez, Gustave, 203

Valkyrie, The, 209, 226, 230, 294, 332, 333, 341, 343, 344, 383, 385, 388, 389, 398; analysis and criticism, 350-377

Verdi's Falstaff, 311

Victoria, Queen, and Wagner, 222, 223

Villa Wahnfried, 326

Wagner, Adolph, 2, 3, 10, 13, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30, 32, 41

Wagner, Albert, 7, 8, 10, 16, 22, 24, 48

Wagner, Carl Friedrich, father of Richard, 2-5; his death, 5, 8

Wagner, Clara, 10, 16, 22, 24

Wagner, Cosima, second wife of Richard, 60, 323-325, 419

Wagner, Friederike, 23

Wagner, Gottlob Friedrich, 3

Wagner, Johanna, daughter of Albert, 160

Wagner, Johanna Rosina, mother of Richard, 3, 5, 6, 8, 14,15, 16, 24, 28

Wagner, Julius, 10, 11, 16

Wagner, Louise, 7, 10, 24, 30, 31, 32

Wagner, Minna, first wife of Richard, 53, 54, 65, 121, 122, 126, 127, 128, 133, 168, 169, 195, 207, 323-325

Wagner, Ottilie, 16, 30

Wagner, Richard (for Works see under separate headings), birth and ancestry, 1-3; absence of precocity, 11 12; schooldays at Dresden, 17-24; early training in theatrical matters, 18-19; his love of the theatre, 21; Weber's influence, 25; at school at Leipzig, 26, 40; his debt to his uncle, 28-30, 41; unable to play the piano, 31, 37, 73; "converted" by Beethoven, 33-35; early compositions, 35. 36. 45; studies under Weinlig, 36-38; his arrangements of Beethoven symphonies, 37; helped by his family 38, 44, 51; his egotism, 39; matriculates, 40; his revolutionary fervour, 40, 41, 43; visits Vienna, 44; at Prague, 45; works performed at the Gewandhaus concerts, 45; chorus-master at Wuerzburg, 48; returns to Leipzig, 49; his industry, 52, 53, 209, 298; his marriage, 53, 54; obtains conductorships at Magdeburg, 53, Koenigsberg, and Riga, 54; sails to London, 55, 64-67; meets Meyerbeer at Boulogne, 67-69; disappointments in Paris, 69-75; goes to Dresden, 82, 83; first acquaintance with Liszt, 82, 83; Kapellmeister at Dresden, 122-126, 133-135; his relations with Minna, 126, 127, 133, 168-169, 323, 324; his political views, 128-131; his share in the May insurrection of 1849, 128, 131, 132, 136; his Germanism, 135, 149, 150, 214; flees to Zurich, 136, 193, 194; goes to Paris, 194, 195; returns to Zurich, 196; friendship of Liszt, 194, 196, 199; his demands on his friends, 198-200; his ill-health, 200; his scheme for producing Siegfried, 200-202, 227-229; third visit to Paris, 203-207; life in Zurich, 207-210; his prose-writings, 210; speech at the re-interment of Weber, 214; his theory on the fusion of the arts, 214-216; unable to comprehend opposition, 217; directions for performing his operas, 219; visit to London, 220-226; settles in Vienna, 230, 320; his extravagance, 231; influence of Schopenhauer, 231-233, 236, 265; disappointments and failures, 278, 319, 320; the chief Wagnerite, 287; invited to Munich by King Ludwig, 319, 321; ambitious schemes, 321, 322; obliged to leave Munich, 322, 323; retires to "Triebschen," 323, 395; elopes with Cosima von Buelow, 323, 324; marries Cosima, 325; Bayreuth, 325-329; his worship of brute force, 378, 379; completion of the Ring, 400, 407; outward success, 407; his death, 415; his character and achievement, 416-421

Wagner, Rosalie, 7, 10, 15, 16, 22, 24, 32, 39

Wagner, Siegfried, 71

Wagner, Sophie (Wendt), 23

Wagnerites, the, 287

Walther von der Vogelweide, 294

Weber, Carl Maria von, 13, 55, 350, 372, 390; his influence on Wagner, 13, 25, 34, 35, 41, 61, 92, 150, 153, 177, 185, 284; his re-interment at Dresden, 135, 213 214; Euryanthe, 13, 38, 305; Der Freischuetz, 13, 25

Weber, Dionys, 45, 46

Weinlig, Theodor, 36-38, 57

Wendt, Sophie, marries Adolph Wagner, 23

Wesendoncks, the, 199, 208

Wieck, Clara, see Schumann, Clara

Wigand, Otto, 205

Wiland der Schmied, 203, 206, 207

Wilhelmj, August, 328

Wille, Dr. and Frau, 208

Wuest, Henriette, 45

Wylde, Dr. Henry, 225

Young Siegfried, 227-229

Zigesar, von, 201


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