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Title: Richard Wagner His Life and His Dramas - A  Biographical Study of the Man and an Explanation of His Work
Author: Henderson, W. J. (William James), 1855-1937
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Transcriber's Note: Obvious printer errors have been corrected
without note.]








  _The Knickerbocker Press_

  Copyright, 1901

  Set up, electrotyped, and printed, November, 1901
  Reprinted February, 1902
  _The Knickerbocker Press, New York_

[Illustration: Richard Wagner]




The purpose of this book is to supply Wagner lovers with a single
work which shall meet all their needs. The author has told the story
of Wagner's life, explained his artistic aims, given the history of
each of his great works, examined its literary sources, shown how
Wagner utilised them, surveyed the musical plan of each drama, and
set forth the meaning and purpose of its principal ideas. The work
is not intended to be critical, but is designed to be expository.
It aims to help the Wagner lover to a thorough knowledge and
understanding of the man and his works.

The author has consulted all the leading biographies, and for
guidance in the direction of absolute trustworthiness he is directly
indebted to Mme. Cosima Wagner, whose suggestions have been carefully
observed. He is also under a large, but not heavy, burden of
obligation to Mr. Henry Edward Krehbiel, musical critic of _The New
York Tribune_, who carefully read the manuscript of this work and
pointed out its errors. The value of Mr. Krehbiel's revision and
his hints cannot be over-estimated. Thanks are also due to Mr. Emil
Paur, conductor of the Philharmonic Society, of New York, for certain
inquiries made in Europe.

The records of first performances have been prepared with great care
and with no little labour. For the dates of those at most of the
European cities the author is indebted to an elaborate article by E.
Kastner, published in the _Allgemeine Musik. Zeitung_, of Berlin, for
July and August, 1896. The original casts have been secured, as far
as possible, from the programmes. For that of the "Flying Dutchman"
at Dresden--incorrectly given in many books on Wagner--the author
is indebted to Hofkapellmeister Ernst von Schuch, who obtained it
from the records of the Hoftheater. The name of the singer of the
Herald in the first cast of "Lohengrin," missing in all the published
histories, was supplied by Hermann Wolff, of Berlin, from the records
of Weimar. The casts of first performances in this country are not
quite complete, simply because the journalists of twenty-five years
ago did not realise their obligations to posterity. The casts were
not published in full. The records have disappeared. The theatres
in some cases--as in that of the Stadt--have long ago gone out of
existence and nothing can be done. As far as given the casts are, the
author believes, perfectly correct.



  CHAPTER                                                         PAGE

  I--THE BOYHOOD OF A GENIUS                                         1

  II--THE FIRST OPERAS                                              14

  III--KÖNIGSBERG AND RIGA                                          27

  IV--"THE END OF A MUSICIAN IN PARIS"                              38

  V--BEGINNING OF FAME AND HOSTILITY                                50

  VI--"LOHENGRIN" and "DIE MEISTERSINGER"                           64

  VII--"ART AND REVOLUTION"                                         73

  VIII--PREACHING WHAT HE PRACTISED                                 85

  IX--A STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND                                  96

  X--A SECOND END IN PARIS                                         105

  XI--A MONARCH TO THE RESCUE                                      117

  XII--SOME IDEALS REALISED                                        127

  XIII--FINIS CORONAT OPUS                                         136

  XIV--THE LAST DRAMA                                              146

  XV--THE CHARACTER OF THE MAN                                     154


  I--THE LYRIC DRAMA AS HE FOUND IT                                167

  II--THE REFORMS OF WAGNER                                        178

  III--THE MUSICAL SYSTEM                                          189

  IV--THE SYSTEM AS COMPLETED                                      200


  INTRODUCTORY                                                     213

  RIENZI                                                           221

  DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER                                          234


  LOHENGRIN                                                        270
    I--THE BOOK                                                    272
    II--THE MUSIC                                                  283

  TRISTAN UND ISOLDE                                               293
    I--SOURCES OF THE STORY                                        294
    II--WAGNER'S DRAMATIC POEM                                     300
    III--THE MUSICAL EXPOSITION                                    315

  DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG                                   328

  DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN                                          355
    I--THE SOURCES OF THE POEMS                                    364
    II--THE STORY AS TOLD BY WAGNER                                388
    III--THE MUSIC OF THE TRILOGY                                  422

  PARSIFAL                                                         446
    I--THE ORIGINAL LEGENDS                                        447
    II--THE DRAMA OF WAGNER                                        461
    III--THE MUSICAL PLAN                                          473

  APPENDIX A--THE YOUTHFUL SYMPHONY                                481

  APPENDIX B--WAGNER AND THE BALLET                                487

  INDEX                                                            491






     "O kindischer Held! O herrlicher Knabe."--SIEGFRIED

The ancestry of Richard Wagner has been traced as far as his
grandfather. This good man was Gottlob Friedrich Wagner, a custom
house official, whose life-work it was to see that nothing was
smuggled into Leipsic through the city gates. Gottlob Friedrich had
a son to whom was given the second name of his father. Friedrich
Wagner was a clerk of police. He had a considerable acquaintance
with languages, and spoke French so well that when the French army
under Napoleon occupied the city, he was appointed by Marshal Davoust
to organise the police. Wagner's father was born in 1770, and his
life was short. It is known that he had a taste for the theatre and
for verse. After the battles of October 18 and 19, 1813, at the
gates of Leipsic, when Napoleon's power was broken in Germany, the
accumulation of dead around the city caused an epidemic fever, and
among its victims was the police clerk Wagner. He passed away on
November 22, 1813, leaving among other children a male babe of six
months, destined to immortalise his name. This child was Wilhelm
Richard Wagner, born May 22, 1813, in "The House of the Red and White
Lion," No. 88 Hause Brühl.

Wagner's mother, whom his father married in 1798, was Johanna Rosina
Bertz, who died in 1848. Richard was the youngest of nine children,
the others being Albert, Carl Gustav, Johanna Rosalie, Carl Julius,
Luise Constanze, Clara Wilhelmine, Maria Theresia, and Wilhelmine
Ottilie. Of these Albert became an actor and singer of considerable
importance and finally stage manager in Berlin. He married Elise
Gollmann, a singer with a remarkably extensive voice, who is said
to have sung "Tancredi" and "The Queen of the Night" equally well.
She bore him a daughter, Johanna, who became one of the most eminent
sopranos of her time, and was the original Elizabeth in "Tannhäuser"
at the age of seventeen. Wagner's sister Johanna Rosalie was an
actress and Clara was a singer.

When the epidemic had carried off the police clerk, the widow was
in straitened circumstances. Her oldest son was only fourteen years
old and not competent to contribute to the support of the large
family. The governmental pension was small and she had no fortune of
her own. At this trying period Ludwig Geyer, an old friend of her
husband, asked her to be his wife, and although only nine months had
elapsed since Friedrich Wagner's death, she, like a sensible woman,
accepted the offer. Geyer was a man of talent and well fitted to be
the parental guide of the young Richard. He was an actor, a singer,
an author, and a portrait painter. As a singer he once appeared
in "Joseph in Egypt," when that opera was produced by Weber on his
assumption of the conductor's bâton at the Dresden opera. His gift
for portrait painting is said almost to have reached genius. He was
the writer of several comedies, and one of his plays, "The Slaughter
of the Innocents," is still well known in Germany. To celebrate the
sixtieth birthday of Richard Wagner his family at Bayreuth surprised
him with a performance of this play, and he was much touched by it,
for he always cherished a deep affection for his stepfather.

Owing to the employment of Geyer in a Dresden theatre, the whole
family removed to that city. Here the education of the future
composer began in earnest. The home influences were the example of
Geyer and the sweet, gentle affection of the mother, to whom her
children were the first of all considerations. The outside influence
was found in the Dresden Kreuzschule, where the boy was entered
under the name of Richard Geyer. This schooling, however, was not
begun till after the death of the stepfather. In the beginning Geyer
thought that Richard would make a good painter, but, the composer
tells us in his autobiographic sketch, "I showed a very poor talent
for drawing." Geyer died on September 30, 1821, still cherishing
the belief that there was some sort of promise in the boy. "Shortly
before his death," says the brief autobiography, "I had learnt to
play 'Ueb' immer Treu und Redlichkeit' and the then newly published
'Jungfernkranz' upon the pianoforte; the day before his death I was
bid to play him both these pieces in the adjoining room; I heard him
then with feeble voice say to my mother: 'Has he perchance a talent
for music?' On the early morrow, as he lay dead, my mother came into
the children's sleeping room and said to each of us some loving word.
To me she said: 'He hoped to make _something_ of thee.' I remember,
too, that for a long time I imagined that something indeed would come
of me."

Wagner was eight years old when his stepfather died, and in order
that the mother's cares might be lightened, he was sent for a year
to live with a brother of Geyer at Eisleben, where he attended a
private school. It was in December, 1822, that he began to go to the
Kreuzschule in Dresden. If ever there was a childhood in which the
future man was foreshadowed it was that of Wagner. His biographers
have with one accord set down the statement that the boy showed no
promise in his early years. Look at them and see for yourself. At the
Kreuzschule he conceived a profound love for the classicism of Homer,
and to the delight of his teacher, Herr Silig, translated the first
twelve books of the Odyssey out of school hours. He revelled in the
fascinations of mythology, and his fancy was so stimulated that when
commemorative verses on the death of one of the boys were asked for,
Wagner's, having been pruned of some extravagances, were crowned with
the halo of type.

Thereupon this child of eleven resolved to become a poet. He
projected vast tragedies on the plan of Apel's "Polyeidos" and "Die
Aetolier." He plunged into the deeps of Shakespeare and translated
a speech of Romeo into metrical German. Finally he began a grand
tragedy, which proved to be compounded of elements from "Hamlet" and
"King Lear." He laboured on this for two years. "The plan," he says,
"was gigantic in the extreme; two-and-forty human beings died in the
course of this piece, and I saw myself compelled in its working out
to call the greater number back as ghosts, since otherwise I should
have been short of characters for my last acts."

Huge poetic projects already throbbing in the young brain, music,
too, seized him for her own. He would not stay away from the piano,
and so the tutor who was guiding him through the mazes of Cornelius
Nepos engaged to teach him the technic of the instrument. But the
wayward Wagner would not practice. The moment that the tutor's back
was turned he began to strum the music of "Der Freischütz" by ear,
and he learned to perform the overture with "fearful fingering."
The teacher overheard him and said that nothing would come of his
piano studies. And so it proved, for Wagner never learned to play
the piano. Yet was there nothing in all this to show the bent of
the young mind? Was it not a childhood meet for him who was one day
to project tragedies before undreamed of on the lyric stage, and to
cut loose from all the traditions of operatic music? And was it not
a good omen when at last there fell across his childhood the shadow
of his artistic progenitor, Weber? "When Weber passed our house on
his way to the theatre," writes Wagner, "I used to watch him with
something akin to religious awe!" Indeed, Weber used to enter the
house to talk to the sweet Frau Geyer, who was well liked among
artists, and so perhaps the little Richard looked into the luminous
depths of the eyes of the composer of "Der Freischütz."

Weber became the idol of his boyhood, and no doubt the worship of
this real genius had some influence on the bent of Wagner's musical
thought. It is narrated of him that, when he was not permitted to
go to the theatre to hear "Der Freischütz," he used to stand in the
corner of a room at home and count the minutes, specifying just what
was going on at each particular instant and finally weeping, so that
his mother would yield and send him happy off to the performance.
However, in 1827 the family returned to Leipsic and that was the
end of young Richard's close observation of Weber. A still more
serious influence now entered into his life, for at the concerts
of the Leipsic Gewandhaus he first heard the works of Beethoven.
The overture to "Egmont" fired him with a desire to preface his own
drama with such a piece of music. So he borrowed a copy of Logier's
treatise on harmony and counterpoint and tried to learn its contents
in a week. This was the crucial test of his genius. If he had not
been born to be a composer, the difficulties which he encountered in
his solitary struggle with the science of music would have turned
him aside from the study forever. But it was not so. He says in his
autobiography: "Its difficulties both provoked and fascinated me;
I resolved to become a musician." And thus we find Wagner, whose
childhood has been pronounced insignificant, at the age of fifteen
already a dramatist and eager to be a composer. To be sure, he was
not a prodigy, but the future of the man was marked out plainly by
the child; and we shall see that from this time he moved steadily
toward the goal of his ambition.

The progress was not accomplished without a struggle. As he himself
tells us in his autobiography, his family now unearthed his great
tragedy, and he was severely admonished that in the future it would
be well for him to give less attention to Melpomene and more to his
text-books. But he was not to be turned aside from his purpose.
"Under such circumstances," he says, "I breathed no word of my secret
discovery of a calling for music; but nevertheless I composed,
in silence, a sonata, a quartet, and an aria. When I felt myself
sufficiently matured in my private musical studies, I ventured forth
at last with their announcement. Naturally, I now had many a hard
battle to wage, for my relatives could only consider my penchant
for music as a fleeting passion--all the more as it was unsupported
by any proofs of preliminary study, and especially by any already
won dexterity in handling a musical instrument." We laugh, perhaps,
at this awkward boy in his lumbering struggles, but there was
something large in it all. He aimed at the top, and from the outset,
pathetically enough, as it afterward proved, tried to hitch his
"waggon to a star."

The family so far humoured his new ambition as to engage a music
teacher for him, Gottlieb Müller, afterward organist at Altenburg.
But a sorry time this honest man had with his eccentric young pupil.
The boy was at this time head over ears in the romanticism of Ernst
Theodor Hoffmann, then recently dead and still in the height of his
fame in Germany. The astounding fecundity of this writer's invention
of marvellous incidents inflamed the boy's mind, and threw him into
a state of continual nervous excitement. He says himself that he
had day-dreams in which the keynote, third and dominant, seemed to
take form and to reveal to him their mighty meanings. But he would
not study systematically, and his family apparently had ground for
believing that music would soon be abandoned for some other fancy.
Instead of treading patiently the rocky path of counterpoint, the
impatient boy endeavoured at one leap to reach the top of the musical
mountain, and wrote overtures for orchestra. One of them was actually
performed in a theatre in Leipsic under the direction of Heinrich
Dorn. It was, as Wagner confessed, the culminating point of his
folly. The parts of the string instruments in score were written in
red ink, those of the wood in green, and those of the brass in black.
"Beethoven's Ninth Symphony," he says, "was a mere Pleyel sonata by
the side of this marvellously concocted overture." At every fourth
measure the tympani player had a note to be played forte, and when
the audience had recovered from its astonishment at this wonderful
effect, it burst into laughter.

But all these strivings were not in vain. As Adolphe Jullien notes
in his "Richard Wagner," the influence of the Hoffmann stories was
not lost; "for the 'Brothers of Serapion' contained an account of the
poetical tourney at Wartburg, and some germs of 'The Meistersinger'
are found in another story by Hoffmann, 'Master Martin, the Cooper of
Nuremberg.'" Dorn, the conductor, became interested in young Wagner,
and afterwards proved to be a valuable friend. The boy modestly and
sincerely thanked him for producing the overture, and Dorn replied
that he had at once perceived the boy's talent and that furthermore
the orchestration had not needed extensive revision. Wagner now
seemed to feel his own need of some sort of regular study, for he
matriculated at the University of Leipsic, chiefly in order that he
might attend the lectures on æsthetics and philosophy. Here again
his want of application made itself apparent, and he entered into
the dissipations of student life with avidity. But he soon wearied
of them and once more settled down to the study of music, this time
under Theodor Weinlig, who sat in the honoured seat of Bach as the
cantor of the Thomas School.

In less than half a year Weinlig had taught the boy to solve the
hardest problems of counterpoint, and said to him, "What you have
made your own by this dry study, we call self-dependence." At this
time, too, Wagner became acquainted with the music of Mozart and
its influence upon his mind was very healthful. He laboured to rid
himself of bombast and to attain a nobler simplicity. He wrote a
piano sonata in which he strove for a "natural, unforced style in
composition." This sonata was published by Breitkopf and Härtel, and
was, so far as the records show, Wagner's real Opus 1. It shows no
trace of inspiration, and can rank only as a conservatory exercise.

It was followed by a polonaise in D for four hands, Opus 2, and this
was also printed by Breitkopf and Härtel. It is nothing more than
school work, like its predecessor. The third work was a fantasia in
F sharp minor for piano. The restraining power of the teacher is
less apparent in this composition, which remains unpublished. In
his article on Wagner in Grove's "Dictionary of Music," Mr. Edward
Dannreuther quotes at some length from a personal conversation
with the composer, who described Weinlig's method of teaching. It
was a plain and practical method, in which example and precept
were judiciously combined. Wagner said to Mr. Dannreuther, "The
true lesson consisted in his patient and careful inspection of
what had been written." It was fortunate for Wagner that he had
such a mentor, and that he was in the beginning of his career as
a composer compelled to learn and practice the old forms in which
the fundamental laws of music found their perfect exemplification.
His readiness to depart from the straight and narrow path would
have led him into insuperable difficulties, and perhaps to hopeless
discouragement, had he not possessed so kind and trustworthy a guide.

Young Wagner now launched upon musical activities of no small
magnitude for one so youthful. In the year 1830 he made a pianoforte
transcription of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and in a letter dated
Oct. 6 he offered it to the Messrs. Schott, of Mayence. The offer
was not accepted. He also wrote to the Peters Bureau de Musique,
offering to make piano arrangements at less than the usual rates.
In 1831 he composed two overtures, one a "Concert Ouvertüre mit
Fuge" in C, and the other in D minor. This one is dated Sept. 26,
with emendations dated Nov. 4. It was performed at one of the
Gewandhaus concerts on Dec. 25, 1831. The _Allgemeine Musikalische
Zeitung_ said of it: "Much pleasure was given us by a new overture
by a composer still very young, Herr Richard Wagner. The piece was
thoroughly appreciated, and, indeed, the young man promises much: the
composition not only sounds well, but it has ideas and it is written
with care and skill, with an evident striving after the noblest."[1]

[Footnote 1: Quoted from "Wagner and his Works," by Henry T. Finck. 2
vols., New York, 1893.]

In 1832, when he was 19 years old, he wrote a symphony in C major.[2]
The biographers of Wagner have agreed to disagree about this
symphony, even the usually accurate Mr. Finck calling it a work in C
minor. It is, however, plainly enough in C major. The history of this
composition was peculiar. When he had finished it Wagner put it in
his trunk and started for Vienna, "for no other purpose than to get a
glimpse of this famed musical centre. What I heard and saw there was
not to my edification; wherever I went I heard 'Zampa' or Strauss's
potpourris on 'Zampa'--two things that were an abomination to me,
especially at that time." On the homeward journey he tarried a while
in Prague, where he made the acquaintance of Dionys Weber, director
of the Conservatory. This gentleman's pupils rehearsed the symphony.
The score was next submitted to the directors of the Gewandhaus
concerts at Leipsic.

[Footnote 2: See Appendix _A_.]

The managing director was Rochlitz, editor of the _Allgemeine
Musikalische Zeitung_, an authority on music, and he invited Wagner
to call on him. "When I presented myself, the stately old gentleman
raised his spectacles, saying, 'You are a young man indeed! I
expected an older and more experienced composer.'" The symphony was
tried, and on Jan. 10, 1833, it was produced at a Gewandhaus concert.
In the season of 1834-5 Wagner, who was in Leipsic, forced his score
on the attention of Mendelssohn, then the conductor of the Gewandhaus
concerts, in the hope of getting another performance. Mendelssohn put
the manuscript away, and, though he often saw Wagner, never spoke
of the work. Wagner was too modest to ask him about it, and so the
score was lost. In 1872 the orchestral parts were found in an old
trunk left by Wagner in Dresden in the course of the revolutionary
disturbances of 1849.

With the composition of this symphony, Wagner's apprenticeship in
instrumental music may be said to have ended. His next venture was
across that magic border which separates the orchestra from the
stage. His period of juvenility was not quite ended, but he may be
said to have finished the preparatory stage of his career and to be
about to enter on the first years of serious struggle toward his real
goal. His boyhood was fairly indicative of his nature. Restless,
dissatisfied, eager to reach the topmost heights, and not suited with
the means at hand, we yet find him experimenting with the methods of
those who preceded him, analysing and assimilating the musical past,
and learning to conquer musical forms. In the juvenile symphony he
showed that he had honestly solved the problems of construction, that
he had mastered the formal materials of his art. The wise Schumann
said, "Mastery of form leads talent to ever increasing freedom."
At nineteen years of age, with the methods of Beethoven and Mozart
firmly fixed in his mind, the young Wagner had produced a symphonic
composition, which, while imitative in both themes and treatment,
showed astonishing musical vigour and an enterprising spirit. The boy
was on the verge of manhood, artistically as well as physically.



     "You are a young man indeed!"--ROCHLITZ TO WAGNER

In the year 1832, while he was in Prague, Wagner began his career
as a composer of operas, and in his first attempt, as in all later
ones, wrote his own libretto. His friend Heinrich Laube[3] had
offered him a libretto on the subject of Kosciuszko, but he refused
it, saying that he was engaged wholly on instrumental music. But his
genius was for the stage, and his boyhood had been surrounded by the
immediate influences of the theatre. It is, therefore, not surprising
to find him at work on an opera. He says in his autobiography: "In
that city [Prague] I also composed an opera book of tragic contents,
'Die Hochzeit.' I know not whence I had come by the mediæval subject
matter:--a frantic lover climbs to the window of the sleeping-chamber
of his friend's bride, wherein she is awaiting the advent of the
bridegroom; the bride struggles with the madman and hurls him into
the courtyard below, where his mangled body gives up the ghost.
During the funeral ceremony the bride, uttering one cry, sinks
lifeless on the corpse. Returning to Leipsic, I set to work at once
on the composition of this opera's first number, which contained a
grand sextet that much pleased Weinlig. The text-book found no favour
with my sister; I destroyed its every trace."

[Footnote 3: Laube wrote in the _Journal du Monde Elégant_, of
Leipsic, after the private performance of the symphony, the first
public criticism of Wagner's work. It was favourable, and helped the
young composer to gain a public performance.]

We are indebted to the good Rosalie for her objections to this stupid
and unpoetic book. Wagner's memory in regard to this juvenile work
was not perfect. He presented an autograph of the numbers composed
to the Würzburg Musikverein. They are an introduction, a chorus,
and a septet, not a sextet as he said. This autograph copy is still
extant. Franz Muncker, in his "Life of Wagner," says that the young
librettist found his subject in Immermann's "Cardenio und Celinde"
(1826), and that he arranged the conclusion of his story after
that of the "Bride of Messina." The whole matter, however, may be
dismissed as unimportant.

Wagner now went to Würzburg, and at the age of twenty sought
employment as a musician through the influence of his brother Albert,
then engaged in the Würzburg Theatre as actor, singer, and stage
manager. Albert succeeded in securing for him a position as chorus
master at ten florins a month. As an evidence of his gratitude he
composed for Albert an aria of 142 measures to substitute for a
shorter one in Marschner's "Der Vampyr." A phototype reproduction of
this aria may be found in Wilhelm Tappert's "R. Wagner; Sein Leben
und Seine Werke." It has no especial interest except for collectors
of Wagneriana.

In the year 1833 the young composer set to work on another opera.
This was entitled "Die Feen," and although it was completed, its fate
was not unlike that of its predecessor. It came to nothing in the
composer's life, and though finished on Dec. 7, 1833, received its
first performance in Munich on Jan. 29, 1888. Perhaps the best short
account of this work that can be given is that of Wagner himself in
his "Communication to my Friends."[4] He says:

"On the model of one of Gozzi's fairy tales ['La donna serpente']
I wrote for myself an opera text in verse, 'Die Feen' [The
Fairies]; the then predominant romantic opera of Weber, and also
of Marschner--who about this time made his first appearance on the
scene, and that at my place of sojourn, Leipsic--determined me to
follow in their footsteps. What I turned out for myself was nothing
more than barely what I wanted, an opera text; this I set to music
according to the impressions made upon me by Weber, Beethoven, and
Marschner. However, what took my fancy in the tale of Gozzi was not
merely its adaptability for an opera text, but the fascination of
the 'stuff' itself. A fairy, who renounces immortality for the sake
of a human lover, can only become a mortal through the fulfilment of
certain hard conditions, the non-compliance wherewith on the part
of her earthly swain threatens her with the direst penalties; her
lover fails in the test, which consists in this, that however evil
and repulsive she may appear to him (in an obligatory metamorphosis)
he shall not reject her in his unbelief. In Gozzi's tale the fairy
is now changed into a snake; the remorseful lover frees her from
the spell by kissing the snake: thus he wins her for his wife. I
altered this dénouement by changing the fairy into a stone and then
releasing her from the spell by her lover's passionate song; while
the lover--instead of being allowed to carry the bride off to his own
country--is himself admitted by the Fairy King to the immortal bliss
of Fairyland, together with his fairy wife."

[Footnote 4: Published in the summer of 1851. It will be found in
Vol. I. of W. Ashton Ellis's translation of Wagner's Prose Works.
It is Wagner's most important paper in regard to his own artistic

This opera was offered to the director of the theatre at Leipsic,
whither Wagner returned early in 1834, and it is evident that a
production was promised, for Laube announced in his journal that
immediately after "Le Bal Masqué" by Auber there would be brought
forward the first opera of a young composer named Richard Wagner.
But when Auber's work had completed its run, the director announced
Bellini's "I Capuletti ed i Montecchi," and that was the end of
"Die Feen" till 1888. Some of the commentators have found the germs
of important features of Wagner's later works in this opera, but
there is really no evidence that any direct connection exists. It is
true that the story is mythical, but Wagner departed from the myth
in his next opera. It is, perhaps, more significant that already
the young writer showed some skill in the management of pictorial
stage effects. The music was wholly imitative of Beethoven, Weber,
and Marschner, with some minor borrowings from Mozart. Here and
there can be found musical ideas which recur in later works and
which are characteristic of Wagner. The score was constructed on
the Italian opera model and contains the regular series of arias,
scenas, cavatinas, etc. It has even a "mad scene." Furthermore it is
a strikingly melodious score, and very light in touch. But the work
has now only a historical interest, and its occasional performances
in Munich, about the time that the foreign pilgrims to Bayreuth are
in the land, are purely speculative enterprises.

Now came another change in the inner life of this budding genius. In
the performance of Bellini's opera, he heard for the first time the
great artist Wilhelmina Schroeder-Devrient, and the impression which
she made upon him was lasting. As late as 1872 he said, "Whenever
I conceived a character, I saw her." The imposing effect which her
dramatic sincerity and her consummate command of style enabled
her to make with the shallow music of Bellini caused Wagner to
become doubtful as to the right method of attaining success. He was
powerfully impressed with the importance of the dramatic element in
operatic performance. The Leipsic Theatre next produced Auber's "La
Muette de Portici," and again Wagner was astonished. Here he saw an
opera in which rapid action, fiery impulse, and the manifestations of
a revolutionary spirit achieved as strong an effect upon an audience
as had the potent acting and singing of Schroeder-Devrient.

The light, spontaneous melody of Bellini seemed to him to express
more directly the spirit of young life than the heavy music of the
Germans; the plan of Auber's work impressed him as well fitted for
combination with the style and character of the Italian music. A
union of the two, he thought, would lead toward a true embodiment
of the spirit of the time, and so reach swiftly the public heart.
The joy of life now became his battle cry. He steeped his soul in
the physical literature of the time. He read with avidity the works
of Wilhelm Heinse, "the apostle of the highest artistic and lowest
sensual pleasures, amongst all the authors of the last century the
one endowed with the warmest enthusiasm and finest comprehension
for music."[5] "I was then twenty-one years of age," wrote Wagner,
"inclined to take life and the world on their pleasant side.
'Ardinghello' (Heinse) and 'Das junge Europa' (Laube) tingled through
every limb, while Germany appeared in my eyes a very tiny portion of
the earth." Ludwig Börne, Carl Gutzgow, Gustav König, and last of
all, Heinrich Heine, became influences in his daily life and thought.
The utmost freedom in politics, morals, and literature, the most
passionate physical enjoyment of the fleeting moment, were taught by
these authors, to whom the reactionary movement in France against all
moral and artistic law seemed most attractive. Mysticism ceased to
charm Wagner, and he turned to revolutionary freedom in thought as
the highest possible good.

[Footnote 5: "Richard Wagner, a Sketch of his Life and Works," by
Franz Muncker. Bamberg, 1891.]

With these ideas seething in his mind in the summer of 1834, while
spending his holiday at Teplitz, he sketched the plot of his next
opera, "Das Liebesverbot [Prohibition of Love] or the Novice of
Palermo." In the fall he was obliged to accept a position as
conductor in a small operatic theatre in Magdeburg. There he found
in the ease with which public success was attained by trivial works
further encouragement for the revolt in his soul. He discharged his
duties as conductor with the greatest pleasure, and took much trouble
to give an impressive performance of Auber's "Lestocq." He had his
"Feen" overture played, and also an overture of his own to Apel's
drama, "Christopher Columbus." He made a New Year's piece out of the
andante of his symphony and some songs taken from a musical farce.
But meanwhile he worked assiduously at the score of his new opera,
with Auber as his model and Schroeder-Devrient as his hope.

The foundation of the story was taken from Shakespeare's "Measure
for Measure," but Wagner altered the plot so as to introduce the
revolutionary element which at that time played so conspicuous a
part in his fancies. In a "Communication to My Friends" Wagner
many years afterward thus described his opera: "It was Isabella
that inspired me; she who leaves her novitiate in the cloister to
plead with a hard-hearted Stateholder for mercy for her brother,
who in pursuance of a draconic edict has been condemned to death
for entering on a forbidden, yet Nature-hallowed, love-bond with
a maiden. Isabella's chaste soul urges on the stony judge such
cogent reasons for pardoning the offence, her agitation helps her
to paint these reasons in such entrancing warmth of colour that
the stern protector of morals is himself seized with passionate
love for the superb woman. This sudden, flaming passion proclaims
itself by his promising the pardon of the brother as the price of
the lovely sister's favours. Aghast at this proposal, Isabella takes
refuge in artifice to unmask the hypocrite and save her brother. The
Stateholder, whom she has vouchsafed a fictitious indulgence, still
thinks to withhold the stipulated pardon so as not to sacrifice his
stern judicial conscience to a passing lapse from virtue. Shakespeare
disentangles the resulting situation by means of the public return
of the Duke, who had hitherto observed events from under a disguise;
his decision is an earnest one, and grounded on the judge's maxim,
'measure for measure.' I, on the other hand, unloosed the knot
without the Prince's aid by means of a revolution. The scene of
action I transferred to the capital of Sicily, in order to bring in
the Southern heat of blood to help me with my scheme; I also made the
Stateholder, a Puritanical German, forbid a projected carnival; while
a madcap youngster, in love with Isabella, incites the populace to
mask and keep their weapons ready: 'Who will not dance at our behest,
your steel shall pierce him through the breast!' The Stateholder,
himself induced by Isabella to come disguised to their rendezvous,
is discovered, unmasked, and hooted; the brother in the nick of time
is freed by force from the executioner's hands; Isabella renounces
her novitiate and gives her hand to the young leader of the carnival.
In full procession the maskers go forth to meet their home-returning
Prince, assured that he will at least not govern them so crookedly as
had his deputy."

One has no difficulty in tracing in this arrangement of the story the
ideas that lay uppermost in Wagner's mind at the time. The heavy,
hypocritical governor was a hit at his own countrymen, and the free
life of the Sicilians was his embodiment of the sensuousness which he
had learned from his recent readings to admire. Auber's "Muette de
Portici" no doubt suggested the theatrical value of the revolution,
and as he himself says in his account of the writing and production
of this opera: "Recollections of the 'Sicilian Vespers' may have had
something to do with it; and when I think finally that the gentle
Sicilian Bellini may also be counted among the factors of this
composition, I positively have to laugh at the amazing quid-pro-quo
into which these extraordinary conceptions shaped themselves."[6]

[Footnote 6: Wagner wrote a long account of the conception,
composition, and production of this juvenile work. It may be found
in his collected prose writings, translated by W. Ashton Ellis. The
translation from which these words are taken is in "Art, Life, and
Theories of Richard Wagner," by E.L. Burlingame. In speaking of the
"Sicilian Vespers," Wagner refers to history, not to Verdi's opera,
which was not produced till 1855.]

The score of the opera was finished in the winter of 1835-36. The
composer, who was entitled to a benefit as conductor toward the
close of the season, naturally hoped to bring forward his work on
that occasion. Unfortunately the manager was in arrears of salary to
many of the company, and some of the principal artists gave notice
of their intended departure before the end of March. Wagner, who was
liked by all of them, succeeded in persuading them to stay a few
days longer and to endeavour hastily to prepare his opera. Ten days
were available for rehearsals. By dint of shouting, gesticulating,
and singing with the singers, Wagner persuaded himself and them into
thinking that the opera was in shape for production. There was a good
advance sale of seats, but the manager stepped in and claimed the
first performance of the work for himself, and so Wagner was perforce
content to wait for the second for his benefit.

The first performance on March 29, 1836, was, according to Wagner's
own account of it, absolutely incomprehensible. There were no
libretti, and the singers were so uncertain of both text and music
that no one could learn the story of the work from them. This was
probably well for Wagner in one way, for the censor had passed the
book on Wagner's assurance that the subject was from Shakespeare, and
as the audience did not know what it was all about, no unfavourable
comment was made on the licentious story. At the second performance,
owing to the apparent incomprehensibility of the work when first
heard, there were three persons in the auditorium, two of whom were
the composer's landlord and landlady. Before the curtain went up,
the husband of the prima donna, jealous of the tenor, set upon that
singer and beat him so that he had to be carried from the theatre.
The prima donna tried to interfere and she was also assaulted by her
husband. A general fight seemed imminent, and the manager went before
the curtain to tell the audience of three that "owing to various
adverse circumstances which had arisen the opera could not be given."
Wagner subsequently offered this opera to managers in Leipsic and
Berlin, but it was not accepted. Later in Paris he contemplated a
performance at the Théâtre de la Renaissance, and a translation of
the text was begun. But, as Wagner tells us, "Everything promised
well, when the Théâtre de la Renaissance became bankrupt! All
trouble, all hopes had therefore been in vain. I now gave up my
'Liebesverbot' entirely; I felt that I could not respect myself any
longer as its composer."

Mr. Finck recounts an interesting conversation he had with Heinrich
Vogl, the eminent Wagnerian tenor, in 1891. Vogl said that after
the success of "Die Feen" at Munich it was thought that "Das
Liebesverbot" might also be given, and a rehearsal was held. The
"ludicrous and undisguised imitation of Donizetti and other popular
composers of that time" caused general laughter,[7] but it was really
the licentious character of the libretto that brought about an
abandonment of the plan to perform the work. But the composer had not
yet found himself, and this was one of his attempts to reach success
as others had reached it, without any realisation of the vital fact
that he was not artistically constituted as they were.

[Footnote 7: Nevertheless there are passages which suggest the future
Wagner. Note this curious resemblance between a part of the chorus of
nuns in "Das Liebesverbot" and the so-called "feast of grace" theme
in "Tannhäuser."


     Salve regina coeli! Salve!]


The failure of the Magdeburg Theatre once more threw Wagner on his
own resources. He had borrowed money recklessly, hoping to pay it
from the proceeds of the performance of his opera. Poor Wagner! All
his life he was ahead of his income, and no amount of experience
could teach him to manage his finances. He went to Berlin to offer
the "Liebesverbot" to the opera, but without success, and then he
heard that there was an opening as musical director at the Königsberg
Theatre. To that city, therefore, he went in the hope of securing
the post. His Magdeburg friends, Frau Pollert, the prima donna, and
Wilhelmina Planer, the actress, had found employment there, and the
young composer was drawn after the second of these women by ties
soon to become closer. He wrote to his friend Dorn to ask his aid,
but it seems that the good Heinrich was unable to do anything for
him. Nevertheless the Königsberg post was given to him and he began
his duties in January, 1837, after nine months of idleness. Before
taking this position Wagner had done two things which must now be
recorded. He had written his first prose essay, and he had married.
The essay contained some unwise comments on the "Euryanthe" of Weber,
whom Wagner as a boy had venerated. He subsequently experienced a
second change of heart in regard to this composer. He had a change of
heart, too, in regard to his wife, also partly on artistic grounds.
Glasenapp says of this hasty and ill-fated union:

"The link was now forged that bound his future to a helpmate with
whom he had the smallest possible community of inner feeling. Beyond
doubt, he brought her that genuine affection which survived the
hardest trials it ever was put to; beyond doubt, the pretty, young,
and popular actress meant well by the ardent young conductor when she
joined her hand with his at a time of so little outward prospect;
beyond doubt she expected much from his abilities.... Any profounder
sense of the enormous artistic significance of her husband never
dawned upon her, either in this cloudy period or at a later date; and
though she made him loving sacrifices, she neither had the blissful
satisfaction of knowing to whom they were offered, nor of affording
the struggling artist a sympathetic ear in which to pour his deeper
woes. Wagner never forgot how she bore the trials of the next few
changeful years without a murmur; nevertheless, this precipitate
marriage of two natures so immiscible dragged after it an almost
endless chain of sorrows and internal conflicts."



     "To extricate myself from the petty commerce of the German

Minna Planer, as she was called, was the daughter of a spindle-maker,
and according to Praeger,[8] who knew her well, went on the stage
not because she was endowed with histrionic talent, but because it
was necessary for her to contribute to the support of her father's
family. Wagner had become engaged to her while at Magdeburg, and he
married her on Nov. 24, 1836, at Königsberg. He was twenty-three
years old and the wisdom of his marriage was what might have been
expected of a boy. From all the testimony it appears that the first
wife of Richard Wagner was a good, gentle, loving woman, devoted
to him in a mild, unimpassioned manner, and utterly incapable of
understanding him. At the outset of their married life, she was
almost as improvident as he, and the burden of debt which he had
accumulated at Magdeburg grew larger at Königsberg. Later at Riga
these two poor children lived in a house in the outskirts of a town
and had to take a cab whenever they went to the theatre!

[Footnote 8: "Wagner as I Knew Him," by Ferdinand Praeger, New York,

In later years Minna learned the meaning of economy, and she
struggled bravely to make both ends meet, when there was nothing
but ends. But never did she perceive the genius of her husband, and
for that reason she was always impatient with his dreams of great
achievements, when money could have been earned by prosaic labour
at the expense of hazy aspirations. A woman of tender eye and sweet
speech, she commanded the sympathy of Wagner's friends, and it was
indeed a fatal misfortune for this gentle dove that she was mismated
with an eagle. Certainly she suffered much and bore with patience,
not only the privations of domestic life in straitened circumstances,
but also the waywardness and eccentricities of a mind beyond her
comprehension. Praeger says:

"As years rolled by and the genius of Wagner assumed more definite
shape and grew in strength, she was less able to comprehend the
might of his intellect. To have written the 'Novice of Palermo'
at twenty-three and to have been received so cordially was to her
unambitious heart the zenith of success. More than that she could
not understand, nor did she ever realise the extent of the wondrous
gifts of her husband. After twenty years of wedded life it was much
the same. We were sitting at lunch in the trimly kept Swiss châlet at
Zurich in the summer of 1856, waiting for the composer of the then
completed 'Rienzi,' 'Dutchman,' 'Tannhäuser' and 'Lohengrin' to come
down from his scoring of the 'Nibelungen,' when in full innocence she
asked me, 'Now, honestly, is Richard such a great genius?' On another
occasion, when he was bitterly animadverting on his treatment by the
public, she said, 'Well, Richard, why don't you write something for
the gallery?'"

That there was another side to the story is certain. From the
beginning, though tender and considerate of his wife when at her
side, and fully awake to her excellencies, Wagner was a victim of
those irregularities of temperament which seem inseparable from
genius, especially musical genius. He was inconstant as the wind,
a rover, a faithless husband. His misdoings amounted to more than
peccadilloes. He was guilty of many liaisons and the Sybaritic
character of his self-indulgences increased as the years went by.
It is not possible to give the details of these secrets of Wagner's
life; but it must suffice to say that while Minna was unsuited to
him through her inability to understand him, she was more sinned
against than sinning. She was a faithful and devoted wife, patient
in adversity and modest in prosperity. It is impossible to say the
same of him as a husband. For twenty-five years they struggled along
together, and the history of their existence makes one sympathise
deeply with this sweet little woman. Enduring the most bitter
privations, she saw a husband, who could have earned a good living
by writing for the popular taste, deliberately refusing to do so
and following the promptings of what must have seemed to her the
wildest dreams. This same husband was also luxurious in habit, and
was always deeply in debt. The wolf was continually at the Wagner
door, even when the master had what to a less fastidious person would
have seemed abundance. Wagner, on the other hand, must have hungered
and thirsted for a companion who would understand his ideals and his
purposes, and be willing to wait with him for the triumph that was
sure to come. That these two ill-mated persons would separate was
almost inevitable. It may be briefly recorded at this point that they
did separate in August, 1861. Minna went to live in Dresden, where
she died on Jan. 25, 1866.

The grip of poverty in Königsberg seems to have strangled the voice
of Wagner's muse. He says in the Autobiography: "The year which
I spent in Königsberg was completely lost to my art by reason of
the pressure of petty cares. I wrote one solitary overture: 'Rule
Britannia.'" He wrote also about this time an overture entitled
"Polonia." The former is lost, but the Wagner family has the
manuscript of the latter. The state of the composer's mind, and the
actions to which it led are now best told in the "Communication to My

     "One strong desire then arose in me, and developed into an
     all-consuming passion: to force my way out from the paltry
     squalor of my situation. This desire, however, was busied
     only in the second line with actual life; its front rank
     made towards a brilliant course as artist. To extricate
     myself from the petty commerce of the German stage, and
     straightway try my luck in Paris: this, in a word, was the
     goal I set before me. A romance by H. König, 'Die Hohe
     Braut,' had fallen into my hands; everything which I read
     had only an interest for me when viewed in the light of
     its adaptability for an operatic subject: in my mood of
     that time, the reading of this novel attracted me the more,
     as it soon conjured up in my eyes the vision of a grand
     opera in five acts for Paris. I drafted a complete sketch
     and sent it direct to Scribe in Paris with the prayer that
     he would work it up for the Grand Opéra there and get me
     appointed for its composition. Naturally this project ended
     in smoke."

The history of Wagner's first attempt to reach the goal of the opera
composer of his day, the stage of the Grand Opéra in Paris, is worthy
of particular note. He despatched the manuscript and a letter
for Scribe to his brother-in-law, Friedrich Brockhaus, to send to
Paris. Hearing nothing, he wrote again six months later, and sent
to Scribe a copy of the score of "Das Liebesverbot" as a specimen
of his work. Scribe answered this letter courteously and expressed
interest in Wagner and his music. The composer again sent him a copy
of the scenario of "Die Hohe Braut," but put it into the post without
any stamps and so never heard of it again, nor received an answer
from Scribe. These facts were recorded in an old note book in which
Wagner made first draughts of his letters. The letter giving this
information was addressed to one Lewald, a Leipsic journalist who had
lived in Paris, and, after reciting the facts, Wagner asked him to
find out whether Scribe had received the second letter and whether
he was still favourably inclined. If so, Wagner said, he had another
operatic plan in his mind, the book of "Rienzi," which was just
the thing for Paris. This letter was published in the _Frankfurter
Zeitung_, and will be found quoted in Mr. Finck's "Wagner." Nothing
came of this correspondence, and Wagner was fated not to enter
Paris till some time later, and then to find it a city of continual

In the spring the Königsberg Theatre failed and again Wagner was out
of employment. Like many other theatrical folk, the moment his salary
stopped he was in straits. So once more he called upon Dorn for
help. This critic had written of the "Rule Britannia" overture that
it was a medley of Bach, Beethoven, and Bellini, but he still had
faith in the genius of Wagner. So through his influence Wagner was
appointed director of music in the theatre at Riga, on the Russian
side of the Baltic, under Karl von Holtei as manager. Wagner's wife
and her sister, Theresa Planer, were also engaged for the comedy
performances. Riga was a more prosperous town than either Magdeburg
or Königsberg and at first Wagner, delighted with the higher salary,
set to work with evident pleasure. The material in the company was
good, and the composer was sufficiently interested in the singers
to write several airs for them. He also conducted ten orchestral
concerts, at which his overtures, "Rule Britannia" and "Columbus,"
were performed. He began to write a comic opera entitled "Die
Glückliche Bärenfamilie" ("The Happy Bear Family") for which he found
the material in a story in the "Arabian Nights." "I had only composed
two numbers for this," he says, "when I was disgusted to find that I
was again on the high road to music-making à la Adam. My spirit, my
deeper feelings, were wounded by this discovery, and I laid aside the
work in horror. The daily studying and conducting of Auber's, Adam's,
and Bellini's music contributed its share to a speedy undoing of my
frivolous delight in such an enterprise."

That inexpressible dissatisfaction with the extant state of the
theatre, which finally made Wagner the reformer of the lyric drama,
was already at work. The purely commercial spirit of the play-house
was rapidly becoming intolerably antagonistic to him. He held
himself aloof from the actors. He lived far away from the theatre.
He shut himself up within himself, and he began to cherish dreams
of breaking the sordid bondage of the German stage and reaching out
into a broader and more vigorous artistic atmosphere. He laboured
assiduously at Riga for good performances. The manager begged him not
to overwork the singers, but the singers liked his enthusiasm and
seconded his efforts. At this time, in his unsettled state of mind,
he worshipped Bellini, and exalted the Italian song above all other
forms of operatic music. He had "Norma" performed for his benefit on
Dec. 11, 1837. He wrote articles praising Bellini, and his enemies
delighted to quote these forty years later as evidence of Wagner's
inconsistency. This undeveloped youth of twenty-four was groping for
the path toward which his genius impelled him. That he could not find
it at once was not remarkable. He needed the discipline of a larger
experience and a closer contact with the great world. As yet he had
been but playing in the nursery. His first pointed lessons were about
to be received.

In the spring of 1839 his contract with Holtei expired. He could
not find employment. He even wrote to the director of the theatre
offering to return as assistant director or copyist, in fact, to do
anything except, as he ironically said, black boots or carry water.
Nothing came of all this, and debts began to press heavily on this
most improvident of men. He had a grand opera partly written. It was
made on the Meyerbeerian last, and that was fashionable in Paris.
Thither he determined to go. But when he endeavoured to leave Riga,
he could not get a passport because of his debts. So with his wife
and his dog, he stole away like a thief in the night. Minna went
across the border into Germany disguised as the wife of a lumberman.
Wagner himself was aided by a Königsberg friend, Abraham Möller, who
hid him in an empty sentry box till he could slip past the pickets
on the boundary line. This same Möller went with him to the port of
Pillau, where he, his wife, and his dog embarked on a sailing vessel
for London, thence to descend upon Paris.[9] Paris was to be assailed
with one opera completed and another half done. This second work was
"Rienzi." During the years of struggle at Magdeburg, Königsberg,
and Riga, while searching for material for a grand opera book, he
had read Bulwer's novel, "Rienzi," and the subject seemed to him to
be promising. The grandeur of the plan and the opportunities for
operatic effects fired his mind, and in the summer of 1838 he began
the libretto. At Riga, when he was holding himself aloof from the
surroundings of the theatre, he was at work composing the music, and
in the spring of 1839 the first two acts were finished. He had aimed
to make this an imposing work, too grand in plan for production at a
provincial German theatre. So it was with this uncompleted score that
he put to sea, a sea far vaster than he at the time imagined it to
be. For before leaving Riga he had fallen upon Heine's version of the
legend of the "Flying Dutchman," and this sea voyage was to make the
story vital in his mind and inspire him with the music for the first
work in which the Wagner of the immortal dramas was revealed. He says
in the autobiography:

"This voyage I never shall forget as long as I live; it lasted three
and a half weeks and was rich in mishaps. Thrice did we endure the
most violent of storms, and once the captain found himself compelled
to put into a Norwegian haven. The passage among the crags of Norway
made a wonderful impression on my fancy; the legends of the Flying
Dutchman, as I heard them from the seamen's mouths, were clothed for
me in a distinct and individual colour, borrowed from the adventures
of the ocean through which I was then passing."

[Footnote 9: Mr. Finck, who relates these facts, obtained them
from articles in the _Frankfurter Zeitung_ and from some of Dorn's

But at length London was reached, and Wagner, Minna, and the great
Newfoundland dog were set down at a comfortless little hotel in Old
Compton Street, Soho, a dozen doors from Wardour Street, with the
purlieus of Seven Dials on one side of them and Oxford and Regent
Streets within a few minutes' walk.[10] His first experience in the
capital of Great Britain was the loss of his magnificent Newfoundland
dog, to which he was much attached. Fortunately the intelligent beast
found its master. Wagner was not far away from the house in which
Weber had lived when he was in London, and "to that shrine he made
his first pilgrimage." He visited the Naval Hospital at Greenwich and
was duly impressed by the sight of the shipping on the Thames. He
went over the hospital ship _Dreadnaught_, one of Nelson's old fleet,
and he visited Westminster Abbey, where he paid special attention to
the Poets' Corner. Standing before the statue of Shakespeare, he was
carried away into a long reverie on the manner in which this master
had triumphed by throwing aside all the rules of the old classic
writers, and Praeger sees in this one of the germs of Wagner's daring
reforms. The reverie ended when the patient Minna plucked him by
the sleeve and said, "Come, dear Richard, you have been standing
here for twenty minutes like one of these statues and not uttering a
word." And that was about the substance of Wagner's first experience
in London. He says in his autobiography that nothing interested him
so much as the city itself and the Houses of Parliament. He did not
visit a single theatre.

[Footnote 10: Praeger is the only authority for the incidents of
Wagner's first visit to London.]

He now set out for Paris by way of Boulogne, and at the latter
place he tarried four weeks, because the most influential man in
the operatic world of France, Giacomo Meyerbeer, was there enjoying
his summer rest. It was of vital importance to Wagner to make the
acquaintance of this great personage, and he did not think that the
expense of a month's stay was too much to pay for the advantage.
Meyerbeer, who was not averse to playing the dictator, received the
poor German kindly, and after reading the libretto of "Rienzi,"
praised it highly. He was also flattering in his commendation of the
two acts of the music which Wagner had finished. He was dubious as to
the future of this young man, who had nothing on which to live while
he lingered about the gates of the mighty in Paris, but he promised
to do what he could for him. He said that letters of introduction
were well enough in their way, but that persistence was the most
valuable lever to success. With this advice he gave Wagner letters to
Anténor Jolly, director of the Théâtre Renaissance, which produced
musical works as well as plays; to Léon Pillet, director of the Grand
Opéra; to Schlesinger, the publisher, and to Habeneck, the famous

Armed with these letters, and with that naïve trust in the future
which deserted him only in his equally naïve periods of utter
despondency, Wagner set out for Paris, where he arrived in September,
1839. Only twenty-six years old, he had already produced two operas,
partly written a third, and conceived the germ of a fourth, which
was to make him famous. His experiences in Paris were to be of the
bitterest kind, but of the most vital importance to his future
career. He remained in the French capital till April 7, 1842, and
in the intervening time disclosed himself as an artist, although as
a man he nearly starved. Out of trials and tribulations are great
spirits moulded. It was necessary for Wagner to despair of pecuniary
success before he found the true path to immortal fame.



     "I, poor artist, swore eternal fidelity to my

On arriving in Paris Wagner took a furnished apartment in the Rue de
la Tonnelerie. This was in an unfrequented quarter, but the house
was said to have been occupied once by Molière. The apartment was
cheap, a matter of much moment to Wagner. The young man at once
started out with his letters from Meyerbeer. They not only secured
him an offer for the immediate performance of one of his operas,
but they also opened many doors to him and insured him a pleasant
welcome. It is quite true, as Jullien[11] notes, that he owed all he
ever accomplished in Paris to Meyerbeer and the men to whom he had
Meyerbeer's letters. In the beginning everything was most promising.
The director of the Renaissance agreed to accept "Das Liebesverbot,"
and Dumersan, a maker of vaudevilles, was set to work translating
it. Schlesinger, the publisher, induced Habeneck, the conductor of
the Conservatoire concerts, to promise to try a new overture, which
Wagner had just completed. This was the work afterward known as
"Eine Faust Ouvertüre." Wagner, delighted with his prospects, moved
to No. 25, Rue du Helder, in the "heart of elegant and artistic

[Footnote 11: "Richard Wagner, His Life and Works," by Adolphe
Jullien; translated by Florence Percival Hall. 2 vols. Boston, the
J.B. Millet Co.]

But suddenly the horizon became overclouded. The Conservatory
orchestra did, indeed, try the overture, and Schlesinger inserted in
his paper, the _Gazette Musicale_, a paragraph saying, "An overture
by a young German composer of very remarkable talent, M. Wagner,
has just been rehearsed by the orchestra of the Conservatoire, and
has won unanimous applause. We hope to hear it immediately and we
will render an account of it." As a matter of fact, the Conservatory
orchestra had not been able to make head or tail of the overture,
and the Théâtre de la Renaissance, instead of producing the
"Liebesverbot," suddenly failed and the manager closed its doors.
Quite disheartened by these reverses Wagner laid aside the "Faust"
music, which he had intended to make the first movement of a "Faust"
symphony. In 1855, when he was living at Zurich, he altered this
familiar and admired overture to its present form.

Adolphe Jullien in his life of Wagner says that "If we have only an
overture instead of a complete score of 'Faust,' we are indebted for
this loss to the gold-laced musicians of the Conservatoire in 1840."
Jullien appears to have supposed that Wagner contemplated an opera,
but this is certainly an error. On Jan. 1, 1855, Franz Liszt wrote
to Wagner and told of the completion of his "Faust" symphony. In his
reply to this letter Wagner said:

"It is an absurd coincidence that just at this time I have been taken
with a desire to remodel my old 'Faust' overture. I have made an
entirely new score, have rewritten the instrumentation throughout,
have made many changes, and have given more expansion and importance
to the middle portion (second motive). I shall give it in a few days
at a concert here under the title of 'A Faust Overture.' The motto
will be:

     'Der Gott, der mir im Busen wohnt,
     Kann tief mein Innerstes erregen;
     Der über allen meinen Kräften thront,
     Er kann nach aussen nichts bewegen;
     Und so ist mir das Dasein eine Last,
     Der Tod erwünscht, das Leben mir verhasst!'[12]

But I shall not publish it in any case."

[Footnote 12:

     The God that in my breast is owned
     Can deeply stir the inner sources;
     The God above my powers enthroned,
     He cannot change external forces,
     So, by the burden of my days oppressed,
     Death is desired, and Life a thing unblest!
       Goethe's "_Faust_," Act I, Scene 4.

Bayard Taylor's translation.]

In December of the same year, nevertheless, he wrote to Liszt
confessing that the fiasco of the work was "a purifying and wholesome
punishment" for having published it in spite of his better judgment.

Another failure of the unfortunate Paris period was in connection
with a grand entertainment which Parisians were organising in aid of
the Poles. The entertainment was to consist of the performance of an
opera, on the subject of the Duc de Guise, the libretto written by "a
noble amateur and set to music by the young Flotow." Wagner took the
score of his overture, "Polonia," to M. Duvinage, the director of the
orchestra, but this gentleman had no time to examine it. It may as
well be recorded here that this overture was lost for forty years,
and after passing through various hands came to rest in 1881 in the
possession of M. Pasdeloup, the famous Parisian conductor, from whom
Wagner recovered it. He had it played in that year to celebrate his
wife's birthday.

Wagner was now in dire distress. He had expended all his resources,
and he could not pay for the furniture of his apartment, which he
had bought on credit. Schlesinger came to his aid once more, and
took from him several articles for the _Gazette Musicale_. The
first of these, "On German Music," appeared on July 12 and 26,
1840. A translation of it will be found in Vol. VII. of W. Ashton
Ellis's edition of Wagner's prose works. Schlesinger had also at
this time bought the score of Donizetti's "La Favorita," and Wagner
was set to work making a piano arrangement of the music. Through
the help of M. Dumersan, who had begun the abandoned translation of
"Das Liebesverbot" into French, he obtained a commission to write
music to a vaudeville, entitled "La Déscente de la Courtille,"
which Dumersan and Dupeuty had written. Gasparini[13] says that
the bouffe singers of that time were incapable of singing anything
more difficult than the music of "La Belle Hélène" and they quickly
decided that the score "of the young German was quite impossible of
execution." Gasparini also notes that there was one chanson, "Allons
à la Courtille," which had "its hour of celebrity." M. Jullien is
probably right in saying that this song was not the work of Wagner,
and Mr. Edward Dannreuther in his excellent article in Grove's
"Dictionary of Music" says that it has not been traced. He next
endeavoured to earn a few francs by writing songs. He made a setting
of a translation of Heinrich Heine's "Two Grenadiers," but it was not
so good as that made by Schumann in the previous year, and singers
did not take to it kindly. He composed also at this time "L'Attente"
by Victor Hugo, "Mignonne" by Ronsard, and "Dors, mon enfant." Much
as we like these songs now, at the time of their composition Wagner
could not get them sung or published. "Mignonne" was printed in the
_Gazette Musicale_, and with two others was afterward reprinted in
Lewald's _Europa_. Wagner wrote the editor a letter begging that he
might be paid for them at once. They brought him in from $2 to $3.75

[Footnote 13: R. Wagner, par A. de Gasparini, Paris, 1866.]

It was in the midst of these trials that Wagner wrote his famous
story entitled "A Pilgrimage to Beethoven," which attracted the
attention of Hector Berlioz. In a review of a concert organised by
the _Gazette Musicale_ the distinguished Frenchman spoke of the
articles in that paper, and said: "For a long time to come will be
read one by M. Wagner, entitled 'A Pilgrimage to Beethoven.'" As
M. Jullien says, "Little did Berlioz know how truly he spoke." In
the intervals of his labours at breadwinning Wagner worked at his
"Rienzi." But he sank deeper and deeper into the mire of poverty.
His few friends, Laube, Heine, and Schlesinger, could do little to
cheer him, though the last named furnished him with the means of
life. Berlioz, whom he had met, was not sympathetic to him, though he
always cherished a high regard for the Frenchman's talent.

Schlesinger again came to the rescue and decided to produce at one
of the _Gazette Musicale_ concerts a composition by Wagner. The
"Columbus" overture was accordingly thus performed on Feb. 4, 1841.
Schumann made a note of the performance in his paper, and Wagner,
encouraged by this remembrance of him in Germany, sent the score to
London to Jullien. But the manuscript, postage unpaid, came home
to its maker, and he was too poor to take it from the postman.
Accordingly that official put it back into his bag and walked off
with it. And that was the last that was seen of this overture.
Wagner's cup of misery seemed now to be brimming over. He abandoned
all hope of success in the volatile French capital. He fled from his
accustomed haunts, shunned the society of musicians, all mercenary
and insincere as they seemed, and sought that of scholars and
literary men, who at least had artistic ideals. He gave up all hope
of having "Rienzi" produced at the Grand Opéra, and turned his weary
eyes toward Dresden. There was an opera with an inspiring history; a
theatre with a long established routine; and a company which included
such artists as Tichatschek and Schroeder-Devrient.

Meyerbeer was master of the operatic world in Paris, and Wagner, who
found him amiable as a man, could not sympathise with the blatant
theatricalism of his "Les Huguenots" and "Robert le Diable." Halévy,
he felt, had suffered his pristine enthusiasm to fade before the easy
temptation of monetary success. Auber, whom he had once loved for his
"Muette," he now despised for his unblushing search after popular
approval. Only Berlioz pleased him, and he not fully. "He differs
by the whole breadth of heaven," he says in the autobiography,
"from his Parisian colleagues, for he makes no music for gold. But
he cannot write for the sake of purest art; he lacks all sense of
beauty. He stands completely isolated upon his own position; by his
side he has nothing but a troupe of devotees, who, shallow, and
without the smallest spark of judgment, greet in him the creator
of a brand new musical system and completely turn his head;--the
rest of the world avoids him as a madman." In Paris he met Liszt,
who was afterward his best friend, but at first was not pleasing to
him. He heard him play a fantasia on airs from "Robert le Diable"
at a concert in honour of Beethoven, and his sincere German heart
was outraged at such desecration. He felt that the virtuoso was
dependent on the public fancy and shallowness, and he compared his
own independence with this state in an article entitled "Du Métier de
Virtuose et de l'Indépendence des Compositeurs: Fantasie Esthétique
d'un Musicien," which he published in the _Gazette Musicale_ of Oct.
18, 1840.

On Nov. 19 of the same year the score of "Rienzi" was completed, and
on Dec. 4 he sent it to Von Lüttichau, the director of the opera at
Dresden, accompanied by two letters, one to the director himself and
the other to Friedrich August II, King of Saxony. Neither of these
letters seems to have effected anything, and Wagner then applied to
Meyerbeer, who on returning to Paris in the summer of 1840 had found
his young friend in dire distress. Meyerbeer wrote to the intendant,
Von Lüttichau. "Herr Richard Wagner of Leipsic," he said, "is a young
composer who has not only a thorough musical education, but who
possesses much imagination, as well as general literary culture,
and whose predicament certainly merits in every way sympathy in his
native land." Three months after the writing of this letter Wagner
received word that his opera had been accepted at Dresden, but it
was sixteen months later when it was produced. Although he knew
that in Fischer, the chorusmaster, Reissiger, the conductor, and
Tichatschek, the tenor, who saw golden opportunities in the title
rôle, he had friends at court, yet he suffered intense anxiety during
the period between the acceptance and the production of the work.
The correspondence with Fischer and Heine well shows the extent of

[Footnote 14: R. Wagner: Letters to Uhlig, Fischer, and Heine.
London, 1890.]

Meanwhile Meyerbeer, wishing to do something to give immediate help
to the unfortunate young man, placed him in communication with Léon
Pillet, the director of the Grand Opéra. "I had already," says Wagner
in the autobiography, "provided myself for this emergency with an
outline plot. The 'Flying Dutchman,' whose acquaintance I had made
upon the ocean, had never ceased to fascinate my phantasy; I had also
made the acquaintance of H. Heine's remarkable version of this legend
in a number of his 'Salon'; and it was especially his treatment of
the redemption of this Ahasuerus of the seas--borrowed from a Dutch
play under the same title--that placed within my hands all the
material for turning the legend into an opera subject." Wagner rushed
to Pillet with this sketch for the book of the "Flying Dutchman," and
the suggestion that a French text-book be prepared for him to set to

Pillet accepted the sketch and there was much talk about the choice
of a person to make a suitable French arrangement. Suddenly Meyerbeer
left Paris again, and no sooner was his back turned than Pillet told
the young German that he liked "Le Vaisseau-Fantôme" so well that
he would be glad to sell it to a composer to whom he had long ago
promised a libretto. Wagner naturally declined to accede to such a
proposition and asked for the return of his manuscript. But Pillet
was unwilling to part with it. Wagner left the manuscript in his
hands, hoping that Meyerbeer would return and straighten out the
affair. Pursued by creditors and harassed by want, he now left Paris
and went to reside in the suburb of Meudon. Here he heard by chance
that his sketches for "Der Fliegende Holländer" had been placed in
the hands of M. Paul Foucher for arrangement, and that he was in a
fair way to be cheated out of his book. So in the end he accepted
$100 for it, and was thankful to get that.

"Le Vaisseau-Fantôme," libretto by Foucher and Revoil, music by
Pierre Louis Phillipe Dietsch, chorusmaster and afterward conductor
at the opera, was produced Nov. 9, 1842. It was a distinguished
failure and was speedily consigned to oblivion. Meanwhile Wagner,
who was not forbidden by the terms of his agreement with Pillet to
write a German book of his own after his sketches, sat down to pen
the text of "Der Fliegende Holländer," which still lives. In seven
weeks he had written the whole work except the overture, and then his
$100 were gone, and he had to revert to hack work to earn bread. He
returned to Paris and lived most humbly at No. 10 Rue Jacob, where
he made piano scores of Halévy's "Guitarréro" and "La Reine de

It was at this time, too, in the beginning of the year 1841, that he
wrote his pathetic sketch, "The End of a Musician in Paris," in which
he delineated his own hopes and disappointments, and made the poor
man die with the words, "I believe in God, Mozart, and Beethoven."
When the score of the "Dutchman" was completed, he hastened to send
it to his fatherland, but from Munich and Leipsic came the answer
that it was not suitable to Germany. "Fool that I was!" he says;
"I had fancied it was fitted for Germany alone, since it is struck
on chords that can only vibrate in the German breast." Once more
he turned for help to the musical dictator, Meyerbeer, who was in
Berlin. He sent the new work to him with a request that he get it
taken up by the opera in that city. The opera was accepted speedily,
but there was no prospect of immediate production. Nor did Wagner see
any prospects of any kind, except starvation, in Paris.

All through the winter of 1841-42 he hoarded his money in the hope
of going to Germany for the production of his "Rienzi." In the same
winter began the voluminous correspondence with his Dresden friends,
Wilhelm Fischer and Ferdinand Heine. The former was addressed
ceremoniously in the first letters as a new acquaintance. The latter
was an old friend of the Wagner family. In his letters to these
two men the poet-composer poured out the tortured anxiety of his
soul over the promised production of "Rienzi." He gave invaluable
suggestions as to the cast and the performance. He besought first one
and then the other of the friends to let him know how and when the
work would at length be given. He wrote to the artists, Tichatschek
and Schroeder-Devrient. They paid no attention to him. Who was he,
this unknown young composer, to trouble the darlings of the public?
He grovelled before them and they spurned him. Reissiger's "Adèle de
Foix" must be given before "Rienzi," for Reissiger was the conductor
at Dresden. Then came Halévy's "Guitarréro," which Wagner knew well
indeed. And finally when "Rienzi" seemed likely to get a hearing,
Mme. Schroeder-Devrient decided that she needed a revival of Gluck's
"Armida." Poor Wagner! He wrote of Schroeder-Devrient to Heine:

     "I believe I have already written her a dozen letters:
     that she has not sent me a single word in reply does not
     surprise me very much, because I know how some people
     detest letter-writing; but that she has never sent me
     indirectly a word or a hint disquiets me greatly. Great
     Heavens! so very much depends upon her; it would be
     truly humane on her part if she would only send me this
     message--perhaps by her chambermaid--'Calm yourself! I am
     interested in your cause!'"

At length patience became impossible. He was eager to be on the spot
and to exert his personal influence. Furthermore he wished his wife
to take the baths at Teplitz. So on April 7, 1842, he was able to
turn his face from Paris, the scene of so much achievement, so much
disappointment, and move toward his native land. "For the first
time," he says at the end of the autobiographic sketch, "I saw the
Rhine. With hot tears in my eyes, I, poor artist, swore eternal
fidelity to my German fatherland." But a little later the poor
artist's name was on every tongue, in every print; and the great
Wagner war broke over Germany. For genius always arouses opposition,
and there are few who can follow the seven league strides of a
creative mind.



     "Before the world of modern art I now could hope no more
     for life."--WAGNER

The excursion to Teplitz in the early summer of 1842 for his wife's
health was of great importance in the development of Richard Wagner,
for it was there and then that he completed the outline of the book
of "Tannhäuser." When he had finished "Der Fliegende Holländer," he
searched for a new subject. That he had not yet discovered in what
direction his genius called him is demonstrated by the fact that he
was attracted by the story of the conquest of Apulia and Sicily by
Manfred, the son of the Emperor Friedrich II. He made a plan for a
book to be called "Die Sarazener." In this Mme. Schroeder-Devrient
was to have the rôle of a half-sister of Manfred, a prophetess, who
led the Saracens to victory and secured Manfred's coronation. The
plot was shown to Mme. Schroeder-Devrient some years later, but it
did not please her, and the work was dropped. And now there fell
into Wagner's hands a version of the "Tannhäuser" legend, and his
mind went flying back to Hoffmann's "Sängerkrieg," which he had
read in his youth. He started to run down the different versions of
the story, and in so doing came upon the legends of "Parzival" and
"Lohengrin." But it was the "Tannhäuser" legend which first absorbed
him, and at once he began the plan which he completed at Teplitz.

The general rehearsals for "Rienzi" began in Dresden in July, for
in spite of the anxiety of Wagner and his lack of information, the
preparations for the production of his work had been going on very
well. The summer past, the rehearsals were again pushed forward, and
the composer found valuable allies in Tichatschek, who was enamoured
of the title rôle, and Fischer, who saw the power and splendour of
the glowing score. For though "Rienzi" is a work entirely opposed
to the true Wagnerian methods and style, it is one of the greatest
creations of the real French school, to which it strictly belongs.
So on Oct. 20, 1842, the first of the Wagnerian works which still
hold the stage, was produced at the Dresden opera and Wagner awoke
the next morning to find himself famous. The performance was an
almost startling success. Singers, orchestra, public, and critics
were alike amazed and overwhelmed by the enormous breadth of style,
mastery of technic, and maturity of methods shown in the work.
Although the performance occupied six hours, the enthusiasm of the
audience was not abated. The next morning Wagner went to the theatre
to indicate the cuts which should be made in the over-long work,
and was met with a storm of protests by the singers. Tichatschek
declared that he would not spare a measure. "It is heavenly!" he
exclaimed. A second and a third performance were given with growing
receipts. At the third Reissiger resigned the conductor's bâton to
the young composer, and the public went wild with approval. All the
wretchedness of Paris was gone and forgotten. The star of genius was
in the ascendant; the Rhine had been Wagner's Rubicon.

In subsequent performances the work was divided into two parts, the
first and second acts being given on one evening, and the other three
on another. It was five years, however, before the opera travelled
as far as the stage of the opera at Berlin. Thence it went out into
all the world. But it was the end of what may be called Wagner's
first artistic period. The work was planned and executed on the
conventional lines of the Meyerbeerian grand opera, and the music
was a compound of French and Italian styles, with here and there a
burst of the real Wagner of the future. The artistic convictions
which were to develop into a complete theory of the music drama
in the mind of Wagner had come to him in the composition of the
"Flying Dutchman," and this work became the starting point of what is
commonly called his second period, in which he produced it, together
with "Tannhäuser" and "Lohengrin."

The winter at Dresden passed happily, for the young composer was
enjoying the first fruits of success. Heinrich Laube, the old friend
of Wagner and editor of the _Journal for the Polite World_, asked the
composer to furnish material for an autobiographic sketch, and this
Wagner wrote. This sketch will be found in the first volume of the
collected prose writings of the master. It ends with the start from
Paris for Dresden. The music of "Rienzi" began to be heard on the
concert stage, and the name of Wagner, to be noised about as that of
a man of high promise. It would have been extremely easy for him to
achieve pecuniary success by writing more works on the popular lines
of "Rienzi," but it was not in the man to sacrifice his artistic
conscience to public favour. Already the ideas which were to make
him famous in time, but which were first to throw musical Europe
into a ferment of dispute, had taken firm possession of his mind. In
March, 1843, August Roeckel, second music director at Dresden, and a
lifelong friend of Wagner, wrote to Ferdinand Praeger in London:

     "Henceforth I drop myself into a well, because I am going
     to speak of the man whose greatness overshadows that of all
     other men I have ever met, either in France or England--our
     friend Richard Wagner. I say advisedly, our friend, for
     he knows you from my description as well as I do. You
     cannot imagine how the daily intercourse with him develops
     my admiration for his genius. His earnestness in art is
     religious; he looks upon the drama as a pulpit from which
     the people should be taught, and his views on a combination
     of the different arts for that purpose open up an exciting
     theory, as new as it is ideal."

This theory of a combination in one organic whole, of all the arts
tributary to the drama, each part to be as important, as essential as
the other, was the theory which Wagner now began to practice, which
he first attempted to illustrate in his "Flying Dutchman," and which
he subsequently preached in his principal prose writings. It was the
theory which met with active and obstinate opposition from those who
either would not or could not climb to Wagner's artistic altitude,
and who preferred to see in the opera nothing but a field for the
display of pretty vocal pieces and voices trained to sing them.
Wagner's theory made the music and the singing subordinate to the
dramatic design, transformed them from ultimate objects into means
of expression; and this was to his contemporaries a revolutionary
idea for which they were not prepared.

"Der Fliegende Holländer" was produced at the Dresden opera on
January 2, 1843, with Mme. Schroeder-Devrient as Senta, and Wagner
in the conductor's chair. The work proved to be a disappointment to
the public, which had looked for another "Rienzi" with glittering
processions, splendid scenery, and groupings, and imposing action
coupled with brilliant music. The simple story and action of the
"Dutchman," interpreted largely by music of a purely emotional
character, was too serious for the Dresden audience, and at that
period for audiences elsewhere. To us of the present day this work
is the essence of simplicity, and much of its music seems trivially
light. But to the Germans of 1843 it was a most sombre tragedy.

"My friends," Wagner says, "were dismayed at the result; they seemed
anxious to obliterate this impression on them and the public by an
enthusiastic resumption of 'Rienzi.' I was myself in sufficiently ill
humour to remain silent and leave the 'Flying Dutchman' undefended."
The critics of the day were nonplussed by the total departure from
the recognised conventions of the contemporaneous stage, and they
talked a deal of nonsense about the lack of melody in the work, a
sort of nonsense which some old-fashioned persons have not done
talking even yet. But we must remember that this new work was an
artistic revelation; and the general public never likes these.
It desires only to be amused in the theatre, and only after much
struggling yields to the power of genius, and renders homage to true
works of art. Wagner himself realised that the general public could
not be looked to for support in his radical departure from the easy
path of tuneful dalliance, in which it was accustomed to travel. In
his "Communication to My Friends" he says:

     "From Berlin, where I was entirely unknown, I received from
     two utter strangers, who had been attracted towards me by
     the impression which 'The Flying Dutchman' had produced
     upon them, the first complete satisfaction which I had been
     permitted to enjoy, with the invitation to continue in the
     particular direction I had marked out. From this moment I
     lost more and more from sight the veritable public. The
     opinion of a few intelligent men took the place in my mind
     of the opinion of the masses, which can never be wholly
     apprehended, although it had been the object of my labour
     in my first attempts, when my eyes were not yet open to the

On May 22 the opera was given at Riga, and on June 5 at Cassel under
direction of the famous composer, violinist, and conductor, Ludwig
Spohr. The poem had been submitted to him and he had spoken of it
as a little masterpiece. He had sent for the music, and at once
decided to produce the work. It seems strange that Spohr, a composer
of tendencies so different from Wagner's and so old a man (he was
sixty-nine), should have been one of the first to perceive the power
of the new genius. But in a letter to his friend Lüders he wrote:

     "This work, though it comes near the boundary of the new
     romantic school _à la_ Berlioz, and is giving me unheard-of
     trouble with its immense difficulties, yet interests me in
     the highest degree since it is obviously the product of
     pure inspiration, and does not, like so much of our modern
     operatic music, betray in every bar the striving to make a
     sensation or to please. There is much creative imagination
     in it, its invention is thoroughly noble, and it is well
     written for the voices, while the orchestral part, though
     enormously difficult, and somewhat overladen, is rich in
     new effects and will certainly, in our large theatre, be
     perfectly clear and intelligible."[15]

[Footnote 15: Spohr quotes this letter in his "Autobiography."]

The completeness of the popular failure of the "Flying Dutchman"
may be estimated from the fact that after the first performances in
Dresden it disappeared from the _répertoire_ of that opera for twenty
years. It was produced in Berlin in 1844, and it was ten years after
that when it was heard again anywhere. Wagner himself did not realise
either the fulness or the significance of the failure of this work.
He had only begun to experiment with his reformatory ideas, and that
the public was not ready to accept them with acclaim could not have
amazed him, though it doubtless brought him from the rosy heights
of sanguinity down to the shadier levels of dull fact. To awaken
from a hopeful dream, however illusive, is painful; and Wagner was
momentarily shocked and hurt. But as he had not yet grasped all the
details of his own theories, so he failed to perceive the utterness
of the public inability to comprehend his dawning purposes. It was
not till after the production of his "Tannhäuser," which some of his
most ardent admirers still regard as poetically his noblest tragedy,
that he realised the solitariness of his genius, the shallowness of a
public trained up to be lightly pleased.

Meanwhile he was appointed to a very important professional post.
The deaths of Kapellmeister Morlacchi in 1841 and "Musik-director"
Rastrelli in 1842 had made two vacancies in the Dresden Theatre.
Wagner was one of those who applied for the secondary position at
a salary of 1200 thalers (about $900) a year. Von Lüttichau, the
Intendant (manager), excited by the success of "Rienzi," thought
he had found a rare jewel, and supported Wagner, with the result
that the composer was appointed Hofkapellmeister at 1500 thalers
(about $1125). The position of Hofkapellmeister also carried with
it life incumbency, and a pension on retirement. On January 10,
1843, he conducted Weber's "Euryanthe," this being the customary
public "trial" representation. He then made an unsuccessful trip
to Berlin to try to push his "Rienzi." Before the close of the
month his appointment was formally made, and his first duty was to
assist Hector Berlioz, who arrived in Dresden on February 1, in the
rehearsals for his concerts.[16]

[Footnote 16: In his letters from Germany Berlioz wrote of Wagner
thus: "As for the young Kapellmeister, Richard Wagner, who lived for
a long while in Paris without succeeding in making himself known
otherwise than as the author of some articles published in the
_Gazette Musicale_, he exercised his authority for the first time
in helping me in my rehearsals, which he did with zeal and a very
good will. The ceremony of his presentation to the orchestra and
taking the oath took place the day after my arrival, and I found
him in all the intoxication of a very natural joy. After having
undergone in France a thousand privations and all the trials to which
obscurity is exposed, Richard Wagner, on coming back to Saxony, his
native country, had the daring to undertake and the happiness to
achieve the composition of the text and music of an opera in five
acts ('Rienzi'). This work had a brilliant success in Dresden. It
was soon followed by 'The Flying Dutchman,' an opera in three acts,
of which also he wrote both text and music. Whatever opinion one
may hold of these works, it must be acknowledged that men capable
of accomplishing this double literary and musical task twice with
success are not common, and that M. Wagner has given enough proof
of his capacity to excite interest and to rivet the attention of
the world upon himself. This was very well understood by the King
of Saxony; and the day that he gave his first kapellmeister Richard
Wagner for a colleague, thus assuring the latter's subsistence, all
friends of art must have said to His Majesty what Jean Bart answered
Louis XIV. when he made him a commander of a squadron: 'Sire, you
have done well.'"]

He served seven years as conductor at Dresden and in that time
rehearsed and conducted works by Weber, Spohr, Spontini, Mendelssohn,
Mozart, Beethoven, Marschner, Gluck, and others, gaining an immense
amount of valuable experience. The arrangement of Gluck's "Iphigenie
in Aulis," which he made for the performance of February 22, 1847, is
published and approved by critical authorities.

Concerts were given by the court orchestra, and in these he conducted
the leading orchestral works, making a special study of the
Beethoven symphonies. To this labour he applied all the results of
his early studies of Beethoven, and his own ideas about conducting,
together with some thoughts formed in listening to the Conservatoire
concerts in Paris. The results of these studies and experiences he
subsequently embodied in a book called "Ueber das Dirigen." (On
Conducting). Among his other duties a certain amount of attention
had to be given to the music of the Hofkirche. The choir consisted
of fourteen men and twelve boys, and there was a full orchestra of
fifty, including trumpets and trombones. Wagner said to Mr. Edward
Dannreuther, "The echoes and reverberations in the building were
deafening. I wanted to relieve the hard-working members of the
orchestra and female voices, and introduce true Catholic church music
_a cappella_. As a specimen I prepared Palestrina's 'Stabat Mater,'
and suggested other pieces, but my efforts failed." Wagner was as
true an artist in the matter of church music as he was in that of the
stage, and he returned with joy to the glorious treasure-house of
Roman art; but he found his public just as unfit for that as for his
new dispensations in the drama.

Wagner was made conductor of the Liedertafel, a chorus of men
organised in 1839, and also of the Saengerfest of 1843. It took place
in July of that year and the composer wrote for it "Das Liebesmahl
der Apostel," a biblical scene. The story of this celebration of
the Lord's Supper by the Apostles was this: The disciples being
assembled for the feast, the Apostles arrive with the information
that the penalty of death has been prescribed for teaching the
Christian faith. Alarm fills every breast and the assembly prays
to the Father to send them the Holy Spirit. Heavenly voices sound
from above, telling the supplicants that their prayer has been
granted. Then follows a convulsion of nature, caused by the descent
of the Spirit, and the Apostles and Disciples go forth to preach
the Gospel. A chorus of forty men represented the Disciples, and
the heavenly voices were consigned to an invisible choir singing in
the dome of the building. This bit of stage management, repeated in
"Parsifal," was the only feature of the work that attracted special
attention.[17] The correspondent of the Paris _Gazette Musicale_,
Schlesinger's paper, wrote, "This last work, the conception of which
is most daring, has produced an extraordinary effect, and one which
it is impossible to describe. The King after the concert was over
summoned the young author to him, and testified his satisfaction in
the most affectionate terms." But the _Gazette Musicale's_ Dresden
correspondent trusted much to the effect of distance in magnifying
the size of a popular demonstration. Wagner himself thought well
of this work, and lamented in a letter to Liszt in 1852 that choral
societies did not perform it. But the truth is that the most
noticeable qualities of the composition are purely theatrical,
showing that Wagner's genius was entirely for the stage and not for
the concert platform.

[Footnote 17: In reality the most striking feature of this work is
the complete silence of the orchestra till the descent of the Holy
Ghost. The composition, however, is weak.]

Spontini, the aged composer of "La Vestale," visited Dresden when
his work was produced under Wagner's direction, and was treated
by the young conductor with great veneration in spite of his
troublesome demands for adherence to his old manner of performing
the work. Wagner also entered heart and soul into a project which
the Liedertafel had long cherished, namely, to carry the remains of
Weber from London to Germany and inter them in the family vault at
Dresden. The Liedertafel had raised some money by concerts, and now
after Wagner had overcome the opposition of both the King and the
Intendant, an operatic performance was given for the aid of the plan.
The receipts, added to the funds already secured and augmented by
the proceeds of a benefit given in Berlin by Meyerbeer, enabled the
Liedertafel to send Weber's oldest son to London for the remains.
He returned in December, and on the fourteenth of that month the
ceremony of reinterment took place. The funeral music was arranged
by Wagner from two passages in "Euryanthe," and he delivered the
funeral oration, which was pronounced a masterly effort. It may be
read in his collected prose writings. Taken all in all, the work of
Wagner outside of the field of operatic composition was important
while he was in Dresden. He certainly amazed the Germans themselves
by his puissant revelations of the possibilities of the Beethoven
symphonies, and his interpretations of the works of other composers
were so striking and so far out of the conventional ruts into which
the easy-going kapellmeisters of the country had fallen that a
coterie of bitter opponents to him arose. Among them he was known
as Wagner, the iconoclast, and this deceptive appellation, applied
to him because he was not satisfied with indolent mediocrity and
slothful error, clung to him for many years, an empty formula which
its users could not justify.

It was at this time that, smarting under the failure of his public
to understand him, and half inclined to return to the easy path of
popular success indicated by the triumph of "Rienzi," he showed
to Mme. Schroeder-Devrient the sketch of "Manfred." She, however,
was not pleased with the story and dissuaded him from attempting
to develop it. That his own artistic conscience was at work, too,
is shown by the words written by him in the "Communication to My

     "Through the happy change in the aspect of my outward
     lot; through the hopes I cherished of its even still more
     favourable development in the future; and finally through
     my personal, and in a sense, intoxicating contact with a
     new and well-inclined surrounding, a passion for enjoyment
     had sprung up within me, that led my inner nature, formed
     among the struggles and impressions of a painful past,
     astray from its own peculiar path. A general instinct that
     urges every man to take life as he finds it now pointed
     me, in my particular relations as artist, to a path which,
     on the other hand, must soon and bitterly disgust me.
     This instinct could only have been appeased in life on
     condition of my seeking as artist to wrest myself renown
     and pleasure by a complete subordination of my true nature
     to the demands of the public taste in art. I should have
     had to submit myself to the mode, and to speculation on its
     weaknesses; and here, on this point at least, my feeling
     showed me clearly that, with an actual entry on that path,
     I must inevitably be engulfed in my own loathing. Thus the
     pleasures of life presented themselves to my feeling in
     the shape alone of what our modern world can offer to the
     senses; and this again appeared attainable by me as artist
     solely along the direction which I had already learnt to
     recognise as the exploitation of our public art-morass. In
     actual life I was at like time confronted--in the person
     of a woman for whom I had a sincere admiration--with the
     phenomenon that a longing akin to my own could only imagine
     itself contented with the paltriest return of trivial love;
     a delusion so completely threadbare that it could never
     really mask its nature from the inner need.

     "If at last I turned impatiently away and owed the strength
     of my repugnance to the independence already developed in
     my nature both as artist and as man, so did that double
     revolt of man and artist inevitably take on the form of a
     yearning for appeasement in a higher, nobler element; an
     element which, in its contrast to the only pleasures that
     the material present reads in modern life and modern art,
     could but appear to me in the guise of a pure, chaste,
     virginal, unseizable and unapproachable ideal of love. What
     in fine could this love-yearning, the noblest thing my
     heart could feel, what other could it be than a longing for
     release from the present, for absorption into an element of
     endless love, a love denied to earth, and reachable through
     the gates of death alone? And what again at bottom could
     such a longing be but the yearning of love; aye, of a real
     love, seeded in the soil of fullest sentience--yet a love
     that could never come to fruitage on the loathsome soil
     of modern sentience? The above is an exact account of the
     mood in which I was when the unlaid ghost of 'Tannhäuser'
     returned again and urged me to complete his poem."

In these sentences one can easily find the mind of the Wagner who
wrote "Tristan und Isolde," and this statement of the mood of
the time explains why "Tannhäuser" stands more closely related
to "Tristan" than any other of the master's works. Urged now
by his artistic soul and dissuaded by the intuition of Mme.
Schroeder-Devrient from yielding to a dangerous impulse, he turned
once more to "Tannhäuser" and completed the work in April, 1844.
"With this work I penned my death warrant," he says; "before the
world of modern art I now could hope no more for life. This I felt;
but as yet I knew it not with full distinctness:--that knowledge I
was not to gain till later."

Every work that Wagner wrote was, at least in so far as it was
related to his own life, epoch-making; and the birth of "Tannhäuser"
marks a departure so wide that it must receive special consideration.
The great Wagner war began with the production of this drama, and
in it the composer's opponents first discovered those "unmusical"
traits which they celebrated for half a century, till the applause
of the civilised world drowned out their noise. The hint at the
dissatisfaction of the man with the "paltriest return of trivial
love" shows us that the inability of the good Minna to enter into the
lofty aspirations of her husband and her inevitable sympathy with the
false impulses urging toward swift pecuniary success had already set
at work in the mind of Wagner those dangerous longings which were
eventually to lead to their separation.



     "How curious I am to hear Liszt about it."--WAGNER

When "Tannhäuser" had been completed Wagner went to Marienbad to
spend the summer. While there he made the first drafts of his
"Meistersinger" and "Lohengrin." He says: "As with the Athenians a
merry satyr-play followed the tragedy, so, during that excursion, I
suddenly conceived the idea of a comic play which might follow my
minstrel's contest in the Wartburg as a significant satyr-play. This
was the Mastersingers of Nuremberg with Hans Sachs at their head.
Scarcely had I finished the sketch of this plot when the plan of
'Lohengrin' began to engage my attention, and left me no rest until
I had worked it out in detail." Returning to Dresden he devoted
himself to the preparations for the production of "Tannhäuser."
For, in spite of the failure of "Der Fliegende Holländer," the
Intendant had not wholly lost faith in the young man. August
Roeckel, who was now always at Wagner's side, urged so eloquently
the need of new scenery for this drama that painters were brought
from Paris. The best singers available were placed at Wagner's
disposal, and they vied with one another in studying this, to them,
almost incomprehensible work. Tichatschek had to have the music of
"Tannhäuser" lowered for him. Johanna Wagner, the daughter of the
composer's brother Albert, was specially engaged for Elizabeth, and
Schroeder-Devrient took Venus, while Mitterwurzer was the Wolfram.
Wagner wrote an explanation of his poem, and placed it at the head
of the libretto, which was sold at the door. On Oct. 19, 1845, the
work was performed for the first time. The opening scene went for
nothing. Schroeder-Devrient, who did not like the music of Venus,
sang it badly, and the audience lost the entire significance of the
episode. The ensuing scene went well and the popular septet at the
end of the act gained the composer a recall. The march in the second
act pleased, but the contest in the hall of song dragged listlessly.
The evening star song was liked, but then came the true Wagner, the
Wagner of the uncompromising music drama. The return of Tannhäuser
and his despairing narrative were wholly lost on the audience. The
public was unable to understand the aims of a man who, having a
heroic tenor on the stage in a grand situation, would not write a
pealing aria for him, but persisted in making him tell a story in a
long declamatory recitative. The master's intent to put the dramatic
situation before them was not discerned. All that was seen was
that he would not write a pretty song when he might have done so.
"Tannhäuser" reached its fourth performance on Nov. 2. The following
day Wagner wrote to his friend Carl Galliard in Berlin, sending him a
copy of the score:

     "I have gained a big action with my 'Tannhäuser.' Let me
     give you a very short account of a few of the facts. Owing
     to the hoarseness of some of the singers, the second
     performance was played a week after the first; this was
     very bad, for in the long interval ignorance and erroneous
     and absurd views, fostered by my enemies, who exerted
     themselves vigorously, had full scope for swaggering
     about; and when the moment of the second performance at
     length arrived, my opera was on the point of failing; the
     house was not well filled; opposition! prejudice! Luckily,
     however, all the singers were as enthusiastic as ever;
     intelligence made a way for itself, and the third act,
     somewhat shortened, was especially successful; after the
     singers had been called out, there was a tumultuous cry
     for me. I have now formed a nucleus among the public; at
     the third performance there was a well-filled house and an
     enthusiastic reception of the work. After every act the
     singers and the author were tumultuously applauded; in the
     third act at the words, 'Heinrich, du bist erlöst,' the
     house resounded with an outbreak of enthusiasm. Yesterday
     at length the fourth performance took place before a house
     crammed to suffocation; after every act the singers were
     called out, and after them on each occasion the author;
     after the second act there was a regular tumult. Whenever
     I show myself people greet me enthusiastically. My dear
     Galliard, this is indeed a rare success, and under the
     circumstances one for which I scarcely hoped."

But in a short time Wagner realised that all the applause was for
the popular numbers in his work, and for the stage pictures and
ensembles. The drama as a whole had missed fire. The public did not
know what Wagner designed. The ethical meaning of his play was hidden
from the people. Its artistic purport was undiscerned. The public
still went to the theatre to see the pretty pictures and hear the
pretty tunes. Of the conception of an opera as the highest form of
poetic drama they were as ignorant as they had ever been. A few years
later Wagner, in recalling this, wrote in the "Communication to My

     "The public had shown me plainly by its enthusiastic
     reception of 'Rienzi' and by the colder treatment of
     the 'Dutchman,' what I must offer it to win approval.
     Its expectations I disappointed utterly. Confused and
     dissatisfied it left the first performance of 'Tannhäuser.'
     I was overwhelmed by a feeling of complete isolation.
     The few friends who heartily sympathised with me were
     themselves so depressed by my painful position that the
     perception of this sympathetic ill-humour was the only
     friendly sign about me."

From this time it is possible to trace two features in the career
of Wagner. The first was a ceaseless effort to spread by polemical
writings the meaning of his doctrines, and the second was a somewhat
reckless determination to abide by them, come what might. Wagner has
been charged with grave neglect of the practical affairs of life.
He was interminably in debt. He borrowed money right and left, and
seemed to entertain an idea that the world ought to support such a
genius as he while he was pursuing his vast projects. This was not
exactly the vein of Wagner's thought, though his reckless methods of
expression might easily justify the belief that it was. The man was
aflame with the fire of his own genius. He knew what it was in him to
produce, and he rebelled bitterly against the constant pressure of
his daily needs to turn him aside, to force him to write pot-boilers
and abandon his vast conceptions. That a man with such an artistic
conscience as Wagner's could not compromise we can easily understand;
and the struggle of the ensuing years began with the decision to
bring the public to him, and not to descend to the flowery level on
which it reposed.

Criticism of Wagner's writings at this time was of the most
discouraging sort. In Dresden, for instance, the leading commentator
was one Schladebach. This gentleman was, perhaps, a perfectly honest
critic, but he was incompetent to discern the importance of a
departure from the beaten path. He constituted himself the champion
of classicism, for which poor conventionality is so often and so
easily mistaken. When a number of famous masters have laid down the
plan of opera, it is extremely confusing to a poor critic to have a
stranger appear and propose a wholly different method of treating
the form. Schladebach was incapable of understanding the theories
and aims of Wagner; so he praised whatever was good according to
the old models, and condemned what departed from them. He was the
correspondent of the leading papers of many German cities, and
consequently the belief was spread abroad that, while this man Wagner
had some talent, he was unpractical and hopelessly eccentric. The
managers paid no attention to him, in many cases they did not even
look at the scores which he sent them.

Robert Schumann, who went to live in Dresden in the fall of 1844,
wrote to Dorn in 1846, "I wish you could see 'Tannhäuser'; it
contains deeper, more original, and altogether an hundredfold
better things than his previous operas--at the same time a good
deal that is musically trivial. On the whole, Wagner may become of
great importance and significance to the stage, and I am sure he
is possessed of the needful courage." Unfortunately the pressure
of the general opinion of the time proved to be too strong even
for Schumann, and a few years later he wrote that Wagner was "not
a good musician." Spohr, who produced "Tannhäuser" in 1853, wrote,
"The opera contains much that is new and beautiful, also several
ugly attacks on one's ears." In another place he complains of
the "absence of definite rhythm and the frequent lack of rounded
periods." In none of the contemporaneous criticism, except that
written by Wagner's intimates, can one find anything to show that the
writers had discerned the artistic purpose of the composer. It is not
strange that he felt that he stood alone.

Nor is it, on the whole, strange that he was misunderstood. As
for the critics, they had formed their standards of opera on the
masterpieces of Meyerbeer, Spontini, and Rossini. Even in Mozart they
were unable to find justification for Wagner's ideas, for it was his
novelty in form that confused them. The public had long placed opera
in the category of "amusements." It went to the opera house to hear
arias, duos, quartets, sung by great singers, while the story, told
chiefly in recitatives, was regarded merely as an excuse for the
presentation of certain poetic points of emotion to be set to music.
When Wagner came, demanding that the music should be only one means
of expression of the whole emotional content of a consistent drama,
and that it should not be simply a string of pretty tunes, we can
easily understand that he was far beyond the public of his day, and
we can picture to ourselves the unhappy Intendant, asking him why
it was necessary to be so distressing, and why Tannhäuser could not
marry Elizabeth.

In the year 1847 Wagner's musical activity was confined almost
wholly to work upon his "Lohengrin." He lived in retirement as
much as possible, and gave himself up to the realisation of those
artistic projects with which he felt that his entire surroundings
were unsympathetic. In the winter of 1845 he had conceived and
noted the principal themes. In the fall of 1846 he lived in a villa
at Grosgraufen, near Pilnitz, and there he began the music. In the
summer of 1847 he secluded himself wholly, and on August 28 he
finished the introduction, which for more than half a century has
thrilled hearers all over the world. The scoring of the entire opera
was completed in the early spring. While Wagner must have realised
the artistic value of this new work, he must also have seen how
much further he had removed himself from the possibility of public
comprehension than he had in his "Tannhäuser." He even doubted the
practicability of opera as an art form. The Intendant of the Dresden
opera did not feel any sympathy with the composer's experimental
mood, and only the finale of the third act of "Lohengrin," performed
on September 22, 1848, at the anniversary celebration of the
orchestra, was heard in Dresden.

Meanwhile although "Tannhäuser" had been refused a hearing at Berlin,
preparations had been made for the production of "Rienzi," and the
birthday of the King of Prussia, Oct. 5, 1847, had been chosen as the
date for the performance. Wagner went to Berlin to superintend the
rehearsals. There he found that anti-Wagnerism was in full bloom.
The newspapers began the attack before the work was made known, and
every possible rumour that envy and jealousy could invent found
ready acceptance. The fate of "Rienzi" was sealed in advance. The
manager of the opera discovered that the text of the work breathed a
revolutionary spirit quite out of keeping with the temper of a royal
fête, and accordingly the production was postponed till Oct. 26. On
that evening "Rienzi" was given, but the King was not present, the
court did not attend, and Meyerbeer, who was the general director
of music, was suddenly called out of town. There was an audience of
good size and the applause was of a liberal character; but there was
no hope of permanent success in Berlin without the smiles of royalty
and the favourable comment of the press. So Wagner saw his dreams
of pecuniary aid from this early work fade away, and leave him to
struggle with the constantly growing problem of how to live.

The eventful year 1848 was now at hand, a year which was big with
incidents in the personal and artistic life of Wagner. It was in
this year that the political troubles which harassed the kingdom of
Saxony, and Germany in general, made themselves felt in the opera
house and afterward in the career of the composer. The work of the
opera house was affected by the general unrest. Nothing serious was
undertaken. The list of the season was made up chiefly of works
of the calibre of Flotow's "Martha," then in the height of its
popularity. The orchestra gave three subscription concerts, and at
one of these Wagner conducted Bach's eight-part motet, "Singt dem
Herrn ein neues Lied." In March he finished the instrumentation
of "Lohengrin" and then his mind began to busy itself with a new
subject. The first which attracted him was "Jesus of Nazareth." The
impulse which led him to the contemplation of this subject was so
plainly identical with that which afterward led to the creation of
"Parsifal" that it is worth while to note how far he went in its
embodiment. He collected a large quantity of material for this
projected work, and published it afterward in a volume of a hundred

[Footnote 18: "Jesus von Nazareth, von R. Wagner." Leipsic, 1887.
Translation in 8th Vol. of Mr. Ellis's edition of the prose works.]

At this period, too, he seriously contemplated the employment of the
story of Barbarossa, or Friedrich Rothbart, as material for a lyric
drama. His study of this subject was of inestimable value to him in
shaping clearly in his mind the conviction that a mythical subject
was more suitable than one historical for the purpose of musical
treatment. He discovered that he could not give to the splendid
personality of Barbarossa the necessary historical background without
overloading his opera with a host of minor details too inflexible
for musical treatment. On the other hand to endeavour to sacrifice
historical accuracy to dramatic requirements would materially
change the true character of his subject. He became convinced that
only a mythical subject, in which elementary world-thoughts and
emotions were typified, would admit of free musical treatment. His
serious study of this whole matter resulted in an essay entitled,
"Die Wibelungen.--Weltgeschichte aus der Sage" ("The Wibelungs:
world-history from the Saga"). The essay treats of the history of the
world according to tradition, showing the agreement of history and
mythology in certain elementary facts. It was written in 1848 and was
published at Leipsic in 1850. It will be found in Vol. VII. of Mr.
Ellis's translation of the prose works.



     "Behold Mercury, and his docile handmaid, Modern

The period of Wagner's life which we have now reached was one of much
complication and of important results. With the decision to abandon
the subject of Barbarossa he made another, namely that the story
of the Nibelungen Lied and its original material as found in the
Volsunga Saga would provide excellent material for a music drama. His
conception was first formulated in an article entitled "The Nibelung
Myth as Sketch for a Drama" (Ellis's translation, Vol. VII.). This
was followed by the first form of the text of the drama, "Siegfried's
Tod," a translation of which will be found in Mr. Ellis's eighth
volume. Wagner's first thought was to tell the entire story of the
death of Siegfried and the causes leading to it in one opera, but he
was not long in discovering that this was impossible. In June, 1849,
he wrote to Franz Liszt, with whom he had begun a correspondence[19]
in 1841 (though it did not become continuous till 1845) in these
words: "Meanwhile I shall employ my time in setting to music my
latest German drama, 'The Death of Siegfried.' Within half a year
I shall send you the opera completed." In 1851 in a long letter to
Liszt he explained how he had found it impossible to condense the
whole story into one drama, and afterward even into two, and thus how
the work had stretched itself into four separate dramas.

[Footnote 19: "Correspondence of Wagner and Liszt," edited by Francis
Hueffer, 2 vols., London, 1888.]

At the time of the writing of the original form of the book Wagner
also conceived some of the germs of the music, and in this, too,
lay the seed of a new and wonderful development of his genius.
His "Lohengrin" marked a wide departure from the style of his
"Tannhäuser," but in the dramas based on the Siegfried legend he
went much further. He felt in the beginning that he would be forced
to do so, and in the fall of 1850 he wrote to Liszt: "Between the
musical execution of my 'Lohengrin' and that of my 'Siegfried' there
lies for me a stormy, but I feel convinced, a fruitful world."
The correspondence between Wagner and Liszt had grown into warmth
when the latter undertook the preparation of "Tannhäuser" for
production at Weimar, where he was the ruling power in music. No
one who desires to be intimately acquainted with the life of Wagner
should omit reading this correspondence, which throws more light on
the artistic and personal character of the two men than anything
else in existence. It is highly creditable to Liszt that he early
recognised the full force of the genius of Wagner and bowed to him as
a superior. On the other hand Wagner, who was hopelessly improvident
and always in the depths of monetary difficulties, came to lean on
Liszt as a friend in all needs.

It is possible that through the influence of Liszt Wagner might
have gained wide recognition throughout Germany much sooner than he
did, but his own sympathy with the revolutionary ideas of the time
led him into direct conflict with authority in Saxony and drove him
into exile. The story of Wagner's connection with the revolutionary
movements of 1848 and 1849 has had several versions, and it has been
the subject of acrid dispute between Wagner's devotees and those who
are only candid friends. The story of the Saxon uprising need not
be repeated here in detail. Suffice it to say that the impetus of
the French revolution of 1848 moved the people of Saxony to demand
of their king a constitution, a free press, trial by jury, national
armies, and representation. The king refused to accede to the
demands. A second time through a deputation Leipsic people demanded
what they regarded as their rights and threatened to attack Dresden,
if these were not conceded. The king adopted conciliatory measures,
which served to allay the excitement for a time, but the people soon
saw that under the surface oppression was gaining headway.

Wagner and his friend and assistant, August Roeckel, the latter an
enthusiastic republican, became members of a society known as the
"Fatherland Union," an organisation devoted to the furtherance of
reform measures, but not in favour of direct disloyalty to the king.
Before this society on June 16 Wagner read a paper entitled "What is
the Relation of our Efforts to the Monarchy?" Wagner had previously
drawn up for the government a plan for the reorganisation of the
Dresden Theatre. In that paper he proposed that the changes in the
existing arrangements be made so that the theatre would be brought
into closer relations with the higher artistic life of the people.
It was at this period, too, that he wrote "Art and Revolution," in
which he still further demonstrated that he saw a connection between
political and artistic reform, or rather that he believed the latter
impossible under the restrictions of extant governmental control. He
aimed at a sort of republican representation in art, a plan by which
the literary and artistic elements of the community might have voices
in the direction of the theatre. He saw no way of bringing this about
except by a change in the nature of the government.

Therefore in this paper read before the Vaterlandsverein he demanded
general suffrage, abolition of the standing army and the aristocracy,
and the conversion of Saxony into a republic. His loyalty to the
king was shown by his proposal that he should himself proclaim
the republic and remain in office at its head. This speech was
published and it caused a good deal of unfavourable comment. Yet it
was not taken very seriously, for Wagner was warned that a Court
Conductor should not indulge in such talk; he wrote a long letter of
extenuation to Lüttichau, the Intendant; asked for a brief leave of
absence, and obtained it. And that would have been the end of the
matter in all probability, had not open insurrection broken out.

It was in regard to the acts of Wagner in the days of turmoil in May,
1849, that the acrid dispute before mentioned raged in 1892. This
dispute was caused chiefly by the statements of Ferdinand Praeger
in "Wagner as I Knew Him." Among other things Praeger said, "During
the first few of his eleven years of exile his talk was incessantly
about the outbreak, and the active aid he rendered at the time,
and of his services to the cause by speech and by pen prior to the
1849 May days; and yet in after life, in his talk with me, who held
documentary evidence, under his own hand, of his participation, he
in petulant tones sought either to minimise the part he played or
to explain it away altogether. This change of front I first noticed
about 1864 at Munich." With this as his text Praeger set out to show
that Wagner was a red-handed revolutionary, and that he fought on the
barricades in the streets of Dresden.

It was my fortune to read these assertions of Praeger's before they
were published. The manuscript of his book was placed in my hands by
his publishers in 1892 to be prepared for the press. The author was
dead and no changes could be made in his work. It seemed to me at
the time that Praeger had written incautiously of this whole matter,
and that at any rate he might fairly have represented Wagner as
desirous in after years to bury the memories of an unwise exhibition
of his republican tendencies. But of Praeger's honesty I never had a
doubt, nor had I any reason to suppose that he was not well informed
(through his intimate friendship with Roeckel) of Wagner's actions
in the May days of 1849. Pohl, Glasenapp, and Tappert had said but
little in regard to the matter, and, as I was not editing, but merely
supervising the printing of the book, it would not have been open to
me to write so much as a foot-note of warning to the reader to take
Praeger's statements with a grain of salt, even if I had been fully
informed of the real facts in the case.

But Wagner was not without a champion. Mr. W. Ashton Ellis, editor of
"The Meister," and translator of the prose works, published in 1892 a
complete answer to Praeger under the title of "1849: a Vindication."
In this he showed that Praeger had formed a theory as to Wagner's
part in the revolution and had wrested the facts to make them appear
as evidence. He also proved that some of the acts attributed to
Wagner were those of a young journeyman baker of the same name. The
real facts of the case, as I have sifted them from the conflicting
testimony, appear to be these:

Wagner's mind was filled with a conviction that freedom and the
honesty of art went hand in hand. His reformatory ideas embraced not
only the stage, but its relations to governmental control, through
which its artistic character must be touched and guided. The stage
could never be brought to represent the spirit of the people till
the government was. All around him he saw the relics of feudalism,
and the innate hostility of these to that freedom of art and public
to which he looked forward made him a republican at heart. His paper
read before the Fatherland Union was, as we have seen, a plea for
free government and representation by the people, but it was filled
with a spirit of loyalty to the reigning king.

When the revolutionary movement took shape Wagner, as Mr. Ellis
notes, did not hesitate between the dictates of his conscience
and the preservation of court favour. He became, as he afterward
confessed in a letter to Liszt, openly active in the movement. But
the stories of his firing a musket from the barricades and setting
fire to public buildings are pure fabrications. Praeger's narrative
of his revolutionary activity is misleading, and Mr. Ellis's pamphlet
has quite demolished it. Wagner assisted in getting men and stores
into Dresden, and he probably carried a musket while engaged in this
work. At the Town Hall he publicly embraced one of the revolutionary
leaders after the latter had made a speech. On May 1, 1849, the king
dissolved the Saxon diet, and the people went to arms. The insurgents
were victorious in the beginning, but Prussian troops arrived 36
hours later, and the revolutionaries were put to flight. Wagner
escaped from Dresden and hurried to Weimar, where he took refuge
under the wing of Liszt, then actively preparing "Tannhäuser" for

Mr. Praeger says: "Future biographers can no longer ignobly treat
the patriotism of Wagner by striving to whitewash or gloss over the
part he played during these sad days." It is the hope of the present
biographer that he will not be accused of any attempt to conceal
the truth in regard to this matter, especially as he has not been
able to discover in it anything discreditable to Wagner. His action
was injudicious, it was impulsive, it was shortsighted; but it was
honest. If in after years Wagner saw that the regeneration of the
theatre might be accomplished without the overthrow of extant forms
of government, and if at the same time he wished ardently to return
to his native land, it was not at all surprising that he expressed
sorrow for his actions. It was quite natural indeed that in April,
1856, he wrote to Liszt:

     "In regard to that riot and its sequels, I am willing
     to confess that I now consider myself to have been in
     the wrong at that time, and carried away by my passions,
     although I am conscious of not having committed any crime
     that would properly come before the courts, so that it
     would be difficult for me to confess to any such."

Disheartened as Wagner was at the inartistic conditions surrounding
the theatre at Dresden, it was not astonishing that he rejoiced in
the excuse for flight, and that he hastened to Weimar with a jubilant
spirit. That Liszt was glad to receive him thus unexpectedly goes
without saying. It was this meeting which perfected the understanding
between these two remarkable men, and which cemented indissolubly
the friendship hitherto dependent on their letters for its support.
They came to know one another intimately, and from that time onward
Liszt was the main prop of Wagner. As Mr. Finck well summarises it in
his life of Wagner: "A few letters had passed between the two, and
they had met several times, but it was not until this occasion that
their hearts were really opened towards each other, and the beginning
was made of a friendship unequalled in cordiality and importance in
the history of art, and without the existence of which the world
would in all probability have never seen the better half of Wagner's
music dramas. It was Liszt who helped him with funds when he would
otherwise have been compelled to stop composing and earn his bread
like the commonest day labourer; Liszt who sustained him with his
approval when all the critical world was against him; Liszt who
brought out his operas when all other conductors ignored them; Liszt
who wrote letters, private and journalistic, about his friend's works
and aims, besides three long and enthusiastic essays on 'Tannhäuser,'
'Lohengrin,' and the 'Dutchman,' which were printed in German and
French, and with the Weimar performances of these operas, gave the
first impulse to 'the Wagner movement.'"

Of the greatest importance to Wagner was Liszt's understanding of his
artistic aims. Wagner said that when he saw Liszt conduct a rehearsal
of "Tannhäuser," he recognised a second self in the achievement.
Discouraged as he had been on leaving Dresden, his spirits now rose
again, and he would undoubtedly have settled down in Weimar to pursue
his artistic labours under the protection of Liszt, had not news come
that he was wanted by the police. A warrant was issued for him as a
politically dangerous person and his description was published. As
soon as this news was received, Wagner, acting on Liszt's advice,

So hasty was his departure that, as we learn from a letter of Liszt
to Carl Reinecke, he left Weimar on the very day of a performance of
"Tannhäuser," which he, therefore, did not witness. This was in the
latter part of May. He went directly to Zurich, where he remained a
few days and obtained a passport for France. He wrote from Zurich to
a Weimar friend, O.L.B. Wolff, that Liszt would soon receive a bundle
of scores from Minna, his wife.

     "The score of my 'Lohengrin,'" he wrote, "I beg him to
     examine leisurely. It is my latest, ripest work. No artist
     has seen it yet, and of none have I therefore been able to
     ascertain what impression it may produce. Now I am anxious
     to hear what Liszt has to say about it."

From this same letter we learn that Minna had been left in the city
from which Wagner had fled. He says:

     "That wonderful man must also look after my poor wife. I
     am particularly anxious to get her out of Saxony, and
     especially out of that d----d Dresden."

It is necessary only to say that while Liszt at first had doubts
of the public success of "Lohengrin," owing to what he called its
"superideal character," he immediately recognised its artistic
greatness, and was the first to bring it before the public.

In Zurich Wagner contemplated the stern necessity of doing something
toward the support of himself and wife, and he saw in the production
of an opera in Paris his only hope. Accordingly he set out for the
French capital. Liszt had already written to Belloni, an influential
person in the musical circles of Paris:

     "In the first place, we want to create a success for a
     grand, heroic, enchanting musical work, the score of which
     was completed a year ago. Perhaps this could be done in
     London. Chorley, for instance, might be very helpful to
     him in this undertaking. If Wagner next winter could go to
     Paris backed up by this success, the doors of the Opéra
     would stand open to him, no matter with what he might

Wagner had a consultation with Belloni in Paris, and was convinced
that nothing could be done with his extant works. He decided that he
must spend a year and a half in the preparation of a new work, and
for that purpose he must live in seclusion with his wife. He tells
Liszt in a long letter that he has decided on Zurich, and begs Liszt
to make arrangements for an income for him from his works so that he
can live to write more. He says that he is fit for nothing but to
write operas; he must create some genuine art work or perish. He has
arranged to send from Zurich to Belloni a sketch of a work for Paris,
and Belloni is to get a French version made. Meanwhile Wagner will be
working on the "Death of Siegfried." And so, after this brief and
futile visit to Paris in June, 1849, we find him back at Zurich early
in July. And now it became his fixed idea to get his wife out of
Dresden and settled down in some sort of a home in Zurich. But he had
no means. Once more, then, he appealed to the unfailing friend Liszt.
He tells the great pianist that he has no further resources, and says:

     "You, therefore, I implore by all that is dear to you to
     raise and collect as much as you possibly can, and send it,
     not to me, but to my wife, so that she may have enough to
     get away and join me with the assurance of being able to
     live with me free from care for some time at least. Dearest
     friend, you care for my welfare, my soul, my art. Once
     more restore to me my art! I do not cling to a home, but I
     cling to this poor, good, faithful woman, to whom as yet I
     have caused nothing but grief, who is of a careful, serious
     disposition, without enthusiasm, and who feels herself
     chained forever to such a reckless devil as myself."

These words go far toward revealing the true nature of the relations
of Wagner and Minna. They also do credit to his justice, but at the
same time show how completely unsettled he was at this period. Liszt
hastened to reply in a letter beginning: "In answer to your letter I
have remitted one hundred thalers to your wife at Dresden. This sum
has been handed to me by an admirer of 'Tannhäuser,' whom you do not
know and who has especially asked me not to name him to you."[20]

[Footnote 20: In his residence at Zurich, Wagner was also pecuniarily
aided by Wilhelm Baumgartner, a music teacher, Jacob Sulzer, a local
office holder, Mme. Laussot, and Frau Julie Ritter, whose son Carl
was associated with Wagner's musical activities in the Swiss city.
Frau Ritter placed a permanent fund to Wagner's credit. Others who
aided him will be incidentally mentioned.]

In due time Minna arrived in Zurich only to begin to combat her
husband's artistic inclinations. He was eager to write "The Death
of Siegfried." She urged him to abandon his unprofitable ideals,
and to write for Paris the sort of opera that Paris would like. For
Minna was ashamed of living on the charity of friends, and for that
we cannot blame her. Nor can we even yet bring ourselves quite into
agreement with Wagner in the belief that the world ought to take
care of him while he was creating his immortal works. Yet there was
something large and genial in the conception. The man felt the power
that was in him, and he refused to stifle it in order that he might
discharge the simple duties of a plain citizen and support himself
and his family at the sacrifice of his future, and the future of his

It was to this struggle between himself and his own desires on the
one hand and his wife and Liszt on the other that his inactivity in
musical production for a long period was due. His whole mind was in a
state of unrest. Yet the period of his exile proved in the end to be
the most fruitful of his life, and in Zurich the name of Wagner was
made immortal.



     "Doch ich bin so allein."--SIEGFRIED

The first years of Wagner's residence at Zurich were occupied with
the writing of works designed to propagate the reformatory ideas
which he aimed at introducing into the composition and performance
of opera. It has been noted that after the first performances of
"Tannhäuser" he felt that the public would have to be educated up
to his conception of art, and he now set to work to produce the
necessary doctrinary essays. Through the kindness of Otto Wesendonck,
a music-lover and admirer of his work, he was able to rent at a low
price a pretty châlet overlooking the lake, and there he lived and
laboured in retirement. He was too profoundly discouraged at first
to undertake composition, and for five years he brought forth no
music. The problem of how to live stared him in the face in all its
frightful nakedness. He wrote to Liszt in the fall of 1849:

     "How and whence shall I get enough to live? Is my finished
     work 'Lohengrin' worth nothing? Is the opera which I am
     longing to complete worth nothing? It is true that to the
     present generation and to publicity as it is these must
     appear as a useless luxury. But how about the few who love
     these works? Should not they be allowed to offer to the
     poor suffering creator--not a remuneration, but the bare
     possibility of continuing to create?... Tell me; advise me!
     Hitherto my wife and I have kept ourselves alive by the
     help of a friend here. By the end of this month of October
     our last florins will be gone, and a wide, beautiful world
     lies before me, in which I have nothing to eat, nothing to
     warm myself with. Think of what you can do for me, dear,
     princely friend. Let some one buy my 'Lohengrin,' skin and
     bones; let some one commission my 'Siegfried.'"

And so he went on, begging Liszt to save him and his wife from
absolute want. He had not even an overcoat. The score of "Lohengrin"
was eventually sold to Breitkopf and Härtel for a few hundred
thalers, but the means of subsistence were provided for Wagner by
Liszt and other friends. Yet even in this lamentable state of affairs
he could not drive himself to compose. He could only write his
literary works. In these he embodied what has come to be known as the
Wagnerian theory of the music drama, the theory which finds its only
full and satisfying illustration in the works of this master, though
its elementary principals were recognised and obeyed by earlier
writers. He says himself in "The Music of the Future," "My mental
state resembled a struggle. I tried to express theoretically that
which under the incongruity of my artistic aims as contrasted with
the tendencies of public art, especially of the opera, I could not
properly put forward by means of direct artistic production."

The principal works written by him in this state of mind were "Art
and Revolution," 1849, "The Art-work of the Future," "Art and
Climate," "Judaism in Music," 1850, "Recollections of Spontini,"
1851, "On the Performance of 'Tannhäuser,'" and "Opera and Drama,"
1852. Of these the last is the most important to the student of
Wagner's theories, but at the time of publication it was the article
on "Judaism in Music" which raised the largest disturbance. The
criticisms of Meyerbeer contained in it have been used by Wagner's
enemies down to the present day as evidence that he was an ungrateful
man. The fact that these censures were wholly for Meyerbeer, the
composer, should, however, be borne in mind; for in Wagner the artist
always governed the man, and the timely aid given to him by Meyerbeer
in the dark days in Paris was bound to take a place in his estimation
second to the popular composer's palpable seeking after the applause
of the inartistic masses.

The article on "Judaism in Music" was printed in Brendel's _Neue
Zeitschrift für Musik_ for Sept. 3 and 6, 1850. Eleven masters at
the Leipsic conservatory, where Brendel lectured on the history of
music, wrote to him asking him to resign or reveal the name of the
author. He refused to do either, thereby leaving the eleven irate
masters in a ludicrous position. But the hostility of the press to
Wagner was aroused by the article, for his authorship was speedily
suspected. In 1869 he issued a revised and enlarged edition of this
article and then a host of replies appeared. None of them, however,
dealt candidly with the artistic questions. Most of them rested with
accusing Wagner of assailing rival composers because they were Jews.
The chief points made in Wagner's article were that the Jews were not
an artistic people, that they could not be so because they were not
sincere, because they had no nation, no home, no language, but lived
to please the people of the country in which they chanced to be and
whose language they spoke. Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer were quoted as

In "Opera and Drama" Wagner set forth the principles which, according
to him, should govern the creation of art work for the stage. These
principles we shall have opportunity to examine in detail when we
come to the study of the Wagnerian theories. Let it suffice here to
quote Muncker's admirable summary of the essay:

"Systematically he examined in what manner all the arts, plastic,
mimic, phonetic and oral, had in the antique tragedy combined to
the highest mutual purposes, and how thereafter, released from this
close and lifelike union, the single arts had in their individual
development either stagnated or degenerated. He refused to
acknowledge the objections that only the mild atmosphere of Greece
had been able to ripen the artistic power of intuition and formation,
out of which the Attic tragedy had grown. Only the historical man,
the man independent of nature, has awakened art to life; and only he,
noble and strong, who through the highest power of love has attained
true liberty, can newly create the vanished dramatic work of art,
just as he alone, his life and death, is its subject; for this reason
there can be only one principal consideration for art, and that
is the true nature of the human race. Strictly Wagner weighed the
unsuccessful attempts of the last century externally to combine the
sister arts (without any of them giving up their egotistic purposes)
in the oratorio and particularly in the opera, the trysting place of
their most selfish endeavours. He contrasted with these inorganic
species the loving union of the single arts in the work of art of
the future, in the true drama, that, like the Attic tragedy, employed
the same artistic means, only on a greater scale and with a higher
technical perfection, in the same manner and for the same purposes.
Like the Attic tragedy, it is to be represented by the people, or
rather the totality of different artists is to represent it for the
people; just, however, as the single arts can here for the first
time freely and naturally unfold their innermost nature, so the
individuality of the single artist can, just in that community with
the whole, significantly develop itself."

In this essay he ruthlessly exposed the musical shallowness of
Rossini and Meyerbeer. He saw at the time that his criticism of the
latter would expose him to the charge of ingratitude, but the artist
in him prevailed, and he spoke his mind freely. It should be added
that he praised certain passages in Meyerbeer's works, especially the
great duet in the fourth act of "Les Huguenots."

In the early years of his exile he undertook once more the task of
writing an opera for Paris. He went so far as to make a prose sketch
of a libretto entitled "Wieland the Smith." In after years he offered
the book to Liszt, saying that it reminded him of a period of pain.
The labour of writing this work was distasteful to him, and he began
it only at the earnest solicitation of his wife and Liszt. The
sketch, which is an elaborated scenario, is included in Mr. Ellis's
translation of the prose works.

The only musical work which Wagner did in the early years at
Zurich was the conducting of some orchestral concerts, and the
superintending of performances at the city theatre. It was at this
time that Wagner's acquaintance with the afterward famous pianist
and conductor, Hans von Bülow, began. Von Bülow had abandoned the
career planned for him by his father and gone to Zurich literally to
throw himself at the feet of Wagner. The master secured him the post
of assistant conductor at the opera, where he supported his protégé
against the intriguing of the singers and the orchestra. After six
months of experience there Von Bülow was sent with a letter of
introduction from Wagner to Liszt, whose pupil he became, and whose
daughter Cosima he married. Little did either he or Wagner think at
the time that he would be conductor of Wagner's greatest works, and
that his wife would become the second spouse of the famous composer.

The year 1850 was made a memorable one in Wagner's life by the first
performance of "Lohengrin," which had slept in silence for three
years. In the "Communication to My Friends" Wagner wrote of the
movement toward the production thus:

     "At the end of my latest stay in Paris, as I lay ill and
     wretched, gazing brooding into space, my eye fell on the
     score of my already almost quite forgotten 'Lohengrin.'
     It filled me with a sudden grief to think that these
     notes should never ring from off the death-wan paper. Two
     words I wrote to Liszt. His answer was none other than an
     announcement of preparations the most sumptuous--for the
     modest means of Weimar--for 'Lohengrin's' production."

Even at this distance the words of that letter of April 21, 1850, are

     "DEAR FRIEND: I have just been looking through the
     score of my 'Lohengrin.' I very seldom read my own works.
     An immense desire has sprung up in me to have this work
     performed. I address this wish to your heart: Perform my
     'Lohengrin'! You are the only one to whom I could address
     this prayer; to none but you should I entrust the creation
     of this opera; to you I give it with perfect and joyous

How faithfully Liszt fulfilled the trust imposed upon him may be seen
from one of his letters to Wagner in the course of the preparations
for the opera's production.

     "Your 'Lohengrin' will be given under exceptional
     conditions, which are most favourable to its success. The
     management for this occasion spends about 2,000 thalers, a
     thing that has not been done in Weimar within the memory
     of man. The press will not be forgotten, and suitable and
     seriously conceived articles will appear successively
     in several papers. All the personnel will be put on its
     mettle. The number of violins will be slightly increased
     (from 16 to 18) and a bass clarinet has been purchased.
     Nothing essential will be wanting in the musical material
     or design. I undertake all the rehearsals with pianoforte,
     chorus, strings and orchestra. Genast will follow your
     indications for the mise-en-scène with zeal and energy. It
     is understood that we shall not cut a note, not an iota,
     of your work, and that we shall give it in its absolute
     beauty, as far as is in our power."

The date chosen for the production was Aug. 28, the birthday of
Goethe, when a large number of visitors would be in Weimar to attend
the unveiling of a monument to Herder. Wagner was anxious to be
present at the performance, but the risk of arrest, if he set foot
on German soil, prevented him from going. Liszt was profoundly
moved by the work, but he was not satisfied with the performance
nor the reception by the public. The singers did not know how to
deliver Wagner's music, and the general public found this, the most
popular of all Wagner's creations, quite beyond its comprehension.
The performance lasted five hours, owing to the singers' treating
all the arioso passages as recitatives, and Wagner accordingly
wrote to Liszt explaining how this music should be sung. The whole
series of letters on the manner of performing "Lohengrin" is full of
instruction as to Wagner's dramatic ideas and the proper method of
singing his music. Liszt and Genast, the stage manager, however, saw
no way out of the difficulty except by making cuts, and these were
accordingly made, but under protest from the composer, who authorised
only one in the latter part of Lohengrin's narrative.

The production of the most popular of all operas now before the
public was accomplished in the absence of its composer. Indeed, it
was not until May 15, 1861, in Vienna, that poor Wagner heard this
beautiful and touching work. While it was in course of preparation
at Weimar he was labouring at Zurich, as we have seen, and was
fighting ill-health, too. His low spirits brought on an attack of
dyspepsia, and with this came another lifelong enemy, erysipelas. The
cheerfulness and devotion of the unhappy Minna helped him through
this trying period, and he further solaced himself by long walks into
the forest, accompanied by his dog Peps. He declaimed aloud against
the density of the public and the machine-made music of some of
his contemporaries, and when Peps answered his master's voice with
a lively bark, Wagner would pat his head and say, "Thou hast more
sense, Peps, than some of these contrapuntists." Liszt continued
to push the fortunes of "Tannhäuser" and "Lohengrin" at Weimar,
and although it was three years before the latter was performed
elsewhere, it became the fashion to visit Weimar to hear it.

Wagner closed the literary work of this period by writing the
"Communication to My Friends," which, with the autobiography, forms
the most satisfactory material for the study of his early career.
This communication is rather a story of his artistic development
than of the incidents of his life, but it is a fascinating piece of
self-examination, and throws more light than anything else upon the
motives which led to the composition of the most famous of Wagner's

It was at this time that he entered upon the task of writing his
long-cherished "Death of Siegfried," which he had shaped into a drama
in three acts and a prologue in the autumn of 1848. It was in June,
1849, that he wrote to Liszt that he would have the drama completed
in half a year. In the spring of 1851 Liszt learned that there was to
be a prefatory drama called "Young Siegfried," and on June 29 Wagner
wrote to him that the poem was finished. On Nov. 20 of the same year
Wagner wrote a long letter, in which he set forth the development of
the entire plan. He had found that his story was too long and complex
to tell in two dramas, and that he would have to make three, with a

Thus he had finally developed the plan of what was to be his most
imposing, if not his greatest, work, a work rivalling in the
immensity of its conception and its dramatic seriousness the ancient
trilogies of the Greeks. It was altogether fitting that this _magnum
opus_ should have acquired its full and definite shape in his mind at
a time when his invention was refreshed by abstinence from musical
production, and when the appetite for composition was springing up
anew. Early in 1853 the poem in its new form was completed, and
on Feb. 11 he sent a copy to Liszt. The latter wrote: "You are
truly a wonderful man, and your 'Nibelung' poem is surely the most
incredible thing which you have ever done." In a letter written in
1871, to Arrigo Boïto, the famous Italian composer and librettist,
he said: "During a sleepless night at an inn at Spezzia the music to
'Das Rheingold' occurred to me. Straightway I turned homeward and
set to work." He finished the full score of "Das Rheingold" in May,
1854, and in the following month he began that of "Die Walküre." The
score of this work was finished in 1856, and part of "Siegfried" was
written in the next year.

The sleepless night at the Spezzia inn occurred in the course of a
journey into Italy made in 1853. It was a journey made in the vain
hope of cheering the drooping spirits of Wagner, who was always
fond of travel. His life in Zurich had its pleasant side. He had
made friends, some of whom, notably Wille, a former journalist of
Hamburg, and his wife, a clever novelist, understood and adored
him. But he suffered from dyspepsia, insomnia, and erysipelas, the
latter returning with wearing persistency; and he writhed under the
restraints of an exile which for artistic reasons he could not but
desire to terminate. In some of the cities of Germany his works were
performed without understanding and in a way to make him shiver with
anguish, yet he was helpless. On all sides he was critically assailed
for faults that were not his, and would instantly have disappeared if
his operas had been properly interpreted. In Berlin, where he might
have reaped at least a decent pecuniary profit from performances,
jealousy, intrigue, and Philistinism prevented his works from
reaching the stage.

And the demon poverty pursued him to the verge of madness. He
suffered from the agonising fear that at length he would be
forced to abandon all the splendid imaginations that were burning
within him and divert his whole life into the sordid channels of
bread-and-butter drudgery. He cried to Liszt and other friends to
save him. For this he has been called a beggar; but if we obey
Charles Reade's injunction, "Put yourself in his place," the thing
wears a different aspect. Wagner was profoundly convinced of the
greatness that was within him, and it maddened him to think that he
might have to stifle it. He wrote to Liszt: "I am in a miserable
condition, and have great difficulty in persuading myself that it
must go on like this, and that it would not really be more moral to
put an end to this disgraceful kind of life."

In these circumstances, it was perhaps the best thing that could
have happened to him that in that sleepless night at Spezzia he was
haunted by the thought that the music of "Rheingold" must be written,
and went home to chain himself again to the pathetic task of heaping
one silent score upon another. The time came when he did not believe
that he would live to finish the mighty tetralogy which is now the
glory of the lyric stage. But even in the face of despair he could
not repress the impulses within him, and back to Zurich he went, and
the wonderful measures of the prologue of the "Nibelung" drama sprang
into being. Even as he had out of despair forged the links of his
first success, "Rienzi," so again the fires of anguish lit the forges
of the "Schwarzalben" and the "Wonniges Kind."



     "This red republican of music is to preside over the Old
     Philharmonic of London, the most classical, orthodox, and
     exclusive society on this globe."--Letter of Ferdinand
     Praeger to the New York _Musical Gazette_.

The musical activities of this period were about to be interrupted
by a voyage so strange that we can hardly conceive it as possible.
That Richard Wagner, the reformer, should go to England to conduct
the then most stagnant musical organisation in the world, the London
Philharmonic, before the most conservative musical public on earth,
seems little short of humorous. Yet this thing actually happened. And
the musicians of the London orchestra, to their credit, recognised
the greatness of their new conductor and played as they had never
played before. But this is anticipating. In Zurich he was already
known as a conductor before he had set foot on Swiss soil. So it is
natural that the musical authorities of the place should have sought
his services as soon as he was settled. We have already noted that
he conducted some concerts and supervised the operatic performances
at the theatre where Von Bülow and Carl Ritter conducted. But the
good Swiss were not satisfied with this. They desired the excitement
of the production of one of Wagner's works under his own direction.
Accordingly, in May, 1852, "The Flying Dutchman" was given, but
because the singers treated the work as an old-fashioned opera, it
did not make a deep impression. Nevertheless, in February, 1855,
"Tannhäuser" was produced in Zurich. It was at this period, too,
that Wagner took up the old "Faust" overture and revised it, making
changes which drew expressions of delight from Liszt.

At this time the warfare of two musical societies in London was to
have an unexpected influence on the movements of Wagner. The London
Philharmonic Society had suffered a split, caused by dissensions
which need not be discussed here, and a New Philharmonic had been
formed. The insurgent forces proceeded to formulate a plan of
campaign which threatened disaster to the older army. As a master
stroke, they secured as conductor no less a personage than Hector
Berlioz, the famous French composer. It now became necessary for the
older body to deal a counterblow. But where to turn for a conductor
whose name would excite public interest in such a manner as that
of Berlioz they knew not. In the midst of their confusion arose
Ferdinand Praeger, the London friend and admirer of Wagner, of whom
he had first heard through August Roeckel. Praeger knew that there
would be opposition to Wagner, but he knew, too, that the name of the
composer of the music of the future would arouse public curiosity
and that audiences could be got for his concerts. And audiences were
what the staid and languishing Old Philharmonic most needed. On the
other hand, there was something to be done in London in the way of
correcting false impressions of Wagner's works. As Liszt wrote to him
on learning that he was to make the visit:

     "The London Philharmonic comes in very aptly, and I am
     delighted. As lately as six months ago people used to
     shake their heads, and some of them even hissed, at the
     performance of the 'Tannhäuser' overture, conducted by
     Costa. Klindworth and Remeny were almost the only ones who
     had the courage to applaud and to beard the Philistines who
     had made their nests of old in the Philharmonic. Well, it
     will now assume a different tone, and you will revivify old
     England with the Old Philharmonic."

Liszt as usual wrote in an encouraging strain, but it is likely that
he really believed that Wagner would profit by some personal contact
with the public. For the history of this incident we must turn to
the pages of Praeger, who acted as Wagner's private agent in making
the engagement, and who first suggested it to Prosper Sainton, the
eminent violinist and a director of the Philharmonic. It was an
ill-advised visit, but it was made by Wagner chiefly because he hoped
through this introduction to the English public to bring out his
operas in London. On Jan. 21, 1855, he wrote to Fischer in Dresden:

     "At the end of February I go for two months to London, to
     conduct the concerts of the Philharmonic Society, for which
     they expressly sent one of their directors here to persuade
     me. As a rule, that kind of thing does not suit me; and
     as I am not to get much pay for it, I would scarcely have
     consented, had I not therein seen a chance of next year
     bringing together in London--under the protection of the
     Court--a first-rate German opera company, with which I
     could give my operas, and at last my 'Lohengrin.'"

Mr. Anderson, conductor of the Queen's private band, and an acting
director of the Philharmonic, was sent to Zurich to negotiate with
Wagner. Some correspondence had already taken place, and the composer
had demanded conditions which were waived after conversation with
Mr. Anderson. The question of terms was speedily disposed of, the
irresponsible Wagner saying that he was too busy to think about them.
After Mr. Anderson had returned to London Wagner wrote to Praeger and
suggested giving a concert of his own works, but this alarmed the
conservative Philharmonic people, and a compromise was effected by
the promise of the performance of selections. It was arranged that
the composer should stay at Praeger's house, 31 Milton Street, till a
quiet and secluded lodging, where he could go on with the scoring of
the trilogy, could be found for him. He arrived in London on Sunday,
March 5, 1855. The lodging was found at 22 Portland Terrace, Regent's
Park. Much of the work of scoring the "Nibelung" dramas was done at
this place.

The first meeting between Wagner and Mr. Anderson in London was not
encouraging. The Philharmonic director suggested the performance of a
prize symphony by Lachner, whereupon Wagner rose excitedly from his
chair and exclaimed: "Have I, therefore, left my quiet seclusion in
Switzerland to cross the sea to conduct a prize symphony by Lachner?
No, never! If that be a condition of the bargain I at once reject it,
and will return."[21]

[Footnote 21: Praeger, "Wagner as I Knew Him," p. 231.]

The matter was smoothed over, but it was only one of several similar
outbreaks on the part of the impatient artist. Fortunately, as
Praeger notes, Wagner had a keen sense of humour, and when there was
a ludicrous aspect in the scenes of misunderstanding it sufficed to
put him in a pleasant mood once more.

Wagner made only one visit of ceremony in London, and that was a
call on Sir Michael Costa. He flatly refused to call on the musical
critics of the London papers, and Praeger says that this was to his
injury. This state of affairs is not easy to understand in the United
States, where visits to critics are looked upon with suspicion, and
are discouraged by the critics themselves. Praeger records that Mr.
Davison, the editor of _The Musical World_, then an influential
paper, declared that as long as he held the sceptre of musical
criticism, Wagner should not acquire any hold in London. In these
circumstances it is not at all astonishing that the new conductor
received not a little censure. It is only right to mention, however,
that some of the London papers viewed his work without prejudice and
praised what appeared to them to be its excellences. That Wagner was
an uncommonly fine conductor cannot be doubted, and the musicians of
the Philharmonic, as soon as they had recovered from the surprise
caused by Wagner's spirited and truthful readings of the works under
rehearsal and his emphatic insistence on the correct treatment of
every passage, together with vigour of style, applauded him and
obeyed him with delight.

The first concert took place on March 12. The programme, like that
of all the other concerts, was absurdly long, and this was one of
the things against which Wagner vainly fought. The list comprised a
symphony by Haydn, an operatic trio, a Spohr violin concerto, the
Weber aria, "Ocean, thou mighty monster," Mendelssohn's "Fingal's
Cave," overture, Beethoven's "Eroica" symphony, a duet by Marschner,
and the overture to "Die Zauberflöte." Wagner amazed the Londoners
by giving readings of the orchestral works instead of permitting the
orchestra to glide through them in the conventional slovenly way.
He even restored the true tempi in the "Eroica," in which London
conductors had been playing the first movement slowly and the funeral
march quickly. He astonished the great body of Mendelssohnians, which
infested London then as it has ever since, by reading the overture
with beautiful colour and intelligence. Several of the papers abused
him roundly, but _The Morning Post_ discovered in him the ideal

At the second concert on March 26, Wagner conducted the overture to
"Der Freischütz," Beethoven's ninth symphony, and the prelude to
"Lohengrin." The Weber overture had to be repeated, which goes to
show that the audience was not insensible to Wagner's enthusiastic
sympathy with the music of his great predecessor. The dates of the
other concerts conducted by Wagner were April 16 and 30, May 14 and
28, and June 11 and 25. In addition to the Beethoven symphonies
already mentioned he directed the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and
eighth; also the "Leonora" overture, No. 3, and the violin concerto,
Mozart's symphonies in B flat and C, Mendelssohn's Scotch and Italian
symphonies, Spohr's C minor symphony, Cipriani Potter's symphony
in G minor, and some minor works. The overture to "Tannhäuser" was
produced at the fifth concert, and was received with acclamations
by the audience and derision by the critics. It was repeated at the
seventh concert by royal command. The Queen and the Prince Consort
attended this concert and had Wagner before them in the salon. There
the Prince Consort suggested the desirability of translating some of
Wagner's operas into Italian that they might be presented in London,
and the Queen said, "I am most happy to make your acquaintance. Your
composition has charmed me."

Wagner left London the day after his last concert, and he was
heartily glad to shake the dust of the British capital off his feet.
Musical criticism in London was stilted, timorous, afraid of new
thoughts, unable to grasp any departure from the conventionalities
with which it was acquainted, and desperately opposed to musical
progress along lines not laid down by Mendelssohn and Handel. It was
to be expected that the commentors would oppose the entire Wagner
system, but the vituperative strain in the criticisms suggests the
probability that the writers felt and writhed under the power of the
man. It must be understood that similar criticism was written in
Germany, and that the "music of the future," as it was derisively
called, was not peacefully permitted to become the music of the
day. The younger generation of opera-goers cannot realise the state
of mind into which their forerunners were thrown when they were
asked to accept the opera as a play, and not as a mere string of
pretty vocal pieces, loosely connected by the pretence of a plot. In
London, where the opera was the amusement of fashionable society,
the music of Wagner was bound at first to meet with opposition. For
fashionable society always has been and still is opposed to all that
is dignified, serious, or uplifting in life or art.

Aside from some scoring of the Nibelung dramas, Wagner did little
productive work in the uncongenial atmosphere of London. Praeger
introduced to him Karl Klindworth, who was engaged to make piano
scores of the first dramas of the trilogy. This was, perhaps, the
most serious musical achievement of the London visit. It should be
said, however, that the friends whom Wagner found in London were the
nucleus of a substantial support for him in that capital, and when
the movement to build the Bayreuth Theatre took shape, the English
Wagnerites were among the sturdiest upholders of the plan.

Wagner went home to Zurich by way of Paris, and soon after his
arrival took his wife for a short visit to Seelisberg, near the Alps.
Just before starting his dog Peps died, and the letter in which he
communicates this fact to Praeger is so full of warm feeling that it
is a revelation of the richness of the heart of this singular and
erratic being. He said in part:

     "The day of our departure for Seelisberg was already fixed,
     where, as I wrote to you, I was going with my wife, my dog
     and bird.[22] Suddenly dangerous symptoms showed themselves
     in Peps, in consequence of which we put off our journey
     for two days so as to nurse the poor dying dog. Up to the
     last moment Peps showed me a love so touching as to be
     almost heartrending; kept his eyes fixed on me and though
     I chanced to move but a few steps from him, continued to
     follow me with his eyes. He died in my arms on the night
     of the ninth or tenth of this month, passing away without
     a sound, quietly and peacefully. On the morrow, midday,
     we buried him in the garden beside the house. I cried
     incessantly, and since then have felt bitter pain and
     sorrow for the dear friend of the past thirteen years who
     ever worked and walked with me. It has clearly taught me
     that the world exists only in our hearts and conception."

[Footnote 22: A parrot which he had humorously taught to say
frequently: "Richard Wagner, you are a great man."]

At this period he received an offer to visit America. He mentions it
in one of his letters to Praeger and also in other correspondence,
especially that with Liszt. He had been told while in London that he
would receive this invitation, and he wrote to Liszt: "While here I
chew a beggar's crust, I hear from Boston that 'Wagner nights' are
given there. Everyone persuades me to come over; they are occupying
themselves with me with increasing interest; I might make much money
there by concert performances, etc. 'Make much money!' Heavens! I
don't want to make money if I can go the way shown me by my longing."
Indeed Wagner thought of money only as the means which would enable
him to carry out his plans for the production of the Nibelung dramas.
He was sorely tempted for a time by the possibility of earning enough
in the United States to do as he pleased, but he finally wrote to
Liszt, with more than usual penetration, that he was not the kind of
man to be successful with a money-making speculation, and that he had
decided not to be turned aside from his artistic purposes. And thus
ended the attempt to induce Wagner to visit a country, which in its
state at that time would have been quite as uncongenial to him as



     "People treat this unfortunate Wagner as a scamp, an
     impostor, an idiot."--HECTOR BERLIOZ

The composer now set to work right gladly on his "Walküre." He was
eager to finish it and begin the writing of what was still called
"Jung Siegfried." For a time he was impeded by the illness of his
wife and afterwards his own, but on October 3, 1855, he was able to
send to Liszt the first two acts of "Die Walküre." Liszt and his
beloved Countess Wittgenstein went over them together and both wrote
to Wagner of the marvellous effect which this music made upon them.
The last act was finished in April, 1856, and was also despatched to
Liszt. In October of this year Liszt, the Countess Wittgenstein, and
her daughter went to Zurich to visit Wagner. Of course the score of
"Die Walküre" occupied their attention, and Liszt, Wagner, and the
wife of Kapellmeister Heim gave a rehearsal of the work at the Hotel
Bauer before a number of personal friends. The rehearsal moved the
hearers greatly and, as Mr. Finck notes, they "would have been no
doubt greatly surprised had any one foretold that twenty years would
elapse before this drama would have its first adequate performance."

Together, too, Liszt and Wagner gave an orchestral concert at St.
Gall, on November 3, 1856, when Wagner conducted the "Eroica"
symphony and Liszt his "Orphée" and "Les Préludes." But perhaps the
greatest concert of the Zurich series was that given by Wagner in
May, 1853, when he assembled an orchestra of 72 men from different
parts of Germany, and gave selections from "Lohengrin" as they were
never given before and have probably not often been given since. Of
his visit Liszt wrote in several of his numerous letters. He said to
his friend Dr. Adolf Stern, of Dresden, where the name of Wagner was
certainly familiar:

     "In spite of my illness I am spending glorious days with
     Wagner, and am satiating myself with his 'Nibelungen'
     world, of which our business musicians and chaff-threshing
     critics have as yet no suspicion. It is to be hoped that
     this tremendous work may succeed in being performed in the
     year 1859, and I, on my side, will not neglect anything to
     forward this performance as soon as possible--a performance
     which certainly implies many difficulties and exertions.
     Wagner requires for this purpose a special theatre built
     for himself, and a not ordinary acting and orchestral
     staff. It goes without saying that the work can only appear
     before the world under his own conducting; and if, as is
     much to be wished, this should take place in Germany, his
     pardon must be obtained before everything."

These remarks of Liszt admirably sum up the situation in regard to
the "Nibelung" dramas. It was long after the date named when they
saw the light of publicity, and in the meantime many events of
significance were to take place. Not the least of these was to be the
temporary abandonment of the beloved Siegfried subject for another
work. This was the great "Tristan und Isolde," which many of Wagner's
admirers regard as his most inspired creation. This work, like the
"Flying Dutchman," the first in which the real Wagner was disclosed,
was the fruit of discouragement. Although, through the liberality of
Liszt and a few others, including the devoted Mathilde Wesendonck
(who is still--August, 1900--living in Berlin), the Wagners were able
to live in comfort, and Minna could afford to make Richard a present
of silk dressing-gowns and even silk trousers for house wear on his
return from London, the composer saw no way to convince the world
that he was not a mere bundle of eccentricities, but a master with
living embodiments of the true theory of the lyric drama. He was sore
at heart, weary of writing a majestic four-night drama which might
never see the light of the stage.

In 1854, while he was at work on "Die Walküre," the stories of
"Tristan" and "Parsifal" had come to his attention, and the plan of
the former work was sketched. In the winter of 1854-55 he wrote to
Liszt: "As I have never in life felt the real bliss of love, I must
erect a monument to the most beautiful of all my dreams, in which,
from beginning to end, that love shall be thoroughly satiated. I have
in my head 'Tristan und Isolde,' the simplest, but most full-blooded
musical conception. With the black flag which floats at the end
of it I shall cover myself to die." In the midst of a letter of
January, 1855, Liszt interrupted the discussion of other matters to
exclaim: "Stop! One thing I forgot to write to you: Your 'Tristan'
is a splendid idea. It may become a glorious work. Do not abandon
it." In the summer of 1856 Wagner wrote again: "I have again two
splendid subjects which I must execute. 'Tristan und Isolde' you
know, and after that the 'Victory,' the most sacred, the most perfect

This "Victory"[23] was a Buddhistic subject, which Wagner had in mind
for a short time, but which he abandoned for the superior attractions
of "Parsifal." The leading theme, that of the renunciation of sexual
love by the hero, and the assent to it by the heroine, who had at
first passionately loved the unmoved hero, bore a close resemblance
to the personal purity of Parsifal and to the negation of the desire
to live, pictured in "Tristan" as the highest issue of real love.
These thoughts appealed to Wagner, whose mind at this time was deeply
under the influence of the philosophy of Schopenhauer. The Buddhistic
quietism which prevailed in Schopenhauer's philosophy seemed to
offer a solution to the life-problems confronting Wagner, and it was
natural that he should seek to embody the emotional essence of this
philosophy in his music dramas. In 1854 he sent a copy of the poem of
the Nibelung dramas to Schopenhauer as a mark of his esteem.

[Footnote 23: A sketch of this drama, under the title of "The
Victors," was found among Wagner's papers, dated May 16, 1856. The
hero, Ananda, an absolutely pure man, renounces sexual love. He is
passionately beloved by Prakriti, the beautiful daughter of King
Tchandala. The heroine, after vainly suffering the torments of
unrequited passion, renounces love, and is received into the order of
Buddha by Ananda. The idea of salvation through negation is found in
Wagner's "Tristan" and again in his "Parsifal."]

With all these thoughts active in his mind, the poem of Gottfried
von Strassburg on "Tristan und Isolde" offered him an opportunity
to embody his ideas in what he called the "simplest and most
full-blooded musical conception." He was eager to begin a work which
might possibly be produced, and all at once came the needed final
incentive. Dom Pedro, the Emperor of Brazil, had become interested in
the Wagner movement, and he sent an agent to the composer to ask him
if he would write an opera for the Italian company in Rio Janeiro. He
might name his own terms, provided he would promise to go to Brazil
and conduct the work. Wagner was at first touched by this munificent
offer, but he soon saw the hopelessness of trying to get Italian
opera singers to perform such a music drama as he was about to write.
But the Emperor's offer shaped his resolution, and in the latter
part of June, 1857, he wrote to Liszt: "I have determined finally
to give up my headstrong design of completing the 'Nibelungen.'
I have led my young Siegfried to a beautiful forest solitude and
there have left him under a linden tree, and taken leave of him with
heartfelt tears." And later, in the same letter, he told Liszt that
he had decided to write "Tristan und Isolde" and have it performed at
Strassburg with Niemann and Mme. Meyer.

On the last day of 1857 the first act of "Tristan" was finished.
Wagner now made a trip to Paris, on money borrowed from Liszt, in
the hope of being able to arrange a performance of "Rienzi," but
nothing came of the journey, except that a waiter in the house in
which he lived stole a large part of the advance royalties which
Breitkopf and Härtel had paid him on the completion of the first
act of the new work. He returned to Zurich and there Liszt sent to
him Carl Tausig, the pianist, who became one of his firmest friends
and supporters, and who subsequently made the piano arrangement of
"Die Meistersinger." Tausig, with all his genius, was only a boy
of seventeen at this time, and he could not satisfy the craving of
Wagner for sympathetic intellectual companionship. Unfortunately the
composer had in previous years sought this in the society of Mrs.
Wesendonck, before mentioned, and aroused the jealousy of poor Minna.
This jealousy led in 1856 to an open outbreak, for Wagner wrote to
Praeger, who was on his way back to London after a visit to the
composer, "The devil is loose. I shall leave Zurich at once and come
to you in Paris." But a little later he wrote that the matter had
been smoothed over. This, however, was one of the evidences that this
unhappily assorted union was slowly nearing its dissolution.

In June, 1858, Wagner sketched the second act of "Tristan und
Isolde," and then a desire for quiet and the luxurious atmosphere of
Italy took possession of him. Venice, not having any German alliance,
and there being consequently no danger of his arrest there, seemed to
be the desired place, and thither he went. He wrote the music of the
second act of the opera in Venice. Then came news that a projected
production of "Rienzi" in Munich had been abandoned, and that a
new Intendant, who had no artistic feeling, had gone to reign in
Weimar and make Liszt powerless. On the heels of these misfortunes
came an attempt of the Saxon government to drive him out of Venice.
Disheartened, embarrassed, and in debt, he went to Switzerland and
secluded himself on the shores of the Lake of Lucerne. There in the
summer of 1859 he completed, after four months' work, the third
act of "Tristan." The completed score was placed in the hands of
Breitkopf and Härtel, and then Wagner set to work to find an opening
for its production. Various difficulties arose. In some places where
he could have had singers he dared not set foot. In other places he
could get no competent performers.

Wagner's final departure from Zurich was undoubtedly due to the
action of Mr. Wesendonck. The nature of the attachment between Mrs.
Wesendonck and the composer could no longer be concealed. Wagner
had dedicated to her a sonata and the prelude to "Die Walküre." He
had set words of hers to music. She was his friend, his confidante.
According to M. Belart, in whose "Richard Wagner in Zurich,"
published in Leipsic in 1900, this whole matter was discussed, Wagner
left Zurich finally and suddenly on Aug. 17, 1859. Mr. Wesendonck,
when questioned about the matter in after years, said flatly that
he compelled Wagner to go. He went to Jacob Sulzer, previously
mentioned, borrowed some money, and started for Geneva. Minna Wagner
went to Dresden. This was the beginning of the end between them.
There is some discrepancy in the dates. There is no doubt that Wagner
went to Lucerne when he returned from Venice, but he must have gone
again to Zurich in the course of the summer. At any rate when he went
to Geneva, he was en route for Paris, and the Wesendonck entanglement
was at an end. In 1865 Wagner wrote to the injured husband:

     "The incident that separated me from you about six years
     ago should be evaded; it has upset me and my life enough
     that you recognise me no longer, and that I esteem myself
     less and less. All this suffering should have earned your
     forgiveness, and it would have been beautiful, noble,
     to have forgiven me; but it is useless to demand the
     impossible, and I was in the wrong."

It was in September, 1859, that Wagner arrived in the French capital.
He settled in the Rue Newton, near the Arc de Triomphe, and there
he and Minna, who had rejoined him, received their friends every
Wednesday. Among the frequenters of their home were Émile Ollivier,
the French statesman and husband of Liszt's daughter Blandine;
Frédéric Villot, keeper of the imperial museums; Edmond Roche,
afterward the translator of "Tannhäuser"; Hector Berlioz, Carvalho,
director of the Théâtre Lyrique; Gustave Doré, Jules Ferry, Charles
Baudelaire, and A. de Gasparini, afterward one of the biographers of

Later, when the composer had taken a new residence at No. 3, Rue
d'Aumale, there was added to this number Cosima, a younger daughter
of Liszt, married two years previously to Hans von Bülow. By
arrangement with M. Carvalho, Wagner gave three concerts in the
Théâtre des Italiens on Jan. 25, and Feb. 1 and 8, 1860. The overture
to "Tannhäuser" and the prelude to "Tristan und Isolde" were given at
these entertainments. These concerts were pecuniarily disastrous, and
so also were two given in Brussels in March. Both press and public
were nonplussed by Wagner's music, and it remained for Hector Berlioz
to lead, by an article published in the _Gazette Musicale_, in the
subsequent general attack. Meanwhile Wagner was striving to induce
M. Carvalho to produce "Tannhäuser" at the Théâtre Lyrique, when
suddenly an unexpected power intervened.

According to Wagner's account given to Praeger, the Emperor Napoleon
III., in conversation with the Princess Metternich, asked her if she
had heard the latest opera of Prince Poniatowski. She answered that
she had, and that she did not care for such music. "But is it not
good?" asked the Emperor. "No," she responded. "But where is better
music to be got, then?" "Why, your Majesty, you have at the present
moment the greatest composer that ever lived in your capital." "Who
is he?" "Richard Wagner." "Then why do they not give his operas?"
"Because he is in earnest, and would require all kinds of concessions
and much money." "Very well; he shall have carte blanche." The
Emperor accordingly gave orders that "Tannhäuser" should be mounted
at the Grand Opéra. This stroke of fortune came like lightning out of
a clear sky, yet Wagner was not altogether blind to the difficulties
in the way of a satisfactory performance.

With the scenic preparations, which now began, he was delighted, for
the resources and skill of the leading opera house of Europe were at
his disposal. But the lack of singers trained in the theory of the
lyric drama hampered him. He stipulated that Albert Niemann should
be engaged for the title rôle, and that he should have time to learn
the French text. He asked for Faure to create the rôle of Wolfram
for the Parisians, but that new and rising star demanded too large a
salary, and Morelli was engaged for the part. With this singer, and
Mme. Tedesco, the Venus, Wagner had no end of trouble, as they were
Italians and utterly without comprehension of his ideas. Marie Saxe,
who had a lovely voice, was wooden in her acting, and Wagner had to
drive her to movement and life. Edmond Roche's translation of the
text proved to be too rough for use, and finally Charles Nuitter,
who translated Bellini's "Roméo et Juliette" for the Opéra, was
employed to finish the work.

In his anxiety to make himself and his purposes known to the
Parisians Wagner published four of his dramatic poems, prefaced by
a letter on music,[24] in which he endeavoured to set forth his
ideas. M. Adolphe Jullien says of this letter: "As Wagner had in
1860 already written 'Tristan und Isolde,' and as that poem figured
in his book, he instinctively carried the history of his life and of
the development of his ideas beyond the point of 'Tristan,' without
reflecting that he was thereby exceeding his aim, it being simply a
question of preparing people to hear 'Tannhäuser.'" There is no doubt
that this letter did much to confuse those Frenchmen who read it and
to deepen the spirit of opposition to Wagner's reformatory theories.

[Footnote 24: "The Music of the Future," W. Ashton Ellis's
translation of Wagner's Prose Works, Vol. III.]

But despite all these things the production of "Tannhäuser" might
have come to a successful issue but for one difficulty. The
gentlemen of the Jockey Club, who were among the most important of
the subscribers to the Opéra, and who, of course, did not at any
time desire to take the entertainment seriously, were in the habit
of arriving after their dinners in time for the ballet. In the
original version of "Tannhäuser" there was no attempt at a ballet,
and Alphonse Royer, the director of the Grand Opéra, besought Wagner
to introduce one in the hall of song, in the second act. This the
composer peremptorily refused to do, because it would interfere
with the dramatic integrity of the scene. He would consent only to
a rearrangement of the first scene, where, in the revels in the
Venusberg, a ballet with some significance might be introduced. He
therefore rewrote this scene, cutting out the stirring finale of
the overture and raising the curtain on the second appearance of
the bacchanalian music, which was now extended and elaborated so
that a pantomimic ballet might be danced. He also elaborated the
scene between Tannhäuser and Venus, after this ballet, according to
his later conceptions of music drama. The music of this new scene
was written in the style of "Tristan und Isolde," and, at every
performance of the Parisian version of "Tannhäuser," obstinately
refuses to amalgamate in style with the rest of the score. This whole
new scene was beyond the comprehension of the Parisian public of
1861, but might have been tolerated had it not been a direct affront
to the subscribers. A further element of danger lay in the fact that
the conductor was no other than Dietsch, the musician who had failed
with "The Phantom Ship" after Wagner had sold that text to Léon

The first performance took place on Wednesday, March 13, 1861.
After the first act the gentlemen of the Jockey Club went out and
bought all the hunting whistles they could get, and as soon as the
second act began they set up a din which gradually drowned out
the performance except in the forte passages. In the third act
pandemonium reigned, and the thrilling narrative of Tannhäuser
was unheard in the chorus of yells from the auditorium. Wagner's
friends applauded, and the Emperor on several occasions led the
favourable demonstrations, but Wagner was taught that in Paris the
coryphée ranked above high art. Before the second performance,
March 18, Royer succeeded in inducing Wagner to cut out some of the
most familiar parts of the work, a portion of the Venus scene, the
plaintive melody of the shepherd's pipe, the hunting horns and the
appearance of the dogs at the end of the first act, and other similar
things, all now known to every lover of Wagner's work. The gentlemen
of the Jockey Club again drowned the latter half of the opera with
their whistles, despite the plain protest of a large part of the
audience led by the Emperor. The third performance was given on a
Sunday in order that the subscribers might not be present. That the
general public was interested in the opera is proved by the receipts:
First performance, 7,491 francs; second, 8,415; third, 10,764.

Wagner now refused to allow the performances to continue, and as he
had borne much of their expense he left Paris burdened with debts.
But the shrieks of the Jockey Club whistles had resounded across the
Rhine and stirred up a Teutonic indignation, which was eventually
to be of much benefit to him. The French public was not unjust to
Wagner; he knew that and testified to it; but, as Charles Baudelaire
exclaimed in his pamphlet on the episode, "'Tannhäuser' was not even



     "My King, thou rarest shield of this my

Wagner went from Paris to Vienna, where he hoped that a production
of "Tristan und Isolde" might be arranged. The manager of the opera
house, when he learned that the composer was about to visit the city,
prepared a special performance of "Lohengrin." This took place on May
15, 1861, and for the first time Wagner himself heard the work which
has touched the hearts of so many thousands of his fellow-creatures.
At the end of each act the audience forced him to acknowledge its
applause, and at the conclusion of the performance he was called
before the curtain three times and compelled to make a brief speech.
Many times afterward did he refer to the intoxication of that
wondrous May night. Think of it! Thirteen years after it was written,
and eleven years after its first performance, the writer of the most
popular opera in the world heard it for the first time. And even then
this master, who had already written "Rienzi," "The Flying Dutchman,"
"Tannhäuser," "Lohengrin," "Das Rheingold," "Die Walküre," part of
"Siegfried," and "Tristan und Isolde," was a wanderer on the face of
the earth, an outcast, and could not make a living from his music.

His early works were now beginning to find their way to the stage,
but the royalties paid in the German theatres were too small and
the performances too infrequent to bring him in a satisfactory
income. His first effort, therefore, was to get "Tristan und
Isolde" produced, and to his great joy the manager of the Vienna
opera accepted the score. Preparations were at once made for the
production. But, alas! that was still far away. The rehearsals began
in the fall, but the tenor, Ander, was taken sick, and the whole
winter was lost. When the work was resumed, it dragged along at a
snail's pace, and finally, after fifty-four rehearsals, the drama
was abandoned as impossible. Ander, the Tristan, told Dr. Hanslick
that as fast as he learned one act he forgot another. Wagner, on the
contrary, asserted in after years that all the singers went through
the whole work with him at the piano. However, it is not difficult
to conceive that the artists of that day may have found "Tristan und
Isolde" impracticable, seeing that the work never was really _sung_
until within the last half-dozen years, when the greatest vocal
artists of the world appeared in it.

While the Viennese were floundering, Wagner found it necessary to do
something toward earning money, and so he undertook a concert tour.
In Carlsruhe, Prague, and Weimar negotiations for the production of
Tristan fell through, but in the last-named place Wagner was royally
received in the summer by Liszt and the other musicians. The general
amnesty which had been granted some years before to the rebels of
1848 made it possible for him to go openly to Germany, except the
kingdom of Saxony, and even that was soon opened to him. He planned
a tour, and reluctantly prepared to produce excerpts from his own
works, as the only means of advertising them. He confesses that dire
necessity forced him to this step so inconsistent with his theories,
and his enemies did not hesitate to taunt him with the inconsistency.
He was alone in his travels, for the winter of 1861 in Paris had
been the last straw on the back of the patient Minna. She could no
longer endure her life with this "monster of genius," who would
not be a faithful husband, who wrote works ridiculed by the world,
and could not earn bread and butter. She left him and went back to
Leipsic to live with her relatives. She and her husband never came
together again, though they occasionally referred to one another with
tolerance in their letters to third persons. Minna died in 1866.

The concert tour began in the winter of 1862, and Wagner travelled
in Germany and even into Russia. In the latter country alone did
his entertainments bring him in any substantial pecuniary returns.
He was in Moscow when he learned that the rehearsals of "Tristan
und Isolde" had been abandoned at Vienna. He had become indifferent
on the subject. He was almost convinced that he ought to give up
his attempt to be a composer. Mr. Finck notes that at one time he
seriously thought of going to India as a tutor in an English family.
Let it be borne in mind that in 1863, while he was still wandering
about, giving these concerts, he was fifty years old, and that, with
a surging consciousness within him that he had created immortal
works, he was stared at by people wherever he went as a freak and a
madman, and was caricatured and ridiculed by almost the whole press
of Europe. And all this because he had dared to say that an opera
was a poetic drama, and should be so written, so performed, and so
received by the public.

Yet in these years of hardship, sorrow, and discouragement he wrote
the text of his most humorous work. He took up and completed the
book of "Die Meistersinger," of which he had made a sketch in 1845,
just after the production of "Tannhäuser." This work was done in the
course of a temporary residence in Paris in the winter of 1861-62.
The text was published, or rather printed for circulation among his
friends, in 1862. The version now known to all music lovers shows
many changes. The copyright of the drama was sold to Messrs. Schott,
of Mainz, and accordingly Wagner went to Biebrich, a little town
opposite Mainz, to compose the music. He subsequently continued his
labours at Penzing, near Vienna, and there also he published the text
of "Der Ring des Nibelungen" as a piece of literature. He declared
that he did not expect to finish the music, and that he had no
hope of living to see the work performed. It was at this time that
Wagner's affairs sank into such a state that he was overwhelmed. He
decided to go to Russia and remain there the rest of his life. But
first he must finish the score of "Die Meistersinger." So he wrote
to his old friend, Mme. Wille, at Zurich, and asked her to receive
him for a short time. Like the familiar man in the play, he arrived
on the heels of his letter, and Frau Wille had to exert herself to
make all ready for the great man. But she realised that all Wagner's
doings and sayings would have historical importance, and she made
notes from which she afterward published a valuable article.

From this we learn that the great musician while in her home was
the prey of conflicting emotions, but was most frequently plunged
in despair. He had a deep, a passionate conviction of his own
powers. He was inspired with an absolute prevision of the worldwide
glorification that would come to his name when once his works were
adequately made known. And because of this he suffered agonies of
mind and heart while the scores lay silent in his desk. He cried out
against the niggardliness of a world which refused him a few luxuries
when he was preparing joy for so many thousands. He felt that the
time would come when the world would be ready to heap all kinds of
honours on his head, but he feared that it would come too late.

Yet in this state of mind the genius of production would not
sleep within him. He worked unceasingly at the score of "Die
Meistersinger," and, according to Mme. Wille's own account, with
a perfect satisfaction as to its greatness. Wagner had what has
frequently been called the vanity of men of genius. He spoke with
childish naïveté of his works. He spoke of himself without hesitation
as a great man, and he had not even the slightest consciousness
that a difference of opinion was possible. But such vanity is
pardonable in a man who so thoroughly justifies it. Cicero, Napoleon,
and Beethoven had a similar sort of vanity. The world has learned
to smile indulgently upon it. And whereas in Wagner's lifetime
his vanity and love of luxury made him perhaps not an altogether
agreeable companion, they detract in no way from his claims to
recognition as one of the most remarkable men ever born.

One day, while at the Willes', Wagner received word that his
Viennese creditors were on his track, and he resolved to go away.
He was at his wits' end, for everywhere "Tristan" was pronounced
impossible, and "Die Meistersinger" was refused before the score was
seen. He went to Stuttgart with the vain hope that he could arrange
for the performance of some of his operas there and thus earn enough
to stave off misfortune for a time. And even while he had fled,
his fortune was pursuing him. At last to this weary wanderer, this
"Flying Dutchman" of musical history, were to come rest and peace
and a perfect love. At last one dream of all his years of insatiable
longing was to be realised. At last his scores would sound "from off
the death-wan paper," and the world would learn the true might of
Richard Wagner.

In the preface to the poem of the "Nibelung's Ring," Wagner had
described the means and manner of performance--had, in a word, laid
down the plan of Bayreuth. But he felt that only a monarch could
afford to give the financial support to such a scheme, and he wrote,
"Will that king be found?" Now there was a young prince who fed his
soul on Wagner's works and who worshipped the master in secret.
At fifteen he had heard "Lohengrin," and, like all whose operatic
experience began with Wagner, he had become an ardent Wagnerite. He
had watched his idol's career of misfortune in helpless pity. And
then suddenly the King of Bavaria went to join his fathers and this
generous youth seated himself upon the throne. One of his first
acts was to send a messenger to bid Wagner come to his capital and
complete the majestic labours of his life in peace.

Herr Sauer, the appointed messenger, searched high and low. He delved
in Wagner's old haunts at Vienna, but the very memory of the mad
composer seemed to have gone. So he went down to Switzerland and
hunted in Zurich and Lucerne. But there was no Wagner. Then Baron
Hornstein, a minor composer, met him out in a boat on Lake Lucerne
and told him that Wagner was in Stuttgart. At any rate this is the
story told to Mr. Finck by Heinrich Vogl, the tenor, who said that
Wagner confirmed it. Sauer took Wagner to Munich, and there on May 4,
1864, he wrote to Frau Wille that it all seemed like a dream.

"He wants me to be with him always, to work, to rest, to produce
my works; he will give me everything I need; I am to finish my
Nibelungen and he will have them performed as I wish. I am to be
my own unrestricted master; not Kapellmeister--nothing but myself
and his friend. All troubles are to be taken from me; I shall have
whatever I need, if only I stay with him."

This enthusiastic youth of eighteen, with a royal treasury at his
disposal, and the splendid musical traditions of Munich reaching away
behind him to the era of Orlando Lasso, was to be the saviour of
Wagner's work. He was already a worshipper of the art of the master,
and he speedily proved himself to be attached to him by a deep
personal affection. On Lake Starnberg, no great distance from Munich,
the King gave Wagner a pretty villa, and there he spent the summer of
1864. The King's summer palace was only a mile or two away, and the
monarch and composer were much in one another's company. The young
King's friendship was of a passionate kind, such as only romantic
youths entertain, and, unfortunately, of the sort that was sure
in the course of time to lead to scandalous comment in the polite
society of a court.

In honour of his new patron Wagner wrote in that summer the
"Huldigungs Marsch," which has the romantic character implanted in
all Wagner's concert pieces. Here, too, at the wish of his young
patron, Wagner wrote his essay on "State and Religion" (Mr. Ellis's
translation, Vol. IV.). As in all the other writings of Wagner
bearing upon the conduct of a State, in this essay art is held up
as the panacea for all ills. He saw the ideal of the State embodied
in the person of the King, who by the nature of his position must
take life most seriously, and in whose inability to attain ideal
justice and humanity there is something tragic. But for these ideals
the King is bound to strive and so must lead a life of misery if he
does not seek the only solace, namely, religion. Then follows a long
definition of religion. How shall the King endure? By refreshing
his mind with the pleasing distractions of art. The essay easily
convinces the reader that Wagner was not, as he often wished to be, a
philosopher, but simply an artist whose reasoning flexibly followed
the flow of his ruling instincts.

So passed the first summer under the royal protection, pleasantly,
almost idyllically. But now serious work was to begin. In the autumn
the two friends returned to Munich. A residence in a quiet part of
the city was set apart for the use of Wagner, and he prepared to
resume the production of his masterpieces. Hans von Bülow, his former
pupil, was summoned with a view to his becoming the conductor of
"Tristan und Isolde." This beginning was effected in the summer, for
Mme. von Bülow, little dreaming whither she was going, arrived in
Munich with her two daughters in June, and Von Bülow followed the
next month. The influence of Cosima von Bülow upon Wagner began at
once. He had been lonely and depressed ever since his separation
from his wife, and the advent of this woman of artistic temperament
and commanding intellect, the fruit of the illicit union of Franz
Liszt and the brilliant Countess d'Agoult (the "Daniel Stern" of
French literature), aroused in him new conceptions of the "eternal

Peter Cornelius, the pupil of Liszt and composer of the admirable
"Barber of Bagdad," was also summoned, and not far away lived the
young Hans Richter, afterward to be one of the principal conductors
of Wagner's music. The ardent young King was all eagerness to begin
the work of performance, but Wagner was hampered by the want of
singers capable of singing such new music as that of "Tristan und
Isolde." In Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld and his wife were found
representatives of the hero and heroine, but Wagner foresaw that
the method of singing the music drama of the future would need wide
study, and so he wrote a long paper on a plan for a school of music
in Munich. This paper gave a detailed outline of the operation
of a conservatory, and set forth as its purpose the artistic
interpretation of the works of the older German masters, and leading
thence to the treatment of the modern music drama. The old Munich
Conservatory was closed by the King's order in the early summer of
1865. But the plan to reopen it on the lines laid down by Wagner
failed through the hostility of the local musicians. It was reopened
in 1867 under Hans von Bülow, who was able to carry out Wagner's
ideas only to a limited extent.

In October the King decided that "Der Ring des Nibelungen" should
be produced, and the date was set for it three years thence. On
December 4 "Der Fliegende Holländer" was performed, and on December
11, January 1, and February 1 Wagner conducted concerts. In January
Gottfried Semper, the architect, was called to Munich to be
consulted about plans for the new theatre for the Nibelung dramas.
And meanwhile the preparations for the production of "Tristan" went
forward. Wagner's star was at last in the ascendant.



     "Lausch', Kind! Das ist ein Meisterlied."--DIE

And now, under the guidance of a monarch to whom Wagner's art was
almost the inspiration of life, Munich, which in 1858 had rejected
"Der Fliegende Holländer" as unsuitable to the German stage, was
about to produce "Tristan und Isolde," the supreme essence of
Wagner's matured genius. In April, 1865, the composer wrote a
general letter inviting his friends everywhere to go to Munich and
attend this first of all Wagner festivals, three performances of a
work already eight years old, set down for May 15, 18, and 22. But
postponements took place, and the work was not produced until June
10. It was repeated on June 13 and 19 and July 1. Each performance
was attended by a large audience, and the applause was of the most
vigorous kind. Much of the success was due to the superb conducting
of Von Bülow, whom Wagner called his second self, and the inspired
interpretation of Tristan by Ludwig Schnorr. Wagner declared that
his ideal was fully realised by this great artist, and he bemoaned
Schnorr's subsequent untimely death as the greatest possible loss to
him and his work.[25] The composer's essay on this singer is a most
eloquent tribute from a creative to an interpretative artist, and
throw invaluable light on Wagner's theories of performance in general
and the presentation of "Tristan und Isolde" in particular.

[Footnote 25: A gentleman, who in his youth heard Schnorr sing
Tristan, has assured me that he was not the typical German
representative of the part, but that he approached in his singing
the manner of Jean de Reszke. Schnorr's voice, my informant says,
was a beautiful, sweet, lyric tenor, and his style was one in which
a fluent and touching cantabile was the most conspicuous feature.
This statement, in conjunction with Wagner's declaration that Schnorr
fulfilled his ideal, should contribute something toward a destruction
of the foolish notion that Wagner's music ought not to be beautifully

It may easily be understood that this was a period of unalloyed
happiness for Wagner. His highest dreams were being realised, and he
was working out his artistic purposes with a free hand. But such an
Elysium could not last. His enemies were striving against him with
might and main. The newspapers were used unscrupulously to spread
all kinds of damaging reports. It was said that he was endeavouring
to substitute art for religion in the State, that he was leading the
young King into reckless extravagances which threatened the stability
of the national treasury. The King was, indeed, considering the
plan to build a special theatre for the production of the Nibelung
dramas. Such a theatre was subsequently built at Bayreuth, and Munich
might have had the honour and the profit which have since accrued to
that little city, had it not been for the determined opposition of
narrow-minded intriguers.[26]

[Footnote 26: The new Munich Wagner Theatre, opened in the summer of
1901, stands almost on the spot on which King Ludwig's was to stand.]

The story was published that the new theatre was to cost millions.
Other equally wild assertions were made. The people became aroused,
and finally police and court officials represented to the King that
Wagner's life was in danger. The composer had already answered in a
calm and dignified letter the various newspaper calumnies, but that
availed him nothing. The King besought him to leave Munich, in order
that public confidence might be restored. And accordingly, after
a stay of a year and a half in the city, he departed in December,
1865, to his favourite refuge, Switzerland. He made a short stay at
Vevay and Geneva, and then in February, 1866, settled at Triebschen,
near Lucerne, where he remained, with little interruption, till he
removed to Bayreuth in 1872. Most of the frantic opposition to the
royal support of Wagner appeared to have arisen from the project of
bringing to ideal production the Nibelung cycle, and so this was for
the time abandoned. As Wagner himself tells us, in his "Final Report"
on the preparation of these dramas (Ellis's translation, Vol. V., p.

     "Now that I and my usual project had been placed in broad
     daylight, it really appeared as if all the ill will that
     had lurked before in ambush was determined to make an open
     attack in full force. Indeed, it seemed as though no single
     interest, of all those represented by our press and our
     society, was not stung to the quick by the composition and
     plan of production of my work. To stay the disgraceful
     direction taken by this feud in every circle of society,
     which recklessly assailed alike protector and protected,
     I could but decide to strip the scheme of that majestic
     character which my patron had accorded it, and turn it into
     a channel less provocative of universal wrath. Indeed, I
     even tried to divert public attention from the whole affair
     by spending a little hard-won rest on the completion of the
     score of my 'Meistersinger,' a work with which I should not
     appear to be quitting the customary groove of performances
     at the theatre."

It may not be out of place to add here that calumny pursued him after
his retirement from Munich, and one of the most interesting stories
was that he had left his wife to starve. To this falsehood the
unhappy Minna replied with great dignity and a touch of pathos in a
statement published in January, 1866, a fortnight before her death.
She said:

     "The malicious reports which certain Vienna and Munich
     papers have been publishing for some time concerning my
     husband compel me to declare that I have received from him
     up to date a pension which amply suffices for my support. I
     seize this opportunity with so much the more pleasure since
     it enables me to destroy at least one of the many calumnies
     which people are pleased to launch against my husband."

This statement is indisputable evidence that there was no harsh
feeling in the heart of the wife who had parted from him.

Mme. von Bülow with her children joined Wagner at Triebschen,
while Hans was obliged to go to Basle to teach. In his place he
left Hans Richter, who thus became intimately associated with the
creative work of Wagner. The separation between Von Bülow and his
wife proved to be final, and the daughter of Liszt imitated her
illustrious father by recognising the supremacy of the claims of
love over all other obligations. In 1866 the public feeling against
Wagner had somewhat declined, and the King decided to have model
performances of "Tannhäuser" and "Lohengrin" at Munich. Von Bülow
was made Kapellmeister and devoted himself, heart and soul, to the
preparations for these performances. In March, 1867, Wagner went to
Munich to supervise some of the rehearsals, and again he visited the
capital in May for the same purpose. A general rehearsal took place
on June 11th, and everything went to the satisfaction of the master.

To his intense surprise, the next day the King sent away Tichatschek
and Mme. Bertram-Mayer, who had been especially engaged, and
announced that their places would be taken by Heinrich Vogl and
Therese Thoma, afterward his wife. This was the result of a new
intrigue against Wagner, and he, despairing of a perfect performance
in these conditions, at once left the city. The first of these
"model" performances took place on June 16 and was successful in
spite of the sudden changes. But it was not what Wagner would have
called an ideal performance, and some of the customary cuts were
made. Despite the continued opposition to Wagner the King retained
his love for the "music of the future," and he determined that "Die
Meistersinger" should be produced in the year 1868. Public feeling
against Wagner still further diminished, and he was able to visit
Munich frequently to superintend the rehearsals, which were under the
direction of Von Bülow as conductor and Richter as chorus master. The
best obtainable artists in Germany were secured, and no pains were
spared in the preparation of the troublesome but essential details of
nuance and stage business. On June 21, 1868, the opera was produced,
and its success was most decided.

And now Wagner returned to his magnum opus, "Der Ring des
Nibelungen." But the King could not wait. He was eager to hear at
least a part of it, and so he gave orders that "Das Rheingold" should
be prepared. Again there were troubles of all kinds. The composer's
directions were so inadequately followed that the machinery for the
first scene was almost worthless. Richter, who had succeeded Von
Bülow as Kapellmeister, was so displeased with the preparations
that he refused to conduct, and finally Franz Wüllner was secured
in his place. After several postponements the work was produced in
a bungling style on Sept. 22, 1869. Wagner made a feeble effort to
save the performance from disaster, but the result was practically a
fiasco. The King, however, was bound to hear more of the trilogy, and
accordingly, on June 26, 1870, "Die Walküre" was performed, the Vogls
appearing as the lovers. The audience was somewhat better pleased
with this work than with the "Rheingold," but the production could
not be called a success. These performances were premature, and they
may be said to have flashed in the pan.

It was at this period that an event occurred which Wagner's friends
had for some time expected. The marriage of Cosima Liszt and Hans
von Bülow had not been happy, and the estrangement between them was
accelerated by the woman's quick conception of a passion for Wagner.
When Von Bülow went to Basle to teach, the beginning of the end had
come, and it was not long after that when the relations between
Wagner and Mme. von Bülow could no longer be kept secret. "If it were
only someone whom I could kill," said Von Bülow, "he would have been
dead before this." The great conductor could not think of slaying the
great master. In the autumn of 1869 the Von Bülows were divorced. In
July, 1870 Wagner wrote to Praeger:

     "My dear Ferdinand, you will no doubt be angry with me when
     you hear that I am soon to marry Bülow's wife, who has
     become a convert in order to be divorced."

A little later Praeger received the wedding cards announcing that
they had been married on Aug. 25 at the Protestant Church of Lucerne.
The attitude of Liszt toward this union may be understood from
Wagner's statement that he was more annoyed by his daughter's change
of religion than by her divorce. That the divorce and the marriage
had to come about, however, may be inferred from the fact that in
the summer of 1869 Mme. von Bülow had borne to Wagner a son.[27] The
existence of this child was first definitely mentioned by Wagner
in a letter to the Zurich friend, Mme. Wille, dated June 25, 1870,
accepting an invitation to visit her, but deferring the date till he
and Mme. von Bülow could go as man and wife. In November of the same
year Wagner wrote to Praeger, and closed the letter with these words:

     "Often do I now think of you because of your love for
     children. My house, too, is full of children, the children
     of my wife, but beside there blooms for me a splendid son,
     strong and beautiful, whom I dare call Siegfried Richard
     Wagner. Now think what I must feel that this at last has
     fallen to my share. I am fifty-seven years old."

[Footnote 27: The date of Siegfried Wagner's birth has never been
made known by the Wagner family. In his chronological table of the
incidents of Wagner's life, Houston Stewart Chamberlain notes, in
the year 1869, "Siegfried Wagner born on June 6 of the marriage with
Cosima Liszt." In spite of the direct and the indirect falsehoods
contained in this note, I have reason to believe that the date is

Cosima Wagner was twenty-nine years old at the time of her marriage
to the composer. Many foolish stories have been told of her coming
between him and his first wife. The reader of this volume can see for
himself that there is not the slightest foundation for these tales.
The facts of the divorce and marriage may be permitted to stand
without comment. But it should be said that Cosima Wagner gave to
her husband a loyalty, a devotion, and a sympathetic comprehension
which made him a wholly happy man in his domestic life. In 1871
Wagner composed, in honour of the child and to celebrate his wife's
birthday, the popular "Siegfried Idyll." Richter gathered the
necessary musicians at Lucerne and rehearsed the piece, and at the
proper time performed it on the stairs of the villa at Triebschen,
to the surprise and joy of Mme. Wagner. The leading themes of the
composition are taken from "Siegfried" and are combined with an old
German cradle-song.

In 1870 Wagner published two important prose works, "On Conducting"
and "Beethoven." The former arraigns the mechanical Kapellmeisters of
Germany in good round terms, and sets forth Wagner's ideas as to the
proper manner of directing the performance of the classic orchestral
works. It is an eloquent and instructive little book, and should be
read by all music-lovers. The study of Beethoven is less clear in
style and dips into metaphysical discussion, but it contains artistic
views of high dignity. In 1871 the composer wrote the familiar
"Kaisermarsch," intending it as a musical celebration of Germany's
triumph in the conflict with France. It may be noted that the Emperor
accorded to this attention the very scantest courtesy. We have now
reached the period when Wagner left Munich for Bayreuth. The time
was approaching when the great Nibelung drama must be launched in its
entirety. The plan to build a theatre for it in Munich had, as we
have seen, fallen through. A new site had to be found and new plans
to be adopted for bringing to a successful issue the most formidable
theatrical project of the century.



     "Vollendet das ewige Werk:
     Auf Berges Gipfel
     Die Götter-Burg,
     Prunkvoll prahlt
     Der prangende Bau!"

It was in April, 1872, that Wagner went to Bayreuth to live. He at
first occupied rooms in the small hotel belonging to the Castle
Fantaisie, in the village of Donndorf, an hour's ride from Bayreuth.
Subsequently he moved into hired apartments in the town. Meanwhile a
new home for him was in process of erection, and in 1874 he and his
family took possession of the Villa Wahnfried, where his widow and
children still live. This house was built in accordance with Wagner's
own ideas, and in it at last he found that domestic peace and comfort
for which he had longed through so many years of struggle. But the
theatre and the performance of the Nibelung drama were still at
a distance. Work on the "Festspielhaus," as it is called, was in
progress, but the difficulties in the way of its completion seemed
well-nigh insuperable. Money, money, was still the cry. The history
of the inception and progress of the Bayreuth project might well be
told at great length, but it must be narrated as briefly as possible.

Why had Wagner selected Bayreuth as the scene of the crowning labour
of his career? Other cities in Germany had offered him inducements,
but they were precisely the sort of inducements that a man of
Wagner's artistic ideas could not appreciate. He could have gone to
cities in which he would have had ready-made publics in the shape
of summer tourists in large numbers, but such publics he did not
desire. He wished to bring to the performance of his magnum opus an
assembly gathered for no other object. He desired the representations
to take place where they alone would be the moving thought in the
public mind. People must go to Bayreuth solely to attend the Wagner
performances, and thus the audience would come into the theatre in
the right mood. Again, Bayreuth was in Bavaria, and Wagner wished to
carry out in the dominion of his royal friend the great project of
his life.

But how was the necessary money to be raised? Performances of the
older works brought in but little, and concerts were expensive. At
this juncture Carl Tausig, the young pianist, conceived a plan, which
he elaborated with the aid of the Baroness Marie von Schleinitz. It
was estimated that the entire expense of preparing and performing
"Der Ring des Nibelungen" would amount to about 300,000 thalers, or
$225,000. The plan was to sell 1000 certificates of membership among
the supporters of Wagner's ideas. The holder of one certificate was
to be entitled to a seat at each of the three series of performances.
Any person could buy several certificates, and three might unite in
the purchase of one, each of the three thus attending one series.
Tausig had other ideas in his head for the assistance of Wagner, but
he was suddenly carried away by typhoid fever at the age of thirty.

Meanwhile Emil Heckel, a music publisher of Mannheim, had proposed
the formation of Wagner societies, and had organised one in Mannheim,
in June, 1871. Heckel's scheme was a sort of lottery, each member
paying five florins and being entitled to one chance in a patron's
certificate, one of which was bought for each thirty-five members.
The society was also to give concerts and to use the proceeds in
the purchase of certificates. The Wagner society plan spread,
and organisations of this kind were formed in leading cities in
Europe and America. Wagner busied himself conducting concerts and
pushing the production of his works, but the raising of the funds
proceeded very slowly. Nevertheless, on May 22, 1872, Wagner's
fifty-ninth birthday, the corner-stone of the new theatre was laid
with appropriate ceremonies. Burgomaster Muncker, from whose Life of
Wagner quotations have been made, and Frederick Feustel, a banker,
had, as the heads of a committee of the citizens, presented to Wagner
a site for the edifice. Niemann, Betz, Fräulein Lehmann, and Frau
Jachmann (née Wagner) had volunteered to sing. Vocal societies from
Leipsic and Berlin, and orchestral players from Vienna, Leipsic,
Weimar, and other cities had offered their services. And so Wagner
was able to prepare one of those ideal performances of Beethoven's
Ninth Symphony in which he delighted. The concert took place in the
old opera house of Bayreuth, and was followed by the laying of the
corner-stone. The band played the "Huldigungsmarsch," while Wagner
struck the stone three times with a hammer, and said, "Bless this
stone! May it stand long and hold firmly." King Ludwig telegraphed
his congratulations. Rain fell, and the assembly returned to the old
theatre to complete the ceremony. Musicians and singers, the Wagner
family, the composer, the burgomaster, and others were grouped on
the stage. The burgomaster delivered an address of welcome, and then
Wagner read a fervent speech. At the close of it he raised his hands
and the chorus burst into the chorale from the last scene of "Die

The air was full of hope, yet in January, 1874, Wagner had to tell
Heckel that he was about to announce to the public the complete
collapse of the Bayreuth scheme. The money could not be raised.
Once more King Ludwig came to the rescue, with a contribution of
200,000 marks. The Viceroy of Egypt gave $2,500, and 404 patron's
certificates had been sold by July, 1875. So Wagner, although he
foresaw a heavy deficit, announced that the performances would take
place in the summer of 1876.

Meanwhile he travelled about, giving concerts and supervising
performances of his older works, and adding here a little and there
a little to the sum needed for carrying out his plans. Through
Theodore Thomas he at this time received $5000 for the composition
of the "Centennial March," written for the opening of the Centennial
Exposition at Philadelphia. This is Wagner's poorest music, but he
must have been very glad to get the money, and we Americans can revel
in the trilogy and forget the march.

At length, in August of 1876, the long-awaited event took place,
and the little town of Bayreuth awoke one morning, Byron-like, to
find itself famous. The Emperors of Germany and Brazil, the King of
Bavaria, the Grand Dukes of Weimar, Baden, and Mecklenburg, Prince
Vladimir of Russia, and the Prince of Hesse; eminent musicians headed
by Franz Liszt, Camille Saint-Säens, and Edward Grieg; critics from
all countries, and supporters of Wagner from all over Europe and
even from America, crowded into the town to hear this new thing in
operatic art, this "music of the future." The enemy, too, was well
represented, and the glitter of the critical axe was seen among the
flaunting banners. The Emperor of Germany arrived on August 12th, and
was received with due ceremony. He stayed for only two of the first
series of performances, but Mr. Finck has clearly proved that he went
to Bayreuth with that intention, and was not driven away by the music
as some of Wagner's opponents have asserted.

The first performance took place on August 13. It was to begin at
5 P.M., but was postponed till 7, because the Emperor of
Brazil could not reach the city in time for the earlier hour. An
audience of wonderful composition assembled in the theatre, after
the trumpeters had blown a motive from the last scene to announce
that the performance was about to begin. The first impression of
wonder was created by the darkening of the auditorium, it being part
of Wagner's plan that the attention of the audience should thus
be centred on the stage. Then came the surprising effect of the
concealed orchestra, playing down in its pit between the stage and
the audience, the pit fancifully christened the "Mystic Gulf." Such
a rich, homogeneous instrumental tone was new to all the hearers.
The curtain rose, and the depths of the Rhine were revealed. The
audience entered a new world of operatic experience. The performance
moved smoothly, except that some of the stage mechanism was
defective. Indeed, the hitch in the passage from Scene I. to Scene
II. drove Wagner out of the theatre. After the performance there were
tumultuous calls for Wagner and the artists, but no one responded.

On the following night "Die Walküre" was given, but owing to the
indisposition of Unger, the leading tenor, "Siegfried" had to be
postponed till August 16. "Götterdämmerung" was performed on August
17. The third and fourth works of the series were on these dates
heard in public for the first time. After "Götterdämmerung" the
audience again called for the composer and the performers, and now
Wagner appeared and made a brief speech of thanks and promise for the
future. The curtains were drawn aside and all the artists were seen.
When the three series of performances had been completed there was a
banquet, at which Wagner further explained his hopes for the coming
years, and at which he paid a warm tribute of gratitude to his first
friend and helper, Liszt.

Thus was finally brought to representation the great tetralogy, on
which Wagner had worked more than a quarter of a century, and which
was, without doubt, the chief labour of his life. From 1848 his mind
had been filled with the story of "Siegfried." He had laid it aside
from time to time to produce other works, but it had been the chief
aim of his existence. Early in his labours on it he had discovered
that the narration would require the building of a tetralogy, and he
had also foreseen that a special theatre must be built. No playwright
or composer had ever before entertained such a project, and now
at last it was accomplished. The critics departed in a state of
confusion, as well they might, having been called upon to face an art
utterly unknown, and brought before them in a condition of complete
development. That their comments showed an almost total failure
to understand what Wagner had attempted was natural. If they had
understood him, they would have been men of genius themselves. Some
men of genius did understand him, and that was his highest reward.
The musical world was rent asunder with arguments for and against the
new art, but Wagner had at least lived to see one dream of his life

Some description of the Festspielhaus must be included at this point.
The theatre occupies an isolated position on a slight eminence
about fifteen minutes' walk from the town. The portion containing
the auditorium is small, and about half as high as that containing
the stage. Two stages, one above the other, are used, so that while
one scene is before the audience the other is preparing in the
cellar. This device was made known to New Yorkers in the Madison
Square Theatre, where the famous double stage of Steele Mackaye was
for a time the talk of the town. Wagner's plan was older than Mr.
Mackaye's. The Festspielhaus proscenium is extremely plain, and is
so contrived that it creates an illusion as to the distance between
the audience and the stage. No prompter's box and no footlights are
visible to the spectators. In front of the stage and running partly
under it is the pit for the orchestra, so arranged that the musicians
are wholly unseen by the audience, and the conductor is visible only
to the singers.

The auditorium itself is small and rigorously plain. The parquet
seats 1300 persons. Above the last row of seats, and extending all
the way across the rear of the auditorium, is a gallery, containing
nine boxes for the use of titled visitors. Above this gallery is
a second one containing 200 seats. The seating capacity of the
entire theatre is about 1500. The parquet seats are arranged in
easy curves, so that every person faces the stage and has a perfect
view. There are no side seats and no proscenium boxes. The sides of
the auditorium are finished with Renaissance columns; and sixteen
wide passages, eight on each side, give easy egress from the house.
There are no chandeliers. The lighting outfit of the auditorium
is just sufficient to enable the audience to find its way about.
While the performance is going on, all lights in front of the stage
are extinguished. The entire aim of the plan of this house is to
remove everything which can suggest the conventional theatre, and to
concentrate the attention of the audience on the stage.

Wagner's principal assistant in the building of this theatre was Karl
Brandt, of Darmstadt, with whom he consulted in regard to everything.
The architect, engaged on Brandt's advice, was Otto Bruckwald, of
Leipsic. The scenery for the Ring dramas was designed by Prof. Joseph
Hoffmann, of Vienna, and painted by the Brothers Brückner, of Coburg.
These are the men to whom Wagner expressed himself as especially
indebted for aid in carrying out his ideas. Of the performers engaged
in this remarkable undertaking mention will be made in the study of
the dramas, which will form a separate part of this work.

The first Bayreuth festival resulted in a deficit of $37,000. And so
Wagner, with the artistic dream of his life realised, found himself
once more the victim of monetary embarrassments. He went into Italy
for a little rest, and was received with distinction in several
cities. The violinist Wilhelmj, who had been concertmaster of the
festival orchestra, suggested that a series of concerts in London
would go far toward raising the money needed to meet the deficit.
Several of the Bayreuth singers were secured, and the concerts
were announced for May 7 to 19, 1877. Wagner conducted one half of
each concert and Richter the other half. This was the beginning of
Richter's great vogue as a conductor in London. The concerts were
a failure, and two supplementary entertainments at popular prices
were given in order to help the situation. But Wagner left London
with his affairs still in a bad condition. The London visit was
notable for the fact that on May 17 he read the poem of his new
drama, "Parsifal," to a circle of friends at the house of Edward
Dannreuther. He read the same work to German friends at Heidelberg on
July 8, while on his way back to Bayreuth.

The financial difficulties were finally solved by the disposal to
Munich of the rights of performance of the "Ring." Wagner had said
that the work really belonged to the King, who had agreed to pay
him a pension on condition that he should complete and produce the
work. The Intendant of the Munich Opera House saw in the deficit at
Bayreuth his opportunity to acquire the right to perform the work.
He agreed to pay the deficit provided the royal right to "Der Ring"
be enforced for the benefit of the Munich theatre. Wagner was obliged
to accept this solution of his difficulties, and thus Bayreuth lost
the sole right to the tetralogy. The dramas of the "Ring" now began
to be played separately, much to Wagner's displeasure, but they
grew in popularity, and the royalties were good to have. Angelo
Neumann organised his travelling Nibelung Theatre, with several of
the Bayreuth artists and Anton Seidl as conductor, and gave complete
performances, except for cuts authorised by Wagner, in many cities of
Germany and Italy. Meanwhile Wagner was engaged in completing what
was to be his last work. He had conceived it in 1865, but had found
no opportunity to do more than write the book. His health was not of
the best, and he was eager to retire to the seclusion of Wahnfried
and finish his drama. The settlement of the pecuniary troubles
arising from the first festival enabled him to carry out his project.
He was to write one more work, filled with ecstatic piety, and then
go to his rest.



     "Alles wird mir nun frei."--GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG

In the fall of 1877 Wagner's mind was occupied with a plan to found
at Bayreuth a music school similar in plan to that which he had
once hoped to have in Munich. Delegates from the Wagner societies
were invited to the city to consider the project, but they, alarmed
by the large deficit remaining from the festival of 1876, declined
to further the scheme. At this gathering of delegates the various
societies were reorganised into one general association, having
its headquarters at Bayreuth; and that the members and the other
sympathisers with his aims might have some definite object before
them, Wagner announced that subscriptions would apply to the
production of his new work, "Parsifal." It was at this time his
purpose to produce this drama in 1880, but various causes, including
poor health, combined to prevent the fulfilment of this intention.
Naturally the lack of funds was a prime cause for the postponement.
Wagner announced the change of date in a communication to his
subscribers, dated Bayreuth, July 15, 1879.

Meanwhile a new medium of making known his plans and ideas had been
found. In January, 1878, appeared the first number of a monthly
periodical called the _Bayreuther Blätter_, edited by Hans von
Wolzogen, who is now known to all students of Wagner's scores as the
author of handbooks explaining the leading motives of the music.
Wagner himself was an active contributor to this journal, and wrote
some of his most interesting papers for it. Meanwhile he worked
assiduously at the music of "Parsifal." That he did not finish it
till the beginning of 1882 was due to a variety of causes, among
which was a fresh outbreak of his old enemy, erysipelas. This sent
him, in the last days of 1879, into southern Italy in search of
relief. He was not in a sanguine temper at this time, and he wrote
for the opening of 1880 a querulous article, showing that he still
felt the hostility of criticism and the inability of the public to
comprehend his artistic purposes. He said:

     "Nothing, in fact, seems farther from our public situation
     of the day than the founding of an artistic institution
     whose use, nay, whose whole meaning, is understood of the
     veriest minority. Indeed I believe I have done my best to
     state both things distinctly: but who has yet heeded? An
     influential member of the Reichstag assured me that neither
     he nor any of his colleagues had the faintest notion of
     what I want. And yet, to further my ideas I can think only
     of such as know absolutely nothing of our art, but devote
     themselves to politics, trade, or business; for here a ray
     may sometimes strike an open mind, whereas among those
     interested in our present art I fancy I might seek such a
     mind in vain. There reigns the obstinate belief that art
     is but a métier, its object to feed its practitioner; the
     highest-placed Court theatre Intendant never gets beyond
     that, and consequently it does not occur to the State to
     mix itself in things that rank with the regulation of
     commerce. There one swears by Fra Diavolo's 'Long live art;
     above all, the lady artists,' and sends for Patti."

To the casual observer Wagner at this period probably seemed to have
reason to be well pleased with his life. He was rid of the burden
of the deficit remaining after the "Ring" performances, he had a
beautiful home, a devoted wife, and was surrounded by friends who
gave him that ceaseless praise for which his heart ever hungered.
But Wagner could not forgive the world for not taking him at his own
valuation. He resented Germany's reluctance to accept the new gospel
of art which he preached. Nevertheless he laboured away at the score
of "Parsifal," drifting off into that religious mysticism which has
affected so many composers in their old age, and at the same time
realising that now at last he was writing something which would
not be practicable outside of the secluded auditorium of Bayreuth.
Fragments of the work were scored from time to time, and at the
Wahnfried Christmas festival of 1878 the prelude was performed by
the Meiningen Court Orchestra. But it was not till after the trip
to Italy that he was ready to begin active preparations for the
performance of the drama. The piano rehearsals were begun in August,
1881. But in the winter of 1881-82 bad health again sent Wagner
south, and he completed his score in January in Palermo.

He returned to Bayreuth in May. The subscriptions for the "Parsifal"
production arrived very slowly, and at the close of 1881 the amount
subscribed was still lamentably small, but once more King Ludwig came
to the rescue. He offered Wagner the use of the forces of the Munich
Opera House, in return for which that theatre acquired the exclusive
right to the performance of "Die Feen." Nevertheless in the end
Wagner was compelled, in order to meet all expenses, to abandon his
plan of giving the performances for his subscribers alone. The first
two performances were exclusive, but the general public was admitted
to the others with the happiest results.

The final rehearsals began with July, 1882, and the first performance
was given on July 26. Fifteen other performances were given, the
last on Aug. 29. The production engaged the services of a number
of the best singers in Germany, many distinguished principals
consenting to take small parts. The scenery and stage effects again
commanded high praise, and Wagner's skill as a designer of stage
pictures was conceded even by those who refused to allow him genius
as a dramatist. Again, too, there was an unfortunate hitch in the
mechanical devices. The panorama in the first act, showing the
country through which Gurnemanz and Parsifal pass on their way to
the castle of Monsalvat, was mistakenly constructed to move half as
fast as it should have moved, and as there was not time after the
discovery of the error to rectify it, Wagner had to have the music
of the scene played through twice. But the solemn drama created a
profound impression, and many of the critics who had found little to
please them in the "Ring" admitted that "Parsifal" exercised a potent
spell on their minds.

The exertions necessary for the production of "Parsifal" had told
severely on Wagner. It is said that at one rehearsal he fainted,
and, on recovering, exclaimed, "Once more I have beaten Death." Dr.
Standthartner, one of his firm Viennese friends, examined him in the
course of the summer, and found that a heart affection, from which
the composer had long been suffering, had made dangerous progress.
Wagner was not told of his exact condition, but he was warned that
immediate rest and relief from care was absolutely essential. He
was a man of sixty-nine and he had done an enormous amount of work.
Furthermore he had taxed the resources of his system by indulgence in
passionate moods, which were naturally followed by periods of intense

After the "Parsifal" performance he went with his family to Venice,
where he took up his residence in the Vendramin Palace on the Grand
Canal. The household consisted of Wagner, his wife, Siegfried, the
Count Gravina and his wife (daughter of Von Bülow), her sisters,
Liszt, and the Russian painter Joukowsky, who had designed the
scenery of "Parsifal." Perl[28] gives a most interesting account of
the domestic life of the family in the last days of the master's
life. He lived in the greatest seclusion, receiving no visitors
and making almost no calls. He arose early and occupied himself
with writing, no one being allowed to disturb him while so engaged.
The products of his pen were chiefly articles for the _Bayreuther
Blätter_. About noon his wife joined him and gave him the substance
of the morning's mail, sedulously concealing anything which might
excite him. In the afternoon, after a nap, he went out with his
family, if the weather was pleasant, in a gondola, and frequently
made excursions of some length. In the evening the old palace (it was
built in 1481) was brilliantly lighted up, and Wagner listened to one
of his family reading aloud.

[Footnote 28: "Richard Wagner in Venice," by Henry Perl. Augsburg,

Liszt arrived in the middle of November, and Wagner began to be
reminiscent. He suddenly remembered his juvenile symphony, and
decided that on Christmas, 1882, it should be performed, not as
a Christmas festivity, but in honour of his wife, whose birthday
was Dec. 25. The concert-room and orchestra of the Liceo Benedetto
Marcello were lent to him for the purpose, and he rehearsed the
composition himself with the greatest ardour. Wagner afterward wrote
a report on the performance of this youthful work, which he said
went extremely well, owing to the natural disposition of the Italian
musicians for tone and phrasing, and also owing to the large number
of rehearsals which he was able to have. The symphony, too, "really
seemed to please," and some Italian critics spoke well of it. Wagner
himself did not overrate his boyish composition, but its revival was
a pleasant occasion. At the end of the performance Wagner laid down
the bâton and declared that he would never conduct again. He had felt
the strain of the physical effort. But his words, read in the light
of subsequent events, acquired that appearance of prophecy which
men's latest utterances so often gain from their propinquity to the

Dyspepsia had tortured him for years, and the irregularities
of digestion had finally developed the heart affection, before
mentioned, to a serious condition. Wagner was attended in Venice
by Friedrich Keppler, but he disobeyed the physician's directions
constantly. He was especially careless about exertion, and was not
wholly observant of the necessary caution in the matter of eating.
He fell faint several times in the course of the winter, but always
strove to conceal the fact from his family. After Liszt's departure
on Jan. 13 he became even more careless, and entered with great
avidity into the preparations for the Bayreuth festival of the
following summer. On Feb. 13, 1883, he rested till late. At noon
he called the maid, who sat outside his room, and ordered a light
luncheon. It was his intention to go out in his gondola at four. Soon
after the luncheon had been brought the maid heard Wagner call for
her in a faint voice, and running into the room found him in agony.
"Call my wife and the doctor," he said. The wife reached his side in
time to witness his last struggle. When the doctor arrived he was

King Ludwig sent Adolf Gross, a Bayreuth banker, who had long been
an ardent supporter of Wagner, to Venice as his representative.
Venice offered a public funeral, but the widow declined it. Silently
through the canals on Feb. 16 went a draped gondola with the body.
A special mourning car carried the remains to Bayreuth. That city
had indeed been stricken in the loss of him who had made it famous.
At the railway station on the arrival of the funeral train a public
ceremony took place. After Siegfried's funeral march had been
played Burgomaster Muncker and Banker Feustel spoke. The Bayreuth
Liederkranz sang the chorus arranged by Wagner for the burial of
Weber in Dresden. The funeral procession then moved to Wahnfried,
where the remains of the poet-composer were interred.

Feustel had said in his speech at the station that Bayreuth's most
dignified tribute to the memory of the dead master would be the
"Parsifal" performances in the coming summer. These were given, but
without the presence of the widow. She secluded herself even from
Liszt, her father. But the following year she took up the task of
continuing the festivals, which have lately reflected her ideas as to
the proper method of interpreting her husband's masterpieces.

What embryonic works Wagner left is not known. He had written
an extensive autobiography, but his family has not yet seen fit
to publish it. Probably it will not see the light till Cosima
is laid beside him in the garden of Wahnfried. The rumour that
he left sketches for a drama on a Buddhistic subject rests on
slight foundation. The materials for this drama, "The Victors,"
were absorbed in the plan of "Parsifal." He left some minor prose
writings which are included in the ten volumes of his works and
which may be found by the reader of English in the last volume of
Mr. Ellis's translation. Gross, the Bayreuth banker, guaranteed the
"Parsifal" performances of 1883, and superintended the settlement
of the dead man's financial affairs. The consolidation of all the
Wagner societies continued the work of supporting the festivals till
their aid was no longer needed. In later years the receipts from
the festivals and the royalties from the numerous performances of
Wagner's works have enabled his family to live in luxury. Siegfried
Wagner has become a musician and a composer. He shows no evidence of
inheriting his father's genius, but he works assiduously and with
effect in preparing performances at Bayreuth, which, in spite of many
changes, continues to be the Mecca of all worshippers of Wagner's



     "Close up his eyes and draw the curtains close,
     And let us all to meditation."--HENRY VI.

"The noble and kindly man as his friends knew him, and the aggressive
critic and reformer addressing the public, were as two distinct
individuals." These words of Edward Dannreuther are the explanation
of the many contradictory reports as to the personality of Wagner.
Those to whom he opened his inner self, to whom he addressed his
feelings and his hopes, who, in a word, understood him as both man
and artist, were united in praise of his personality. Liszt, Praeger,
Uhlig, Roeckel, Fischer, Von Bülow, Judith Gautier, Baudelaire, Frau
Wille--all the company of Wagner's friends and helpers loved his
nature and found in him none of that arrogance, that intolerance,
that insufferable conceit, which the unsympathetic outer world
condemned. With his friends, who understood the purpose of his
life and the aims of his ambition, he was generally in a state of
spiritual relaxation, and was simply himself. With those who failed
to understand him, and with all those whom he recognised as enemies
of his artistic ideas, he never relaxed the spirit of determined
opposition to indolent and slothful conceptions of life and art; and
with them he was consequently always in a mood of hostility. To such
he was rude, discourteous, and intolerant. His nature was irritable,
and even his friends had to endure curt and hasty speech at times.
To his enemies he was never polite, except occasionally in written
communication. He was not a politic man, for he was too nervous in
habit and too impulsive in utterance. He possessed the gentle art of
making enemies as few other men could, yet he was highly successful
in gaining friends, and those whom he got he kept. His early Dresden
friends were always his friends. The Zurich coterie adored him to
the end. Those who were intimately associated with him in Bayreuth
loved and reverenced him. Muncker, the burgomaster of Bayreuth, whose
book was translated into curious English by another German,[29] could
write thus of him:

     "With passionate warmth he was beloved by numerous friends
     who for a lengthy space of time could not grasp the idea
     of his death. In a full measure he deserved this love. He
     was a man as good as he was great. In his nature height
     of mind, depth of feeling, and childlike amiability were
     blended. The energetic strength of his will was paired
     with heartfelt mildness; the susceptibility of his
     mood, attributable to his many adversities and to his
     heart trouble, with an unfailing and sincere desire for
     reconciliation; the seriousness of his mind, which in
     social intercourse involuntarily mastered all, with an
     inexhaustible love for jest and humour. He loved and was
     mindful for every creature, man or animal, that needed help
     or sympathy. Courageous truthfulness was the foundation of
     his character. Therefore he was simple and natural in his
     demeanour and an outspoken enemy of all bombast. He was
     proud, but modest in spite of his consciousness of what he
     desired, knew, and accomplished. As his memory retained
     alive what long already was past, so he thankfully never
     forgot the good that others had done him, and faithfully
     clung to his friends, even if time and space separated them
     from him. Himself clear in his thoughts and intentions,
     he demanded the same clearness in those who wished to
     associate with him."

[Footnote 29: I have taken the liberty of changing the wording of the
translation in two places where the meaning was obscure.]

The testimony of others who knew Wagner longer and more intimately
than Muncker is in a similar vein. It is difficult in the face of
such evidence to accept the assertions of those contemporaries who
saw in him only the narrowest and most selfish egotism. That he had
serious faults and many foibles goes without saying. That he was an
agreeable companion to any one not absorbed in his artistic ideas
cannot be believed. Geniuses, self-centred as they must be, devoured
day and night by passionate yearning for the attainment of ideal
ends, are not often pleasant acquaintances. Wagner did not differ
from other great men. People who were uncongenial to him have said
that he was invariably rude and overbearing. Edward Dannreuther, who
was his friend, says: "He had no pronounced manners in the sense
of anything that can be taught or acquired by imitation. Always
unconventional, his demeanour showed great refinement. His habits
in private life are best described as those of a gentleman. He
liked domestic comforts, had an artist's fondness for rich color,
harmonious decoration, out-of-the-way furniture, well-bound books and
music, etc."

And here we come upon one of the traits of this singular man,
which has properly given rise to the largest amount of derogatory
comment. He certainly had luxurious tastes, and he never resisted
the temptation to gratify them even when he could not afford to
do so. He loved fine surroundings. He was fond of rich garments,
especially for indoor wear during his working hours. In later years,
when his worldly position had improved somewhat, he employed an
expensive Viennese dressmaker to make the silken robes which he
wore in the house. He sent her the most elaborate designs for his
dressing-gowns, which he seems to have planned with fastidious care.
He paid her absurd prices for his robes. This was only one form of
Wagner's extravagance. He wore silk underwear at all times, and
Praeger endeavours to show that he was forced to do this in order to
diminish as far as possible the irritability of his skin caused by
the erysipelas, of which he was a lifelong victim. Wagner himself
realised that his habits were luxurious, but he held that luxury was
a necessity to him. He knew that he would be blamed for taking this
position, and in a letter of 1854 to Liszt he wrote:

"How can I expect a Philistine to comprehend the transcendent part of
my nature, which in the conditions of my life impelled me to satisfy
an immense inner desire by such external means as must to him appear
dangerous and certainly unsympathetic? No one knows the needs of
people like us. I am myself frequently surprised at considering so
many 'useless' things indispensable." Later in the same year he wrote
a letter in which he shows plainly how his craving for luxurious
surroundings as an aid to work affected his financial affairs. He

     "I cannot live like a dog. I cannot sleep on straw and
     drink bad whiskey. I must be coaxed in one way or another
     if my mind is to accomplish the terribly difficult task
     of creating a non-existent world. Well, when I resumed
     the plan of the 'Nibelungen' and its actual execution,
     many things had to co-operate in order to produce in
     me the necessary, luxurious art mood. I had to adopt
     a better style of life than before. The success of
     'Tannhäuser,' which I had surrendered solely in this
     hope, was to assist me. I made my domestic arrangements
     on a new scale. I wasted (good Lord, wasted!) money on
     one or the other requirement of luxury. Your visit in the
     summer, your example, everything, tempted me to a forcibly
     cheerful deception, or rather desire of deception, as to
     my circumstances. My income seemed to me an infallible
     thing. But after my return from Paris my situation again
     became precarious. The expected orders for my operas, and
     especially for 'Lohengrin,' did not come in; and as the
     year approaches its close I realise that I shall want much,
     very much, money in order to live in my nest a little

That there is a plaintive and unmanly weakness in all this is not
to be denied. But we have to bear in mind that if Wagner had not
received the assistance of his friends and been enabled to live as he
wished to live and to work according to his fancies, we should not
require biographies of him, and his great dramas would not have been
the delight of two continents. That there was still further weakness
in the metal of this man is shown by the extremities of depression
into which he sank. Suicidal thoughts were no strangers to him and
restlessness and discouragement were much too common. In a letter of
March 30, 1853, he says to Liszt:

"What can help me? My nights are mostly sleepless, weary, and
miserable. I rise from my bed to see a day before me which will bring
me not one joy. Intercourse with people who torture me and from whom
I withdraw to torture myself! I feel disgust at whatever I undertake.
This cannot go on. I cannot bear life much longer."

Yet in spite of these pitiable feelings the artistic impulse was all
potent within him. In the beginning of 1859 he wrote to his fidus
Achates: "Believe me implicitly when I tell you that the only reason
for my continuing to live is the irresistible impulse of creating
a number of works of art which have their vital force in me. I
recognise beyond all doubt that this act of creating and completing
alone satisfies me and fills me with a desire of life, which
otherwise I should not understand." And yoked with these ideas always
went his conviction that the world owed him a gratuitous living that
he might accomplish the creative functions of his genius. In October,
1855, he wrote to the amiable Franz:

     "America is a terrible nightmare. If the New York people
     should ever make up their minds to offer me a considerable
     sum, I should be in the most awful dilemma. If I refused, I
     would have to conceal it from all men, for everyone would
     charge me in my position with recklessness. Ten years
     ago I might have undertaken such a thing, but to have to
     walk in such by-ways now in order to live would be too
     hard--now when I am fit only to do and to devote myself to
     that which is strictly my business. I should never finish
     the 'Nibelungen' in my life. Good gracious! such sums as
     I might earn in America people ought to give me without
     asking anything in return beyond what I am actually doing,
     and which is the best that I can do."

And then he adds pathetically that he is better fitted to spend money
than to earn it.

In such a man as Wagner the artistic traits are dominant. They rule
the personality. The conviction of this man that he had in him the
conception of epoch-making works, and his recognition of the fact
that the world was his artistic enemy, were the moving forces of his
life. Without constantly keeping this in mind, it is quite impossible
to comprehend the character of Wagner. It explains at once its
weakness and its strength. It accounts even for his domestic history,
while it does not justify it. His first wife was a good woman, and
in a way he loved her. But she was never able to become an essential
part of his life, because she could not enter into his artistic
thoughts and purposes. Hence she was unable to control his impulses
to wander. Cosima von Bülow understood him before she went to live
under the immediate influence of his mind. That they should have
been drawn to one another was inevitable. He who in letters to Liszt
had cried out in anguish of his need of a home and woman's care was
very ready to accept them at her hands at no matter what sacrifice,
and she in the same spirit was ready to give them. To her Wagner
was constant in spite of the fact that temperamentally he was an
inconstant man. She controlled his desires, and they needed control.

The artistic aspirations which governed his entire career made
it a disappointment. Wagner died a disappointed man. That he was
gratified by the production of the "Ring" at Bayreuth there need be
no denial. That he enjoyed to the fullest the praises of those who
seemed to comprehend his ideals is beyond doubt. But, nevertheless,
he realised that he had not penetrated the public mind. He saw
plainly that the applause for his works was not for their revelation
of a new standpoint in operatic art, but for their purely theatrical
effectiveness. The public never saw beneath the surface. He felt that
he was wholly misunderstood. In a letter of 1859 to Liszt he said:

     "I never had much pleasure in the performance of one of my
     operas, and shall have much less in the future. My ideal
     demands have increased, compared with former times, and
     my sensitiveness has become much more acute during the
     last ten years while I lived in absolute separation from
     artistic public life. I fear that even you do not quite
     understand me in this respect, and you should believe my
     word all the more implicitly."

Again and again he spoke in no doubtful terms of his knowledge that
the public did not understand his aims. He was delighted by every
evidence of sympathy, but he suffered untold agonies of mind from the
fact that "Tannhäuser," "Lohengrin," and "Die Meistersinger" were
treated by the world as mere operas, and that there was no evidence
that the operatic public understood his departure from the old and
insincere methods of the commercial theatre. The disappointment which
Wagner experienced from the failure of the world to grasp his ideals
would have continued, had he lived longer. Even now only a few ardent
lovers of the loftiest things in art have entered fully into the
spirit of his conceptions. One has only to attend a performance of
"Siegfried" before an ordinary audience of professed Wagnerites to
see how far short of a complete understanding of Wagner his friends
still are. Thousands of well-meaning persons regard themselves as
disciples of this unique master when they have learned the contents
of Hans von Wolzogen's handbooks and can identify every leading
motive in each score when it is heard in the orchestra. The praise of
all such people was vinegar and gall to Wagner. He felt that he was
utterly misunderstood, and that was torture to his sensitive spirit.

He was unhappy, too, because he could not get his works properly
performed. Perhaps he never experienced deep delight at any
representation except the first of "Tristan und Isolde," in which
the splendid work of Schnorr filled him with joy. But his "Lohengrin"
and his "Tannhäuser" were never given to his satisfaction, for there
were absolutely no singers who united the ability to declaim the
recitative and to deliver the plentiful cantilena also. Not only
was there a lack of singers, but there were no stage managers who
understood him, and so all over Germany his works were performed
in a spirit foreign to their poetic content, and the master was
misrepresented to a public which would have found it almost
impossible to comprehend him in the most favourable conditions.
Mr. Dannreuther says: "The composer of 'Tristan' confronted by the
Intendant of some Hoftheater, fresh from a performance of Herr von
Flotow's 'Martha'! A comic picture, but unfortunately a typical one,
implying untold suffering on Wagner's part."

Wagner was under medium size, but had the appearance of being
somewhat taller than he really was. In 1849 the police description
of him ran thus: "Wagner is 37 to 38 years old, of middle height,
has brown hair, wears glasses; open forehead; eyebrows brown; eyes
grey-blue; nose and mouth well proportioned; chin round. Particulars:
in speaking and moving he is hasty." Animation marked all his ways,
and at times he revelled in the wildest spirits. Periods of deep
depression occurred to him, but his nervous energy seldom deserted

The study of his personality will always bring one back to the same
point. He was entirely dominated by his artistic nature and ambition.
His life can be understood only by an analysis of his motives based
on this premise. Wagner, the man, was the creature of Wagner, the
dreamer of "Siegfried." There has never been a clearer instance of
the mastery of genius. He was unceasingly driven by it from boyhood
to the grave. It made him selfish, intolerant, dogmatic, dictatorial.
But it achieved its ends. The grave at Wahnfried contains only ashes.
All that was vital in Richard Wagner lives still in the dramas
and the prose works. The forces which were in the man are just as
active now as they were when he laughed and stormed in the villa at



     "Every bar of dramatic music is justified only by the
     fact that it explains something in the action or in the
     character of the actor."--WAGNER TO LISZT, SEPTEMBER,



What was this man Wagner trying to do?

Broadly stated, the purpose of his life was to reform the lyric
drama, to restore to it the artistic nature with which it was born,
and to bring it into direct relation to the life of the German
people. His ideal was the highest form of the drama, with music as
the chief expository medium; and his most earnest desire, to make
that drama national, both in its expression of the loftiest artistic
impulses of the Teutonic people and in their recognition of that
fact. The whole controversy about the works of Wagner arose from
the determined opposition of those who were unwilling to see the
existing order of things operatic changed. The opera, as it was when
Wagner hurled his new ideas and works into the theatrical arena, was
a vastly different thing from the music-drama, and the confusion in
the public and critical mind, resulting from the fact that Wagner
used the outward and visible signs of opera, brought about a bitter
conflict. This conflict cannot end till the whole public realises
that although it goes on Monday night to hear "Lucia di Lammermoor"
and on Wednesday to hear "Tristan und Isolde," both employing song
instead of speech, and both outwardly built on theatrical lines, it
is nevertheless confronted by two radically different forms of art,
working for diametrically opposite results.

That we may the better understand the matter we must shortly rehearse
the story of the birth and development of the lyric drama. The
opera was born at the end of the sixteenth century of an effort to
reconstruct the extinct Greek drama. The projectors of the movement
knew that the Greeks delivered the lines of their tragedies in an
artificial manner closely resembling chanting. In their endeavours to
provide something similar to this, they invented dramatic recitative.
At first this recitative was employed only in the construction of
monologues, but as the explorers in new musical territory gained
confidence, they made wider reaches. At the close of the century
"Eurydice," a drama in music, by Rinuccini and Peri, was publicly
performed. The new form of play gained immediate popularity, and the
progress of the lyric drama was begun.

The inventors of the new form had just ideas. Peri believed it to be
the office of dramatic music to embody, intensify, and convey to the
hearer the emotional content of the text. His method of accomplishing
this was to imitate in music the nuances of the voice in speaking. In
agitated passages he used a faster movement and irregular rhythm. In
unimpassioned speech he wrote his music more smoothly. His ideas were
undeniably correct, but they could not be adequately carried out with
the resources of vocal music in his day. The art of solo writing was
in its infancy, and the melodic and harmonic expression of dramatic
emotion had just begun. Consequently Peri's music was monotonous.
There was no wide difference between his delineation of sadness
and his embodiment of despair. Furthermore his attempted fidelity
to the inner nature of speech led him away from definite musical
phraseology. His music was totally deficient in form, and it was the
discernment of this weakness and the attempts of his successors to
provide the remedy that led the opera out of the path of dramatic

Monteverde, the most gifted of the early composers of opera, made
remarkable essays at combining musical clearness and symmetry with
dramatic expression, but his works show us that the materials of the
art were as yet so embryonic as to prohibit complete success. But
the instantaneous popularity of opera made it a veritable gold-field
for composers, and it speedily became the California of all the
adventurous spirits of music in the beginning of the seventeenth
century. These writers naturally sought the shortest and easiest
path to popularity, and this was soon proved to be in the provision
of vocal airs of simple, clearly defined form and pretty melody. The
operatic aria was thus developed and became the central sun of the
operatic system.

But as solo arias could not make up the entire scheme of the opera,
duets, trios, and quartettes were introduced, care being taken to
conserve in them the principles of the air. It was soon found that
a sharp demarcation had to be made between these set pieces and the
ordinary dialogue by means of which the stories of the operas were
told. So gradually an opera came to be a symmetrically arranged
series of solos, duets, trios, quartettes, and other set pieces,
joined by a chain of recitative. In all this development purely
musical requirements had been considered. The librettist, therefore,
was merely the servant of the composer, and it was his business to
arrange his book with a view to a pleasing succession of pieces in
the aria form, or some form very similar to it. His story had to be
so constructed that it could be told in the dialogue between the set
pieces, and by means of this dialogue it should lead up to situations
at which the arias could be effectively, if not quite appropriately,

This was the condition of the opera in the middle of the eighteenth
century at the advent of Mozart and Gluck. It should be noted that
occasionally composers arose who had some sense of their obligations
to dramatic art and who endeavoured to improve the æsthetic nature
of the opera. Lully and Rameau in France did much along this line
and established traditions which have been of lasting benefit to the
lyric art of their country. But neither they nor their immediate
successors discovered the radical evil of the system upon which
they were working. The ground-plan of the opera was still musical.
There was still no thought of first writing a dramatic poem and then
setting it to music. The demands of the score formulated the plan for
the libretto.

Mozart had not a drop of the reformer's blood in his veins. The
incongruity of the extant form of the opera seems never to have
occurred to his mind. He accepted the plan of the lyric drama as it
was handed down to him by his forerunners without question, and by
the sheer force of his incomparable genius succeeded in writing
immortal apologies for its existence. In his hands the aria took a
new meaning, and the recitative became a flexible and responsive
instrument. His treatment of the carefully built ensembles, which
had come to be a feature of opera, was that of a genius of the
first order. So great, indeed, was this man that to-day the works
of all his successors who wrote operas on the old plan become as
farthing rushlights before the splendour of his glowing masterpieces.
Antiquated as the style of Mozart's music is, his operas speak
the accents of inspiration and come before us with the gesture of

Gluck, on the other hand, without the musical genius of Mozart,
had the insight of a cosmopolitan coupled with the impulses of a
progressist. The external defects of the opera were patent to his
sane consideration, and he sought at once for the corrective. He was
a sincere, conscientious reformer; and he did not a little to cut
away the growth of underbrush which had sprung up around the trunk
of operatic art. But he did not discern that the twig had been bent,
the tree inclined; and that the trunk itself needed to be hewn down
and the growth started again from the root. He saw that there was too
much difference between the recitative and the aria, and that the
latter was an impediment to the progress of the drama. He perceived
that the composers had catered too much to the vanity of singers
and had permitted a richly ornamental style of song, antagonistic
to broad dramatic expression, to become the type of operatic music.
He refused to write with a constant view to helping the singer to
display his voice and technic. He insisted that the business of
the music was to voice the content of the text, or as he himself
expressed it, "I endeavoured to reduce music to its proper function,
that of seconding poetry by enforcing the expression of the sentiment
and the interest of the situations without interrupting the action or
weakening it by superfluous ornament." He strove to curtail the empty
parade of musical devices and to restore that intimacy between text
and song which had been the chief charm and the most potent argument
for the existence of the "Drama per Musica" in its original form.

But Gluck failed to achieve his purpose because he retained the set
musical forms which dictated the shape of the text and demanded the
old-fashioned arrangement of the scenario. He did not reach that
level of enlightenment from which he might have seen that the radical
error of opera lay in regarding music as an end and not as a means.
The stumbling-block of the lyric drama had been the aria, and to this
fact Gluck was strangely blind. It may not be amiss to conjecture
that, even if he had perceived the nature of this fault, he would not
have known how to correct it; for the development of musical design
had not advanced far enough to offer the suggestion of a better plan.
Gluck saw the evil effect of the empty repetitions in the aria and
expressly forbade them; but he was too wise to believe that he could
proceed wholly without musical design. To have done so would have
thrown him back to the era of Peri and would have resulted in chaos
and a confusion of the public mind. Therefore, retaining the aria in
a slightly modified form, he strove with the deepest earnestness and
with admirable skill to infuse into the music of his works a genuine
dramatic expressiveness. He made his arias delineative of the
situations and he paid the homage of an artist to the text, instead
of writing pretty tunes for their own sake. He tried to arrange
the ballets, which his French public demanded, so that they should
constitute part of the action of the drama and not be an interruption
to it. And he made a special study of the resources of instrumental

His public at first fought him with stubborn determination, but he
conquered it in the end. Yet his influence on the operatic stage was
not permanently felt outside of France. The impetus given to Italian
opera by the easily attained popularity of the aria writers and the
bent imparted to it by their style remained. The applause of the
unthinking, who constitute the vast majority of theatre-goers in all
countries, is much more readily obtained by the agile delivery of
a brilliant air with a simple dance rhythm as its basis than by a
seriously conceived dramatic piece, which demands that the auditor
shall bring both intelligence and sensibility into the presence of
the singer. The Italian writers sought for this easy applause, and
the famous Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, who were the princes of
the Italian stage when Wagner was born, wrote wholly for the pleasure
of the ear. The Italian opera was in its entirety a musical product,
making but the shallowest pretence at representation of the thought
of the text, and scorning real dramatic sincerity. The old forms
prevailed and the librettist was but a purveyor to the composer.

In France some outward pretence of adhering to the long-established
dramatic principles of the French lyric drama remained, but here the
musical dictator of the day was Meyerbeer, a man who sought popular
applause as ardently as any Italian, but who adopted a slightly
different plan of gaining it. Whereas the Italian appealed to his
public chiefly by musical sweet-meats, Meyerbeer deftly aimed at
a combination of showy musical effects with all the resources of
theatricalism. He brought to its perfection the ground-plan of the
French grand opera, in which a striking succession of scenes is one
of the most potent elements of attractiveness. Here the librettist
must not only provide for the usual alternation of solos with duets,
trios or quartettes, and ensembles, but must also plan the story of
his book so that a simple cottage or moonlight love scene shall be
followed by a grand pageant or a glittering ballet. One has only to
recall the progress of the scenes in "L'Africaine" or "Les Huguenots"
to see how the Meyerbeerian plan is worked out, and to realise how it
has dominated the modern opera in such creations as Gounod's "Faust"
and Verdi's "Aida."

The theatricalism of the ground-plan infused itself into the music
with Meyerbeer. He was always planning for the immediate theatrical
effect, never thinking of the deep dramatic truthfulness which might
be imparted to music. For this reason his music is hollow and the
bones of it rattle. Occasionally he is carried away by a really noble
dramatic situation and writes greatly, as in the final duet of "Les
Huguenots." But the problem of Meyerbeer was precisely the same as
that of Rossini, namely, how best to tickle quickly the fancy of
the great unthinking masses and to fill the theatre. Thus Wagner
found the opera established on a purely commercial basis, with art
degraded to the dust. It was this which filled him with disgust, and
against which he fought throughout his life. It is not to be denied
that in the beginning he tried to reach the public by the same means
as Meyerbeer. He tried to serve both art and Mammon, but he speedily
discovered that real success could not be thus gained. He learned in
writing "Rienzi" that he was following the wrong path. In entering
upon this path, however, he was certainly led astray partly by the
victories of Weber.

This master had in his "Der Freischütz" produced in 1821 a work
which not only was essentially German, but which abandoned much of
the outward appearance of opera. He announced his position by the
definition of opera as "an art work complete in itself, in which all
the parts and contributions of the related and utilised arts meet
and disappear in each other, and, in a manner, form a new world by
their own destruction." It was his belief that a libretto should
not be made simply as a framework for the old-fashioned sequence of
tunes, but should have an organic union with the music, and he said,
"It is the first and most sacred duty of song to be truthful with
the utmost fidelity possible in declamation." He had no respect for
the established forms, but held that the form of the music should be
prescribed by the poem. Nevertheless one finds that in its outward
aspects the Weber opera, by reason of its employment of the German
folk-song style, treads a path not remote from that of the aria. For
Weber did not discover any principle of musical design which would
enable him to free himself from some restraint by the cyclical song
form. Spoken dialogue takes the place of recitative in his works,
but the vocal numbers, introduced in much the same way as in the
older works, are of the song family, and in spite of an immensely
widened and deepened expression, the dominance of a purely musical
pattern is not escaped.

Such was the condition of operatic art and such the natural attitude
of the public toward it when Richard Wagner began to look beyond the
narrow boundaries of his small estate and dream of fame as an artist.
The burning desire of the Königsberg and Riga period was, as he has
expressed it in the "Communication to My Friends," "to extricate
myself from the petty commerce of the German stage, and straightway
try my luck in Paris." But it was only the puny huckstering of
the little theatres which offended him. He had yet to learn that
the commercial element was just as conspicuously present in more
pretentious undertakings. He fell in love with Bulwer's "Rienzi," and
at once saw in it material for an opera.

     "This Rienzi with great thoughts in his head, great
     feelings in his heart, amid an entourage of coarseness and
     vulgarity, set all my nerves a-quivering with sympathy and
     love; yet my plan for an art work based thereon sprang
     first from a perception of the purely lyric element in the
     hero's atmosphere. The Messengers of Peace, the Church's
     summons to awake, the battle hymns--these were what
     impelled me to make an _opera_: 'Rienzi.'"

In trying to make this opera he learned that the impulse of a true
art work must come not from without, but from within; that an opera
which might be truly called a lyric drama could not be created out
of the desire of some one to set the tempting portions of a lyric
book to tuneful music, but only out of the demand of a great drama
for the musical form of speech. In writing the book of "Rienzi" he
thought only of producing an effective opera libretto, and to this
end he followed the Meyerbeerian ground-plan. His goal was the Paris
Grand Opéra, and a grand opera was what he wrote. The materials of
the story he saw "in no other light than that of a five-act opera,
with five brilliant finales, and filled with hymns, processions, and
the musical clash of arms." But even while fashioning this material
for purely theatrical effect, he sought to make contributions toward
real art, and it was the impossibility of combining the Meyerbeerian
make-believe with the fruit of his artistic nature that showed him
how far he was astray from the path leading to substantial and
permanent success. Nevertheless he would no doubt have struggled on
to force himself to travel the highway toward the Grand Opéra, had he
not found the gates locked against him. It was in his despair that he
at last resolved to write that which was in him and take no thought
of external success. And it was of this first travail of freed genius
that were brought to birth the fundamental tenets of his dramatic
creed, previously cherished only in the secret womb of his mind.



We may now approach the study in detail of Wagner's artistic aims.
I have already said that his purpose was to restore artistic
truth, dramatic sincerity, to the opera, and to bring it into some
relation to the life of the German people. Recapitulated with more
particulars, then, the reforms at which he aimed were these:

(1)--The music had come to be the end instead of a means of
expression, and consequently musical forms dominated. Wagner strove
to confine music to its proper function of expression. He desired
to prevent its being regarded as the object of the lyric drama, but
wished it to take its legitimate place as one of the factors in the
composition of such a play. His labour in this direction included the
disuse of the set musical forms.

(2)--He sought to make a complete organic union of the elements of
the drama employed in opera, a union in which each part should be
essential and all should work together for a common end, namely the
embodiment of the poet's thought.

(3)--He endeavoured to make the "libretto" a consistent drama, but
always suitable to the emotional expressiveness of music.

(4)--He aimed to bring the lyric drama out of the slough of mere
commercialism, and give it a direct relation to and influence upon
the intellectual and æsthetic life of the people.

We have seen that when he set out to free himself from the petty
commercialism of the German theatre, Wagner fondly dreamed that with
a "grand opera" produced on the stage of the Grand Opéra of Paris,
he would emancipate himself. But in writing that work and labouring
for its production, he learned two vital facts, namely, that artistic
success could not be attained on the lines of the typical grand opera
and that from petty commercialism he had only approached that of a
larger field. He saw on every hand the theatre in the hands of mere
speculators, who sought not art, but money, and who were ready to
sink all artistic principles in order that they might appeal to the
debased tastes of "the stolid German Philistine or the bored Parisian
roué." When he turned his eyes backward along the path of history,
he saw that it had been thus for centuries. In the end he came to
the conclusion that only in the relation of the Greek drama to the
Greek people could he find that Arcadian perfection for which he
sought. And so he asked himself whether it was not possible to rise
once again to the lofty level of the Greek tragedy and thus bring the
theatre into relation to the heart and mind of the people. In his
conception of the lyric drama he believed that he saw the means of
doing this.

The student of his artistic work will find his ideas set forth in
three of his literary compositions, "Art and Revolution," "The Art
Work of the Future," and "Opera and Drama." In "Art and Revolution"
he studied the theatre of Æschylus and Sophocles and examined the
reasons for its decline. In the devotion of Greek religion to the
ideals of beauty Wagner found the explanation of the Grecian fidelity
to the true principles of all art and of the final union of the
arts of poetry, music, and mimetics in the Greek drama. He saw the
highest period of this drama coincident with the supremacy of Athens.
With the decline of the Athenian state came the decline of the
Greek drama, and "the mad laughter of Aristophanes." The spirit of
community, he says, split into a thousand lines of egotism, and the
union of the arts which made the drama also was dissolved.

Then came the era of philosophy, which was inimical to art, and the
dawn of Christianity was still less favourable to it. The old Greek
freedom in the contemplation of nature and untrammelled worship of
beauty for its own sake could not live under the reign of Christian
teaching. With the changes in public thought resultant on the new
teachings of Christianity and philosophy, art assumed a new relation
to the national life, and in Wagner's opinion a social revolution
alone would be the instrument to restore it to its pristine standing.
With his social views we need not now concern ourselves. The point
for us to bear in mind is that, like the founders of opera, he went
back to the Greek drama for his first principles and in it found a
union of the arts of poetry, music, and action. This union suggested
to him, as it had to Peri and his friends, the laws on which must
stand the modern play in music.

From this point he starts in his "Art Work of the Future." He
finds that after the dissolution of the old union of the arts, each
sought its own development on independent lines and that each had at
times sunk to the level of a mere amusement. Various unsuccessful
attempts had been made to reunite these arts, but their independence
had increased constantly till in Wagner's day each had touched
the uttermost limits of its development and could not possibly go
further. It was necessary, therefore, that each should sacrifice some
measure of its independence in order to unite with the others in an
artistic entity. This in Wagner's mind was a musical drama, in which
poetry, painting, music, and acting should unite in an organic whole.

Having in this essay laid down the fundamental demands for his
ideal lyric drama, he made in "Opera and Drama" an exhaustive study
of this form of art. The first part of the work is devoted to a
critical sketch of the development of opera. The text is that which
we have already noted, that the means of expression, music, had been
taken for the end, while the real object, the drama, had been made
subsidiary to the production of pretty music in set forms. With this
as his theme, Wagner examined the works of the various operatic
masters and adduced evidence to establish his position. It was this
part of his book which caused the bitterest comment at the time of

The second part of the work is given to a study of the spoken drama,
and it shows that Wagner was a close student of the works of the
leading English, French, and German dramatists. It is in this survey
that he indicates the special nature of the difficulties placed
in the way of dramatic treatment by historical subjects, which
he himself found impracticable for operas. He notes how Schiller
laboured unsuccessfully to give clearness and form to the mass of
historical details which he introduced into his "Wallenstein," while
Shakespeare rested upon the firm ground of the auditor's imagination
and painted in broad lines. Here the author propounds his own theory
that for an ideal drama a mythical subject is the best, because it
admits of a centralisation of the poet's thought upon the characters
and emotions of the personages and rids him of the limitations of
historical colour, or conventions of time or place.

     "In the drama," he says, "we must become knowers through
     the Feeling. The Understanding tells us 'So is it,' only
     when the Feeling has told us, 'So must it be.' Only through
     itself, however, does this Feeling become intelligible to
     itself; it understands no other language than its own.
     Things which can only be explained to us by the infinite
     accommodations of the Understanding embarrass and confound
     the Feeling. In Drama, therefore, an action can only be
     explained when it is completely vindicated by the Feeling;
     and it thus is the dramatic poet's task, not to invent
     actions, but to make an action so intelligible through
     its emotional necessity, that we may altogether dispense
     with the intellect's assistance in its vindication. The
     poet, therefore, has to make its main scope the choice
     of the Action,--which he must so choose that, alike in
     its character as in its compass, it makes possible to him
     its entire vindication from out the Feeling; for in this
     vindication alone resides the reaching of his aim."

This is the kernel of the second part of "Opera and Drama." In the
third part he examines the materials of the poetic drama. He studies
the technical resources of rhythm and rhyme and endeavours to show
how far they can be utilised by the dramatist. From this he advances
to an examination of the type of verse best suited to the purpose of
the lyric drama, and here we are made acquainted with the theory of
his own verse. He discourses on the functions of melody and harmony
in the expression of the feelings of a drama and expounds his ideas
as to the powers and uses of the orchestra. Finally he shows how he
believes that the development of a drama should lead to periods of
emotional exaltation, or, technically, emotional "situations," in
which the expressiveness of melody would be employed with all its
resources to enforce the poet's thought. The principal tenet of this
part of the book is that the music must grow inevitably out of the
emotional character of the scene, and that its technical potencies
must be employed in proportion to their fitness for specific kinds of

It is in his studies of the spoken historical drama and his
expression of his ideas as to the proper materials for the lyric
story that we must find the formation of Wagner's fundamental theory
that the myth offered the best subject-matter for the musical
dramatist. The details of movement and accessories required in a
historical drama are in the way of the necessary process of focussing
the music on the grand emotions of the play. The simplification of
the story, so that its central situations are emotional and not
merely theatric, is impossible when historic truth is preserved. But
all mythology is the embodiment of primary world-thoughts. It is the
poetry of peoples, and he who looks below the surface will find in it
the whole heart of a nation. And thus the personages of mythologic
story became world-types. They are embodiments of racial or national
ideals. They are free, unconventional, elemental. Wagner came to
discern in their qualities the requisites for heroes and heroines of
the lyric drama. And from the philosophy of Schopenhauer, of which he
was a student, he drew encouragement and support.

According to Schopenhauer it is the work of Art to represent for
us the eternal essence of things by means of prototypes. The human
mind should rise above the conditions of time and place, cause and
tendency, and thus come to the contemplation of eternal ideas. This
contemplation is the privilege and the duty of Art. Where, then, was
Wagner to find eternal ideas suitable for dramatic treatment except
in their personifications in mythology? Certainly they were not to
be found in librettos of the "Semiramide" or "Sonnambula" variety.
Again turning his eyes to the Greek theatre, he found that Æschylus
and Sophocles had used the great myths of their people, and that by
doing so they had brought their theatre into direct relation with
the national life and thought. Why, then, could not he, by using
the myths of the Teutonic races, create genuine works of art and
reknit the bond between the stage and the national heart? This was
the splendid vision which dwelt in his mind in the days of poverty
and struggle. It was this which stayed his hand when easy offers of
pecuniary success were almost within his grasp. It was this hope
which led him forever away from the "pomp and circumstance" of the
historical opera, and brought forth works whose kinship to "Rienzi"
is so difficult to trace.

The myth, then, became the subject-matter on which he reared his
poetic structure. As he has summarised his thoughts on this topic
for us in "A Communication to My Friends" it may be well to quote his

     "I turned for the selection of my material once for all
     from the domain of history to that of legend.... All the
     details necessary for the description and preservation of
     the conventionally historic, which a fixed and limited
     historical epoch demands in order to make the action
     clearly intelligible--and which are therefore carried
     out so circumstantially by the historical novelists
     and dramatists of to-day--could be here omitted. And
     by this means the poetry, and especially the music,
     were freed from the necessity of a method of treatment
     entirely foreign to them, and particularly impossible
     as far as music was concerned. The legend, in whatever
     age or nation it may be placed, has the advantage that
     it comprehends only the purely human portion of this age
     or nation, and presents this portion in a form peculiar
     to it, thoroughly concentrated, and therefore easily
     intelligible.... This legendary character gives a great
     advantage to the poetic arrangement of the subject for
     the reason already mentioned, that, while the simple
     process of the action--easily comprehensible as far as its
     outward relations are concerned--renders unnecessary any
     painstaking for the purpose of explanation of the course of
     the story, the greatest possible portion of the poem can
     be devoted to the portrayal of the inner motives of the
     action--those inmost motives of the soul, which, indeed,
     the action points out to us as necessary, through the fact
     that we ourselves feel in our hearts a sympathy with them."

With the idea of founding a national drama on the great mythological
thoughts of his people, and keeping constantly in mind the conviction
that his business was not the mere telling of a story in verse and
music, but the presentation to the minds of his auditors of the
underlying emotions of the drama, he quickly realised that the set
forms of the old opera were of no use to him. He could not construct
a libretto with the regularly recurring duets, trios, and ensembles,
if he meant to be true to dramatic art. To abandon these established
patterns, however, meant to throw over both the poetic and musical
fashions of the older lyric writers. If his people were not to sing
arias and duets, but to speak a convincing dialogue, with speech
raised to a higher power by the use of music instead of blank verse,
as in the spoken drama, he must find new types, both poetic and
musical. But with Wagner it must be constantly borne in mind that the
dramatic speech is not text first and music afterward, but is both at
once. His conception of the talk of his dramas was that of words made
vocal in the musical sense by their own inner demand for emotional
symbolism. In other words the music must be the direct and inevitable
outgrowth of the poetry and the two must be joined in a perfect
organic union.

It became necessary, therefore, that he should cast about for some
new musical form for the foundation of his drama, for there cannot
be music without form. The new pattern did not develop itself
immediately in his mind. The first principle of it occurred to him
when he was writing "Der Fliegende Holländer." This first principle
was that the musical expression of a particular mood, having been
found, should be retained. "When a mental mood returned," he
says, "its thematic expression also, as a matter of course, was
repeated, since it would have been arbitrary and capricious to have
sought another motive so long as the object was an intelligible
representation of the subject and not a conglomeration of operatic
pieces." This at once disposed of the aria, which was a completed
musical piece. Wagner conceived the music to be inseparable from
the speech and therefore to be completed only at the end of the
drama. The melody had thus to become endless, a melody made up of
many thematic ideas, all worked up wholly for the purpose of mood
painting, and built into a grand form dictated and justified solely
by the emotional scheme of the play. With this conviction he steered
a happy course between mere formalism and chaotic formlessness.
He avoided the set patterns of the older school and escaped the
dictation by the verse of the musical shape and figure, yet he also
weathered the shoals of musical incoherency. For the identification
of the thematic ideas with the poetic thoughts enabled him to make
on perfectly logical and natural grounds those melodic repetitions
without which music is devoid of form.

Every student of music knows that a melody is constructed of certain
phrases which have identifiable rhythmic and melodic shape. The
identity of any tune is established by the repetition of these
phrases in a regular order. When the repetitions are arranged on a
plan similar to that of a verse of poetry, as in the case of such a
tune as "Home, Sweet Home," the form of the music becomes that known
as the song form, which lies at the basis of nearly every musical
composition not strictly contrapuntal. Any music in which certain
melodic shapes, known as figures, are not preserved and repeated,
in which each phrase once heard is not heard again, is absolutely
chaotic and does not convey to the human mind the conception of
design, and hence also not of melody. Wagner, in striving to avoid
the musical domination of the older forms, had to see to it that he
did not fall into this kind of chaos. He had to devise a larger and
less confining form, but he had to have a form nevertheless.

But as soon as he had conceived the idea of preserving throughout
his drama the first thematic expression of any mental mood or idea,
he had the solution of his problem in his hands. For now the musical
repetitions were bound to become numerous and to acquire from the
text a direct and unmistakable significance which they could not
possibly have by themselves. And the criticism to which this form
might be open, if it were used as a purely musical one, at once falls
to the ground when it is remembered that the object is not musical
alone, but also dramatic, or musico-textual. The organic union of
the word and the tone makes the assistance given by the text in
explaining the meaning (sometimes arbitrary) of the music entirely
defensible, and indeed thoroughly commendable.



In its details this Wagnerian system of musico-textual speech divides
itself into music constructed of leading motives, or themes with
a specified meaning, and music of the picture, or purely scenic
music, such as that of the sailors in the first scene of "Tristan
und Isolde," or the "Waldweben" of "Siegfried." And again the sung
parts of the score divide themselves into ordinary speech, or
quasi-recitative, and the speech of the high emotional situation,
which is either intensely declamatory or extraordinarily melodious,
according to the nature of the mood which has been reached.[30] A
further feature of the scheme, which must not be overlooked, is
that the repetitions of the thematic ideas are given chiefly to the
orchestra, which thus becomes not a mere accompaniment, but a most
potent explicator of the drama. This treatment of the orchestra makes
it the creator of a musical atmosphere which surrounds the actors
in the drama. Even when one has no acquaintance whatever with the
specified meanings of the "leading motive" ("leading" should read
"guiding"), the dramatic influence of the musical background is such
that he is brought into a complete emotional accord with the action
on the stage. Thus the orchestra becomes a most potent factor in
demonstrating and making effective Wagner's tenet that "In the drama
we must become knowers through the Feeling. The Understanding tells
us 'So is it,' only when the Feeling has told us, 'So must it be.'"
It was with thoughts of this in his mind that Wagner wrote on Sept.
9, 1850, to Herr Von Zigesar:

     "An audience which assembles in a fair mood is satisfied as
     soon as it distinctly understands what is going forward,
     and it is a great mistake to think that a theatrical
     audience must have a special knowledge of music in order
     to receive the right impression of a musical drama. To
     this entirely erroneous opinion we have been brought by
     the fact that in opera music has wrongly been made the
     aim,--while the drama was merely a means for the display of
     the music. Music, on the contrary, should do no more than
     contribute its full share towards making the drama clearly
     and quickly comprehensible at every moment. While listening
     to a good--that is, a rational--opera, people should, so
     to speak, not think of the music at all, but only feel it
     in an unconscious manner, while their fullest sympathy
     should be wholly occupied by the action represented. Every
     audience which has an uncorrupted sense and a human heart
     is therefore welcome to me as long as I may be certain that
     the dramatic action is made more immediately comprehensible
     and moving by the music, instead of being hidden by it."

[Footnote 30: Even the purely lyric style is sometimes employed in
strong situations where a song might be used, as in the case of
Siegmund's Love Song.]

From the actual potency of Wagner's music in producing the proper
emotional mood in the auditor and from his own words, such as the
above, the present writer has frequently argued that an intimate
acquaintance with the leitmotiv scheme is not necessary to an
understanding of the Wagner dramas. To comprehend and appreciate the
grandeur of such scenes as the "Todesverkündigung" in "Die Walküre,"
the death of Siegfried and the immolation of Brünnhilde it is not
needful to be able to catalogue the guiding themes as they pass
through the vistas of the glowing score. All that is essential is an
open mind. The eloquence of the music will do the rest. And if the
guiding motives fail to create the proper emotional investiture for
the same, then they are valueless, even at Wagner's own rating, for
he says that we must feel before we can understand a drama. And we
ourselves can readily see how useless it is to tell us the specified
meanings of sweet musical phrases if they do not, when heard, help to
warm into a vitalising glow the significance of the text and action.
If they fail to do this, the organic union so ardently sought by
Wagner does not exist. If they succeed, it matters not at all whether
we know their names.

But we are all Elsas to these Lohengrins and Wagner himself was one
of the Ortruds, for he has tempted us to ask the question, which is,
fortunately for us, not fatal to our happiness. It becomes natural
and proper therefore for every student of this master's works to
take cognisance of the leitmotiv system and to aim at a thorough
comprehension of its nature and its purpose. These have been very
often misrepresented, and, even by many devoted admirers of Wagner's
works, are yet misunderstood.

It was out of his first conviction that the musical embodiment of a
mood having once been found should not be changed that the leit motif
system grew. This first conviction led him to adopt in "Der Fliegende
Holländer" certain musical phrases as typical of principal ideas in
the play. He made a theme for the Dutchman's personality, a melody
for his longing, another for the personality of Senta, the redeeming
potency in the drama. In making these themes he sought to render
them expressive not only of their primary dramatic ideas, but of the
beautiful symbolism which lay behind these ideas. As this symbolism
appealed largely to the sensibility of the hearer, it was peculiarly
fitting that he should summon the aid of the music to the work for
which it was best suited, namely the awakening of the sensibilities
and through them of the emotions.

Out of this first experimental use of leading themes, Wagner
gradually advanced to a complete and elaborate system. The student
will look in vain for the finished system in "Tannhäuser" and
"Lohengrin." In the former of these two works the leit motif is not
employed and there is rather a tendency to use what is called "music
of the scene" as a reminder of the place of the occurrence of an
action than to repeat music expressive of the emotion lying behind
the action itself. In "Lohengrin," however, one finds the leading
motive employed in a few instances in precisely the same manner as it
is in "Siegfried" or "Tristan," but not with the same persistency. It
was in the construction of the great trilogy and its prologue that he
found the full value of his system of musical cross-references, for
in the vast complexity of this story, the explanatory force of music
to which a direct meaning had been given was afforded the widest
possible field of action.

The student of the system will find that the leading motives,
guiding themes, typical phrases, or whatever one pleases to call
them, are of several kinds. Some are employed very arbitrarily, it
must be admitted, but the text always makes their meaning clear
and thereafter one easily understands the composer's intent. They
may be divided as follows: motives of personalities, as the Donner,
the Siegfried-Hero, the Brünnhilde motive; those of the moving
forces of the drama, as the contract, the need of the Gods, and
the curse; those of the tribal or racial elements, as the Volsung,
or the Nibelung motive; those of places, objects, and occupations,
as the smithy, the sword, the Walhalla, and those of the scene, as
the Rhine music, the forging, and the fire music. This is a rude
classification, but it will answer the present object, which is
an exposition of the nature and aims of the system. The music of
the tribal or racial elements and that of the scene, the student
will find, is seldom modified in the course of the drama, while
that relating to personalities is often changed in conformity with
alterations in the characters of which it is typical. In "Der Ring
des Nibelungen" the motives of the Tarnhelm, the gold, the Rhine, the
sword, the dragon, and similar musical devices retain their original
form almost always, though occasionally the demands of harmony and
figure call for more or less altered suggestions of them.

But the personal themes are sometimes submitted to the processes of
thematic development employed in symphonic composition, and this
resource of music is always used by Wagner with a direct intention
to depict some development of character. The system of alteration
may be summarised in this rule: if the object represented in the
music is one subject to change, its representative theme is liable to
development, but otherwise it will keep its original form, unless
there is a musical necessity for slight change or the possibility of
dramatic suggestion in it. Those familiar with the dramas will recall
that in the last scene of "Götterdämmerung" the Rhine music undergoes
a harmonic change eloquently expressive of the mood of the Rhine
maidens after the refusal of Siegfried to return the ring. It will be
found, too, that any scenic music which is designed for more than one
hearing has a deeper purpose than mere pictorial description and is
designed as an aid in the creation of a proper mood of receptivity in
the auditor, and thus as an assistance to complete understanding.

In the earlier dramas the proportion of scenic music to what may
be called expository music is large. One finds many pages of
"Lohengrin," for example, which consist of purely scenic writing.
The arrival of Lohengrin and the combat in the first act, the
approach to the cathedral in the second, the bridal chorus--these,
when examined, are found to be pure music of the scene. The motives
which are repeated with specified significance are few, and they deal
chiefly with the moving forces of the drama, the Grail and the fatal
question, the hatred of Ortrud and the knightly power of Lohengrin.

But the early works of Wagner show his musical system in its
embryonic state, and, while the study of the scores is from
that point of view particularly interesting, for satisfactory
illustrations of the method we must go to the later dramas. Here we
are constantly confronted with evidence of Wagner's sincerity of
purpose, his unflagging endeavour to achieve that organic union of
text and music which was so dear to his heart. In "Das Rheingold,"
for instance, occurs for the first time a theme to be heard often in
the subsequent dramas, the theme of the sword. The composer was not
content to make a theme of any sort and arbitrarily call it the sword
motive. He tried to produce something which should suggest the sword
and the heroic uses to which it was to be put, and thus he composed
this brilliant and martial theme, intoned by a trumpet:


Another artistically constructed motive, which may be quoted here, is
that representative of the Tarnhelm, the mystic cap which Mime makes
for Alberich and which renders the wearer invisible. In this motive
Wagner creates the atmosphere of mystery by making the tonality of
the music uncertain through the use of the empty "fifth."


Some of the most effective themes are those which are associated
with personalities in their visible aspects, as the fire music,
which represents Loge, and the "Ritt-Motiv," or galloping figure, of
Kundry in "Parsifal." Motives of this kind Wagner devised with great
musical skill, for they impress the mind of the hearer in two ways,
bringing before it a part of the pictorial movement of the drama and
also representing certain personal attributes, while at the same
time they are so made that they readily lend themselves to thematic
variation without losing their identity.

The attentive listener to these later dramas of Wagner, then, will
find, in the fully developed musical system, voice parts which
consist of declamation occasionally rising into the sublimest kind
of arioso, without once sacrificing the poetic spirit to any demand
of mere musical formalism, and an orchestral accompaniment which
is not an accompaniment in the sense of merely affording support
to the singer's voice, but is independent and expressive of much
that the actors do not utter. This expressiveness is gained by the
employment of themes to which a definite meaning has been attached,
no matter how arbitrarily, by their association with a picture,
an action, a personality, or a thought. This association is made
perfectly comprehensible to every listener who bears in mind that
the text is the explanation of this music, and its only explanation.
The music never exists for its own sake, but is a vital part of the
speech of the drama. The orchestra is always an explicator, never
a mere support. And here and there we meet with passages of merely
descriptive or scenic music, in which not even guiding themes of
scenic nature are used. The ultimate purpose of the entire musical
scheme is organic union with the text so that the music shall give
perfect expression to the drama of emotions which is being enacted,
and place the hearer in the proper moods for the reception of it.
While all the old musical forms employed in opera are abandoned,
Wagner avoids formlessness by the repetition of identified themes.
In summing up this important matter let me quote Wagner's own words
from "A Communication to My Friends":

     "This opera form [the old form] was never of its very
     nature a form embracing the whole drama, but rather an
     arbitrary conglomerate of separate smaller forms of song,
     whose fortuitous concatenation of arias, duos, trios, etc.,
     with choruses and so-called ensemble-pieces, made out the
     actual edifice of opera. In the poetic fashioning of my
     stuffs [materials] it was henceforth impossible for me to
     contemplate a filling of these ready-moulded forms, but
     solely a bringing of the drama's broader object to the
     cognisance of the feeling. In the whole course of the drama
     I saw no possibility of division or demarcation, other than
     the acts in which the place or time, or the scenes in which
     the _dramatis personæ_ change. Moreover the plastic unity
     of the mythic stuff brought with it this advantage, that,
     in the arrangement of my scenes, all those minor details
     which the modern playwright finds so indispensable for the
     elucidation of involved historical occurrences were quite
     unnecessary, and the whole strength of the portrayal could
     be concentrated upon a few weighty and decisive moments of
     development. Upon the working out of these fewer scenes
     in each of which a decisive 'Stimmung' [mood] was to be
     given its full play, I might linger with an exhaustiveness
     already reckoned for in the original draft; I was not
     compelled to make shift with mere suggestions, and--for
     the sake of economy--to hasten on from one suggestion to
     another; but with needful repose I could display the simple
     object in the very last connections required to bring it
     home to the dramatic understanding. Through this natural
     attribute of the stuff I was not in the least coerced to
     strain the planning of my scenes into any preconceived
     conformity with given musical forms, since they dictated
     of themselves their mode of musical completion. In the
     ever surer feeling hereof it thus could no more occur to
     me to rack with wilful outward canons the musical form
     that sprang self-bidden from the very nature of these
     scenes, to break its natural mould by violent grafting-in
     of conventional slips of operatic song. Thus I by no
     means set out with the fixed purpose of a deliberate
     iconoclast [Formumänderer--lit., changer of forms], to
     destroy, forsooth, the prevailing operatic forms of aria,
     duet, etc., but the omission of these forms followed from
     the very nature of the stuff, with whose intelligible
     presentment to the feeling through an adequate vehicle I
     alone had to do....

     "Just as the joinery of my individual scenes excluded every
     alien and unnecessary detail, and led all interest to the
     dominant Chief-mood, so did the whole building of my drama
     join itself into one organic unity, whose easily surveyed
     members were made out by those fewer scenes and situations
     which set the passing mood: no mood could be permitted
     to be struck in any one of these scenes that did not
     stand in a weighty relation to the mood of all the other
     scenes, so that the development of the moods from out each
     other, and the constant obviousness of this development,
     should establish the unity of the drama in its very mode
     of expression. Each of these Chief-moods, in keeping with
     the nature of the stuff, must also gain a definite musical
     expression, which should display itself to the sense
     of hearing as a definite musical theme. Just as in the
     progress of the drama the intended climax of a decisory
     Chief-mood was only to be reached through a development,
     continuously present to the feeling, of the individual
     moods already roused, so must the musical expression, which
     directly influences the physical feeling, necessarily take
     a decisive share in this development to a climax; and
     this was brought about quite of itself, in the shape of
     a characteristic issue of principal themes, that spread
     itself not over one scene only (as heretofore in separate
     operatic 'numbers'), but over the whole drama, and that in
     intimate connection with the poetic aim."

Where Gluck had sought to make music enforce the expression of the
sentiment of the text, Wagner aimed to make it the very expression
itself, and in following out this purpose he elaborated the system
of musical presentation of the content of a drama which carried him
entirely away from the beaten paths of opera. It was the radical
departure of his system which aroused the opposition of a deep
misunderstanding. His contemporaries saw what he had abolished from
his works, but could not comprehend the substitute. And even to-day,
when the Wagner drama is accepted the world over, there is still a
general failure to understand that the leitmotiv system was conceived
as the only preservation of necessary musical method in a drama which
had banished from its scheme the use of the established operatic



Wagner, in striving for a complete and natural revelation of the
emotional content of his dramas, discovered that the continual flow
of music which he had adopted was not possible if fixed verse-figures
were employed. The verse-figure prescribes and limits the musical
figure. Nevertheless there must be some rhythmic principle in the
verse. Wagner found that which was most suited to his needs in the
ancient staff-rhyme, or alliterative verse. The fundamental basis
of this verse is consonance of sounds, not confined to the final
rhyme but employed in the body of the verse and thus made a part
of its inner nature. Not a little excellent information as to the
exact nature of the alliterative verse may be obtained from the
introductory essay to the second volume of Percy's "Reliques."
It should be mentioned that Percy was acquainted with Icelandic
literature and first made it known in England when he translated
Mallet's "Northern Antiquities." He tells us that the Icelandic
language is of the same origin as the Anglo-Saxon, and that was the
reason why both employed the staff-rhyme. The alliteration consisted
in "a certain artful repetition of sounds in the middle of the
verses. This was adjusted according to their rules of prosody, one
of which was that every distich should contain at least three words
beginning with the same letter or sound. Two of these correspondent
sounds might be placed either in the first or second line of the
distich, and one in the other; but all three were not regularly to be
crowded into one line. This will best be understood by the following

     "Meire og Minne          Gab Ginunga
     Moga heimdaller.         Enn Gras huerge."

This verse was used by the old poets of the Saxons in Britain. The
epic of "Beowulf" is written in this style and so are the poems of
Caedmon, the noted paraphraser of the scriptures. An authoritative
writer says:

     "The poetry of the Anglo-Saxons was neither modulated
     according to foot-measure, like that of the Greeks and
     Romans, nor written with rhymes, like that of modern
     languages. Its chief and universal characteristic was
     a very regular alliteration, so arranged that in every
     couplet there should be two principal words in the first
     line beginning with the same letter, which letter must also
     be the initial of the first word on which the stress of
     the voice falls in the second line. The only approach to a
     metrical system yet discovered is that two risings and two
     fallings of the voice seem necessary to each perfect line."

A specimen of this alliterative verse from the works of Caedmon shows
the peculiarity of the construction.

     "Se him cwom to frofre.
     & to feorh-nere.
     Mid lufan & mid lisse.
     Se thone lig tosceaf.
     Halig and heofon-beohrt.
     Hatan fyres.
     Tosweop hine & toswende.
     Thurh tha swithan miht.
     Ligges leoma."[31]

[Footnote 31:

     Who to them came for comfort,
     And for their lives' salvation,
     With love and with grace;
     Who the flames scattered
     (Holy and heaven-bright)
     Of the hot fire,
     Swept at and dashed away,
     Through his great might,
     The beams of flame.
       --Paraphrase of the Song of Azariah.

Thorpe's translation.]

The reader will note the alliteration of the l's in the third and
fourth lines, and the h's in the next two. The change in vowel sounds
following the consonants was deemed by Wagner as of especial value in

As the English language developed, this method of rhythmic
construction remained in use, and we find that it is used in such old
poems as "Piers Plowman's Vision" (about 1350).

     "In a Somer Season when hot was the Sunne,
     I Shope me into Shroubs as I a Shepe were;
     Habite as an Harmet, unHoly of werkes,
     Went Wyde in thys world Wonders to heare."

Wagner, however, modelled his verse on that of the original writers
of it, as their language was more closely affiliated with German
than the early English was. He made an exhaustive study of the
constitution of the staff-rhyme, and saw in its conservation of
the elementary principles of poetic speech the factor necessary to
the perfection of an organic union with music. For those who have
studied the conventional formulas of musical expression--the major
and minor modes, chromatic progressions, the declamatory style as
opposed to the pure cantilena, the crescendo and diminuendo, the
agitato--know that all these have been transferred from the natural
employment of vocal tone and articulation in speech as influenced by
the emotions which these musical symbols are intended to represent.
And we know, too, that the reflex action of music in producing in the
hearer the emotions which it aims to depict is due to its adoption
of methods founded on man's oral expression of his feeling. Wagner
saw in the staff-rhyme the first attempt to systemise into poetry the
elevated speech of emotion, and he discerned in it technical features
admirably suited to his plan. In "Opera and Drama" he says:

     "In Stabreim the kindred speech-roots are fitted to one
     another in such a way that, just as they sound alike
     to the physical ear, they also knit like objects into
     one collective image in which the Feeling may utter
     its conclusions about them. Their sensibly cognisable
     resemblance they win either from a kinship of the vowel
     sounds, especially when these stand open in front without
     any initial consonant ('Erb und eigen.' 'Immer und ewig');
     or from the sameness of the initial consonant itself, which
     characterises the likeness as one belonging peculiarly to
     the object ('Ross und Reiter.' 'Froh und frei'); or again,
     from the sameness of the terminal consonant that closes
     up the root from behind (as an assonance), provided the
     individualising force of the word lies in that terminal
     ('Hand und Mund.' 'Recht und Pflicht')."

The fruits of these philological considerations reveal themselves
to the hearer of the works in a wonderfully delicate perfection of
accentuation and cadence, which simulates that of the spoken line
in a vivifying manner. One has only to read, as one would naturally
speak, such words as "Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond," and
then sing them to the opening notes of "Siegmund's Love Song" to
see how beautifully this staff-rhyme adapts itself to the needs of
what Wagner called "Word-tone-speech," an expression which explains
itself. Furthermore, these lines of staff-rhyme have no metrical
domination over the music. A single reading of any familiar passage
in the later works will show the reader that the lines of the verse
do not set the limits for the phrases of the music as they do in
the old song forms, but that the composer is entirely free in his
phraseology, while he can never quite obliterate the rhythmic
basis of the verse. This plasticity was of inestimable importance
in the Wagnerian system, with its endless melody, its independent
accompaniments, and its disuse of the old forms.

We have now made an examination of the artistic aims and methods of
Wagner. The reader should now be able to grasp the basic truth that
his mature works are not to be viewed as operas but as poetic dramas.
The argument is frequently made that no serious criticism of opera
is necessary because it is an absurdity throughout. People do not
sing; therefore all attempts at dramatic verity in the lyric drama
are useless. And from this is drawn the conclusion that it makes no
difference whether composers write pretty tunes merely for their own
sake, and use the set forms and conventions of the old opera, or
write an endless recitation with an orchestral background. The object
should be to please, and since the entertainment is musical, let us
have pretty tunes at all costs.

The same arguments, of course, apply in a way to all forms of the
poetic drama. People do not speak blank verse, nor talk in metaphors.
It is altogether improbable that Henry V. or Richard II. or Macbeth
even rose to such heights of speech as Shakespeare's personages. The
ground upon which the poetic drama rests is that of symbolism, and
in the lyric play this, by reason of the flexibility of music, may
reach its highest elevation. The symbolism of the Wagnerian drama is
both poetic and musical. With the former I shall attempt to deal in
the study of the individual plays; but of the musical symbolism it
may here be said that while technically the speech of the Wagnerian
drama is but blank verse raised by song to its highest power, the
representation of emotional moods by the musical symbols, vocal or
orchestral, is cast in a mould far grander than that of the spoken
drama, and its influence upon the auditor is immeasurably larger. If
by the employment of these musical symbols the dramatist can cause
the auditor to throb with the emotions of the personages in the
drama, he has accomplished the ultimate aim of his art and justified
his form.

To achieve this result requires perfect sincerity on the part of the
dramatist and the most exquisite adaptation of the theatrical means
to the end in view. The old opera had abandoned all but a shallow
pretence of these, and had given itself to the easy business of
tickling the ear. Wagner's work is an appeal to the intelligence
through the feeling. His ambition was to give the lyric theatre
vitality and an influence with the public. To do this he was forced
to abandon all that he found ready to hand, and to build again
from the foundations. In doing so he restored some of the outward
semblance of the conventions. He wrote duets, as in the second act of
"Tristan und Isolde." But he did this with a perfect comprehension
of the power of music to symbolise an emotional state shared by two
lovers. On the other hand, he raised the orchestra to the position of
an exponent of the dramatic thought, and this, again, was done with
a masterly conception of the potency of absolute music in painting
mood-pictures. Here he found an agency for symbolism in the poetic
drama far beyond the loftiest dreams of the poet of the spoken play.

The motto of the attendant at Wagner performances, then, must be,
"The play's the thing," and he must measure their value and estimate
their influence upon him wholly from that point of view. A drama
in music was the conception of the originators of what came to be
called Opera; but it had been, as we have seen, lost to sight in
Wagner's youth by reason of the immense popularity of the easily
made productions of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, in which the
music was the ultimate object and the libretto only a means toward
its production. Wagner's ideal was a drama in which music should be
a factor valuable wholly because of its power to embody and convey
emotions. That such a form of drama departed from the more material
realism of the spoken play was not a matter to trouble a profoundly
æsthetic intellect. Wagner, like the greatest masters in all forms of
art, was opposed to that kind of realism which bases its claims on
its copying of mere objects or external phenomena. This is the cheap
realism of the sensational drama, which puts fire engines and hansom
cabs and professional burglars on the stage, and holds that it thus
reproduces human life. It is, perhaps, a form of art, but it is a low
one, because it has not the imaginative or symbolical elements which
are essential to high art. It is the art which copies, not that which
creates. The painter who reproduces on his canvas a group of flowers
or a human form may be a master of the technics of painting, but
the fervid imagination of Turner's "Slave Ship," with its ill-drawn
figures, is worth a thousand copies of real things.

As art rises in the scale of nobility, it appeals more and more to
the imagination, till it reaches that point at which, in Schumann's
words, "only genius understands genius." Advancing along this path,
art tends always toward the employment of symbolism. Poetry is in
every nation the first and most convincing demonstration of the
feeling of humanity for symbolical expression. Poetic forms are in
themselves symbolic, and the figures of speech employed in them are
word-symbols meant to awaken the imaginative powers of the reader.
The drama in its earliest phases was purely artistic, coupling, as
it did, the symbolism of a highly organised mythology with poetic
speech. The blank-verse plays of Shakespeare are filled with the
noblest symbolism of the spoken play, and those who decry them
as unreal because of their poetic form and diction show an utter
inability to understand artistic design.

In its inception the opera was, as we have seen, an attempt to revive
the form of the antique drama of Greece. Its originators cherished
an honest purpose, but their knowledge was not sufficient to carry
it to a successful issue. Neither had they at their command a rich
enough _materia musica_, for until their day composers had devoted
themselves to the expression of contemplative religious feeling
and the musical symbols of human passion were yet undeveloped.
Unfortunately for the "Drama per musica," as the early masters called
it, the first attempts at the construction of definite operatic forms
led directly away from the honesty of dramatic art and turned opera
into a series of tunes, each complete in itself, and strung upon a
slender thread of recitative. Wagner, setting out as he did to build
a national drama, had no reason whatever for following the methods
of the Italian composers. His aim was to embody certain national
thoughts, as projected in the great folk-legends of the Teutonic
people, in artistic plays, and to use for that embodiment the most
influential means at his command. Music was his vocal instrument
instead of speech, not simply because he was a musician, but also
because he was convinced that it would afford him the loftiest
utterance for the emotional substance of his dramas.

For these were not to be dramas in which the mere telling of a
story was the object in view. The drama was to be, not a series of
incidents of pictorial efficiency, but a development of feelings
and an exhibition of typical humanity, embracing those wonderful
world-heroes and heroines into whose conception have been poured the
concentrated imaginings of several races and centuries. For such
a play as "Tristan und Isolde," in which the movement is entirely
emotional and not incidental, the spoken form would have been prolix
and wearisome. This play, given without music, would become a dreary
stretch of talk. On the other hand, the simplicity of the action
and the intensity of the emotions permit the composer to expend
his entire force upon the musical expression of feeling, thereby
confining himself strictly to the province of music and raising the
symbolism of the drama to the highest power. Herein lies one of the
principal differences between the spoken and the sung play. Yet in
it also is to be seen a demonstration of the indisputable fact that
the works of Wagner are dramas. So, then, we must view them; and,
so doing, we shall approach the contemplation of Wagner's art work
from the point desired by him. We shall enter into his domain in
the spirit of sympathetic understanding, and it will be to us not a
valley of shadows, as it is to those who enter with closed eyes, but
a sea of splendour and sunlight, where the spirit may

     "Burst all links of habit--there to wander far away
     On from island unto island at the gateways of the day."




It is customary to divide the artistic career of Wagner into three
periods, the first embracing the production of the early works and
"Rienzi," the second that of "Der Fliegende Holländer," "Tannhäuser,"
and "Lohengrin," and the third that of the remaining works. It is
the opinion of the present writer that the recognition of four
periods would make the matter clearer to the lover of this master's
creations. The early works, which are not heard except in one or
two places, may be left out of consideration. We may then classify
"Rienzi" as the production of the first period. "Der Fliegende
Holländer" should stand in a period by itself, as representing the
purely embryonic epoch of the true Wagner, while "Tannhäuser" and
"Lohengrin" may properly be allotted to a third or transition period.
The remaining works may be regarded as belonging to the period of
the mature Wagner, though there would be no serious difficulty
in subdividing this part of his artistic career. It seems to me,
however, that no satisfactory end would be gained by doing so.

The reader of this book has already seen that in writing "Rienzi"
Wagner was actuated by purposes entirely different from those which
moved him in the creation of "Der Fliegende Holländer." The first of
the lyric dramas presently to be examined was, as its maker said, a
grand opera pure and simple. Then came the days of despair in Paris,
when Wagner, hoping nothing for the future, gave free rein to his
artistic impulses and produced the dramatic story of the unhappy
Vanderdecken. In the creation of this drama nothing influenced
Wagner's mind but the desire to write according to the dictates of
his own artistic conscience. But he had not yet worked out a scheme
of dramatic composition. He had only just come upon the fundamental
ideas of his plan. Its details were still far away from his
conception. "Embryonic," then, is the term to apply to this period of
his productivity.

With "Tannhäuser" there entered into the field of his artistic vision
those broader musical and ethical conceptions of the lyric drama
which afterward developed themselves into a complex and influential
system. With "Lohengrin" we see these ideas taking more definite
shape. The literary and musical plan of the drama is more closely
organised, and the musical style is more clearly defined. The diction
becomes more akin to that of later works, and the methods show more
certainty and more mastery. "Lohengrin" is a long advance beyond
"Der Fliegende Holländer." It prepares us for such a work as "Die
Meistersinger," though hardly in full for "Parsifal." It must be
borne in mind that the original conception of "Die Meistersinger"
belongs to the same period as "Lohengrin," and that although the
music was not written till long afterward, the score must naturally
have been coloured by the first thoughts of the work and so have come
somewhat under the influence of the "Lohengrin" style.

In the early dramas we meet with Wagner's inclusion of ethical ideas
in his designs. One seeks in vain among the old popular operas of the
Rossini or Meyerbeer schools for a drama with a moral. But owing to
Wagner's adoption of the myth as the material from which to erect his
dramatic structures, the inclusion of an ethical lesson in each of
his schemes followed almost inevitably. For mythology is essentially
ethical. Wagner, however, humanised the teachings of the mythologies
into which he delved by emphasising the beautiful idea of the saving
grace of woman. He did not, perhaps, deliberately adopt as the motto
of his works the line of Goethe, "The woman-soul leadeth us ever
upward and on," but it may be inscribed upon them without violence to
their intent. We may see by an examination of the original sources of
the dramas how the importance of this thought in the works is due to
the deliberate purpose of Wagner himself to bring it to the front. In
some of the original stories it plays little or no part, but in the
Wagner music drama the "Ewig-Weibliche" is always impressed upon the
imagination of the auditor with all the skill of the dramatist and
all the eloquence of the musician.

In "Lohengrin," as the reader can see for himself, the master made a
special point of excluding the operation of this principle, because
he desired to bring forward a study of a woman who had no love in
her nature. With Wagner the woman-soul could be influential for good
only when acting under the guidance of love. Ortrud acted under the
dictates of hate, and her influence was therefore destructive, but
ultimately futile. The reader will readily perceive the dramatic,
poetic, and musical value of this thought. In all the Wagnerian
dramas we are confronted with studies of the warring of good and evil
principles. When the good principle is identified or associated with
the love of woman, and that love is made the saving grace of its
object, the dramatic force of the story is splendidly intensified,
the scope of the poetry and the music immeasurably widened.
Especially is the music benefited by the possibility of identifying
the highest ethical idea of the poem with the most beautiful and
potent of its emotions; for it is the peculiar privilege of the music
to voice the emotional content of the drama, and when this becomes
one with the ethical idea, the auditor is led by the music into the
very shrine of the poet's imagination. The reader will note, too,
that in those dramas in which the love of a woman does not figure as
a saving influence, the tragic fate of the hero is accentuated, and
the woman herself is made a more conspicuous embodiment of grief.

In most of the works of Wagner there is to be found a philosophical
or metaphysical basis, and this is most easily discovered in the
later dramas. The poet-composer was at different times deeply
influenced by the writings of Feuerbach and Schopenhauer. From the
former he obtained some of the vaguer conceptions of his philosophy,
but the latter supplied him with definite ideas. It was in the early
fifties that Wagner was a student of Feuerbach, and his mind eagerly
caught at the thoughts contained indefinitely in such phrases as
"highest being--the community of being," "death, the fulfilment of
love," and such declarations as "only in love does the finite become
the infinite." These ideas later took clearer shape in his mind when
he gathered from Schopenhauer the sharply cut description of the
negation of the will to live as the highest abstraction and elevation
of thought.

With love figuring as a community of being, with death as its
highest fulfilment, and with the absolute effacement of the desire
of life as the loftiest aspiration of human passion, Wagner was
equipped with a philosophical background for several of his most
dramatic conceptions, notably for "Tristan und Isolde." Yet one has
no difficulty in understanding his own assertion that the negation
of the will to live and the community of being had entered his mind
in an indefinite shape long before he read the works of the two
philosophers, for they may be traced in the story of "Der Fliegende

Some of Wagner's biographers, notably Houston Stewart Chamberlain, to
whom this master was little short of a divinity, have devoted much
space to the consideration of Wagner as a philosopher. The truth is
that he was never a philosopher at all in the strict sense of that
term. He was a groper after philosophies. He sought for a rational
foundation for his artistic theories and endeavoured to found them
upon metaphysical tenets borrowed from works which seemed to meet
his needs. But there is no difficulty in perceiving that what always
appealed to him in a philosophy was its poetic or dramatic material.
That he was sometimes mistaken as to the real value of that material
is not astonishing. The best text-books of Wagner's philosophy are
his dramas. Therein one finds that the ethical side of a philosophy
was what touched him most directly, and that it did so because of
its close relation to the principles underlying the tragic in human
experience. This is paying a higher compliment to Wagner than to call
him a philosopher, for it is practically asserting that his dramatic
nature was his guiding star.

It is easy to note that in "Der Fliegende Holländer" Wagner more
nearly rid himself of those hampering historical details to which
he objected than he did in "Tannhäuser," and more especially than
in "Lohengrin." The legend of the "Flying Dutchman" was not one
of the great world-thoughts, but it had the advantages of being
founded on an incident which might be repeated at any time and
in any place--namely, the periodical landing of the wanderer.
In "Tannhäuser" and "Lohengrin," and in "Parsifal," Wagner used
material found in the great cycle of tales belonging to the Christian
mythology of Germany, England, and France. He found himself unable
to avoid introducing some of the historical details contained in
the original stories. Because of their sources and nature these
three dramas have been classed as the Christian trilogy of Wagner in
contradistinction to the Nibelung works, which are called the pagan
trilogy. While this classification is justified by the nature of the
works, it should be remembered that Wagner himself repudiated any
intention to produce works charged with a religious purpose. Ethical
ideas, indeed, he always cherished, but he denied that he taught
Christianity. He recognised the assistance which art had given to
religion, and he saw that in Greece the dramatisation of national
religious beliefs had given to the stage a power unknown in modern
times. But he himself was too wise to dream of making the lyric
drama a mere corollary or illustration to the pulpit text. A passage
in "A Communication to My Friends," quoted in the account of his
resumption of work on "Tannhäuser," explains the mood which governed
him in the composition of the score. He says that at the time he
was yearning for a pure and unapproachable ideal of love. "What, in
fine," he continues, "could this love-yearning, the noblest thing my
heart could feel, what other could it be than a longing for release
from the present, for absorption into an element of endless love,
a love denied to earth and reachable through the gates of death
alone?... How absurd, then, must those critics seem to me, who,
drawing all their wit from modern wantonness, insist on reading into
my 'Tannhäuser' a specifically Christian and impotently pietistic

We may now proceed to the study of the great dramas which have for
so many years been the joy of the artistic mind and the torture
of the indolent. The last word of this author on the subject of
studying these dramas is this: Learn the text. By the text the music
must be measured. By the text the music must be understood. By the
music the text is illuminated and made vital. But every measure of
Wagner's music is explained by the poetry. It is useless to go to the
performance of a Wagner drama with your mind charged with thoughts
of the music. Think of the play and let the music do its own work.
That is what Wagner himself asks you to do, and it is the only fair
test to which to put him. If his music vitalises the drama for you,
it matters not whether you know the leading motives or the harmonic
scheme or the orchestration. The work of the music is accomplished.
But that work cannot be accomplished if you are in the dark as to its
purpose. And in the dark you must always be unless you have a full
knowledge of "what is going forward on the stage." To gain that you
must know the entire text. Therefore the written word of the drama is
your guide to its comprehension.



Grand Tragic Opera in Five Acts.

First performed at the Royal Saxon Court Theatre, Dresden, October
20, 1842.

_Original Cast._

  Cola Rienzi                             Tichatschek.
  Irene                                   Fräulein Wüst.
  Steffano Colonna                        Dettmer.
  Adriano                                 Mme. Schroeder-Devrient.
  Paolo Orsini                            Wächter.
  Raimondo                                Vestri.
  Baroncelli                              Reinhold.
  Cecco del Vecchio                       Risse.
  A Messenger of Peace                    Thiele.

Hamburg, 1844; Königsberg, 1845; Berlin, Oct. 26, 1847; Prague, 1859;
Hanover, 1859; Weimar, Wiesbaden, and Darmstadt, 1860; Mayence, 1863;
Stockholm, 1864; Bremen, Gratz, and Stettin, 1865; Würzburg, 1866;
Schwerin, 1867; Rotterdam, 1868; Leipsic, 1869; Paris (in French
translation by Charles Nuitter and J. Guillaume), April 6, 1869;
Cassel, 1870; Augsburg, Carlsruhe, Vienna, and Munich, 1871; Mannheim
and Magdeburg, 1872; Brunswick, 1873; Venice, 1874; Strassburg and
Breslau, 1875; Bologna and Madrid, 1876; Cologne and Florence, 1877;
Riga, 1878; New York, in German by the Pappenheim-Adams Co., Mar. 4,
1878, and in English, Jan. 27, 1879; London, Italian and English,
1879; St. Petersburg, 1879; Rome, Innspruck, Freiburg, and Ghent,
1880; Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1881, and Basle, 1882.

First performance in New York, Academy of Music, March 4, 1878, by
the Pappenheim-Adams Company.


  Adriano                                 Mme. Eugenia Pappenheim.
  Irene                                   Miss Alexandre Human.
  Cola Rienzi                             Charles Adams.
  Paolo Orsini                            A. Blum.
  Steffano Colonna                        H. Wiegand.
  Raimondo                                F. Adolphe.
  A Messenger of Peace                    Miss Cooney.

Conductor, Max Maretzek.

The names of the singers of Baroncelli and Cecco del Vecchio were not
advertised nor mentioned in the newspapers.


The first of the series of great musical works by which the fame of
Wagner was made does not call for extended discussion. Its source
is familiar to every reader of English literature, and its method
of construction and style of composition are those employed in the
operas of the Meyerbeerian school. In the fact that Wagner wrote his
own libretto, which awakened the interest even of Hector Berlioz,
and in the immense vigour and wonderful colour of the score, lie the
chief indications of the Wagner of the future. The reader has already
learned how Wagner undertook this work with the deliberate purpose
of making it a lever to pry open the doors of the Paris Grand Opéra.
With that idea in mind it is not at all astonishing that he should
have followed the model of Meyerbeer, who was in Wagner's early days
the master spirit of the world of French music.

Wagner in subsequent years was extremely particular to keep before
the minds of his friends the fact that it was not simply pecuniary
success that he sought. He was eager to shine as an artist. That
we must concede. He was, indeed, ambitious, and had a profound
conviction of his own genius. But in these early days, when the inner
artistic struggle found its companion piece in the outward fight for
existence, Wagner had not reached the æsthetic convictions which
afterward came to him. Therefore his conception of Bulwer's "Rienzi"
was wholly as material for the libretto of a grand opera of the
Meyerbeerian school. We have seen how his first attempt to enter
Paris was with the scenario of "Die Hohe Braut," which was sent to
Scribe, but lost in the mail for want of proper prepayment of the
postal charges. We then find that Wagner wrote in 1837 to his Leipsic
friend Lewald, who had some acquaintance in Paris, telling him that
he had in his mind the book of "Rienzi."

     "I intend," he said, "to compose it in the German language,
     to make an attempt whether there is a possibility of
     getting it performed in Berlin in the course of fifty
     years, if God grant me so long a life. Perhaps Scribe will
     like it, in which case Rienzi will learn to sing French in
     a moment; or else this might be a way to goad Berliners
     into accepting the opera if they were told that Paris was
     ready to bring it out, but that preference was for once
     to be given to Berlin; for a stage like that of Berlin or
     Paris is absolutely necessary to bring out such a work

Nothing came of this correspondence, and Wagner's "Rienzi" was not
permitted to astonish the Parisians. Nevertheless he began himself to
write the libretto at Riga in the summer of 1838. In the spring of
1839 he had composed the music of the first two acts, and with this
uncompleted score he set out from Riga on the voyage which ultimately
landed him in Paris. Of his meeting with Meyerbeer at Boulogne, his
exhibition of his manuscript to the great dictator, his completion
of the work in the days of his hardship in Paris (in 1841), and the
sending of the bulky score to Dresden the story has been told in the
biographical part of this book. It need not now be repeated. Of the
instantaneous success of the opera at Dresden there is plentiful
evidence. It was in the style which the public of the time admired
and it heaped up effects enough to dazzle the crowd. But it must be
said for Wagner that he had some dim thought when he began this work
of producing something really artistic. He was simply mistaken as to
the method. At this point I must ask the reader to accept Wagner's
own words as a better exposition of himself and his purposes than
anything which I can invent. In the "Autobiographic Sketch" he says:

     "Since I was so completely bare of Paris prospects, I took
     up once more the composition of my 'Rienzi.' I now destined
     it for Dresden: in the first place, because I knew that
     this theatre possessed the very best material--Devrient,
     Tichatschek, etc.; secondly, because I could more
     reasonably hope for an entrée there, relying upon the
     support of my earliest acquaintances. My 'Liebesverbot'
     I now gave up almost completely; I felt that I could no
     longer regard myself as its composer. With all the greater
     freedom I followed now my true artistic creed in the
     prosecution of the music to my 'Rienzi.'"

Further, let the reader note well these passages from "A
Communication to My Friends":

     "My home troubles increased; the desire to wrest myself
     from a humiliating plight now grew into an eager longing
     to begin something on a grand and inspiring scale, even
     though it should involve the temporary abandonment of any
     practical aim. This mood was fed and fostered by my reading
     Bulwer's 'Rienzi.' From the misery of modern private life,
     whence I could nowhere glean the scantiest stuff for
     artistic treatment, I was borne away by the picture of a
     great historico-political event, in lingering on which
     I needs must find a salutary distraction from the cares
     and conditions that appeared to me as nothing else than
     absolutely fatal to art. In accordance with my particular
     artistic bent, however, I still kept more or less to the
     purely musical, or rather, operatic standpoint. This
     Rienzi with great thoughts in his head, great feelings in
     his heart, amid an entourage of coarseness and vulgarity,
     set all my nerves a-quivering with sympathy and love; yet
     my plan for an art-work based thereon sprang first from
     the perception of a purely lyric element in the hero's
     atmosphere. The 'Messengers of Peace,' the Church's summons
     to awake, the Battle hymns--these were what impelled me to
     an opera: 'Rienzi.'"...

     "To write an opera for whose production only the most
     exceptional means should suffice--a work, therefore, which
     I should never feel tempted to bring before the public
     amid such cramping relations as those which then oppressed
     me, and the hope of whose eventual production should thus
     incite me to make every sacrifice in order to extricate
     myself from those relations,--this is what resolved me
     to resume and carry out with all my might my former plan
     for 'Rienzi.' In the preparation of this text also I took
     no thought for anything but the writing of an effective
     operatic libretto. The 'Grand Opéra' with all its scenic
     and musical display, its sensationalism and massive
     vehemence, loomed large before me; and not merely to copy
     it, but with reckless extravagance to outbid it in its
     every detail became the object of my artistic ambition.
     However, I should be unjust to myself did I represent this
     ambition as my only motive for the conception and execution
     of my 'Rienzi.' The stuff really aroused my enthusiasm, and
     I put nothing into my sketch which had not a direct bearing
     on the grounds of this enthusiasm. My chief concern was
     my Rienzi himself; and only when I felt quite contented
     with him did I give rein to the notion of a 'grand opera.'
     Nevertheless from a purely artistic point of view this
     'grand opera' was the pair of spectacles through which I
     unconsciously regarded my Rienzi-stuff; nothing in that
     stuff did I find enthrall me but what could be looked at
     through these spectacles. True, that I always fixed my gaze
     upon the stuff itself, and did not keep one eye open for
     certain ready-made musical effects which I might wish to
     father on it by hook or crook; only, I saw it in no other
     light than that of a 'five-act-opera,' with five brilliant
     'finales,' and filled with hymns, processions, and the
     musical clash of arms. Thus I bestowed no greater care upon
     the verse and diction than seemed needful for turning out a
     good and not trivial opera-text. I did not set out with the
     object of writing duets, trios, &c., but they found their
     own way in here and there because I looked upon my subject
     exclusively through the medium of 'Opera.' For instance,
     I by no means hunted about in my stuff for a pretext
     for a ballet; but with the eyes of the opera-composer I
     perceived in it a self-evident festival that Rienzi must
     give to the People, and at which he would have to exhibit
     to them in dumb show a drastic scene from their ancient
     history: this scene being the story of Lucretia and the
     consequent expulsion of the Tarquins from Rome. Thus in
     every department of my plan I was certainly ruled by the
     stuff alone; but, on the other hand, I ruled this stuff
     according to my only chosen pattern, the form of the Grand
     Opera. My artistic individuality, in its dealings with the
     impressions of life, was still entirely under the influence
     of purely artistic, or rather art-formalistic, mechanically
     operating impressions."[32]

[Footnote 32: Prose Works, Vol. I., W.A. Ellis's translation.]

The reader will now understand the artistic ideas which governed
Wagner in the production of his only "grand opera." He was, as he
himself declares, true to the artistic creed which he cherished at
that time, but that creed was opposed to the one afterward formulated
in his mind. His first artistic beliefs were founded on the theory
that not the ground-plan, but the external treatment, of the grand
opera was at fault. He fancied that he could preserve the element
which he has called "art-formalistic" and yet reach dramatic verity.
He aimed at a consistent embodiment of character in his hero; he
sought to give to all the factors of the opera, even such accessories
as the ballet, a direct and powerful dramatic significance; but it
had not yet come to him that he must, in order to make a consistent
drama in music, sacrifice form to content, and get rid of the
whole mechanical apparatus of the spectacular opera. Here, then,
let me quote the most significant passage of all, one from the
"Autobiographic Sketch":

     "When in the autumn [of 1838] I began the composition
     of my 'Rienzi,' I allowed naught to influence me except
     the single purpose to answer to my subject. I set myself
     no model, but gave myself entirely to the feeling which
     now consumed me, the feeling that I had already so far
     progressed that I might claim something significant from
     the development of my artistic powers, and expect some not
     insignificant result. The very notion of being consciously
     weak or trivial--even in a single bar--was appalling to me."

The frequent iteration of such statements shows how anxious Wagner
was in subsequent years lest he should be accused of deliberately
pandering to that depraved public taste which he decried. In his
endeavour to treat the grand-opera form honestly he accepted as his
musical models several of his predecessors. In "Die Feen" he believed
that he was following the lead of Beethoven, Weber, and Marschner,
and in "Das Liebesverbot" he turned for help to Auber and Bellini.
In "Rienzi" he utilised elements from all of these, and added to
them the pomp of Spontini and the external glare of Meyerbeer. The
libretto, as he says, is simply a good opera book. One looks in
vain through it for more than traces of the dramatic power and real
poetry to be found in the later works. Similarly the music is just
good opera music of the most pretentious kind. It glitters, but
seldom glows. It astonishes, but seldom moves. The instrumentation
shows many of the idiosyncrasies of the later Wagner, but it is
generally without inner strength. The whole work is superficial,
and calls for precisely the same sort of criticism as the operas of
Meyerbeer do. And this result came in spite of the fact that Wagner,
according to his own account, was appalled by the very thought of
being consciously weak or trivial for a moment. That he was weak and
trivial often will be patent to any hearer of the opera. Indeed,
one need not go so far as that. The overture is played often in
concert and a novice can easily detect the bombastic emptiness of its
resounding finale, even at the same time as he notes the resemblance
of the sequences of chords in the brass to some afterward heard in
"Der Fliegende Holländer." But Wagner himself tells us that before
he had completed "Rienzi" he became doubtful as to the possibility
of bringing about any real success by the methods which he was
employing. He began to foresee the future with its wide departure for
him from the traditions of opera. He began to realise that he could
not cater to the extant public taste, but must create for himself a
new one. But it was not till despair made him withdraw himself from
all relations to the outer world that he entered upon the development
of the true Wagnerian music drama.

"Rienzi," then, must be viewed simply as a grand opera of the
old-fashioned sort. We must regard its libretto as an exemplification
of the clever ground-plan of Meyerbeer, its music as the artistic
offspring of the "Jewish banker to whom it occurred to write music,"
of Spontini, Rossini, and other composers of the pseudo-grand style.
The story of the opera is substantially that of Bulwer's novel, and
needs no review here. In the making of this book Wagner was simply
an adapter. He re-created nothing. In his other works we shall find
that he added to the literary substance of every subject which he
treated. But such was not the case with "Rienzi." The joints are
plainly visible. The carpenter work is creditable, but it is not
architecture. One might almost say the same thing about the music.
It is in the main good, workmanlike music, with inspiration carefully
fanned by the breaths of older composers. Occasionally the real
Wagner peeps out and there are some passages of fine vigour and even
expressiveness. But this is an opera in which one can go through the
score and pick out the "good things," just as one could from the old
scores of Donizetti and Bellini.

The reader of Bulwer, for instance, will miss from the opera the
figure of Nina, the wife of Rienzi, but he will find that her
place is well filled by the sister, Irene, of whom Wagner makes a
conspicuously noble character. Furthermore Wagner in drawing the
character of his hero went to the original historical sources and so
made him a stronger personage than Bulwer did. "Un signor valoroso,
accorto, e saggio" is this Rienzi, as Petrarch called him. He speaks
in broad and commanding accents, as in his address to the nobles and
in the prayer. And it is at such points that we find the best music.
The prayer is set to one of the finest melodies in all opera. Again
we see that in the chorus and solo of the messengers of peace Wagner
found material for good writing of both verse and music. The prayer
opens the fifth act, when Rienzi, feeling that the end is near, calls
on the Lord to preserve the work which he has achieved.

     "Allmächt'ger Vater, blick' herab,
       Hör mich im Staube zu dir fleh'n!
     Die Macht, die mir dein Wunder gab,
       Lass jetzt noch nicht zu Grunde geh'n!"

     Almighty Father, look on me!
       Hear thou my humble fervent prayer!
     Let not the power I had from Thee
       Pass from me in this dark despair.

With the second stanza comes the fine melody heard in the overture:


     Du stärktest mich, du gabst mir hohe Kraft,
     du liehest mir erhab'ne Eigenschaft,
     zu helfen dem, der niedrig denkt,
     zu heben, was im Staub versenkt. &c.]

     Thou gavest me of Thy all-wondrous might,
       High gifts, O Lord, didst Thou on me bestow,
     To light up those who live in night,
       To raise up those who bend so low.

M. Schuré has said:

     "'Rienzi' is a work of the composer's youth, unequal, but
     already full of force and strength, brilliant and full
     of fire. The reformatory ideas of the author are not yet
     apparent. The libretto is cut according to the rules of
     tradition--choruses, ensembles, resounding marches, grand
     airs, trios, septets, ballet--nothing is wanting. The
     music, without betraying any imitation in particular,
     has a strong Italian colouring, but the individuality of
     the composer is shown as well in the heroic grandeur of
     his broad melodies as in the warmth and riches of his
     instrumentation. In short, 'Rienzi' is already the work of
     an independent master without being that of an innovator."

In the last sentence M. Schuré has nearly touched the truth, but I
am inclined to think that he and Mr. Hueffer somewhat overrate the
importance of this work. It is most probable that the melody of the
prayer will come to be accepted as the one inspired thing in the
whole score. Certainly the air of Adriano, so often sung on the
concert stage, is but a weak and bombastic imitation of a Weber grand
aria of the style of "Ocean, thou mighty monster," with leanings
toward the manner employed in the monologue of Ortrud in Act II. of

We may therefore dismiss "Rienzi" as a mistake of Wagner's youth. He
had not yet found himself. He might have achieved popularity and made
money with this sort of writing, and knowing his great vanity and
love of luxury we should not have been surprised if he had continued
to produce works of this pattern if the first one had brought him
immediate success. We ought, perhaps, to be very grateful to the
years of privation in Paris which developed the real Wagner, though
it is possible that his own ambition to stand alone would have had
the desired result in the course of time, even had the years 1840 and
1841 been easier for him.


Romantic Opera in Three Acts.

First performed at the Royal Saxon Court Theatre, Dresden, Jan. 2,

_Original Cast._

  Senta                                   Mme. Schroeder-Devrient.
  The Dutchman                            Wächter.
  Daland                                  Risse.
  Erik                                    Reinhold.
  Mary                                    Mme. Wächter.
  Helmsman                                Bielezizky.

Conductor, Richard Wagner.

Riga and Cassel, 1843; Berlin, 1844; Zurich, 1852; Schwerin,
Weimar, and Breslau, 1853; Frankfort and Wiesbaden, 1854; Hanover,
Carlsruhe, and Prague, 1857; Mayence and Vienna, 1860; Königsberg,
1861; Lucerne, 1862; Munich, 1864; Stuttgart, 1865; Olmütz, 1866;
Rotterdam and Dessau, 1869; Hamburg, Darmstadt, Mannheim, Gratz,
1870; London (Italian), July 23, 1870; Vienna, Brunswick, and Brünn,
1871; Brussels and Stockholm, 1872; Budapesth, Stettin, Augsburg,
Magdeburg, Sondershausen, and Baden, 1874; Strassburg, 1875; Lübeck,
Freiburg, and Salzburg, 1876; Philadelphia, 1876; Dublin and
Bologna, 1877; Würzburg, 1877; New York, Jan. 26, 1877; Innspruck,

First performed in America as "Il Vascello Fantasma," in
Philadelphia, Nov. 8, 1876, by the Pappenheim Company.

First performed in New York at the Academy of Music, Jan. 26, 1877,
by the Kellogg English Opera Company.


  Senta                                   Clara Louise Kellogg.
  The Dutchman                            W.T. Carleton.
  Daland                                  Mr. Conly.
  Erik                                    Mr. Turner.

Conductor, S. Behrens.

First performed in New York in German at the Academy of Music, Mar.
12, 1877.


  Senta                                   Mme. Eugenia Pappenheim.
  The Dutchman                            A. Blum.
  Daland                                  Mr. Preusser.
  Erik                                    Christian Fritsch.
  Mary                                    Miss Cooney.
  Steersman                               Mr. Lenoir.

Conductor, A. Neuendorff.


"Der Fliegende Holländer" is the first of the works of Wagner
which shadow forth the style, the system, and the mastery of
lyrico-dramatic art found in his later works. All these elements
of this master's art, however, are here found in an embryonic and
experimental stage. Nothing is developed, and nothing is definite.
Wagner himself did not realise the significance or possible extent
of his movement. He was at this time wholly unconscious of the fact
that he was laying the foundations of a new method of composition in
musical drama. He was aiming only at writing an expressive score, in
which the characters of his play, their emotions and their actions,
should be drawn with all the powers of music.

The work was written at Meudon in the spring of 1841. All except
the overture was completed in seven weeks. Of the fate of the first
sketch of this lyric drama, of the hardships of the composer's life
at the time of its execution, of the first performances, the reader
has already been told. He has seen also how the stormy voyage to
London impressed upon his mind the legend of the "Flying Dutchman"
with which he had already made acquaintance. It now becomes our duty
to examine the sources from which Wagner derived the poetic materials
of this play and to ascertain how he treated them. In the "Flying
Dutchman" the poetic ability of the master was first exhibited. He
ceased to be a mere libretto-writer and became a dramatic poet. His
version of the famous old legend is a lovely one, and much of its
increased beauty is the product of his own genius. It was, as he
himself said in the oft-quoted "Communication," the "first folk-poem
that forced its way into my heart, and called on me as man and artist
to point its meaning, and mould it in a work of art."

It was while in Riga that he made his first acquaintance with the
story. "Heine takes occasion to relate it," he says, "in speaking
of the representation of a play founded thereon, which he had
witnessed--as I believe--at Amsterdam. This subject fascinated me,
and made an indelible impression upon my fancy; still it did not as
yet acquire the force needful for its rebirth within me." The story
of Heine was in "The Memoirs of Herr Schnabelewopski." It is not
certain whose play it was that Heine meant. Francis Hueffer, in his
"Richard Wagner,"[33] expresses the belief that the play was that
of Fitzball, which was running at the Adelphi Theatre in 1827, when
Heine visited London. Mr. Hueffer bases his argument largely on the
fact that two features of Fitzball's play, both additions to the old
legend, are mentioned by Heine as appearing in the drama which he
saw. These are the pictures of the Dutchman on the wall of Daland's
house, and the taking of a wife by the wandering seaman.

[Footnote 33: The Great Musicians Series, Charles Scribner's Sons.]

Mr. Hueffer adds:

     "Here, however, his indebtedness ends. Fitzball knows
     nothing of the beautiful idea of woman's redeeming love.
     According to him the Flying Dutchman is the ally of a
     monster of the deep, seeking for victims. Wagner, further
     developing Heine's idea, has made the hero himself to
     symbolise that feeling of unrest and ceaseless struggle
     which finds its solution in death and forgetfulness alone.
     The gap in Heine's story he has filled up by an interview
     of Senta with Erik, her discarded lover, which the Dutchman
     mistakes for a breach of faith on the part of his wife,
     till Senta's voluntary death dispels his suspicion."

It should be noted that Mr. W. Ashton Ellis, whose translation
of Wagner's prose works has been so often quoted, wrote a paper
to disprove the theory of Mr. Hueffer as to the play having been
Fitzball's. The matter, after all, is not one of great importance.
Wagner got his materials from Heine's book, which contained a version
of a very old legend, and in making the text of his lyric drama, he
altered and improved that material as Mr. Hueffer has indicated.

The late Mr. John P. Jackson, formerly musical editor of _The New
York World_, in the admirable introduction to his translation of the
text of this opera, at one time used at the Metropolitan Opera House,
says that the Fitzball play was founded on a version of the legend
printed in _Blackwood's Magazine_ in May, 1821. That version runs

     "She was an Amsterdam vessel and sailed from port seventy
     years ago. Her master's name was Van der Decken. He was a
     staunch seaman, and would have his own way in spite of the
     devil. For all that, never a sailor under him had reason to
     complain; though how it is on board with them nobody knows.
     The story is this: that in doubling the Cape they were a
     long day trying to weather the Table Bay. However, the
     wind headed them, and went against them more and more, and
     Van der Decken walked the deck, swearing at the wind. Just
     after sunset a vessel spoke him, asking him if he did not
     mean to go into the bay that night. Van der Decken replied,
     'May I be eternally damned if I do, though I should beat
     about here till the day of judgment.' And to be sure, he
     never did go into that bay, for it is believed that he
     continues to beat about in these seas still, and will do
     so long enough. This vessel is never seen but with foul
     weather along with her."

This is practically the original story of the "Flying Dutchman." It
is no new tale, but, like nearly all myths, a development. In the
literature of Greece we find the wanderer in the person of Ulysses,
yearning for hearth and home and the joys of domestic love. In
the early period of Christianity the myth entered and gave us the
gloomy figure of the Wandering Jew, accursed and hopeless of all
save the end in oblivion. With the Dutch the legend in the Middle
Ages was easily transferred to their own favourite element, the sea,
whereon at that time they were among the most daring and skilful.
The struggle of the Dutchman against contending winds and waves
typified their own battles with the powers of Old Ocean, and their
determination to conquer at all hazards.

Later writers than those of the dark ages endeavoured to give this
legend an end. In its original form it stands suspended with the
Dutchman a creature without hope. Captain Marryatt, in his "Phantom
Ship," releases the wanderer from his ceaseless journeyings by means
of an amulet, or religious charm. Sir Walter Scott's version of the
tale--wherever he found it--is a curiously poor one. According to
him, the vessel was laden with precious metal. A murder was committed
on board, and as a punishment for it a plague fell upon the crew.
No port would permit the ship to enter, and it was doomed to float
about aimlessly forever. There is no poetry and a total absence of
the personal tragedy in that version. The idea of the salvation of
the wanderer through the self-sacrificing love of woman, an idea to
be found in literatures much older than this, was introduced into
the story before Heine saw the play of which he wrote. It is quite
possible that Heine never saw such a play, yet the fact remains that
in the Fitzball drama the Dutchman did take a wife, only, however,
to make an offering of her to a sea monster--a grotesque and utterly
unpoetical idea.

Wagner got his beautiful ending from Heine. Mr. Hueffer has taken
the trouble to retail the story as told in "The Memoirs of Herr von
Schnabelewopski." The sentence of Van der Decken is that he shall
wander till doomsday unless he shall be released by a woman faithful
until death. The Devil does not believe in the existence of women
of that sort, and therefore allows the wanderer to go ashore once
every seven years to see if he can find such a one. (How was it that
the Devil was so often mistaken about women?) He meets with failure
after failure, till finally he falls in with a Scotch merchant,
whose daughter has already learned his story and formed a romantic
attachment for him. She has his picture in her room, and when her
father, having accepted the Dutchman's offer for her hand, brings him
home, she at once recognises him and determines to sacrifice herself
to save him. Just at this point Herr von Schnabelewopski is called
away for a short time, and when he returns he sees the Dutchman
about to sail away without his wife. He loves her and would save her
from his fate. But she, true to her vow, ascends a high rock, whence
she throws herself into the sea. The spell is broken and the united
lovers enter eternal rest. The reader will now see that it was the
void occasioned by the temporary absence of von Schnabelewopski
which Wagner filled with the interview between Senta and Erik. Except
for the introduction of this character, a tenor, necessary to afford
both dramatic and musical contrast to the story, Wagner has followed
Heine closely, as lovers of the dramatist's works will at once

Out of this material Wagner constructed a drama which at the time
of its production was as novel as "Tristan und Isolde" was in later
years. In it we first meet with this master's remarkable power of
concentrating in each scene the emotional moods and pouring them out
to us in the music, while in those portions of the score devoted to
musical description, such as the sea music and the sailors' choruses,
we may note his ability to make dramatic atmosphere. How these
powers reveal themselves to us in the grand duo of the last scene of
Siegfried and the Waldweben! It is worth while hearing "Der Fliegende
Holländer" occasionally, if only to study the embryonic Wagner. Now
let us see how Wagner himself regarded the subject-matter of his

"The figure of the Flying Dutchman," he says, "is a mythical creation
of the folk. A primal trait of human nature speaks out from it with a
heart-enthralling force. This trait, in its most universal meaning,
is the longing after rest from amid the storms of life." He traces
the older forms of the legend as seen in the stories of Ulysses and
the Wandering Jew, and then says:

     "The sea in its turn became the soil of Life; yet no longer
     the landlocked sea of the Grecian world, but the great
     ocean that engirdles the earth. The fetters of the older
     world were broken; the longing of Ulysses, back to home and
     hearth and wedded wife, after feeding on the sufferings
     of the 'never-dying Jew' until it became a yearning for
     Death, had mounted to the craving for a new, an unknown
     home, invisible as yet, but dimly boded. This vast-spread
     feature fronts us in the mythos of the 'Flying Dutchman,'
     that seaman's poem of the world-historical age of journeys
     of discovery. Here we light upon a remarkable mixture, a
     blend, effected by the spirit of the Folk, of the character
     of Ulysses with that of the Wandering Jew. The Hollandic
     mariner, in punishment for his temerity, is condemned by
     the Devil (here obviously the element of Flood and Storm)
     to do battle with the unresting waves to all eternity.
     Like Ahasuerus, he yearns for his sufferings to be ended
     by Death; the Dutchman, however, may gain this redemption,
     denied to the undying Jew, at the hands of--a Woman who, of
     very love, shall sacrifice herself for him. The yearning
     for death thus spurs him on to seek this Woman; but she is
     no longer the home-tending Penelope of Ulysses, as courted
     in the days of old, but the quintessence of Womankind; and
     yet the still unmanifest, the longed-for, the dreamt-of,
     the infinitely womanly Woman--let me out with it in one
     word: the _Woman of the Future_."

With this broad, poetic view of his subject-matter Wagner set out
to write a text book which should be a real drama and not a mere
libretto. "From here," he says, "begins my career as poet, and my
farewell to the mere concoctor of opera texts." In this drama are
embodied the fundamental ideas of the entire Wagnerian system. Here
they appear to us in their first stage of development, incomplete,
unformed, and scarcely recognised by their own creator. The value of
the mythologic matter, however, already forced itself upon the mind,
and the conviction of its suitability to musical embodiment, because
freed from hampering accessories, came to him at this period of his
career. I have already quoted his words as to the employment of myths
as subjects for music dramas. I may be pardoned for quoting here a
passage from my introductory essay in the Schirmer vocal score of the

     "Wagner divined clearly the necessity of subordinating mere
     pictorial movement to the play of emotion, and it will
     easily be discerned that the three acts of 'The Flying
     Dutchman' reduce themselves to a few broad emotional
     episodes. In the first our attention is centred upon the
     longing of the Dutchman, and in the second upon the love
     of Senta. In the third we have the inevitable and hopeless
     struggle of the passion of Erik against Senta's love. All
     music not designed to embody these broad emotional states
     is scenic, such as the storm music and choruses of the
     sailors and the women. Furthermore the student will do well
     to note that the chief personages of the story are types.
     Van der Decken is typical of the man struggling under the
     burden of his own follies, while Senta is the embodiment
     of the woman-soul, which, according to Goethe, 'leadeth us
     ever upward and on.'"

In the structure of this drama the reader will find that Wagner
did not abandon the old operatic forms. He employed duets, solos,
choruses, etc., as an opera composer would. He did not use the
leitmotiv system, but only hit upon its fundamental idea. He did not
use the staff-rhyme. In fact we find in this work only a perfectly
sincere attempt to make a good play and to express its feelings in
music. He says himself of this work:

     "In it there is so much as yet inchoate, the joinery of the
     situations is for the most part so imperfect, the verse
     and diction so often bare of individual stamp, that our
     modern playwrights--who construct everything according
     to a prescribed formula, and, boastful of their formal
     aptitude, start out to glean that matter which shall best
     lend itself to handling in the lessened form--will be
     the first to count my denomination of this as a 'poem' a
     piece of impudence that calls for strenuous castigation.
     My dread of such prospective punishment would weigh less
     with me than my own scruples as to the poetical form of
     the 'Dutchman,' were it my intention to pose therewith
     as a fixed and finished entity; on the contrary I find a
     private relish in here showing my friends myself in the
     process of 'becoming.' The form of the 'Flying Dutchman,'
     however, as that of all my later poems, down even to the
     minutiæ of their musical setting, was dictated to me by the
     subject-matter alone, insomuch as that had become absorbed
     into a definite colouring of my life, and in so far as I
     had gained by practice and experience on my own adopted
     path any general aptitude for artistic construction."

In the "Autobiographic Sketch" he tells us how, after disposing of
the first sketch to Pillet, he set to work to compose his own music.

     "I had now to work post-haste to clothe my own subject
     with German verses. In order to set about its composition
     I required to hire a pianoforte; for, after nine months'
     interruption of all musical production, I had to try to
     surround myself with the needful preliminary of a musical
     atmosphere. As soon as the piano had arrived, my heart beat
     fast for very fear; I dreaded to discover that I had ceased
     to be a musician. I began first with the 'Sailors' Chorus'
     and the 'Spinning Song'; everything sped along as though on
     wings, and I shouted for joy as I felt within me that I was
     still a musician."

This statement affords sufficient evidence that nothing revolutionary
was in Wagner's mind when he sat down to compose "Der Fliegende
Holländer." No vision of the polyphonic web of "Tristan und Isolde"
rose in his brain; no conception of an operatic score in which every
melodic idea should have a direct message. He began with two purely
lyric numbers, and it was not till he reached the ballad of Senta
in the second act that the first principles of the leitmotiv system
dawned upon him, and then only in such shape as they had occurred to
others before him. The ballad as a whole is a purely lyric number,
written in a plain song form; but in it occur the two principal
typical themes of the drama. The first is that designed to represent
the Dutchman as a wanderer without rest:


The second theme, a broad, flowing, tender melody, is designed to
typify the redeeming principle, the self-sacrificing love of the


In the "Communication to My Friends" he says:

     "In this piece I unconsciously laid the thematic germ
     of the whole music of the opera: it was the picture _in
     petto_ of the whole drama such as it stood before my soul;
     and when I was about to betitle the finished work, I felt
     strongly tempted to call it a 'dramatic ballad.' In the
     eventual composition of the music the thematic picture,
     thus evoked, spread itself quite instinctively over the
     whole drama as one continuous tissue; I had only without
     further initiative to take the various thematic germs
     included in the ballad and develop them to their legitimate
     conclusions, and I had all the chief moods of this poem,
     quite of themselves, in definite shapes before me. I
     should have had stubbornly to follow the example of the
     self-willed opera-composer had I chosen to invent a fresh
     motive for each recurrence of one and the same mood in
     different scenes; a course whereto I naturally did not feel
     the smallest inclination, since I had only in mind the most
     intelligible portrayal of the subject-matter and not a mere
     conglomerate of operatic numbers."

One other musical thought in this work must here be enumerated
because of a special meaning which it had for its composer. In
1866 Ferdinand Praeger was dining with Wagner in Munich, when the
conversation turned upon "the weary mariner, his yearning for land
and love, and Wagner's own longing for his fatherland at the time he
composed the 'Dutchman.'" Wagner went to the piano, and said, "The
pent-up anguish, the homesickness that then held possession of me,
were poured out in this phrase":


"At the end of the phrase," continued Wagner, "on the diminished
seventh, in my mind I brooded over the past, the repetitions, each
higher, interpreting the increased intensity of my sufferings."

The "Flying Dutchman," then, is the product of Wagner's genius in
its embryonic stage. The grasp of tradition and operatic convention
upon his mind is not yet shaken off. The chorus of sailors in the
first finale is in a popular, rhythmical, melodic vein and might
almost have been written by a Frenchman. The opening of Act II. is
constructed on wholly operatic lines, with its gay chorus followed
by the dramatic ballad. Then follow two purely operatic scenes, the
duets of Senta and Erik and Senta and the Dutchman. In the last act
the paucity of material forced Wagner to spin his web very thin
indeed. He consumes as much time as possible with his theatrically
contrasting choruses of merry-making betrothal guests and ghostly
wanderers of the sea. The machinery of the stage creaks through the
whole scene till the entrance of Senta and Erik brings us once more
face to face with human nature. The scene is brief, and it is not to
be praised. It would have been more beautiful to make the Dutchman
depart out of sheer love for Senta and unwillingness to win salvation
through her sacrifice. But the act ends effectively. Perhaps the
most striking proof in all this curious score that Wagner had not
yet found himself is in the duet of Daland and the Dutchman in Act
I. The Dutchman asks if Daland has a daughter and on receiving an
affirmative reply, says, "Let her be my wife." Daland, "joyful yet
perplexed," exclaims:

     "Wie? Hör ich recht? Meine Tochter sein Weib?
     Er selbst spricht aus den Gedanken!"

And with this Wagner ushers in a very Italian duet:


     Wie? Hör' ich recht? Meine Tochter sein Weib?
     Er selbst spricht aus den Gedanken.]

On the other hand, there are not a few manifestations in "Der
Fliegende Holländer" of the future Wagner. In the first place, the
overture is a splendid exemplification of his musical style and
his method of construction and it employs some of the materials of
the opera in a masterly manner. Again the solo of the steersman,
succeeded by the outburst of the storm and the appearance of the
Dutchman's ship upon the raging deep, produces an effect similar
to that of the song of the sailor followed by the passionate
utterances of Isolde in the first scene of "Tristan und Isolde."
The solo of the Dutchman in Act I., while more conventional in its
melodic manner than Wagner's later music, gives a foretaste of the
power exhibited in the second act of "Lohengrin" in expressing dark
and bitter moods. In the musical and dramatic characterisation of
Daland one may discern something of the facility which afterward
made so much of Hans Sachs. Indeed in characterisation more than in
anything else does this opera herald the coming master, for Van der
Decken, Senta and Daland are clearly and completely drawn musically
and dramatically. They are living figures in the gallery of Wagner
portraits; and while we may not deny that "Der Fliegende Holländer"
is a comparatively weak production, we would not readily part with
the dreamful, devoted, ill-fated Senta.

In the instrumentation, also, one finds evidences of the real Wagner.
The high, shrieking brass chords of the diminished seventh, heard in
the "Rienzi" overture, are here repeated; the rich use of divided
strings is found; and the beautiful employment of wide harmonies
in the wood wind leads the mind forward toward the final exit of
Elizabeth in "Tannhäuser" and the entrance of Elsa in "Lohengrin."
But, view this work as we may, we cannot regard it as standing beside
the two lyric dramas of the transition period. It is the work of an
independent and gifted mind of 28, a work of radiant promise, but not
of mature genius.


Grand Romantic Opera in Three Acts.

First performed at the Royal Saxon Court Theatre, Dresden, October
19, 1845.

_Original Cast._

  Hermann, Landgrave of Thuringia         Dettmer.
  Tannhäuser                              Tichatschek.
  Wolfram von Eschenbach                  Mitterwurzer.
  Walther von der Vogelweide              Schloss.
  Biterolf                                Wächter.
  Heinrich der Schreiber                  Gurth.
  Reimar von Zweter                       Risse.
  Elizabeth, Niece of the Landgrave       Fräulein Johanna Wagner.
  Venus                                   Mme. Schroeder-Devrient.
  A Young Shepherd                        Fräulein Thiele.

Weimar, 1849; Schwerin and Breslau, Freiburg and Wiesbaden, 1852;
Königsberg, Hamburg, Darmstadt, Elbing, Cassel, Frankfort, Posen,
Leipsic, Riga, Barmen, Bremen, Bromberg, Cologne, Danzig, Düsseldorf,
Prague, and Stralsund, 1853; Wolfendbüttel, Rostock, Reval, Neisse,
Magdeburg, Glogau, Mayence, Gumbinnen, Gratz, Aix-la-Chapelle,
Augsburg, and Stettin, 1854; Strassburg, Lübeck, Coburg, Bamberg,
Munich, Mannheim, Antwerp, Zurich, Würzburg, Carlsruhe, Hanover,
1855; Berlin, 1856; Vienna, Dessau, and Sondershausen, 1857;
Stuttgart, 1859; New York, April 4, 1859; Rotterdam, 1860; Paris,
1861; Brunswick, 1861; Olmütz and Amsterdam, 1862; Munich, Paris
version, 1867; The Hague, 1870; Budapesth, 1871; Bologna, 1872;
Brussels, 1873; Lucerne, 1874; Copenhagen, 1875; London (Italian),
May 6, 1876; New York (Italian) and Moscow, 1877; Trieste, 1878;
Innspruck and Salzburg, 1880; Ghent and London (English), 1881.

First performed in America at the Stadt Theater, New York, April 4,


  Hermann                                 Graff.
  Tannhäuser                              Pickaneser.
  Wolfram                                 Lehmann.
  Walther                                 Lotti.
  Biterolf                                Urchs.
  Heinrich der Schreiber                  Bolten.
  Reimar von Zweter                       Brandt.
  Elizabeth                               Mme. Siedenburg.
  Venus                                   Mme. Pickaneser.
  Shepherd                                (Not given).

Conductor, Carl Bergmann.


With "Tannhäuser" we enter upon what may fairly be called the
transition period of the genius of Wagner. While in certain passages
this work is quite as much indebted to older opera as "Der Fliegende
Holländer," and in others falls into a cheap and tawdry style of
melody quite unworthy of its composer, it nevertheless contains
parts which rise to heights never before attained except perhaps in
Beethoven's "Fidelio." The book will especially repay study, for in
it we find the first complete demonstration of Wagner's powers as a
dramatist and a dramatic poet. His skilful weaving of the dramatic
web out of materials scattered and apparently unrelated places him
among the masters of theatrical writing. It will be our pleasure
first to examine the sources of the drama and the manner in which
Wagner employed them.

"Tannhäuser" was first conceived by Wagner in 1841, and the scenic
sketches, with the provisional title "Venusberg, Romantic Opera,"
were made in 1842. The poem was finished on May 22, 1843. Owing to
his being occupied with the preparations for the production of "Der
Fliegende Holländer" and with other matters, Wagner did not complete
the score till April 13, 1845. When the work was in preparation for
performance at the Paris Grand Opéra in 1861, Wagner rewrote some
portion of the score. The reader will recall that the members of
the Jockey Club demanded their usual terpsichorean titbit, but that
Wagner would not consent to write an ordinary ballet and thrust it
into his drama at a certain hour. He insisted that the ballet should
take its proper place in the dramatic scheme and that it should have
a meaning.

He accordingly wrote a new and careful elaboration of the scene in
the Venusberg at the opening of Act I. In the first, or Dresden,
version of the work the overture is a complete number, and as such
is frequently heard on the concert platform. In the Parisian version
the overture does not come to an end, but at the second appearance
of the bacchanalian music the curtain rises and the ballet begins.
It is descriptive of the revels of the realm of Venus--"a wild and
yet seductive chaos of movements and groupings, of soft delight,
of yearning and burning, carried to the most delicious pitch of
frenzied riot."[34] He then extended the dialogue between Venus and
Tannhäuser to a scene of considerable dimensions, its chief purpose
being a further revelation of the character of Venus. Undoubtedly
this Parisian version was nearer to Wagner's heart than his first
one, but its music does not well bear critical examination, for the
style of the added part is that of the "Tristan" period, while the
old "Tannhäuser" music is of a much more primitive sort.

[Footnote 34: Wagner, "On the Performing of Tannhäuser," Prose Works,
Ellis, Vol. III.]

So much for the writing of the opera. It is a curious fact that
Wagner has recorded as his sources of inspiration a book which
cannot be found and a condition which did not exist. He says that
while "Rienzi" was in preparation at Dresden, the German "Volksbuch"
of "Tannhäuser" fell into his hands. Now no one has ever been able to
find such a book, and learned authorities declare that there never
was one. But Wagner further says that he had made the acquaintance of
Tannhäuser in Tieck's narrative, which he now reread. He read also
the "Tannhäuserlied." He says: "What most irresistibly attracted
me was the connection, however loose, between Tannhäuser and the
'Singer's Tourney in the Wartburg,' which I found established in
that Folk's book." With this second subject he had already made
some acquaintance in a tale of Hoffmann, and he now decided to
read the mediæval epic, "The Sängerkrieg." There is no connection
at all between the incidents of the old Tannhäuser legend and "The
Sängerkrieg." This is a condition which Wagner himself created, and
his error in supposing that he had discovered it in the legend is an
amusing instance of the occasional inability of genius to analyse its
own workings. What Wagner did was to accept Lucas's identification of
Tannhäuser with one of the personages in the epic, thus bringing the
two stories together, as we shall presently see.

The legend of Tannhäuser is found in old folk tales, mostly in the
popular form of ballads. An English translation of one of these,
printed with the original music in Böhme's "Altdeutsches Liederbuch,"
is reproduced in Jessie Weston's excellent work, "Legends of the
Wagner Drama." The story contained in this is that Tannhäuser, a
knight, has spent much time in the cave of Venus, but has grown
weary and would depart. Venus tells him that he has sworn a solemn
oath with her "for aye to dwell." He denies that he has so sworn. She
offers him her fairest maid as wife if he will stay, but he declines,

     "Nay, an I took another wife,
       I here bethink me well,
     My lot for all eternity
       Would be the flames of hell."

Venus still pleads with him and bids him think upon her charms and
the joys of life in the Venusberg. He declares that his "life is
waxen sick and faint," and again begs for leave to go. Finally he
calls upon the Virgin to aid him. Then Venus tells him to go, but
adds that wherever he goes he shall sing her praise. He departs, and
determines to seek Pope Urban at Rome and ask absolution. The Pope,
who holds in his hand a withered staff, says:

     "This staff shall bud and bloom again
       Ere grace to thee be shown."

Tannhäuser in despair returns to the arms of Venus. On the third day
after his departure from Rome the staff buds and blossoms. The Pope
seeks for Tannhäuser, but it is too late; he has returned to his sin,
and for this Pope Urban's soul is to be counted lost on the Judgment

There is absolutely nothing in that story to suggest any connection
with the contest of minnesingers in the Castle of Wartburg in 1204
A.D., the year in which Wolfram von Eschenbach is known
to have been the guest of Hermann, Landgrave of Thuringia. This
contest is described in the poem, or collection of poems called the
"Wartburgkrieg," which dates from the 13th century and gives us an
interesting view of the Court of Hermann of Thuringia. It is not
certain that all of this poem has come down to us, nor do we know who
wrote it. Simrock, the German editor of the work, believed that its
earliest part was written about 1233. Some verses, believed to have
been by Walther von der Vogelweide, appear in the work. The latest
part of it probably dates from 1287.

The poem contains no such contest in song as that which takes place
in the second act of Wagner's drama, but it does describe a debate as
to the glories of certain princes. Heinrich von Ofterdingen, Heinrich
der Schreiber, Walther von der Vogelweide, Biterolf, and Reimar von
Zweter take part in the discussion, while Wolfram von Eschenbach, the
famous author of "Parzival," is the umpire. It was in reading this
poem that Wagner's attention was called to Wolfram and his works, and
thus he discovered the legendary world of "Lohengrin" and "Parsifal."
The "Wartburgkrieg" contains other matter, but that just summarised
is all that Wagner found for his "Tannhäuser." He got from the
mediæval epic the atmosphere of Hermann's Court, for this potentate
was famous in his day as a patron of poetry and an encourager of
the art of the knightly minnesinger. He obtained also the idea of
the contest of song--which in history was rather one of poetry--and
the names of the historical minnesingers. In adopting this material
to his dramatic purpose Wagner omitted Heinrich of Ofterdingen and
substituted Tannhäuser for him. He furthermore changed the subject
of the controversy.

Whence came the lovely character, one of the noblest of all Wagner's
heroines, Elizabeth, the Landgrave's niece? She is not to be found in
the Tannhäuser legend nor in the "Wartburgkrieg." It is altogether
certain that Wagner found the suggestion for this beautiful character
in the story of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, the daughter-in-law
of Hermann of Thuringia. She was affianced in childhood to the
Landgrave's eldest son Ludwig; and when married the pair led a
rigorously monastic life and devoted themselves to holiness. Ludwig
died young and his brother Heinrich was harsh to Elizabeth. The pure
and lofty stature of this saintly princess furnished Wagner with
the personality which he needed as the element of opposition to the
baneful influence of Venus.

We have now before us the sources from which Wagner drew the
materials for this noble drama. Let us see how he utilised his
matter. In the first scene we behold Tannhäuser in the arms of Venus,
sick and weary of sensual delight and eager to return to the smell of
the green grass and the song of birds, and still more to the rhythmic
alternation of pain and pleasure which makes the song of human life.
His senses are nauseated with their own ceaseless gratification. Who,
then, is this Venus, and what is she doing in the subterranean world
of the 12th century? She is plainly the Venus of Roman mythology,
the Aphrodite of the Greeks, the Astarte of the Phoenicians. The
atmosphere which surrounds her is that of the classic Venus. She is
further identified by the pictures of Leda and the Swan and Europa
and the Bull, taken from classic fable and illustrating stratagems
of the passion over which Venus presided. Before the Romans pushed
their way into Germany, the old Teutonic mythology had its goddess
Freya, the wife of Odin, queen and leader of the Valkyrs. But the
Scandinavian myth made Frigg, or Fricka, the queen, and Freya the
second in rank. She was the goddess of love and beauty. The South
German races confounded the two and added qualities not known in the
northern mythology. They made Freya coincident on one side with Hel,
the goddess of the underworld and of the dead, and on the other with
Holda, the goddess of the spring, of budding and fructification. Thus
when the Romans carried their mythology into Germany it was not at
all extraordinary that the attributes of Freya and Venus should have
become mingled in the minds of the people.

These simple-minded people did not readily part with their poetic
mythology when Christianity mastered their hearts. The old deities
were supposed to have retired into caves or mountains, there to
dwell till recalled to activity. Venus, according to various
traditions, lived in more than one cave, but her favourite abode
was the Hörselberg in Thuringia. The propinquity of this cave to
the Castle of Wartburg naturally led Wagner to choose it as the
scene of Tannhäuser's retirement. In the drama the knight's feelings
and desires are precisely the same as those of the hero of the old
legend. Wagner adds the beautiful poetic touches of his yearning to
hear the song of birds and once more to suffer pain. Furthermore
he makes it clear to us that the Venus of his imagination was
not without womanly feeling, and that her passion for Tannhäuser
was a very real one. She scornfully gives him leave to go, but it
is finally his despairing cry to the Virgin for aid which acts as
a charm to remove the spell of enchantment. He instantly finds
himself in the valley before the Wartburg, and hears the tinkling of
sheep-bells, while a young shepherd carols a lay to the May and to
Holda, the representative of the beneficent side of the evil goddess
just left. It is in such details of fancy as these that Wagner
demonstrates his right to consider himself a poet.

With the disappearance of the red and glittering cave of Venus and
the appearance of the cool, fresh greens of the landscape--a striking
pictorial contrast, full of theatrical effectiveness, and showing
Wagner's employment of the combined arts of poetry, music, painting,
and action in the new dramatic form--we enter the domain of the
"Wartburgkrieg." The Tannhäuser of the old legend steps into the
shoes of Heinrich of Ofterdingen. The adventure which has befallen
him is not unsuited to his character, for the real Tannhäuser
was a bit of a Don Juan and had many "affairs." It seems that he
repented and became a wiser and a better man in later life. In the
ballad Venus foretold that he would sing her praises wherever he
went, but in the drama this prediction is made by Tannhäuser in the
first scene. That Wagner had a purpose in the change is shown by
Tannhäuser's outbreak in the hall of song. Efforts have been made
to prove that Heinrich of Ofterdingen and Tannhäuser were one and
the same person, for the existence of the former is problematical,
and also to prove that Tannhäuser did really visit the Court of
Hermann. Neither has been established as a fact. The matter is
of little importance to us. The personages in the song contest,
except Tannhäuser, are historical, and Wagner has been faithful in
his representation of their characters. He has chosen for dramatic
purposes to accentuate the poetic side of Wolfram's character.
Wolfram was celebrated as a champion of Christianity, and was an
ardent advocate of nobility of heart in woman in preference to merely
external beauty. In the very beginning of his "Parzival" he says:

     "Many women are praised for beauty; if at heart they shall be untrue,
     Then I praise them as I would praise it, the glass of a sapphire hue,
     That in gold shall be set as a jewel! Tho' I hold it an evil thing,
     If a man take a costly ruby, with the virtue the stone doth bring,
     And set it in a worthless setting: I would liken such a costly stone
     To the heart of a faithful woman, who true womanhood doth own.
     I would look not upon her colour, nor the heart's roof all can see;
     If the heart beateth true beneath it, true praise shall she win
       from me."[35]

[Footnote 35: "Parzival," a knightly epic, by Wolfram von Eschenbach.
Translation by Jessie L. Weston. London, David Nutt.]

In the hall of song the contest is on a similar theme, and Wolfram
was well chosen by Wagner to oppose the passionate ideas of the
wandering Tannhäuser. Walther von der Vogelweide has little
importance in Wagner's "Tannhäuser," but is mentioned again in
"Die Meistersinger," when young Walther von Stolzing claims him as
master. Vogelweide was a poet of renown in his day, a contemporary
of Wolfram, a Tyrolean by birth and a lyric singer. He was a man of
station and had an estate near Würzburg, where he was buried. Reimar
was also a notable poet in his day, but of Biterolf little is known
except that there was such a man.

These are the personages who greet Tannhäuser when Wagner's
wonderful transformation scene has closed, when the effect of the
beautiful pictorial change has died away, and the solemn strains
of the pilgrims' chorus, so gently beneficent after the passionate
witcheries of the wild bacchanal, have melted into the distance.
And with the advent of these historic figures there begins the
operation of the elevating principle of the drama, the influence of
Elizabeth. With their simple and yet aspiring spirits they furnish
a beautiful contrast to the carnal creatures whom we have just left
in the Hörselberg. The latter typified the gratification of the
senses, while these are an expression of the higher desires of man,
presently to be shown to us in their loftiest embodiment, the eternal
woman-soul, which "leadeth us ever upward and on."

In the experience of Tannhäuser Wagner has set before us the struggle
of the pure and the impure, the lusts and the aspirations of man's
nature. It is essentially the tragedy of the man. We may try as we
please to exalt the importance of Elizabeth as a dramatic character,
but the truth is that she is merely the embodiment of a force.
Tannhäuser is typical of his sex, beset on the one hand by the desire
of the flesh, which satiates and maddens, and courted on the other by
the undying loveliness of chaste and holy love. If ever a sermon was
preached as to the certainty with which the sins of the flesh will
find a man out it is preached in the second act of this tremendous
tragedy, when the flame of old passions sears the front of new
happiness and drives the errant out of paradise.

Here Wagner has risen far above his material. In the pomp and
circumstance of the mediæval contest of song he has displayed active
fancy, for the scene as presented is his rather than history's. In
the culmination of the catastrophe he has wrought with the craft of
genius, for in the period of which he wrote the yielding of a man to
sensual temptation would never have caused such a stir. Tannhäuser
would have been damned rather for worshipping a heathen goddess,
an enemy of the Christian Church, than for slumbering in the soft
embraces of a wanton. Hence, though struck to the heart by more than
mortal wound, Elizabeth thinks first of her lover's sin:

     "Was liegt an mir? Doch er--sein Heil!
     Wollt Ihr sein ewig Heil ihm rauben?"

"What matters it for me? But he--his salvation! Would you rob him
of his eternal salvation?" With this beautiful plea of the stricken
Elizabeth Wagner shows how perfectly he understood the tragic
elements of his story, for he makes the saving principle again, as in
"Der Fliegende Holländer," one of self-effacement, a love faithful
unto death.

In the final act Elizabeth, her last hope of the return of Tannhäuser
gone, consecrates her soul to heaven, relinquishes the desire of
life, and ascends to her last home. Wolfram, who has loved her, and
who thus becomes, in his self-sacrifice, a foil to the passionate
and self-gratifying Tannhäuser, sits at the foot of the Hörselberg
and philosophises to the evening star. Tannhäuser returns, cursed by
Rome, and plunged in despair. His narrative is the climax of power
in the opera, one of the most intensely tragic pieces of writing in
all dramatic literature. His senses reel; the old world of lusts
and passions opens the portals of its rosy dreamland, and the songs
of its sirens again lure him back to the arms of Venus and bury the
newly awakened soul in the depths of sensual debauchery. But no; the
eternal feminine still strives to save. The sainted Elizabeth, dead,
is yet the guardian angel of this poor wanderer, and as her funeral
bier is laid before him he sinks beside it with the last unutterably
pathetic supplication of a still repentant spirit:

     "Heilige Elizabeth, bitte für mich!"

"Holy Elizabeth, pray for me." And Wolfram pronounces the benediction
in the words, "Er ist erlöst" ("he is redeemed"). The sprouting staff
of the Pope, which has followed him from Rome, is laid upon his dead
body, and the solemn chorus of the pilgrims chant the entrance of his
purified spirit into its eternal rest. Thus did Wagner, out of the
simple and unrelated materials of the old Tannhäuser myth and the
"Wartburgkrieg," fashion the tragedy of a man's soul. Women never
find in "Tannhäuser" all that a man finds there. The experience of
the story lies beyond the pale of the feminine nature, but every
man must bow his head in reverence to the genius which thus made
quick the battle of passion against purity for the possession of the
masculine soul. Wagner wrote no mightier tragedy than this.[36]

[Footnote 36: It is worthy of note that in 1863 there was printed in
Mobile, Ala., a long blank-verse poem, entitled "Tannhäuser; or, The
Battle of the Bards," by Neville Temple and Edward Trevor. This was
a paraphrase--and in some places a translation--of Wagner's opera
book. It was written by two young men in the English civil service
in Germany and sent over to America by a friend. It transpired that
"Edward Trevor" was no less a personage than Robert, Lord Lytton,
better known as Owen Meredith, author of "Lucile."]

The music of "Tannhäuser" commands less admiration than the book.
Some of it is worthy of the mature Wagner, but much is trivial and
some is positively weak and puerile. Wagner had not yet grasped a
new conception of the lyric drama; he had thus far only enlarged
and extended the old one. He was not yet ready to set aside all the
old formulæ; but he was striving to give them a new significance.
Hence in "Tannhäuser" there are passages of a familiar operatic cut,
such as the scene of Tannhäuser and the courtiers in the first act,
ending with the finale of that act, the duet between Tannhäuser and
Elizabeth in Act II., and Wolfram's address to the evening star in
Act III. On the other hand, most of the score shows wide departures
from the older operatic manner. There is a sincere attempt to make
the musical forms follow the poem. There is an abundance of real
dialogue, in which the setting of the text is constructed on the
purest dramatic lines. This is especially true of the scene between
Tannhäuser and Venus, the debate in the hall of song, and the
narrative of Tannhäuser. But such admirable pieces of writing as
the address of the Landgrave to the contestants and the pathetic
prayer of Elizabeth have also a large dramatic value because of their
perfect embodiment of the feeling of the scene.

The leitmotiv is not employed in "Tannhäuser." Arthur Smolian wrote
a pamphlet on the music of this opera. It was prepared for the
_Bayreuther Taschenbuch_ of 1891 and translated into English by the
indefatigable Ashton Ellis. It professes to name and catalogue the
leading motives of "Tannhäuser," but what it really does is to prove
that there are none. The author quotes Wagner: "The essential feature
of Tannhäuser's character is his instant and complete saturation
with the emotions called up by the passing incident, and the lively
contrasts which the sudden changes of situation produce in his
utterance of this fulness of feeling. Tannhäuser is never a 'little'
anything, but each thing fully and completely." Mr. Smolian says:
"With the foregoing words, in which Wagner defines the nature of his
hero, we might also most fittingly describe the individuality of the
'Tannhäuser' music." Here, then, he should have stopped, for he had
spoken the truth, and his thematic catalogue is misleading. The music
of "Tannhäuser" is nearly all written freely for the investiture
of the passing mood, and those portions which are accorded special
meaning and are used for repetition may speedily be enumerated and

These divide themselves naturally into two classes, representing
respectively the good and the evil principle of the action. These
themes, which have such significance that they are repeated in the
exposition of the drama, are first heard and most easily identified
in the magnificent overture. This opens with a serene statement of
the theme typifying the holy thought, the religious mood of the good
characters in the play. This thought is employed as the melody of a
chorus of pilgrims, and it reappears in a triumphant proclamation at
the end of the drama when the good principle emerges victorious from
the battle against the evil:


The intoning of this solemn melody is interrupted in the overture by
the intrusion of the music of the bacchanalian orgies in the cave of
Venus, which begins with this phrase, given out by the violas:


Tannhäuser's hymn in praise of Venus appears in the overture and
is, of course, again heard in the first scene of the drama. It is
repeated with immense significance, but not at all in the manner of a
leitmotiv, in the scene of the hall of song.


     Dir töne Lob! Die Wunder sei'n gepriesen.]

In the overture the listener will hear after one of the passages of
turbulence this theme intoned by a clarinet.


     Geliebter, komm! Sieh dort die Grotte,
     von ros'gen Düften mild durchwallt!]

Later he will recognise its significance, when in the first scene he
hears it sung by Venus with the words of pleading. The reader is now
in possession of all the thematic ideas of the score of "Tannhäuser"
which approach in their nature the musical phrases employed by Wagner
in later works. And yet it is only an approach. In the second act,
when Wolfram is preaching the beauties of ideal love, thoughts of the
unbridled gratifications of the Hörselberg flash through Tannhäuser's
mind and we are informed of it by the repetition of the bacchanale
motive. And when at length, taunted into recklessness by the words of
his opponents, Tannhäuser launches into the praise of sensual love,
he naturally does so in the hymn to Venus from the first scene.
And that is the extent of the repetition of primary material in the
second act.

In the third act, when Tannhäuser in his despair calls upon Venus,
we are informed of her appearance before his fancy by the return of
the bacchanalian music. We also see her revealed in the rosy light of
her cavern, but this is a complete concession to the public want of
imagination. Wagner's original intention was to let the music tell
the story of her nearness, but he came to the conclusion that he
would not be understood, and so he placed Venus and her court before
our eyes. With the return of the pilgrims' chorus at the end of the
drama we meet the last repetition of a thematic idea. In none of
these repetitions is the leitmotiv method employed. They are simply
such repetitions as Gounod makes in "Faust" when the mad Marguerite
imagines she hears again the first salutation of Faust, or in "Roméo
et Juliette," when the dying Romeo's disordered mind carries him back
to the chamber scene and "Non, ce n'est pas le jour."

The dramatic power of "Tannhäuser" is not to be sought in evidences
of the development of the future Wagnerian system except in the
fidelity of the music to the underlying thought, and of the masterful
employment of operatic materials hitherto used wholly with a view to
musical effectiveness. In characterisation, too, this score shows
an advance over that of "Der Fliegende Holländer," which itself was
far ahead of its contemporaries. Wagner himself lays stress upon
the deep significance of passages of free composition. For example,
he says that in the stanza which Tannhäuser sings in the finale of
the second act ("Zum Heil den Sündigen zu Führen")--a stanza which
is usually buried by the ensemble--"lies the whole significance
of the catastrophe of Tannhäuser, and indeed the whole essence
of Tannhäuser; all that to me makes him a touching phenomenon is
expressed here alone." And various remarks in his long and--for the
theatre--important essay on the performing of "Tannhäuser" show how
far from his mind in the preparation of this work was the fully
developed Wagnerian system of "Tristan und Isolde." The union of
the arts tributary to the drama in the "art work of the future" had
already been conceived by him, and the greatness of "Tannhäuser,"
together with the causes of its radical difference from the typical
opera of its time, must be sought in the evidences of Wagner's
successful employment of this union. Neither verse nor music had
yet disclosed the complete Wagner; but here we find the master in
his transitional stage. The puissant eloquence of the vital scenes
of "Tannhäuser" will long keep it before the public in spite of its
inherent weaknesses.


Romantic Opera in Three Acts.

First performed at the Court Theatre, Weimar, August 28, 1850.

_Original Cast._

  Lohengrin                               Beck.
  Telramund                               Milde.
  King Henry                              Höfer.
  Herald                                  Pätsch.
  Ortrud                                  Fräulein Fastlinger.
  Elsa                                    Fräulein Agthe.

Wiesbaden, 1853; Stettin, Breslau, Frankfort, Schwerin, Leipsic,
1854; Hanover, Darmstadt, Riga, Prague, Hamburg, Cologne, 1855;
Würzburg, Mayence, Carlsruhe, 1856; Munich, Sondershausen, Vienna,
1857; Dresden, Berlin, Mannheim, 1859; Danzig, Königsberg, 1860;
Rotterdam, 1862; Gratz, 1863; Budapesth, 1866; Dessau, 1867; Milan,
Cassel, Baden, St. Petersburg, 1868; Olmütz, Stuttgart, Gotha, 1869;
Brussels, Brunswick, Magdeburg, The Hague, Copenhagen, 1870; Bologna,
New York, 1871; Nuremberg, Florence, 1872; Lübeck, 1873; Stockholm,
Strassburg, 1874; Boston, 1875; London, Covent Garden, May 8, 1875;
Dublin, 1875; Basle, Trieste, 1876; San Francisco, Philadelphia,
Chemnitz, Crefeld, Temesvar, Salzburg, Melbourne, Lemburg, 1877;
Görlitz, Barmen, Regensburg, Rome, 1878; Altona, Liegnitz, 1879;
London (English), Genoa, 1880; Liverpool, Antwerp, Venice, Nice,
Naples, Moscow, Madrid, Münster, 1881; Innspruck, Barcelona, 1882.

First performed in America in German at the Stadt Theater, New York,
April 3, 1871, under Adolf Neuendorff.


  Lohengrin                               Theodore Habelmann.
  Telramund                               Herr Vierling.
  King Henry                              Herr Franosch.
  Herald                                  W. Formes.
  Ortrud                                  Mme. Frederici.
  Elsa                                    Mme. Louise Lichtmay.

First performance in Italian, Academy of Music, March 23, 1874.


  Lohengrin                               Italo Campanini.
  Telramund                               Giuseppe del Puente.
  King Henry                              Giovanni Nannetti.
  Herald                                  A. Blum.
  Ortrud                                  Annie Louise Cary.
  Elsa                                    Christine Nilsson.


I.--The Book

When he was collecting the materials for "Tannhäuser," Wagner, as we
have seen, read the "Parzival" of Wolfram von Eschenbach. The last
one hundred lines of that poem contains one of the versions of the
story of Lohengrin. It is an insufficient story, however, and would
not in itself have provided the foundation of Wagner's most popular
work. As I have said in my introduction to the Schirmer edition
of the vocal score of "Lohengrin," "Wagner's method of literary
composition was to gather all the versions of a national mythological
legend, and select the incidents and characters which fitted into
his plan." This plan, of course, grows out of his perception of the
dramatic possibilities of the story. The sources of Wagner's poem,
then, in addition to "Parzival," were "Der Jüngere Titurel," a poem
by Albrecht von Scharffenberg, giving a full account of the Holy
Grail and its guardians, and also recounting the life and death of
Lohengrin after leaving Brabant; _Der Schwanen-Ritter_, by Konrad
von Würzburg, a poem dating from the latter half of the thirteenth
century; "Lohengrin," a poem by an unknown Bavarian poet, and the
popular form of the legend as given by the Grimm Brothers in the
"Deutsche Sagen."

At Marienbad in the summer of 1845 he laid down the outlines of his
plan, and in the winter ensuing he wrote the book and invented some
of the melodic ideas. He began the actual composition of the opera
with the narrative of Lohengrin in the final scene, because, like
the ballad of Senta, that monologue contained the most significant
musical germs in the whole score. While living at Grossgraufen, near
Pilnitz, he wrote the music of the third act between September 9,
1846, and March 5, 1847. The first act was composed between May 12
and June 8, 1847, and the second act between June 18th and August 2d
of the same year. The prelude was finished on August 28, 1847, and
the instrumentation was made during the following winter and spring.
The score of the opera was not published for several years, because
Meser, who had printed the previous works of the composer, had lost
money by the ventures. Breitkopf & Härtel subsequently secured the
score at a small price, not because they were niggardly in offering,
but because Wagner's works had no large market value at the time, and
he was anxious to sell, being in his chronic condition of financial

The Lohengrin poem gives the story thus: Elsa, daughter of the Duke
of Brabant, is left in care of Frederic of Telramund. He aspires to
her hand, but she refuses him. He then accuses her before the Emperor
of having promised to be his wife and having broken the promise. The
Emperor declares that the case must be tried by the ordeal of battle.
A passing falcon falls at Elsa's feet with a bell tied to its leg.
In her agitation she rings the bell. The sound reaches Monsalvat,
where it acts as a summons to Lohengrin, the son of Parzival. A
swan appears on the river and Lohengrin knows that he is ordered
to go with it. On arriving at Antwerp, five days later, Lohengrin
is received with honour, and with Elsa sets out for the court of
the Emperor at Mayence. There the combat is fought and Telramund
defeated. Lohengrin marries Elsa, having extracted from her the
promise not to ask his name or country. They live together two years.
Then in a joust Lohengrin conquers the Duke of Cleves and breaks his
arm. The Duchess of Cleves sneers at Lohengrin because no one knows
who he is. This preys on the mind of Elsa till she asks the fatal
question. Then Lohengrin, in the presence of the Emperor and the
Court, tells his story, steps into the swan-boat and vanishes.

The story of the "Chevalier au Cygne," as found in the Grimm version
also, is evidently a combination of two legends. The first deals
entirely with the transformation of human beings into swans, and
the second with the Swan-Knight. The mother-in-law of a queen, out
of hatred, endeavours to make away with her seven children, each
of whom was born with a silver chain about its neck, and to throw
suspicion on the queen. She gives them to a knight to slay, but he
contents himself with leaving them in a wood, where they are found
and cared for by a hermit. The king's mother subsequently learns that
the children are still alive, and sends a servant to kill them and
bring the chains as evidence. He finds six children, one having gone
on a short journey with the hermit, and when he takes the chains off
their necks they turn into swans and fly away. The king's mother now
brings the false accusation against the queen, and the king declares
that, unless a champion can be found to establish her innocence, she
must die. An angel goes to Helyas, the son who was not found by the
servant, and tells him who he is and of his mother's danger. Helyas
goes to Court, declares himself, fights for his mother, and conquers.
The chains are brought forth, the six swans fly in, Helyas puts the
chains around their necks, and they resume their human forms.

Subsequently Helyas sees a swan appear, drawing a boat, and knows
that he is summoned. At Nimwegen he finds that before the Emperor
Otto the Duchess of Bouillon has been accused by her brother-in-law
of poisoning her husband. The Emperor has ordered the settlement
of the case by the ordeal of combat. Helyas defends the Duchess,
overthrows her accuser, marries her daughter, and becomes the father
of Godfrey of Bouillon. After seven years the Duchess asks the fatal
question, and Helyas, without answering it, goes away forever in
his swan-boat. The reader will easily discover in the latter part
of this story how the Lohengrin legend has been used to manufacture
a supernatural father for Godfrey of Bouillon. It was not at all
uncommon for the poets of the mediæval period thus to celebrate the

We have now before us the chief materials out of which Wagner made
his beautiful dramatic poem, for the story of Wolfram's "Parzival"
served principally to set him on the track, and to make suggestions
as to the character of Elsa. That story tells simply that the Duchess
of Brabant refused to be the wife of any man save him whom God should
send her, and so Lohengrin came and the marriage took place, with
the stipulation that he should not be asked his name or race. After
some years she asked the fatal question and he returned to Monsalvat.

The Elsa of Wolfram was evidently inclined to become a nun, but in
two lines of the "Parzival" Wagner found a suggestion as to her
nature of which he made eloquent use in his first act:

     "In God was her trust, whatever men might in their anger speak,
     And, guiltless, she bare the vengeance her folks on her head
       would wreak."

The absolute confidence of Wagner's Elsa in the readiness of
Providence to send her the knight of whom she had dreamed and her
unresisting attitude in the presence of her accuser and her king were
certainly drawn from these lines of Wolfram's.

From the story of the Swan-Knight he gathered the idea of the
transformation of a human being into a swan by a malignant woman, and
his tremendously dramatic development of this idea is seen in the
plot of his opera. The accusation of Telramund is increased by the
assertion that Elsa has murdered her brother, a suggestion drawn, of
course, from the accusation against the queen in the "Chevalier au
Cygne." He has in reality been transformed into a swan by Ortrud, the
wife of Telramund, a character wholly invented by Wagner. It is she
who performs the office attributed in the old story to the Duchess of
Cleves, that of inspiring distrust and questionings in the mind of
Elsa. The character of Telramund is the merest sketch in the sources
of the drama and its individuality is entirely the result of Wagner's
dramatic skill.

The scene is laid at Antwerp, as it is in the Bavarian poet's
version, but is retained there instead of being shifted to Mayence.
The heroine is the Duchess of Brabant. The monarch, however, is not
Otto, but Henry I., who reigned from 918 to 936. In his treatment
of this character Wagner adheres to historic truth. Henry was a
progressive and an aggressive monarch, and he not only led his
people in successful wars against the Huns, but brought order out of
political chaos at home. It is to these historical matters that the
King refers in the speeches of the opening scene of the opera.

In the old stories the Knight has several days in which to reach the
woman in distress and fight for her. Wagner has made this episode far
more dramatic by requiring the immediate presence of the champion, by
the ingenious plan of having the first call unanswered, and by making
the fight for Elsa's life and honour take place at once. The arrival
of Lohengrin is one of the most theatrically effective scenes in all
opera, and the sweet and gentle farewell to the swan, following the
hubbub of excitement, affords one of those splendid musical contrasts
which are to be found in all Wagner's works and which are, as in this
case, entirely his own. The first act of the opera leans heavily on
the sources of the story, but the reader can have no difficulty in
seeing how ingeniously Wagner has utilised his materials. At the end
of the combat it has in recent years been the custom to employ a
piece of stage business, authorised by the Bayreuth management, which
is destructive of much of the effect of the scene, and obviously
contrary to Wagner's original conception. Lohengrin does not fell
Telramund "with one mighty stroke," as the stage direction in the
score says he should, but holds his sword on high, while Frederic,
without being struck at all, falls, overcome by the mysterious
power which emanates from it. Of course this belittles the knightly
character of Lohengrin, who conquers not by his prowess, but by the
intervention of supernatural power, and furthermore it is opposed to
the text. The Herald in his address to the combatants just before the
King's prayer says:

     "Durch bösen Zaubers List und Trug
     Stört nicht des Urtheils Eigenschaft."

"By evil magic's cunning and deceit distort not the nature of the
judgment." The meaning of that speech is certainly a prohibition
of the exercise of supernatural power by Lohengrin. And in the old
stories it is always related that he defeated his opponent in equal
combat. The supernatural element is sufficiently to the fore in
this first scene in the appearance of the Swan-Knight in answer to
the prayer and in reward of the faith of the innocent maiden under
accusation. The love of Lohengrin for Elsa is in accordance with
the old stories, and so is Elsa's offer of her crown, her domain,
and herself. To the fall of the curtain at the end of Act I. Wagner
followed the sources of his story closely, the changes being such as
I have pointed out, and chiefly of a kind demanded by the technics of
dramatic construction.

But with the second act we enter a chapter more fully the product of
Wagner's genius. The original sources give only suggestions of it.
The scene between Telramund and Ortrud at the beginning of this act,
so much disliked by those to whom only the saccharine melodies of
love and mystic knighthood are pleasing, is one of the most important
in the drama. Telramund, robbed of sword and fame, reproaches Ortrud
for inducing him to make the accusation against Elsa. He recognises
the sacred character of Lohengrin, but Ortrud scoffs at it. She
calls her husband's attention to the condition imposed upon Elsa by
Lohengrin, that she must ask neither his name nor the place whence
he came. Ortrud reveals the fact that if he is forced to answer
this question his power is at an end. But Ortrud further counsels
her husband to proclaim that the victory was won by magic, thus
breaking the law of the sacred ordeal. Still further she says that,
if Lohengrin can only be wounded in the slightest way, his power will
vanish. To Telramund she entrusts this part of the task, while for
herself she reserves the business of inspiring distrust in the mind
of Elsa.

She addresses the maiden on her balcony in the accents of despair.
Elsa in pity descends to lead her into the house. Then Wagner makes
use of the mediæval belief that the old pagan gods had not ceased
to exist, but were temporarily in retirement from the assaults of
Christianity. Ortrud, who is a pagan at heart, calls on the old Norse
gods to aid her in overthrowing these Christian enemies of theirs.
When Elsa appears, this dark woman at once expresses her fear that a
knight who appeared by magic may disappear. Elsa's trust is not yet
to be shaken, and Ortrud follows her into the house. When Elsa and
her train are moving toward the church, Ortrud claims the right of
precedence and, like the Duchess of Cleves in the old tale, flings
the taunt of Lohengrin's namelessness at Elsa. Again the maiden
defends her spouse elect. Lohengrin and the King appear. Telramund,
carrying out his part of the task, comes forward and declares that
Lohengrin conquered him by the aid of magic. The King and the nobles,
with full faith in the nature of the judgment, refuse to listen to
him. He then whispers to Elsa that if she will admit him to the
chamber that night he will clear all doubt. Lohengrin orders him away
and leads Elsa into the minster.

Throughout this act the immense dramatic skill of Wagner is
manifested. With only a few meagre suggestions from the old
legends,--basic ideas, indeed, but undeveloped,--he built up an
act of extraordinary dramatic power and musical fecundity. In its
construction this act equals anything in the entire range of opera.
The effective series of pictures, ranging from the dismal pair on the
cathedral steps in the gloom, through that of Elsa apostrophising
her lover on the moonlit balcony, the entrance into the house of the
two women in the glimmer of the torches, the break of day, and the
growing glitter of the festal morning with its pageant, up to the
splendid climax of the scene in the denouncement of Frederic and the
final entry into the church, are as ingeniously arranged as anything
in the Meyerbeerian operas; but these scenes succeed one another
in a perfectly natural and poetical sequence, and without forcing
theatrical craft upon our attention. And in this act Wagner develops
with transcendent power the characters of Ortrud and Telramund. Of
the malignant pagan sorceress his own words are the best description.
In one of the letters to Liszt he says:

     "Ortrud is a woman who does not know love. By this
     everything most terrible is expressed. Politics are her
     essence. A political man is repulsive, but a political
     woman is horrible. This horror I had to represent.
     There is a kind of love in this woman, the love of the
     past, of dead generations, the terribly insane love of
     ancestral pride which finds its expression in the hatred
     of everything living and actually existing. In man this
     love is ludicrous, but in woman it is terrible, because a
     woman, with her strong natural desire for love, must love
     something; and ancestral pride, the longing after the past,
     turns in consequence to murderous fanaticism. In history
     there are no more cruel phenomena than political women. It
     is not therefore jealousy of Elsa, perhaps for the sake of
     Frederic, which inspires Ortrud, but her whole passion is
     revealed only in the scene of the second act, where, after
     Elsa's disappearance from the balcony, she rises from the
     steps of the minster and invokes her old, long-forgotten
     gods. She is a reactionary person, who thinks only of the
     old and hates everything new in the most ferocious meaning
     of the word; she would exterminate the world and nature to
     give new life to her decayed gods. But this is not merely
     an obstinate, morbid mood in Ortrud; her passion holds
     her with the full weight of a misguided, undeveloped,
     objectless feminine desire for love; for that reason she is
     terribly grand."

This Ortrud of Wagner's touches hands with the Lady Macbeth of
Shakespeare. The same ambition, the same political, unsexed
womanhood, the same desperate daring, and the same brazen resolve
appear in both. Both seek a throne by foul means. Both are labouring
for their husbands, and both fear the weakness of the spouse. Ortrud
might fairly take from the lips of Lady Macbeth her invocation:

                       "Come, you spirits
     That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here;
     And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top-full
     Of direst cruelty! Make my thick blood,
     Stop up th' access and passage to remorse;
     That no compunctious visitings of nature
     Shake my purpose, nor keep peace between
     Th' affect and it!"

Telramund, "infirm of purpose," like Macbeth, is swayed and mastered
by the superior force of his wife's indomitable will and insatiable
ambition. Fate follows his footsteps as relentlessly as it does
those of the Thane of Cawdor, and when he falls a victim to vaulting
ambition, which overleaps itself, he falls a victim of Nemesis.

The last act places before us several salient features of the
original material. Elsa, not after years of married bliss, but on
the bridal night, asks the fatal question. Here Wagner shows a deep
appreciation of the poetic possibilities of the theme, undoubtedly
suggested to him by the resemblance of the situation to that of
Zeus and Semele in classic fable. Elsa never could have grasped the
essential nature of this sacred messenger, and so Wagner cuts the
knot by ending the marriage at its very outset, before the final
surrender of the heroine's womanhood. Lohengrin was never hers; she
was never his. Frederic's last attempt follows the utterance of the
question, and then before the assembled court, on the river bank
where first he appeared, Lohengrin tells the marvellous, thrilling
tale of Monsalvat, the Holy Grail and his origin, opening to us for a
few moments the cathedral vistas of Wagner's "Te Deum,"--"Parsifal."
Ortrud prematurely triumphs and announces that the swan is the
missing brother: she herself placed the chain about his neck.
Lohengrin calls upon God, and the spell is broken. The rightful heir
of Brabant is restored to his sister's arms, and the Swan-Knight
floats away in his shallop, this time drawn by a dove, the messenger
of heaven. The reader will have no difficulty now in recognising
the sources of these incidents, except, perhaps, in the death of
Telramund, which was suggested to Wagner, as was the idea of robbing
Lohengrin of his saintly power by wounding him, by passages in
"Der Jüngere Titurel." The narrative of Lohengrin is suggested by
Wolfram's "Parzival."

One more note must be made before we pass to a brief examination
of the music of Wagner's most popular work. There is a strange
resemblance between some of the fundamental features of the story of
"Lohengrin" and those of "Der Fliegende Holländer." Senta and Elsa
are both dream-haunted maidens. Both dream of lovers. About each of
the lovers there is something mystic or supernatural. Each of the
lovers is to come to the maiden from the water. In each case the
maiden is called upon to submit to a certain ordeal, and her failure
is to result in the return of the lover to the element from which
he came. And in one element of the story the fact is similar, but
the relations of the personages changed. In one a maiden is to save
the lover; in the other, the lover comes as a champion and saviour.
Is it not possible that the origin of the two legends is the same,
the story of Skeaf, the mysterious king of the Angles, who drifted
to their shores in a rudderless shallop when a babe, and grew to be
a good and great monarch? When he died, they laid his body in the
shallop and the little vessel floated away into the unknown, whence
it came.

II.--The Music

And now let us look at the music of this opera, music which
is usually listened to with complacent admiration for its
mellifluous melody, but too seldom considered in respect of its
dramatic significance. "Lohengrin" is musically far in advance of
"Tannhäuser." True, there is not in this opera any piece of writing
so puissant in its revelation of a human heart as the narrative of
the returned pilgrim, but the score in its entirety is more closely
knit, more coherent in style, more certain in its characterisations,
more dramatic in its development of emotional climaxes and its
explication of the scenes. In "Lohengrin" we find the grasp of his
material much firmer in Wagner's hands. The organism is higher; the
unity of word, action, and tone nearer to that for which the author
constantly sought.

"Tannhäuser" is a hybrid. Old forms jostle the new; thin melodic
strophes in conventional song-patterns lower the potency of some
scenes to the level of Italian opera. But in "Lohengrin" the song
form disappears forever from the Wagnerian scheme. The music is
the utterance of speech; the melody, the spontaneous embodiment
of feeling. There is no longer any recitative. There is only
musical dialogue. And the leitmotiv, temporarily laid aside in the
composition of "Tannhäuser," returns with wider and deeper and more
varied meaning. We are at the culmination of the transition period of
Wagner's genius, standing at the outer gates of "Tristan" and "Die

Wagner himself recognised the nature and the limits of the advance
made in this opera. He declares in the "Communication" that he
was here seeking to free himself from the tyranny of the final
cadence--that which tells the ear of the completion of a melodic
form--and to make the music the outgrowth of the speech. But he saw
in later years that he was still under the domination of melodic
fashion in "Lohengrin"; and it is precisely his subservience to this
fashion, with which the easy-going public from long use has become
familiar, that makes "Lohengrin" the favourite of opera-goers the
world over. We find the most potent evidences of the domination of
the closing cadence in Elsa's narrative, in the duet of Ortrud and
Telramund in the second act, and in the passages of the duet in the
chamber scene. On the other hand, there is a close approach in the
score of "Lohengrin" to the endless melody of the later dramas, and
we are not surprised by the recollection that the Nibelungen trilogy
was the next work to which Wagner turned.

The prelude to "Lohengrin" may be described as an instrumental
representation of the vision of the Holy Grail. The motive on
which it is built is that which throughout the opera typifies the
sacredness of Lohengrin and his identity as a messenger of the Grail.

[Music: THE GRAIL.]

This theme is heard at the beginning of the prelude in its first
form. It is heard again when Lohengrin prepares to bid farewell to
the swan which is to return to Monsalvat, the palace of the Grail,
thus announcing the identity of the knight as a messenger of the
Grail. It is not heard again till the third act, except for a passing
moment in Act II., where the Herald's delivery of Lohengrin's
message to the nobles is preceded by the Grail motive, the first
half intoned by the trumpets on the stage and the second half by the
orchestra. It then disappears till the final scene of the opera, when
it sounds forth as the warp and woof of that marvellously lovely
piece of writing, the narrative of Lohengrin's origin. Next to the
Grail motive stands that which is indicative of the knightly nature
of Lohengrin.


This motive immediately follows the first appearance of the Grail
motive in the first act and becomes the instrumental background to
Elsa's "In lichter Waffen Scheine ein Ritter nahte da" ("I saw in
splendour shining a knight of glorious mien"). It is heard again when
Lohengrin appears in the distance coming down the Scheldt in answer
to Elsa's prayer, and at the end of the first act, when the triumph
is complete, it peals forth fortissimo. It announces Lohengrin's
entrance in Act II. and again in the final scene of the opera. At the
end of all Wagner shows us that the knightly character of Lohengrin
is intimately associated with his position as guardian of Brabant,
for the knighthood motive is transferred in all its splendour to the
rescued Gottfried, while, as Lohengrin disappears in the distance, it
is heard for the first time in the minor mode. Another motive, which
is a companion of Lohengrin's, is the swan motive.

[Music: THE SWAN.]

This is heard as the accompaniment to the closing words of
Lohengrin's farewell to the swan in Act I.; again in Act III., when
the half-hysterical Elsa fancies she sees the swan coming to take
Lohengrin away, and finally when the Knight is about to address
the swan preparatory to his departure in the last scene. A part of
the melody which accompanies the entrance of Elsa in the first act
is also evidently designed to act as a leading motive. This may be
called the motive of Elsa's faith.

[Music: ELSA'S FAITH.]

It is repeated immediately after the entrance of the maid, when the
King asks her if she will be judged by him, and the stage direction
bids her make a gesture expressive of her complete trust. In the
last scene, when Elsa enters dejected after having broken her vow,
the King asks her the cause of her sadness, and she tries to look him
in the face but cannot. Then we hear the broken faith motive:


Two themes are employed to signify the evil elements of the drama.
The first of these is the prohibition motive:


     Nie sollst du mich befragen.]

The ban of secrecy imposed by Lohengrin becomes a potent weapon
for evil in the hands of Ortrud. It is heard ominously in the
introductory measures of the second act, and with portentous meaning
when Ortrud begins to unfold her plan to Frederic. When Ortrud in
the scene with Elsa says, "May he never leave thee who was by magic
hither brought," the prohibition motive is given out adagio by the
wind; and at the end of act, as Ortrud expresses by face and gesture
her triumph over Elsa entering the cathedral, this motive is pealed
forth at full power by the trumpets and trombones. It recurs in most
mournful instrumental colour at the end of the chamber scene in
Act III., when Elsa has asked the fatal question. The other theme
significant of evil is the motive of Ortrud's influence:

[Music: ORTRUD.]

This is first heard in the introduction to Act II. It reappears when
Ortrud begins to reveal her ideas to Frederic, and accompanies each
of her suggestions for the overthrow of Lohengrin and destruction of
Elsa. It is heard again in the accompaniment to the short ensemble
which succeeds Lohengrin's appeal to Elsa in the finale of Act II.,
when to his dismay he sees that she is wavering. Again it sounds
when Frederic whispers to Elsa in the same scene, and when the maid
declares her doubts in the chamber scene it is repeated to show that
she is acting under the influence of Ortrud. This is a very close
approach to the fully developed employment of the leitmotiv, for in
the later dramas we find these themes frequently used to connect
the passing action with the influences which have led to it or to
associate it with an absent personality.

A less important motive, but one whose treatment foreshadows Wagner's
later musical method, is that of the ordeal:

[Music: THE ORDEAL.]

This makes its appearance in Act I. after the nobles shout "Zum
Gottesgericht!" ("a judgment of God!"), and immediately before the
King addresses Telramund asking him if he will do battle. In the
major mode it is sounded by the trumpets on the stage as the summons
to Elsa's champion to appear, and its fundamental rhythm becomes that
of the music to which the six nobles pace off the measurement of the
ground. In the fight itself this motive is worked out orchestrally
as an accompaniment to the action. It belongs strictly to the music
of the scene, yet it is treated thematically and developed as far as

These are all the leading motives of "Lohengrin." The rest of the
music is freely composed, but the attentive hearer will note that
while ethereal string harmonies intone the Grail motive, Lohengrin's
knighthood is announced by the brass, and to the wood wind choir is
allotted Elsa's music. For the rest the lover of this opera must
seek his intellectual enjoyment in the general fidelity of the score
to the thought of the text, to the increasing freedom from the
shackles of formularies, and to the flexible, changeful, constantly
significant harmonic plan.

The enormous variety of the rhythmic effects is obtained without
frequent changes of time. The first act, for example, is all in
common time up to the beginning of the King's prayer, which is in
three-fourths measure. At the beginning of the combat the common
time returns and is continued till the end of the act. The entire
second act is in common time. In the third act two-fourths time is
used for the "Bridal Chorus" and then the composer returns to common
time and retains it to the end. These facts are alone sufficient to
show the wide gulf which separates the Wagner score from that of the
old-fashioned Italian opera, wherein the elementary dance rhythms
are all used with as much variety as possible. Wagner attains an
infinitely greater variety of styles and expression with only two
interruptions of his original time signature.

Yet the one thing which Wagner felt most keenly in the composition of
this opera was his subserviency to rhythm--not musical, but poetical.
He admits that he had not yet freed himself from old melodic ideas
and that the dominance of the cadence was still felt in his work, but
his real difficulty was the inflexibility of verse written in modern
metre, which makes such rigorous demands for imitation in the form of
the musical setting. He was in later works to find the solution of
that problem and enter the kingdom of perfect freedom from textual
rule. The music of "Lohengrin," then, must be regarded as standing
midway between the style of "Der Fliegende Holländer" and that of
"Die Meistersinger." Its extraordinary popularity is due to the
external and sensuous charms of its melody, which make their appeal
to the aural palate of those incapable of comprehending a dramatic
scheme such as Wagner's. This outward attractiveness of the music
Wagner himself would have been the first to blame, and he always felt
that his own beautiful conception of the character of Lohengrin was
not revealed to the public.


Action in Three Acts.

First performed at the Royal Court Theatre, Munich, June 10, 1865.

_Original Cast._

  Tristan                               Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld.
  Kurvenal                              Mitterwurzer.
  Melot                                 Heinrich.
  Marke                                 Zottmayer.
  Isolde                                Mme. Schnorr von Carolsfeld.
  Brangäne                              Mlle. Deinet.

Weimar, 1874; Berlin, 1876; Königsberg, Leipsic, 1881; Hamburg, 1882;
London, June 20, 1882.

First performed in America at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York,
on December 1, 1886.


  Tristan                                 Albert Niemann.
  Kurvenal                                Adolph Robinson.
  Melot                                   Rudolph von Milde.
  Marke                                   Emil Fischer.
  Isolde                                  Lilli Lehmann.
  Brangäne                                Marianne Brandt.
  Ein Hirt                                Otto Kemlitz.
  Steuermann                              Emil Saenger.
  Seemann                                 Max Alvary.

Conductor, Anton Seidl.


I.--Sources of the Story

From the dramatic and musical style of "Lohengrin" to that of
"Tristan und Isolde" is a far cry, and the reader must brace his
intellectual forces to assault a new world. It would be easier for
some reasons to take up the consideration of this work after that
of the "Meistersinger" and "Der Ring," but such a proceeding would
lead to a confusion of historical facts in the mind of the reader,
and therefore we shall take it up in the order of its production. We
must bear in mind that before writing the score of this work Wagner
wrote those of "Das Rheingold" and "Die Walküre," and that therefore
he had entered into his fully developed style. Further than that we
shall see that he went beyond his own conceptions of his theories,
and that in this work he gave us the fullest, freest, and most potent
demonstration of the vitality and justice of his methods and his

In an undated letter to Liszt, written in the latter part of 1854,
Wagner says: "I have in my head 'Tristan und Isolde,' the simplest
but most full-blooded musical conception: with the 'black flag' which
floats at the end of it I shall cover myself to die." But in the
meantime, as we have seen, he was working on the first parts of the
"Ring" series. When he had about half written "Siegfried" there came
upon him a period of depression. He felt that he was writing works
which he would not live to see produced. He hungered for a closer,
an active connection with the stage, and he needed money, and so he
regretfully laid aside the "Ring" scores and set to work on the poem
of "Tristan und Isolde." This was written at Zurich in 1857. The
music was begun in the same year, and the score of the first act was
finished at Zurich on December 31st. The second act was finished at
Venice in March, 1859, and the third at Lucerne in August of the same

Many persons labour under the delusion that "Tristan und Isolde" is a
new fancy of Wagner's; they do not know that the tale is one of the
famous old legends of the Arthurian cycle and that it ranks as one of
the great epics of mediæval Europe. First of all, however, this story
belonged to the great English cycle of legends, which have supplied
material to so many poets down to Tennyson and Swinburne. The latter
wrote a version of this very tale under the title of "Tristram of
Lyonnesse," which is only a modern adaptation of the earliest known
title, "Tristam de Leonois," a poem dating from 1190.

The story is of Celtic origin, yet we find that it first took
definite poetic shape in France. The Arthurian cycle consists of the
"Romance of the Holy Grail," "Merlin," "Launcelot," "The Quest of
the Saint Graal," and "The Mort Artus." From the last was drawn the
beautiful "Morte d'Arthur" of Sir Thomas Mallory, a story of which
about one-third is devoted to the life and adventures of Tristram,
not properly told in this version. How was it that the French
romantic poets were engaged in celebrating the doings of English
heroes? In the heart of the Midi the forerunners of the Troubadours
sang the deeds of Arthur and Launcelot and Merlin, just as Tennyson
did in the latter half of the nineteenth century. As far as we can
ascertain at this time, the exploits of Arthur, which had been
narrated in scattered song and story for many a long year through all
the vales of England, were compiled by Geoffrey of Monmouth. He died
in 1154, the year in which Henry II. ascended the throne of England.
Henry was of the house of Anjou, and united the crowns of England and
Normandy under his sceptre. At about the same period, according to
Professor Morley, Walter Map, an Archdeacon of Oxford (1154-89), is
believed to have introduced the Holy Grail into the romances which
existed before his time.

The conditions were now precisely right for the introduction of the
Arthurian legends and the Grail into the romantic literature of
France. The Norman Court took great delight in the English tales.
The French poets were only too glad to find new material which was
sure of favour in high places. And their own blood was not averse
to the nature of the poetry. The French of the Middle Ages were a
wonderfully cosmopolitan people. Near Tours, far to the north of the
sunny land of the Troubadour, Charles Martel crushed and scattered
the army of the Prophet, and for centuries after that the Saracen
trod the valleys of the Midi. Long before that the Greeks had sent
settlers into the region, and the old nature-loving Hellenic spirit
found its expression and its means of preservation in the folk songs
and dances of the people. But the inhabitants of the Midi were,
nevertheless, Celts. Matthew Arnold says: "Gaul was Latinised in
language, manners, and laws, and yet her people remained essentially
Celtic." And so we need not be astonished at finding the Celtic
Arthurian legends taking root in the literature of mediæval France.
Robert de Borron, a Trouvère, born near Meaux, wrote about 1170 or
1180 the Provençal version of the Grail legend. Chrétien de Troyes,
another of the French romanticists, wrote a version of the Grail
legend about the same time as Borron.

Of the oldest French versions of the Tristram tale, two are known.
M. Gaston Paris and Dr. Golther have put forth in their books on
the Tristram legend studies of what is called the minstrel version
of the story. The first was made by Beroul in England out of the
scattered traditions relating to Tristan. It dates from 1150 and
only a fragment of it remains. There was also a very early German
version by Eilhart von Oberge, and from this indirectly originated
the unsatisfactory version given by Mallory. The other old French one
was that of Thomas of Brittany, an Anglo-Norman. This poem was the
previously mentioned "Tristam de Leonois," and from it, about 1210,
Gottfried of Strassburg, a German, drew the great mediæval Teutonic
form of the tale, the direct source of Wagner's work.

The story as told by Gottfried is briefly as follows: Morold, an
Irish warrior, brother of Ireland's Queen, holds Cornwall in fear,
and demands a tribute to his King and master. Tristan, nephew of
King Mark of Cornwall, challenges him to mortal combat. Morold
wounds Tristan, and declares that, as his sword was poisoned, only
his sister, Queen Isolt of Ireland, can heal the wound. Tristan
smites Morold's head off, but a piece of the sword remains in
the skull. Tristan's wound will not heal, so in company with his
servitor Kurvenal and several other attendants he sails for Ireland
to seek aid of Queen Isolt. Morold's body and head are taken back
to Ireland. Tristan appears before the Queen disguised as a harper,
calling himself Tantris. The Queen, pleased with his music, agrees
to heal him if he will teach music to her daughter, also named
Isolt. He consents, is healed, and returns to Cornwall. There he
sings the praises of the Queen's daughter, the younger Isolt, and
offers to return to Ireland and ask for her hand for his uncle, King
Mark. He goes, and, on his arrival, finding the land devastated by
a dragon, slays the monster and cuts out its tongue. Being overcome
by the creature's foul breath, he sinks unconscious, and the Queen's
steward, who has heard the sound of the conflict, comes and cuts off
the dragon's head to show as evidence that he slew the beast. The
steward claims the hand of the Princess, which has been promised
to the slayer of the dragon, but the Queen Mother by her magic
discovers that another did the deed, and going forth at dawn finds
the unconscious Tristan.

It is now decided that the question between Tristan and the steward
shall be settled by combat, and the Princess orders Tristan's armour
to be made ready. In looking at the sword she discovers the nick in
the blade, and finds that the splinter from Morold's head, which has
been preserved, fits it. It also dawns upon her that "Tantris" is
"Tristan" reversed. She would slay Tristan, but the Queen desires to
know what matter of great import brought him again to Ireland. He
makes known his mission, and as the Queen professes herself ready to
forgive Tristan for killing Morold, her brother, the compact is made.
Princess Isolt goes with Tristan. As they depart for Cornwall, the
Queen confides to Brangäne, the Princess's kinswoman and companion,
a love potion, to be given to King Mark and the Princess on the
marriage night that they may ever afterward love each other. The
Princess is loath to leave her own people, and she hates Tristan for
having slain her Uncle Morold.

On the way to Cornwall a serving-maid, who is asked for a drink for
Tristan and Isolt, ignorantly gives them the love potion, and they
love one another. The poem narrates many incidents in the course of
deceit pursued by the lovers, but they need not be recapitulated
here. The King's steward, Majordo, aided by the dwarf, Melot, watches
the lovers and informs the King of their infidelity. But with the
help of Brangäne's cunning, they several times avoid detection. The
King even banishes them from Court, but, finding them asleep in a
forest retreat with a naked sword between them, takes them back,
though he orders them to remain apart. Finally he surprises them in
the garden, and then Tristan is forced to flee from Cornwall. He
finds a refuge in Arundel, the land of Duke Jovelin, whose daughter,
Isolt of the White Hand, falls in love with him. As he is always
singing of his lost Isolt, she thinks that he loves her. He, hearing
nothing from the old Isolt, deems himself forgotten, and concludes
that it would be as well to marry Isolt of the White Hand.

Gottfried's poem ends here. In the other versions, however, the
tale is completed. Tristan does marry the second Isolt. He receives
a poisoned wound while aiding a friend to meet clandestinely
another man's wife. Knowing that none save his first Isolt can heal
the wound, he sends Kurvenal to bring her, telling him that if he
succeeds in getting her he must hoist a white sail when entering port
on his return, but if he fails he is to hoist a black one. Isolt
of the White Hand hears this, and when the ship is sighted bearing
a white sail, she tells her husband that it is black, whereupon he
turns his face to the wall and dies. Tristan's Isolt arrives to
find him dead. She lays herself on the bier beside him and expires.
King Mark, having learned the story of the love potion, has the two
buried in the same chapel, on opposite sides. A rose tree grows from
Tristan's tomb and a vine from Isolt's, and the branches reach across
the chapel and intertwine.

II.--Wagner's Dramatic Poem

The falsehood of the second Isolt has greatly annoyed some of the
modern writers. Bayard Taylor simply declined to believe that such
a thing happened. Matthew Arnold made the second Isolt faithful to
her love. She nursed her dying husband tenderly even while waiting
for the first Isolt to arrive. But Wagner wisely ignored this part
of the legend. We hear nothing of any second Isolt. As is invariably
the case, his treatment of the story draws together all the beauties
of the original material and moulds them into a compact, consistent
whole, instinct with dramatic force and poetic beauty. In attempting
to set forth the Wagnerian arrangement of the materials, I find it
difficult to proceed coolly and systematically. There is a witchery
in this marvellous drama of fatal love that masters my mind. If the
reader finds me wanting in the calm of judicial equipoise, let him
forgive me, for I am dealing with that which lies next to my heart.
As Louis Ehlert says:

     "When in the second act Isolde is awaiting her lover, when
     the orchestra throbs with a thousand pulses and every
     nerve becomes a sounding tone, I am no longer the man I am
     through the rest of the year, nor am I artistically and
     morally a responsible being: I am a Wagnerian."

For the perfect understanding of the story the first act of the drama
is the most important. It is also that which the fewest persons
closely study. Edward Schuré, in "Le Drame Musicale," says:

     "The fundamental idea of the legend is that of the
     love-philtre, fatal, irresistible, overpowering and
     uniting two human beings; of love vanquishing everything,
     honour, family, society, life and death, but which is
     itself ennobled by its very grandeur and fidelity. For
     it bears within itself its own punishment as well as its
     justification, its religion and its world, its hell and its
     heaven, supreme sorrow and supreme consolation."

While this may be a correct view of the old legend, it is not true of
Wagner's drama. In the latter the philtre performs the office of Fate
in the ancient Greek tragedy. In the plays of Sophocles and Æschylus
mortals fulfil their manifest destinies, but Fate is the secret
agency which hurries them forward to their ends. So, in this drama of
Wagner's, Tristan and Isolde are the victims of a fatal love before
the action begins, and the philtre is only the instrument through
which all restraints are removed and the unhappy pair hurled into the
vortex of their own passion, helpless victims of cruel Destiny.

Upon the deck of the ship bound for Cornwall Isolde lies silent on
her couch. From aloft floats down the song of a sailor, crooning of
his absent Irish love. Isolde, starting up, demands to know where she
is. Before night, Brangäne tells her, the ship will reach Cornwall.
"Nevermore! To-night nor to-morrow," exclaims Isolde, a dread purpose
in her mind. And then she bursts into rage, she who has hitherto been
silent and even has refused food. Brangäne begs her to free her mind.
"Air!" cries Isolde. The curtain is thrown back, showing the stern of
the ship and Tristan at the helm. Isolde gazes at him and murmurs:

     "To me given;
     From me riven;
     Leal and trusted,
     True and trait--
     Death-devoted head!
     Death-devoted heart!"

In these lines we hear a revelation of Isolde's heart. Tristan was
hers; he is not. Both must die. She sends Brangäne to summon him to
her presence. He offers excuses. Why? Later he tells Isolde, when she
asks him why he has avoided her during the voyage, that it was not
meet that he who escorted a bride across seas should go near her. She
derides the excuse, knowing its shallowness. The man was afraid of
himself. He had once wooed this woman and now in her presence he felt
the old fascination. He dared not trust his heart.

Brangäne's persistence arouses the squire Kurvenal, who rebuffs her
by singing a popular song about Tristan's victory over Morold. Then
Isolde in her rage tells the whole story to Brangäne. She tells how
the wounded Tristan, calling himself "Tantris," came to Ireland that
she might nurse him when he was suffering from a poisoned wound.
She tells how she found the nick in his sword and fitted to it the
splinter, taken from the head of Morold, not her uncle, as in the
old poem, but her lover--making her wrong a much deeper one. She
tells how she stood ready to slay him with that sword, but he fixed
his melancholy gaze upon her. "Not on the sword, not on my arm; full
to my eyes went his look. His misery pleaded straight to my heart."
This look was her undoing, and Wagner made its musical symbol one
of the salient themes of his score. Tristan swore truth and thanks
eternal, yet no sooner had he returned to Cornwall than he suggested
the expedition to Ireland to get Isolde as a bride for King Mark, his
uncle. It is this for which Isolde craves vengeance. Tristan, having
lightly won her love, would present her as a gift to another. She
curses him in her rage, and cries, "Vengeance! Death! Death to the
two!" Brangäne vainly strives to soothe her. Staring vacantly into
space she murmurs: "Unloved by the noblest of men, must I stand near
and see him? How can I endure the anguish?" That is the future she
dare not, will not face.

What a vast difference already between the original legend and this
wonderful dramatisation of it by Richard Wagner! Brangäne says it is
foolish for Isolde to fancy that she can remain unloved. Does she
forget her mother's magic art, which has provided her with potions of
strange power? No, Isolde has not forgotten. She asks for the casket,
and when Brangäne shows her the love potion she brushes it aside and
declares that the drink of death is for her. Reader, keep this death
thought always in mind. It is the basic underthought of the entire
drama. In the first act it appears first in the mind of Isolde. She
will renounce life, for there is nothing in it for her but misery. In
the second act both she and Tristan feed upon the dream of death; and
in the third act death unites them.

At last Tristan and Isolde are face to face. She demands revenge for
Morold. Tristan offers his sword and bids her slay him. She refuses
on the ground that she cannot go before Mark as the slayer of his
favourite knight. She invites Tristan to drink atonement with her.
He understands, and is ready with her to seek oblivion. Brangäne,
bidden to bring the drink of death, hastily substitutes for it the
love potion. She will do anything rather than slay her mistress; she
condemns her to live and suffer. The words of Tristan as he stands
with the cup in hand ready to drink show that he comprehends the
situation. He has discovered that Isolde loves him; he knows that he
loves her. He prefers death to a life of renunciation or dishonour.
He drinks. She seizes the cup and shares the draught. It was not the
drink of death. It was for them the drink of hell. Hurled now by the
unrestrained passion within them into one another's arms, the man
wonders what dream of honour it was that troubled him but a moment
ago, and the woman marvels that she trembled at the thought of shame.

     _Tristan._--"Was träumte mir,
                 von Tristan's Ehre?"

     _Isolde._--"Was träumte mir
                von Isolde's Schmach?"

"What dreamed I of Tristan's honour?" "What dreamed I of Isolde's
shame?" I have purposely dwelt at length on the incidents and
dialogue of this wonderful first act, because they furnish the key to
the entire drama, and because so many persons, even professed lovers
of Wagner, misconstrue the meaning of the action. The ill-fated pair
are lovers before the drama begins, but both are labouring under a
misunderstanding. She thinks that he does not love her because he
has come to carry her home as a bride for his uncle. He thinks that
she is athirst for vengeance for the death of Morold. She desires to
die rather than face her future. He is ready to die when he divines
the true cause of her rage. Better oblivion than a life of misery.
Brangäne's unwillingness to be a party to the suicide of her mistress
is the motive for the administration of the potion, which simply
bursts the bonds of restraint and shows the two hearts to one another
free of all disguise.

The rest is simple. In the second act Isolde awaits her lover in the
garden. Brangäne warns her of Melot, but she refuses to accept the
warning. Is not Melot Tristan's friend? Put out the torch! That is
the signal. The burning woman cannot put out the flame of her own
passion, but she can and does turn down the torch. What a portentous
signal! The turning down of the spear and the torch from time
immemorial have meant that death was present. And so Wagner turns
down this torch with the awful music of the death motive. Tristan
rushes to her arms. They sing to one another in ecstatic accents and
in "wrought riddles of the night and day." The torch was the day; it
kept them asunder. Its extinction brought night, the only time when
they may be together. And so in ever-ascending polyphonic utterances
of metaphor, they arrive at last at a naked truth. For them the day
is all separation and lies. Only night eternal, the night of death,
can make them free. Isolde sings:

         "Dem Licht des Tages
         wollt' ich entfliehn,
         dorthin in die Nacht
         dich mit mir ziehn,
         wo der Täuschung ende
         mein Herz mir verhiess,
         wo des Trug's geahnter
         Wahn zerinne:
         dort dir zu trinken
         ew'ge Minne,
     mit mir--dich im Verein
     wollt' ich dem Tode weih'n."

Mr. John P. Jackson makes this read in English thus:

       "Day would I flee,
       Away to the Night
       Take me with thee
       To end the deception
       For me and for thee!
     Where end should all lies
       That our hearts could sever,
     Where together we'd drink
       Of rapture forever--
     And in love united there
     Death all-everlasting share!"

Tristan responds that he drank eagerly what he thought was the
draught of death. Isolde complains that the draught was deceitful,
for instead of sweeping them both into night, it left them in the
cold glare of day, where was only separation for them. Tristan
answers that with honour and fame both destroyed in the glare of day,
their hearts can have but one vast yearning, the yearning for night.
Then he leads her to the embowered seat, and there they sing together
that marvellous duet beginning:

     "O sink' hernieder
     Nacht der Liebe,
     gieb Vergessen
     dass ich lebe."

"O sink around us, night of love; grant forgetfulness that I live."
From the tower floats down the warning of Brangäne. The lovers heed
it not. Wrapped in each other's arms, they prate of odious day and
love-giving night, the night of eternity. Then comes the awakening.
Mark, led by Melot, surprises them. Tristan murmurs: "Der öde Tag
zum letzten Mal" ("The hated day for the last time"). A moment
later he raves at Mark and his courtiers as "Daylight's phantoms,
morning's dreams." When the King has finished his long and pathetic
address, Tristan turns to Isolde and asks her whether she is willing
to follow him to the land where the sun never shines, the wondrous
abode of night. Well she knows his meaning, and as he hesitated not
on the ship, so she hesitates not now. Melot's sword is ready, and
Tristan hurls himself upon it. The wound becomes a consecration,
a deed of expiation and release. It takes the solemnity of the
loftiest tragedy, leaving, a comet-flight below its elevation, the
melodramatic wound of the legend whence Wagner drew his materials.

This is the wound that will not heal without the aid of Isolde's
art. There is no jarring note in the Wagnerian version, no libertine
Tristan aiding another in a rude liaison, no Isolde of the White
Hand. There is only the one master passion. There is only one
tragedy. In the third act we find the wounded, wasting, visionary
man lying under a linden tree in the courtyard of his own castle at
Kareol in Brittany, whither the faithful Kurvenal has borne him. A
shepherd draws a melancholy wail from his pipe, and, in answer to
Kurvenal's anxious question sighs, "Lone and bare is the sea." For
these two are watching for the ship which shall bear the healer,
Isolde, to the side of the stricken man. Kurvenal whispers words
of encouragement to his lord, but Tristan shakes his head. He has
awakened once more to the glare of sunlit noon, and once more the old
fantasies of day and night rush through his brain.

When will the blazing of the torch cease to keep him sundered from
Isolde? When shall it be night for these two? Kurvenal reveals that
he has sent a ship to bring Isolde. The thought is new strength to
Tristan. He bursts into a delirium of joy. He sees the ship, the
flag waving at the mast. "Kurvenal, siehst du es nicht?" ("Kurvenal,
seest thou it not?") Kurvenal sees no sail upon the sea. Again the
weary man sinks back upon his rude couch. He relives the story of his
love. He raves again as he curses the magic draught, which was not
the drink of death. He faints, and for the moment Kurvenal thinks
him dead. But no, he revives. He asks again if the ship is in
sight. Kurvenal says to-day it must surely come. "And on it Isolde!"
cries Tristan. Once more the waning spirit mounts a mighty billow of
emotion. "Isolde, how holy and fair art thou! Kurvenal, man, art thou
blind? Dost thou not see what I see? The ship! The ship! Isolde's
ship! Seest thou it not?"

A new tune peals from the shepherd's pipe. The ship is sighted! The
flag of good tidings streams from the mast, the flag which means that
Isolde is on board. Fly thou, Kurvenal, to the strand to help her.
To-day shall the lovers be united. Frenzy for the last time seizes
Tristan. Once, wounded and bleeding, well-nigh slain by Morold,
Isolde found him and nursed him back to life. Again shall she find
him so. Off, then, foolish bandages. Let the red blood flow merrily.
Isolde comes! He hears her calling. What is this? "Do I hear the
light? The torch! The signal! It is extinguished! To her! To her!"

And so the hero sinks dying in her arms, and for him at last the
longed-for night of total oblivion has come. Isolde prostrates
herself upon his body. A second ship is sighted, bearing Mark.
Kurvenal, misunderstanding the purpose of the King, resists the
entrance of his guard and is slain, after himself giving a fatal
wound to the false Melot. Mark has learned the secret of the potion.
He recognises the truth that the unhappy pair have been the victims
of Fate, and he has come to unite them. Alas, too late! The mightiest
of monarchs, Death, has come before him. Isolde, her soul spreading
its wings for flight, sings out her apostrophe to her dead hero, a
marvellous pæan of praise, the echo of the duet of love, and sinks
lifeless on his insensate form. Night and eternal oblivion have come
for both. The tragedy is over.

That is the marvellous poem which Wagner made of the old story of
Godfrey, a poem in itself worthy, despite its rugged diction, to
stand beside the best dramatic literature of Germany, and never once
to be thought of as an opera libretto. I have briefly noted some of
the points at which Wagner has separated himself from the sources of
his story. The manner in which he has in all his poems utilised the
original suggestions stamps him as a dramatist of the highest rank,
a poet of lofty gifts. In none is this more beautifully demonstrated
than in "Tristan und Isolde." It is true that in some of the later
versions of the old poem, when possibly the early faith in love
philtres was fading, the idea exists that Tristan and Isolde loved
one another from their first meeting; but, as Miss Weston properly
notes, "there is little doubt that the Minstrel held the fatal
passion of the two lovers to be due to the Minnetranc alone." The
frequent appearance of magic drinks in old legends is familiar to all
students of folk-tales and sagas. Wagner himself gives us another
instance of it in the drinks administered to Siegfried by Hagen, an
idea which he obtained from the old tales. In his "Studies in the
Wagnerian Drama" (which I have been forced to parallel in rehearsing
some parts of the story of "Tristan und Isolde") H.E. Krehbiel calls
attention to the fact that the existence of the love before the
incident of the potion provides that element of guilt which all the
ancient dramatists required in order that too much sympathy might not
be excited by the sufferings of the hero or heroine. On the whole,
then, Wagner's treatment of this much-discussed drink is perfectly
clear. There is no excuse for misunderstanding it. And it raises the
tragic element of the drama far beyond the level of the early poems.

Another element of the classic tragedy preserved in this work is that
of the inevitable doom of the unhappy pair. They are victims of Fate
from the outset, and Wagner has kept the prophecy of death constantly
before our minds by making it appear to the lovers themselves as
the only avenue of escape from their misfortunes. Furthermore, this
forethought of death develops in the second act into a conviction
and a passionate desire. The exclamations "Let me die" ("Lass' mich
sterben") of the lovers are not mere bursts of sensual rhapsodising,
but are expressions of their souls' yearning for the plunge into
oblivion at the moment of perfect ecstasy. For both dread the turning
of the light of day upon them; both foresee a future of separation
and misery.

The pessimism of this second act is the feature of Wagner's drama
which has aroused the largest amount of discussion. Its peculiarly
illogical deduction from a turbulent, passionate, soul-consuming
love like that of Tristan and Isolde has frequently called forth
unfavourable comment. Yet we are bound to admit that in his treatment
of this element of his work the master has been dramatically
ingenious. In summarising the story I have indicated his poetic
treatment of the cessation of the desire for life and the yearning
for death. That he has made it poetic is not to be denied, but it is
not consistent. If the lovers had sworn renunciation and had suffered
from the enforcement of their vow, there would have been consistency
in their desire to die. But in the midst of unbridled indulgence in
their passion they would have wished to live, unless there had been
surfeit and the subsequent moral reaction. But of this we have no
hint. The yearning for death, however, is an outcome of Wagner's
absorption of the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. This writer was
a subjective realist and regarded extant phenomena as the products
of the will--that is, the world exists because man wishes to think
so. The highest ethical destiny of man is the nullification of the
will by the practice of an asceticism which shall remove from him all
desire for the objects of sense. These, then, being but creations
of the will, shall disappear, and the will, the only reality, shall
quietly renounce itself and vanish into the infinite. The doctrine is
closely allied to that of the Buddhist Nirvana. Wagner's endeavour
to reconcile it with the dramatic ideas of "Tristan und Isolde" was
not successful. Asceticism and adultery are not companions. But from
the Schopenhauerian pessimism he drew the long-continued harping
upon night and death, which is considerably more poetical than the
thoughts of the philosopher. In the second act the music of the duet
breathes all the pulsing and the languors of consuming passion, and
the score effectually masks the dramatic ineffectiveness of the

Otherwise the second act is a wonderful conception. In no other part
of Wagner's writings is his perfect command of his own union of
the arts tributary to the drama more beautifully demonstrated. The
picture, the action, the music, combine to create a poetic effect
upon the mind of the auditor. The dramatic instincts of Wagner led
him to centralise in one meeting of the lovers all the long-drawn
passion of the old legend. In the drama we have but one meeting,
which brings about the catastrophe. And whatever we may think of
the undramatic character of the Schopenhauerian pessimism, which,
as I have written elsewhere, is dragged into the story by the neck,
it affords ground for a poetic dialogue rich in mysticism and not
shocking in suggestion of mere fleshly desire. The dwarf Melot of the
legend becomes the faithless friend of Tristan in the drama. He is
merely a sketch, for his one action is but a piece of mechanism in
the movement of the story.

The substitution of a long harangue for a swift blow of the sword has
caused the proverbial finger of scorn to be pointed at King Mark,
who comes upon the stage in this act to discover his bride in the
arms of his knight. But he is certainly a vast improvement on the
Mark of the legend, who was constantly hesitating, who even saw the
guilty pair asleep in the forest, but refused to believe because the
naked sword lay between them. This Mark at least does not suspect
and confide in turns, send them away and then take them back. The
long speech explains certain points which are the best defence of
Mark's "sermonising," as it is often called. It tells us that he wed
a second time only because his court and his people demanded it, and
because Tristan himself declared that he would leave Cornwall unless
the King yielded. The fact that it was a political marriage, and that
the King was old and weary and not prone to emotional flashes, may
serve to explain why he talks instead of slaying Tristan on the spot.
At any rate Wagner's conception of the voluntary release of the
embrace of life by the guilty lovers is carried out, for when Mark
does not cut him down, Tristan throws himself upon Melot's sword.

Miss Weston, who makes much of the authority of the old legends and
of resemblances in the folk-lore or mythology of antiquity, regrets
that the death of Tristan in the third act is less touching than in
the legend, where, deceived by Isolde of the White Hand and believing
himself forsaken by his own Isolde, he silently turns his face to
the wall and breathes out his life with the name of the loved one on
his lips. And she furthermore repeats the criticism of Gaston Paris
that the final speech of Isolde contains more philosophy than poetry,
a weak criticism as one reading of the text will show. Mr. Krehbiel
more aptly notes that the elimination of the second Isolde removes
from the character of Tristan a stain which was placed upon it by his
loveless second marriage, and saves us the shock of seeing the wife
and the mistress in contest about his dying couch. Furthermore, the
musical treatment of the act is to my mind the most convincing piece
of dramatic writing in the literature of the lyric stage. I say this
without forgetting the wonders of the first and second acts. There
are certain similarities in the musical plans of the three acts. Each
begins with a passage intended to create an atmosphere: the first,
with the sailor's song floating down from aloft; the second, with the
music of the hunt dying away under the black arches of the forest;
and the third with the shepherd's pipe wailing the heart-wrecking
song of the empty sea. Nothing in the lyric drama excels the potency
of the combined scene, action, text, and music at the opening of the
second act except the astonishing effect of the preliminary measures
of the third.

And then follows a succession of those emotional waves, mounting in
foaming crests of tone and sinking in throbbing refluxes, which no
other composer ever wrote as Wagner did. Tristan's fevered mind,
yearning for the ship, waxes and wanes in crescendi and diminuendi
of passion till the suffering and sympathising spectator fancies
that his nature will endure no more. And then at the apex of one of
the awful upward flights of delirium comes that tremendous climax
made by the changing of the melody of the shepherd's pipe. The ship
is sighted. Now comes a period of vehement action, ending with the
frenzied man's tearing off the bandage, and sinking into Isolde's
arms to breathe out his life. Another burst of action follows this
crisis, and then the stillness of death itself prevails while the
musical finale of the work, the wonderful "Liebestod," falls upon the
audience "like the sound of a great Amen." There is nothing in the
old legend to suggest the astounding effects which Wagner has heaped
up in this last act. It is all the inspiration of a master genius
working without trammels in a field created by its own powers.

III.--The Musical Exposition

Let us turn now to a brief examination of the musical structure of
"Tristan und Isolde." It is not practicable to make this examination
exhaustive, nor would it be profitable. For those who desire to
detect each motive of the score as it passes them in the general
panorama of tone there are many handbooks. The present writer does
not believe that the dramatic influence of Wagner's music upon the
auditor is dependent on the latter's full acquaintance with the
terminology of the significant themes. That a certain intellectual
pleasure is added to the hearing of one of these dramas by a
recognition of the identity of the motives is not to be denied, and
that their dramatic purport should always be clear to the hearer's
mind is beyond dispute; but it should never be the purpose of an
auditor to concentrate his attention on the themes. Learn their
meaning from the text. Then let them alone, and they will do their

In "Tristan und Isolde" we come upon the Wagnerian system worked out
to its end. Indeed, the composer went even further. In a letter to
Francis Villot in Paris in 1860, afterward published under the title
of "Music of the Future," the poet-composer said of "Tristan und

     "Upon that work I consent to your making the severest
     claims deducible from my theoretic premises; not because
     I formed it on my system, for every theory was clean
     forgotten by me; but since here I moved with fullest
     freedom and the most utter disregard of every theoretic
     scruple, to such an extent that during the working out I
     myself was aware how far I had outstripped my system."

The composer sought in this drama to free himself from all the
restrictions of historical detail, and to centralise the music upon
the expression of the emotions of his personage, to make the play of
emotions, and not the succession of incidents, the real material of
the drama. This had always been his ideal of the lyric drama, but he
had not been certain of its practicability. In the letter just quoted
he says on this point:

     "All doubt at last was taken from me when I gave myself
     up to the 'Tristan.' Here, in perfect trustfulness, I
     plunged into the inner depths of soul events, and from
     out this inmost centre of the world I fearlessly built
     up its outer form. A glance at the volumen of this poem
     will show you at once that the exhaustive detail work,
     which a historical poet is obliged to devote to clearing
     up the outward bearings of his plot, to the detriment of
     a lucid exposition of its inner motives, I now trusted
     myself to apply to these latter alone. Life and death, the
     whole import and existence of the outer world, here hang
     on nothing but the inner movements of the soul. The whole
     affecting action comes about for reason only that the
     inmost soul demands it and steps to light with the very
     shape foretokened in the inner shrine."

In beginning the work, he wrote the text without any thought of
operatic style. The reader will note that it is written in a freely
formed rhymed verse, the rhythms being few, but elastic, and of such
a nature that the poetry suggests the form of the melody without
hampering the composer. This result could have been achieved only
by the procreation of both verse and music by one mind. The organic
union of text and tone was conceived in Wagner's brain before pen
touched paper. In reference to this he says in the "Music of the

     "Whereas the verses were there [in the Italian opera]
     intended to be stretched to the length demanded by that
     melody through countless repetitions of words and phrases,
     in the musical setting of 'Tristan' not a trace of word
     repetition is any longer found, but the weft of words and
     verses foreordains the whole dimensions of the melody,
     _i.e._, the structure of that melody is already erected by
     the poet."

At a first glance this seems to be a contradiction of Wagner's theory
that the poem should not impose its form on the music. But we must
bear in mind that this poetry was prepared with the avoidance of
text domination in the poet's mind. Wagner wrote to Villot that he
found that his melody and its form were wholly freed from the old
shackles. He composed with the utmost liberty.

Before noting a few of the most significant phrases of this score,
which is a shimmering web of leading motives, let us take a glance
at the general plan. Here is a work constructed upon a model
diametrically opposed to the familiar one of Meyerbeer, the one
regnant in Europe at the date of "Tristan und Isolde's" production.
Meyerbeer built entirely for the succession of incidents, musical and
pictorial. The dramatic idea had to conform itself to this scheme.
Wagner built wholly on the ground of the thought and feelings of his
personages, and the action and the music had to place themselves as
explicators wholly at the service of these inner governors. Yet we
shall find that each act of the drama has a clear and symmetrical
musical shape, and that although this form is prescribed by the
emotional movement, it is none the less grounded upon the fundamental
laws of musical form.

Each of the three acts begins with a musical mood picture, in which
the elements of external description and inner feeling are skilfully
combined. The first act opens with the quaint, peaceful song of
the sailor, which suggests a calm sea and a pleasant voyage. The
second begins with the hunting music dying away in the forest, music
which establishes a nature mood, a mood of moonlight and rustling
leaves. The third is ushered in with the music of the empty sea,
a descriptive lament whose profound melancholy is not equalled in
any other score. Starting from each of these pictures, Wagner
develops an act. The sailor's song in Act I. is followed by a sudden
interruption of the peaceful mood. Isolde's passion begins to play.
It bursts into tumult. The curtain is thrown back, and to accompany
the motionless picture of Tristan at the helm, the sailor's song is
repeated. Again the music gradually rises in emotional force, till
another climax is reached, when Kurvenal trolls his ditty and the
insulted Isolde has the curtain closed. Another point of repose, and
again with Isolde's passion the music rises, but sinks to languorous
yearning as she tells of the glance that won her soul. The wave
mounts again as she curses Tristan and cries for vengeance. The
music sinks into impressive depths as Isolde proclaims her purpose
to administer the drink of death, and here Wagner relieves the
strain and makes a sharp contrast by introducing the cries of the
seamen outside. Then follow Kurvenal's boisterous entrance, and at
length the entrance of Tristan, which is heralded by an orchestral
passage voicing the heroism and the fate of the hero, a passage of
extraordinary power. The scene between Tristan and Isolde begins
reposefully and rises to a climax of passion at the taking of the
drink. Then comes a moment of expectancy, followed by an upheaval,
and then each utters the other's name in a phrase of deepest
yearning. The sailor's music again affords the necessary relief, and
the act comes to an end in a turmoil of tone.

The musical scheme of the second act is simpler because the emotions
are less complex. After the opening mood picture, Isolde has a brief
scene of contest with Brangäne, and at the extinction of the torch
the musical wave, which has been growing, curls and breaks. The next
one starts with Isolde's waving her scarf. Now we have a rapid,
agitated movement, depicting the wild haste of Tristan, the eagerness
of Isolde. The lover enters and this movement becomes tumultuous.
When its climax is reached the necessary point of repose is made as
Tristan leads Isolde to the seat. We have had an allegro agitato;
now follows an adagio appassionata, the love duet. Its long-drawn,
melting measures are broken once by the watch-cry of Brangäne--so
composed that it does not interrupt, but intensifies the mood--and at
last the rude interruption of Kurvenal. The contrast here is short
and sharp. The dramatic situation is enough. Then follows another
slow movement,--the coda of the adagio,--Mark's speech, Tristan's
answer, his appeal to Isolde, her answer. With the few crashing
measures of Melot and of Tristan's self-impalement, the musical
scheme is completed. Its form is perfect; its organic union with the
mood scheme of the act complete.

The musical plan of the third act has again more detail, because
the story is more incidental. With the melancholy music of the
empty sea as a starting-point, Wagner develops a long adagio, whose
wave-crests are the summits of Tristan's delirious outbursts. This
adagio ends when the shepherd's pipe proclaims the sighting of the
sail. Then enters the allegro agitato of the act, the wild rhapsody
of Tristan, the tearing off of the bandages, and the death of the
hero. With Isolde's mourning over the body we get a point of repose
and contrast. The shepherd announces a second ship. Descriptive music
of rapid movement follows, till the fight is interrupted by Mark's
entrance, and the final slow movement is begun. This movement comes
to its majestic climax with the "Liebestod," and with a few bars of
finale by the orchestra the work ends, like Tschaikowsky's sixth
symphony, with its adagio lamentoso.

The drama is prefaced by a prelude, in which some of the most
significant themes of the work appear. The thought underlying the
prelude is the insatiable desire of the lovers, ever rising higher
and higher in emotional waves till it sinks exhausted in its vain
endeavour to find its own satisfaction. Several themes are combined
in the musical structure of the Vorspiel, but the most important are
those of Love and the Glance of Tristan; the glance which, Isolde
tells Brangäne, stayed her hand when she had discovered that Tristan
was the slayer of Morold and had lifted the sword to slay him.

[Music: LOVE.]

[Music: THE GLANCE.]

These two marvellously expressive themes are heard frequently
throughout the drama. The sailor's song, with which the first act
begins, contains the melody of the sea music, heard several times in
the course of the act.

[Music: THE SEA.]

This theme belongs to what Mr. Krehbiel has well described as the
music of the scene, or scenic music. It deals with the externals of
the drama, not with its emotions. The next significant motive to
appear is that of Death, which is first heard when Isolde exclaims,
"Death-devoted head! Death-devoted heart!"

[Music: DEATH.]

Closely associated with this in meaning is the Fate motive, which is
first heard in the harmonic scheme of the prelude.

[Music: FATE.]

We have now before us nearly all the significant thematic material
of the first act. Most of the other melodic features are freely
composed and do not figure in the subsequent episodes. The
repetitions of the motives quoted will explain themselves to the
most casual observer. The re-entrances of the Death and Fate motives
are unmistakable in purport, while the reappearance of the Love
and Glance themes after the drinking of the potion brings back the
opening of the prelude with its story of desire insatiable, love

The play upon the contrasting fancies of night and day, which forms
the figurative material of the lovers' dialogue in the second
act, suggests new thematic devices, and so the act opens with the
proclamation by the orchestra of the Day theme.

[Music: DAY.]

Derived from this is the beautiful motive of the Night, which appears
in Tristan's long speech dealing with the fanciful contrast of the
two. When he says, "Was dort in keuscher Nacht dunkel verschlossen
wacht?" ("What watches yonder darkly concealed in chaste Night?") the
theme sings softly in the orchestral accompaniment:

[Music: NIGHT.]

This luscious, languorous theme plays an important part throughout
the act. The hearer will note how beautifully it serves as the
introduction to the cantabile of the duo, "O sink' hernieder," and
how effectively the composer has made the day and night variations
of the one fundamental musical idea carry out the thought of the
dialogue. Another theme which appears in the introductory music of
the second act is that of the Triumph of Love:


From a development of this theme, by the simple musical device of
augmentation, Wagner constructs the climax of the duo, which becomes
again the climax of the last speech of Isolde over the dead body of


Another significant motive heard in the opening measures of the act
is the Love Call, which is afterward employed frequently in the

[Music: LOVE CALL.]

These are the principal and most significant new motives which appear
in the love music of this wonderful act. Of course, some of the
themes heard in the first act are employed here again, and nothing in
the entire score is more charged with meaning than the combination
of the motive of the Triumph of Love with the harmonies of that of
Death at the instant of Isolde's extinction of the torch. Such feats
of musical depiction the attentive listener will find on every page
of the score, yet the actual number of motives to which special
meanings have been attached is not large enough to tax the memory.
The appearance of King Mark in the action is noted by two motives,
one used to indicate his personality and the other his grief:

[Music: MARK.]

[Music: MARK'S GRIEF.]

The third act opens with music descriptive of bitter grief and
loneliness. The first phrase, that of grief, is a remarkable thematic
development of the second half of the Love motive:

[Music: GRIEF.]

The ensuing long ascending passage expresses loneliness most
eloquently. This is interrupted by a new motive, heard frequently in
this act, the motive of Anguish:

[Music: ANGUISH.]

The melody played by the shepherd's pipe has received various titles,
but it speaks its own language of melancholy. The music allotted to
Kurvenal in the opening scene of the act is similar in character to
that which he sings in Act I., and at one place is a repetition of
it. In the long speeches of Tristan we hear repeated with powerful
dramatic significance the motives of Day and Night, the Love theme,
the Death theme, the motive of Anguish, and snatches of the love duo
of Act II. The musical material of the entire act is now woven of
what has already been heard. The motives melt and flow in a stream
of marvellous melody, till at the end Isolde proclaims her hero's
greatness in the "Liebestod," which is a repetition, with some
developments, of Tristan's "So stürben wir um ungetrennt, ewig einig
ohne End'," and the motive of the Triumph of Love:


     So stürben wir um ungetrennt,
     Ewig, einig ohne End'.

     So die that we together blend,
     Living, loving, without end.]

There are other motives in this stupendous score, but, as I have
already intimated, it would be idle for the music-lover to burden his
memory with them. Many of them are thematic developments of phrases
first heard in the germinal form, and it is in the overwhelming
eloquence of these developments that the power of the score is
largely to be found. With the themes already given the lover of
the true lyric drama should readily understand the purposes of the
composer. For the rest, the perfect organic union of text, tone, and
action in "Tristan und Isolde" makes it the most directly expressive
of all the later dramas. Only those who go to hear it with the
conception of an old-fashioned opera in their minds fail to receive
its message. "Tristan und Isolde" is a drama of human emotions
uttered in tones. As such it must be conceded a place among the
mightiest conceptions of the poetic brain.


Opera in Three Acts.

First performed at the Royal Court Theatre, Munich, June 21, 1868.

_Original Cast._

  Hans Sachs                              Betz.
  Veit Pogner                             Bausewein.
  Kunz Vogelgesang                        Heinrich.
  Conrad Nachtigall                       Sigl.
  Sixtus Beckmesser                       Hölzel
  Fritz Kothner                           Fischer.
  Balthazar Zorn                          Weixlstorfer.
  Ulrich Eislinger                        Hoppe.
  Augustin Moser                          Pöppl.
  Hermann Ortel                           Thoms.
  Hans Schwartz                           Graffer.
  Hans Foltz                              Hayn.
  Walther von Stolzing                    Nachbaur.
  David                                   Schlosser.
  Eva                                     Fräulein Mallinger.
  Magdalene                               Frau Diez.
  Ein Nachtwächter                        Lang.

Weimar, Mannheim, Carlsruhe, Dresden, Dessau, 1869; Berlin, Hanover,
Vienna, Leipsic, Stettin, Königsberg, 1870; Hamburg, Prague, Bremen,
1871; Riga, Copenhagen, 1872; Mayence, 1873; Cologne, Nuremberg,
Breslau, 1874; Brunswick, 1876; Strassburg, Augsburg, 1877; Gratz,
Düsseldorf, 1878; Wiesbaden, Rotterdam, Darmstadt, 1879; Schwerin,
1881; London, May 30, 1882.

First performed in America at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York,
Jan. 4, 1886.


  Hans Sachs                              Emil Fischer.
  Veit Pogner                             Joseph Staudigl.
  Kunz Vogelgesang                        Herr Dworsky.
  Conrad Nachtigall                       Emil Saenger.
  Sixtus Beckmesser                       Otto Kemlitz.
  Fritz Kothner                           Herr Lehmler.
  Balthasar Zorn                          Herr Hoppe.
  Ulrich Eislinger                        Herr Klaus.
  Augustin Moser                          Herr Langer.
  Hermann Ortel                           Herr Doerfler.
  Hans Schwartz                           Herr Eissbeck.
  Hans Foltz                              Herr Anlauf.
  Walther von Stolzing                    Albert Stritt.
  David                                   Herr Krämer.
  Eva                                     Auguste Krauss (Mrs. Seidl).
  Magdalena                               Marianne Brandt.
  Nachtwächter                            Carl Kauffmann.

Conductor, Anton Seidl.


"Tannhäuser" was finished in April, 1844, and in the summer of
that year, while at Marienbad, Wagner made the sketch of "Die
Meistersinger von Nürnberg." He designed this comic opera as
a pendant to the serious "Tannhäuser" (see Chapter VI. of the
biographical part of this work), and no doubt the historical
relations of the minnesingers, who figured in the tragedy, with the
meistersingers, who provided him with the characters for his comedy,
suggested the nature of the humorous opera and the general manner of
the treatment of the subject. The first drafts of the comedy were
made in the summer of 1844, but the poem was completed in Paris in
the winter of 1861-62. The music was begun in 1862, but, as we have
seen, was laid aside when the composer fled from his creditors, as
narrated in Chapter XI. of the biography. The work was resumed after
King Ludwig had become Wagner's protector, and the score was finished
on Oct. 21, 1867.

Something of the character of the German minnesinger we have seen in
our study of "Tannhäuser," where Wagner gives an idealised picture of
one of their courtly contests in poetry and song. These minnesingers
were the German companions and imitators of the French troubadours,
from whom they took their origin. Their epoch dates from the reign
of Conrad III., of the Hohenstauffen dynasty, who ascended the throne
in 1138. In 1148, when he undertook a crusade in company with Louis
VII. of France, the nobility of Germany were brought into habitual
acquaintance with the nobility of France, who at that time were
cultivating Provençal poetry and song in the "gay science" of the
Troubadour. The German emperors now began the pursuit of the customs
of chivalry. They and their nobles threw open their courts with a
brilliant hospitality which rivalled that of France. The splendour of
their tournaments, the glitter of their festivals, drew visitors in
throngs from far and near. With them came the poet and the singer,
and thus the German, who in the crusade had caught the infection of
the chanson of Provence, found his first rude attempts brought face
to face with the more polished productions of the visiting chanteurs
and jongleurs.

The minnelied was the outcome, and for more than a century this
form of courtly song was prized by the German people. While the
Hohenstauffen dynasty remained on the throne (1138-1272), the
literature of chivalry was patronised at court and the song of
the minstrel was heard throughout the land. These singers were
called minnesingers from the old German word "minne," which means
"love"--the topic most dear to the minstrel heart. With the death of
the first Frederick, the great Barbarossa, the star of the Swabian
dynasty set, and the sweet sounds of the Swabian lyre were soon
drowned in the turmoil of the internal disorders which beset Germany
in the period of the Great Interregnum. This was a time after the
death of the last Hohenstauffen, when various minor princes wore the
imperial title without exercising its functions or its authority.
The customs of chivalry naturally fell into disuse when there was
no central home for them, and the minnesinger became a memory. The
period of disturbance was ended with the accession to the throne
of Rudolf of Hapsburg. This monarch was engaged during much of his
reign in putting down the internal disorders, and his chief business
was the overthrow of the powerful and independent nobles. He was
furthermore largely occupied with quarrels with the Huns. The court
language was changed from West Gothic to East Gothic, which was less
national, and much of the southern culture which had characterised
the reign of the Swabian emperors inevitably disappeared. The customs
of chivalry sought shelter in the courts of minor princes, who were
unable to give prizes of sufficient value to attract the knightly
singers, engaged, as most of them were, in their final struggle for
power and privilege.

The field of poetry and song was left to competitors of lower
social standing. A versifying mania now began to pervade the lower
classes. Blacksmiths, weavers, shoemakers, doctors, and schoolmasters
sought to mend their fortunes by making verses. Poetry became dull,
mechanical, pedantic; poets, conceited, shallow, and arrogant. The
spirit of the age, filled with the instinct of preservation through
co-operation against attack from without, led these people to
form themselves into corporations, and Charles IV. (1346-78) gave
them a charter. They spoke of twelve minnesingers as their models
and masters,[37] and themselves they called mastersingers. They
held periodical meetings to criticise each other's productions.
Correctness was their chief aim, and they seem to have had little
real conception of poetry. Every fault was marked and he who made the
fewest was awarded the prize and permitted to take apprentices in the
meistersinger's art. At the expiration of his apprenticeship a young
man was admitted to the corporation and declared a "Meistersinger."

[Footnote 37: This explains the meaning of Kothner's question to
Walther in the first act, "What master taught you the art?" To this
Walther answers with the beautiful lyric, "Am stillen Herd," in which
he declares that Walther von der Vogelweide, one of the minnesingers
(see "Tannhäuser"), was his master.]

The first mastersinger of whom we know anything was Heinrich von
Meissen, called "Frauenlob" because of his fondness for singing the
praise of woman. He founded a guild of meistersingers at Mainz in
1311, and by the end of the fourteenth century most towns in Germany
had similar bodies. The school reached its highest development
in Nuremberg in the time of Hans Sachs (1494-1575). Sachs is an
historical character, and there is abundant opportunity for the study
of his style, as 6048 of his works are extant.[38] It was his period
which Wagner selected for treatment in his comedy.

[Footnote 38: Many of these works are now regarded as spurious, but
the majority of them are undoubtedly from the pen of the famous

The order of meistersingers, however, continued to practise its
calling long after this time. At Ulm the institution survived even
the changes which the French Revolution effected in Europe. As late
as 1830 twelve old mastersingers, after being driven from one refuge
to another, sang their ancient melodies from memory in a little
inn where the working men used to meet to drink their beer in the
evenings. In 1839 only four of the singers survived; and in that
year these remnants assembled with great solemnity and, declaring the
society of mastersingers disbanded forever, presented their songs,
hymn books, and pictures to a musical institution of Ulm. It is said
that the last of the four died in 1876.

The meisterlied--mastersong--created by these singers was a lineal
descendant of the minnelied, the song of the minnesinger. The
latter was constructed in strophes, and each strophe consisted of
three parts. The first and second parts were alike in metre and
melody, and were called "Stollen." The third part was in a different
metre and had its own melody, and it was called the "Abgesang,"
or aftersong. The minnesingers used three forms: the Lied (song),
the Lerch (lay), and the Spruch (proverb). The lay was composed of
differently constructed strophes, each with its own melody. The song
was in several strophes, all built and set alike. The proverb was in
a single strophe. The lied form was that adapted for their use by
the meistersingers. Their songs consisted of three "Bars" (staves).
Each staff was divided into three "Gesätze" (stanzas). The Gesatz was
constructed in three sections, the first two being alike in metre and
melody and called "Stollen." The third section differed in metre and
had its own melody and was called the "Abgesang," or "aftersong."
Thus we see that the "Bar" of the meisterlied corresponded to the
strophe of the minnelied. The subjects treated in their songs were
usually religious, though secular topics were not excluded. Sometimes
didactic or epigrammatic themes were chosen. The tunes were all
fixed, and the meistersinger's art was purely poetic. The tunes were
called tones and had curious names, such as the blue tone, the red
tone, the ape tone, the lily tone. In writing his comedy, Wagner,
aiming, as he did, to reproduce in a lifelike manner the customs of
the time, adhered to the rules of the meistersingers in the matter
of song, and, in selecting a theme to designate the guild, used the
melody of the "long tone" of Heinrich Müglin, a meistersinger of the
early period. For the construction of the song he lays down the law
in the address of Kothner to Walther, when the former reads the rules
from the "Leges Tabulaturæ." These laws prescribe the form which we
recognise as substantially that of the lied of the minnesinger.

Wagner drew his information as to the manners and customs of the
meistersingers from the principal source of all our knowledge of
them. This is a book entitled "De Sacri Rom. Imperii Libera Civitate
Noribergensi Commentatio," written by Johann Christoph Wagenseil,
Professor of Oriental Languages at the University of Altdorf, and
published in 1697. Not only did the poet-composer find his facts
there, but he took from the volume also the names of his characters,
for Veit Pogner, Fritz Kothner, Conrad Nachtigall, Balthasar Zorn,
Sixtus Beckmesser, and the rest of Wagner's meistersingers all walked
the earth in their day and sang their artificial ditties in imitation
of their masters, the minnesingers. Beckmesser, who appears as the
"low comedian" of Wagner's work, seems to have been a worthy, though
prosaic, person in his time. He was certainly not a butt of derision,
such as Wagner's character becomes through his own stupidity and

The story of "Die Meistersinger" is, of course, Wagner's own. His
representation of the characters of the masters is his own. The real
Hans Sachs is, perhaps, not so well known as the real Wolfram von
Eschenbach, but it is probable that he was only a little better than
his fellow meistersingers. His works were more popular, and he was
doubtless a man of superior ability. But it is not likely that he
excelled the rest in refinement and artistic insight quite as much
as he appears to do in Wagner's comedy. The story tells us that
young Walther von Stolzing, a Franconian knight, has fallen in love,
almost at first sight, with Eva, the daughter of Veit Pogner, the
most substantial member of the guild, a man of some means. Pogner
has decided that his daughter shall wed a meistersinger, and that
she shall be the prize of the winner in the forthcoming contest of
song. Her own choice is to operate only in so far as to permit her
the liberty of rejecting the winner if she does not like him. But she
must, in the end, marry someone chosen by a contest and approved by
all the masters. Sachs endeavours to have the voice of the general
public added to that of the guild, but Pogner is unwilling to
introduce too many novelties into his experiment.

Walther meets Eva at the morning service of St. Catherine's Church,
in which the principal meetings of the masters were held. She
tells him that she must choose a master, and also that if he be
not a master, she will have no other. David, an apprentice to Hans
Sachs, arrives with other apprentices to prepare the church for an
examination in song, and explains very vaguely to the young knight
what he must do to become a master. Pogner and the other masters
assemble, and Pogner, declaring that the desire of a knight to become
a singer brings back the old times, explains the presence of Walther.
He presently announces to the masters for the first time his plan in
regard to his daughter's choice, a plan which gravely disconcerts
Beckmesser, an aspirant for her hand. Walther is now introduced as
a candidate for the degree of master. Kothner instructs him in the
rules and appoints Beckmesser marker. The marker was a critic whose
business it was to note every offence against the rules. Beckmesser
conceals himself in the marker's booth, and Walther, having announced
love as his theme, sings his song, which is entirely incorrect
according to the laws of the guild, but in which Hans Sachs at once
discovers the force of a new genius. In spite of his appeals the
youth is declared, according to the formula, "outsung," and the
meeting dissolves in confusion, Walther vainly endeavouring to make
himself heard, Sachs pleading for him, the other masters objecting,
Beckmesser scolding and pointing out more faults, and Pogner deeply
troubled lest his daughter's already engaged affections make it
impossible for him to carry out his plan.

The second act shows us the street, on one side of which is the
house of Pogner and on the other that of Hans Sachs. Pogner brings
his daughter home, still troubled in his mind and striving to fathom
hers. When he has gone into the house, Magdalena, Eva's companion,
tells her of Walther's failure, and she determines to ask Sachs for
advice. Presently the shoemaker seats himself at his work in the door
of his house. The balmy air of the evening, the scent of the elder
tree, turn his thoughts to the poetry which he heard at the trial.
What though it outraged the rules of the masters and even puzzled
him? Within it lay a real power. The singer sang, not to meet rules,
but because utterance was demanded by his feelings. Let the masters
rage; Hans Sachs is well pleased. This is the substance of the famous
monologue of the second act.

Eva comes from Pogner's house and in a most charming scene with Sachs
hints that as an avenue of escape from the possibility of marriage
with Beckmesser, who intends to compete for her hand, she would be
glad to become Sachs's wife. But he discourages this foolish idea.
Then she tries to learn the details of the defeat of Walther, and
Sachs, to test her feelings, pretends that he and all the other
masters were actuated by mere jealousy in voting against the youth.
Eva discloses her real feelings. Sachs leaves her, and the next
moment she is in the arms of her lover. They plan to elope. Sachs,
who has been listening and watching, throws open his window and lets
a flood of light into the street just as they are about to depart.
Then Beckmesser approaches for the purpose of serenading Eva. Sachs
now brings his bench out into the doorway, and begins to sing lustily
at his work. Eva and Walther hide, and Beckmesser inquires the reason
of Sachs's outbreak. The cobbler protests that he is trying to finish
the pair of shoes which Beckmesser had demanded of him that very day.
Magdalena, personating Eva, appears at the window, and Beckmesser
endeavours to sing his song to her. Sachs's singing and pounding
prevent him.

Then they come to an agreement. Sachs is to act as marker, and
correct each error with a blow of his hammer. He vows that the shoes
will be finished before the song is. Beckmesser sings and Sachs
strikes many blows. The shoes are finished first. Then Beckmesser
sings desperately and Sachs shouts lustily. The neighbours, aroused
by the outcry, begin to appear at their windows and presently in the
street. David, seeing Magdalena, his sweetheart, at the window, and
Beckmesser serenading her, attacks the singer with a cudgel. The
neighbours take sides, and a general mêlée ensues. Walther decides
to cut his way through the throng with Eva and escape, but Sachs
intercepts him, sends Eva into the arms of her father, and takes
Walther into his own house. At that moment the nightwatchman's horn
is heard. The crowd melts. The beaten Beckmesser limps painfully
away. The watchman passes up the empty street, startled at his own
shadow. The full moon rises over the distant roofs, and as the silent
street is flooded with its mild light, the orchestra breathes a
passage of perfect peace and beauty while the curtain falls. It is
one of Wagner's most potent dramatic and musical achievements.

The third act opens in the interior of Sachs's house. The
poet-shoemaker is in a reverie, and the prattling of his apprentice
cannot rouse him from it. When he is left alone, he breaks into the
second great monologue, "Wahn, Wahn." One must read the entire text
of this in order to understand it. At its conclusion Walther descends
from the chamber in which he has passed the night, and informs Sachs
that he has had a "wondrous lovely dream." Sachs bids him put it
into verse, and make a mastersong of it. Walther bitterly asks how
he can make a mastersong and one that's good. Sachs reproves him and
bids him observe law in his poetry. Walther begins the song which
he afterward sings for the prize. At the end of the first stanza
Sachs stops him and instructs him as to the nature of a "Stollen."
After the second "Stollen" he requires the young knight to make the
"Abgesang." Giving him several hints as to the construction of his
lay, Sachs writes it down, deeply moved by its beauty.

When Sachs and Walther have left the room, Beckmesser enters, and,
finding the newly written song, thinks it is by Sachs and that the
shoemaker means to enter the contest. When Sachs returns Beckmesser
charges him with this intention, and to his surprise Sachs gives him
the song, vowing that under no circumstances will he claim it as his
own. Beckmesser departs, almost beside himself with joy. Eva arrives
and declares that one of her shoes hurts. Sachs smiles incredulously,
but pretends to adjust the shoe. Walther, richly clad, appears and
stands spellbound at the sight of Eva. Sachs hints that now the
third stanza of the song might be produced, and Walther sings it.
Eva, deeply moved, throws herself into Sachs's arms, saying that
she has reached a new understanding of him and herself. David and
Magdalena enter, and Sachs announces that a mastersong has been made.
He promotes David from apprentice to journeyman that he may hear the
song, which an apprentice could not honour, and then he invites Eva
to speak. Here is introduced Wagner's one quintet in purely lyric
style, and it is conceded to be one of the loveliest conceptions of
this extraordinary work. The party starts for the field of contest,
and the scene changes to an open place on the banks of the river.

The various guilds of artisans assemble, and finally the
meistersingers enter in formal procession. Sachs, who is hailed by
the people in glad chorus, announces the terms of the contest and
Beckmesser is summoned to the singer's stand. Trembling in every limb
he makes a futile attempt to sing Walther's song, at which he looks
vainly at every opportunity. He makes a farce of it, and is laughed
to scorn by the people. In a rage he rushes away, pausing only to
declare that the song is by Sachs, and not himself. Sachs, however,
says that the song is not his and that it is a good song if correctly
sung. He calls for some one who can sing it, and Walther appears.
The masters, though they divine Sachs's plan, allow the young knight
to sing, and the entire assembly, seconded by the conquered masters,
declares that he has won the prize. Eva places the crown of laurel
on his head, and with him kneels before the well-pleased Pogner.
But when he would hang around Walther's neck the insignia of a
mastersinger the youth refuses it. Sachs again intervenes and reads
the young knight a little lecture on the importance of honouring
what is established in art. Walther yields; Eva places the laurel
on Sachs's brow, and the curtain falls as the people acclaim him in
joyful chorus.

In a letter to Dr. Franz Brendel, dated Aug. 10, 1862, Liszt quoted
a part of a letter from his daughter, Cosima, then the wife of Von
Bülow. She said:

     "These 'Meistersinger' are, to Wagner's other conceptions,
     much the same as the 'Winter's Tale' is to Shakespeare's
     other works. Its phantasy is found in gaiety and drollery,
     and it has called up the Nuremberg of the Middle Ages, with
     its guilds, its poet-artisans, its pedants, its cavaliers,
     to draw forth the most fresh laughter in the midst of
     the highest, most ideal poetry. Exclusive of its sense
     and the destination of the work, one might compare the
     artistic work of it with that of the Sacraments-Häuschen
     of St. Lawrence (at Nuremberg). Equally with the sculptor
     has the composer lighted upon the most graceful, most
     fantastic, most pure form--boldness in perfection; and as
     at the bottom of the Sacraments-Häuschen there is Adam
     Kraft, holding it up with a grave and collected air, so in
     the 'Meistersinger' there is Hans Sachs, calm, profound,
     serene, who sustains and directs the action."

This charming critical view of the work from the woman who was
afterward to be the sharer of Wagner's joys and labours is so apt
that, although this is not a book of criticism, but rather of
exposition, I give it place with pleasure. As a picture of the
pseudo-artistic life and influence of the mastersingers the work, as
genuine and great a comic opera as "Le Nozze di Figaro," is perfect.
Louis Ehlert, in one of his pregnant essays, has disclosed a belief
that Wagner was not a natural humourist, and that the fun of "Die
Meistersinger" is laboured. This is a somewhat severe judgment,
founded chiefly upon observation of the character of Beckmesser. The
unfortunate Marker is, indeed, a somewhat artificial figure, but much
depends upon his impersonator. He may be made a burlesque by very
slight overaccentuation of his peculiarities, and the temptation to
gain the applause and laughter of the unthinking is too strong for
any but a great artist. The true humour of "Die Meistersinger" lies
in its presentation of the shallow, pedantic, poetic art of the time,
the futile methods of the tribunal, the homely bourgeois life, the
quaint pageantry of the guilds, and the pretty plot by which Sachs
overthrows the vainglorious pretender to the hand of Eva, and smooths
the path of true love.

Behind this delightful comedy there lies a symbolism which should
not be overlooked. The masters represent the tyranny of formalism in
art, the dominance of that opinion which mistakes form for substance,
and attributes to the outward shape of every work the credit for
its merit. Walther von Stolzing, in his efforts as poet and singer,
is the embodiment of the free impulse, the desire for untrammelled
expression. Sachs, without the creative power of the young knight,
is the truer artist. He represents the influence of enlightened and
sympathetic intelligence. He discerns at once the innate power of
the new poesy which Walther brings into the dusty circle of masters,
but at the same time he perceives its need of discipline. It is
he, therefore, who induces the new genius to submit itself to the
sovereignty of the fundamental laws of form--a vastly different thing
from practising mere formalism.

Students of Wagner's works have often been invited to accept Walther
as a representative of Wagner himself. This is not justified by
anything in the work or in the other writings of its creator.
Nevertheless we have ground, and the support of Wagner, for the
assumption that he really designed Walther to represent the spirit
of progress in music, while the masters embodied that of pure
pedantry. Those two powers have always been at war in the world
of art and always will. Theoreticians and critics publish rules,
which they deduce from the practice of the great artists. The next
original genius who arrives has something new to say and says it in
a new way. He throws overboard some of the old formulas and invents
new ones, as Wagner did, and the theoretical and critical world
bursts into an outcry of indignation at the disturbance of settled
principles. After a time the two forces become reconciled, and the
new rules find their way into the theoretical treatises, while the
critics descant upon the additional flexibility imparted by them
to art. Wagner, in "Die Meistersinger," has shown us the spirit of
progress in its jubilant youth, scoffing at the established rules of
which it is ignorant. One of the finest lessons of the symbolism of
the comedy is that a musician, or any other artist, must master what
has already been learned of his art before he can advance beyond it.

The musical plan of "Die Meistersinger" embraces such a wealth of
detail that a complete exposition of it would consist of a full
analysis of the score. There are many leading motives, and these are
repeated or developed with all of the wonderful skill which was at
Wagner's command when he undertook this work. While impracticable
to give an exhaustive analysis of the score, it is not too much to
invite the reader to observe the general musical development of the
drama. The prelude contains several of the most important thematic
ideas, and these we may first consider. The Vorspiel begins with the
Meistersinger motive:


A few measures further on appears the Meistersingers' march:


These two themes, with their solidity, breadth, dignity, and
formality, serve admirably to present all the best musical elements
of an art which embodied the glorification of rule and the potency
of tradition. The second theme has a special interest for us because
Wagner built it on the beginning of a genuine Meistersinger tune (the
"long tone" of Heinrich Müglin). This tune begins thus:


Throughout the drama these Meistersinger themes are employed by
Wagner to typify the art represented by his masters, and, as Mr.
Krehbiel has very pertinently pointed out, their majesty and musical
beauty are satisfactory evidence that the composer did not wish us to
undervalue the artistic movement of which they are typical. Opposed
to these themes we hear in the Vorspiel others associated with the
uprising of emotion, of passion in the young lovers of the play.
These themes, irregular in rhythm, restless in general style, breathe
the leaping aspirations of the romantic personages, and thus embody
the romantic principles which are constantly urging progress in art.
The first of these is a theme designed to express Walther's artistic
emotion and its search for expression:


The second embodies the young knight's love and its longing, and thus
becomes the property also of Eva:


Two other themes must here be noted, that of the closing passage of
the prize song, and that of Spring. The latter is employed especially
to designate spring as a period of emotional blossoming rather than a
mere season. It is the springtime of Walther's life and passion and

[Music: PRIZE SONG.]

[Music: SPRING.]

To these themes must be added that of Derision, heard in the last
act, when the people are amazed at the appearance of Beckmesser as a

[Music: DERISION.]

Out of this material the prelude is built, and its character is that
of a contest of forces with a final reconciliation, which is, as we
have seen, the basis of the artistic symbolism of the comedy.

The first act begins with a chorale, in which the old-fashioned
style of writing is exhibited. As the congregation disperses, Eva
and Walther enter into eager converse, and the themes of Emotion
and Spring are heard. And here I must ask the reader to note the
wonderful use Wagner has made of this sequence of tones:


By a very simple change the first three tones are altered to those
of the Spring motive or the closing strain of the prize song. It is
by such logical musical processes that Wagner makes the development
of his dramas so artistic and so convincing, while at the same time
he fascinates the ear by the purely sensuous beauty of the varying
melodies. The Spring theme plays a most important part in the score,
and it is worthy of note that it is so pregnant with meanings that
whether played fast or very slowly it is eloquent, though with a
difference. Note, if you will, the extraordinary force with which it
sings from the orchestra when Sachs's mind, in the second act, is
ruminating on the events of the trial and cannot free itself of the
influence of Walther's song. But to proceed with the first act: After
the scene of the lovers, with the entrance of David, we begin to hear
lively, rhythmic melodies, associated with the youth and gaiety of
the apprentices. A portion of this music signifies the chastisement
afflicted upon an apprentice by a master, and appears several times
in the score to call attention to Sachs's repression of David:


When David tells Walther of the art of a mastersinger we hear the
lovely theme of the Art of Song, plainly enough a variant of the
melodic basis of the prize song:


All of the music of David's scene with Walther is light and airy, but
with the entrance of the masters we hear serious ideas again, the
first of them being the motive of the Council:


The second, a very tender and gracious theme, is that of St. John's
Day, the day of the contest for Eva's hand, and it is developed with
wonderful eloquence in the address of Pogner:

[Music: ST. JOHN'S DAY.]

When Walther appears, we hear for the first time the theme of his


This is heard frequently in the score, and when Beckmesser, acting
as Marker, shows the slate covered with notes of errors in Walther's
song, this theme is heard distorted and caricatured. In answer to
Kothner's inquiry as to who was his master, Walther sings the lyric
"Am stillen Herd," and its second phrase (marked _a_) reveals its
foundation on the Spring theme:


The subsequent trial song, as will be noted at a single hearing,
throbs throughout with the Spring theme. Note the fine contrast made
by Kothner's formal statement of the laws of the mastersong, ending
with a fine vocal exfoliation in the old style:


The act comes to an end with a general discussion among the masters,
while Walther vainly endeavours to make himself heard and the
apprentices sing a chorus of derision. As Sachs remains in the
foreground, moved by the new music which he has heard, we hear once
more its fundamental phrase, the Spring motive.

The music of the second act is simplicity itself up to the dialogue
of Pogner and Eva. The score is rich with themes already made known,
but when the father tells his daughter how she must on the morrow
make her choice before all the citizens, we hear for the first time a
peculiarly lovely motive intended to designate the old city itself:


Familiar motives, employed to make a mood-picture of great beauty,
illustrate the scene between Sachs and Eva. But here, indeed, we
must pause to note the wonderful expressiveness of the monologue of
Sachs, preceding his scene with Eva. The orchestral part throbs with
the Spring motive, which finally swells into a broad and beautiful
cantilena. The lyric of the first act is quoted by the orchestra
also, and at length Sachs concludes with a bit of new melody of his
own. He, too, is filled with the spirit of the new music:



     The bird who sang to-day,
     has got a throat that rightly waxes;
     Masters may feel dismay,
     but well content with him Hans Sachs is!]

A prominent part is played in the ensuing scene by the tender Eva

[Music: EVA.]

Walther's entrance brings back the Knight theme, and others which
have been heard before. The music of the summer night, heard when the
watchman is approaching, is very beautiful, and its return at the
close of the act, punctuated by phrases of Beckmesser's serenade,
is still more lovely. A fine contrast is that between Sachs's
uproarious song, which is thoroughly good in the old style, and that
of Beckmesser, which is bad. The development of the turmoil in the
street is worked out with immense contrapuntal skill, and we hear
in the midst of it a new theme, that of the Beating, made skilfully
out of the fourths used in the lute accompaniment to the Marker's


The gradual building up of the turmoil at the end of the act, when
the excited people pour into the streets and the general fighting
begins, is wonderfully worked out in the score, in which the Beating
motive plays a prominent and humorously expressive part. In the midst
of the rumpus, the horn of the returning watchman is heard, its
discord making a fine musical effect. After the crowd has dispersed
and the watchman has repeated his droning formula, the music of the
summer night, as I have already mentioned, steals back in an ethereal
whisper, and the act comes to a close with one of those beautiful
points of repose which Wagner knew so well how to make after a
movement of extreme agitation.

The third act is preceded by an introduction of wonderful beauty and
expressiveness. With the chorale of the last scene, the shoemaker
song sung by Sachs in the second act, and the "Wahn" motive, the
composer paints for us the very soul of the poet-cobbler. The "Wahn"
motive is that on which is founded the great monologue of this act,
beginning with the words "Wahn, Wahn, überall Wahn"--"Madness,
madness, everywhere madness."

[Music: "WAHN, WAHN."]

The whole scene between Sachs and Walther is surcharged with melody
of the most luscious kind, and we hear the beginning of Walther's
mastersong, the song which finally wins for him the prize:


The music accompanying the entrance of the sore and limping
Beckmesser is filled with exquisite humour, and perhaps in it all
there is nothing more subtle than the use of the "Wahn" motive when
the Marker, after his agitated rush about the room, sits on the bench
and vainly strives to think of a new song.

The music of the scene following Eva's entrance is built on familiar
motives, whose significance here is easily traced, and the quintette,
as will be noted at the first hearing, is made from the prize song.
The recitation of Sachs preceding the quintette is one of the most
beautiful passages in the opera, but it is unnecessary to think
of it as built of motives. The last scene opens with much freely
composed music, the entrance of the guilds and the dance. With the
advent of the masters we return to the dignified music associated
with them. The rest of the scene is simple. The people sing the
beautiful chorale, "Wach' auf," Beckmesser makes his foolish attempt
to sing Walther's words to the tune of his own serenade, and then
Walther sings the song as it ought to be sung, slightly altering the
"Abgesang" in his fresh inspiration.

The principal characteristic of the music of "Die Meistersinger" is
its lyric quality. There are no tragic passions to be depicted, no
evil thoughts to be expressed. Beckmesser alone has malice, and
that is of a petty, foolish sort, best treated, as it is in this
exquisite work, with ridicule. The other personages are all lovable;
the motives all kindly. The underlying elements which are in contest,
the opposing principles, whose workings make the ethical basis of
the drama, are artistic, the old against the new, the formal against
the free. The expression of each must of necessity be lyric, the one
in well-regulated rhythms, the other in rushing bursts of apparently
spontaneous melody. But the total result is one great spring ode,
throbbing with the very heart-beats of young poesy and song, and sure
at all times and in all places to captivate those who have ears to
hear and souls to understand.


A Stage Festival Play


Three Days and One Preliminary Evening.

First performed in its entirety at Bayreuth, August, 1876; Munich,
1878; Vienna, Leipsic, 1879; Hamburg, 1880; Berlin, 1881; London,
Königsberg, Hanover, Danzig, Breslau, Bremen, Barmen, 1882; New York,
Metropolitan Opera House, March 4, 5, 8 and 11, 1889.


Prologue to "Der Ring des Nibelungen."

First performed at the Royal Court Theatre, Munich, September 22,

_Original Cast._

  Wotan                                   Kindermann.
  Donner                                  Heinrich.
  Froh                                    Nachbaur.
  Loge                                    Vogl.
  Alberich                                Fischer.
  Mime                                    Schlosser.
  Fasolt                                  Polzer.
  Fafner                                  Bausewein.
  Fricka                                  Fräulein Stehle.
  Freia                                   Fräulein Müller.
  Erda                                    Fräulein Seehofer.
  Wellgunde                               Frau Vogel.
  Flosshilde                              Fräulein Ritter.

This performance was against the wish of Wagner. The first authorised
performance was that at the Festspielhaus, Bayreuth, August 13, 1876,
when the cast was as follows:

  Wotan                                   Franz Betz.
  Donner                                  Eugen Gura.
  Froh                                    Georg Unger.
  Loge                                    Heinrich Vogel.
  Alberich                                Carl Hill.
  Mime                                    Carl Schlosser.
  Fasolt                                  Albert Eilers.
  Fafner                                  Franz von Reichenberg.
  Fricka                                  Friedericke Grün.
  Freia                                   Marie Haupt.
  Erda                                    Luise Jäide.
  Woglinde                                Lilli Lehmann.
  Wellgunde                               Marie Lehmann.
  Flosshilde                              Marie Lammert.

Weimar, Vienna, Leipsic, Hamburg, Brunswick, 1878; Mannheim, Cologne,
1879; Frankfort, London, 1882.

First performed in America at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York,
Jan. 4, 1889.


  Wotan                                   Emil Fischer.
  Donner                                  Alois Grienauer.
  Froh                                    Albert Mittelhauser.
  Loge                                    Max Alvary.
  Alberich                                Joseph Beck.
  Mime                                    Wilhelm Sedlmayer.
  Fasolt                                  Ludwig Mödlinger.
  Fafner                                  Eugen Weiss.
  Fricka                                  Fanny Moran-Olden.
  Freia                                   Katti Bettaque.
  Erda                                    Hedwig Reil.
  Woglinde                                Sophie Traubmann.
  Wellgunde                               Felice Koschoska.
  Flosshilde                              Hedwig Reil.

Conductor, Anton Seidl.


Music Drama in Three Acts.

First evening of the trilogy, "Der Ring des Nibelungen."

First performed at the Royal Court Theatre in Munich, contrary to the
author's wish, on Aug. 26, 1870.

_Original Cast._

  Siegmund                                Vogl.
  Hunding                                 Bausewein.
  Wotan                                   Kindermann.
  Sieglinde                               Frau Vogl.
  Brünnhilde                              Fräulein Stehle.
  Fricka                                  Fräulein Kaufmann.

First authorised performance in the Festspielhaus at Bayreuth, Aug.
14, 1876.

_Original Bayreuth Cast._

  Siegmund                                Albert Niemann.
  Hunding                                 Joseph Niering.
  Wotan                                   Franz Betz.
  Sieglinde                               Josephine Scheffsky.
  Fricka                                  Friedericke Grün.
  Brünnhilde                              Amalia Friedrich-Materna.
  Gerhilde                                Marie Haupt.
  Ortlinde                                Marie Lehmann.
  Waltraute                               Luise Jäide.
  Schwertleite                            Johanna Jachmann-Wagner.
  Helmwige                                Lilli Lehmann.
  Siegrune                                Antoinie Amann.
  Grimgerde                               Hedwig Reicher-Kindermann.
  Rossweisse                              Minna Lammert.

Vienna, New York, 1877; Rotterdam, Leipsic, Hamburg, Schwerin, 1878;
Weimar, Mannheim, Cologne, Brunswick, 1879; Königsberg, Frankfort,

First performed in America at the Academy of Music, New York, April
2, 1877.


  Siegmund                                Mr. Bischoff.
  Hunding                                 Mr. Blum.
  Wotan                                   Mr. Preusser.
  Sieglinde                               Mlle. Canissa.
  Fricka                                  Mme. Listner.
  Brünnhilde                              Mme. Pappenheim.

Conductor, Adolf Neuendorff.


Music Drama in Three Acts.

Second evening of the trilogy, "Der Ring des Nibelungen."

First performed at the Festspielhaus, Bayreuth, August 16, 1876.

_Original Cast._

  The Wanderer                            Franz Betz.
  Siegfried                               George Unger.
  Alberich                                Carl Hill.
  Mime                                    Carl Schlosser.
  Fafner                                  Franz von Reichenberg.
  Brünnhilde                              Amalia Friedrich-Materna.
  Erda                                    Luise Jäide.
  Forest Bird                             Lilli Lehmann.

Hamburg, Vienna, Munich, Leipsic, 1878; Schwerin, Brunswick, 1879;
Cologne, 1880.

First performed in America at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York,
Nov. 9, 1887.


  Wanderer                                Emil Fischer.
  Siegfried                               Max Alvary.
  Alberich                                Rudolph von Milde.
  Mime                                    Herr Ferency.
  Fafner                                  Johannes Elmblad.
  Brünnhilde                              Lilli Lehmann.
  Erda                                    Marianne Brandt.
  Forest Bird                             Auguste Seidl-Kraus.

Conductor, Anton Seidl.


Music Drama in Three Acts.

Third evening of the trilogy, "Der Ring des Nibelungen."

First performed at the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, August 17, 1876.

_Original Cast._

  Siegfried                               George Unger.
  Gunther                                 Eugen Gura.
  Hagen                                   Gustav Siehr.
  Alberich                                Carl Hill.
  Brünnhilde                              Amalia Friedrich-Materna.
  Gutrune                                 Mathilde Weckerlin.
  Waltraute                               Luise Jäide.
                                          { Johanna Jachmann-Wagner.
  The Three Norns                         { Josephine Scheffsky.
                                          { Friedericke Grün.

                                          { Lilli Lehmann.
  The Rheindaughters                      { Marie Lehmann.
                                          { Minna Lammer.

Munich, Leipsic, 1878; Vienna, Hamburg, Brunswick, 1879; Cologne,

First performed in America at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York,
Jan. 25, 1888.


  Siegfried                               Albert Niemann.
  Gunther                                 Adolf Robinson.
  Hagen                                   Emil Fischer.
  Alberich                                Rudolph von Milde.
  Brünnhilde                              Lilli Lehmann.
  Gutrune                                 Auguste Seidl-Kraus.
  Woglinde                                Sophie Traubmann.
  Wellgunde                               Marianne Brandt.
  Flosshilde                              Louise Meisslinger.

Conductor, Anton Seidl.

(The Waltraute and Norn scenes were omitted. They were first given at
the Metropolitan on January 24, 1899, when Mme. Schumann-Heink was
the Waltraute, and also one of the Norns. The others were Olga Pevny
and Louise Meisslinger. "Der Ring des Nibelungen" was first performed
without cuts at the Metropolitan on January 12, 17, 19, and 24,


I.--The Sources of the Poems

The gigantic tetralogy of Wagner must be studied as a single opus,
for such indeed it is. A poem in four cantos, a dramatic sequence
after the manner of the Greeks, it is the story of a single action,
a single crime and its tragic atonement. What that story is we
shall presently see. How Wagner conceived and created his new and
wonderful version of the Norse mythology, the Volsunga Saga, and the
"Nibelungen Lied," is what must first occupy our attention. Wagner's
first mention of this work is found in a letter to Liszt, written in
June, 1849, when he announces his intention of setting to music his
"latest German drama, the 'Death of Siegfried.'" This drama embodied
that part of the story now told in "Götterdämmerung," and in the
composition of it Wagner found that the necessary explanations of
the incidents leading up to the story quickly became too long and
complex. He decided that he must write a prefatory drama on the story
of the young Siegfried, and in doing this he found himself involved
again in explanatory difficulties. Thus he finally decided to make a
trilogy with a prologue. In a long letter of Nov. 20, 1851, to Liszt
he explains how the completed form of "Der Ring" came into existence.

The books of "Das Rheingold" and "Die Walküre" were finished in the
first week of November, 1852. He then set about reconstructing the
other two, already written, but now in need of extensive alterations.
The story of the completion of the poem in its new form and the
beginning of the music has already been told in the biographical
part of this work. It is necessary only to recapitulate here that
the text was finished in 1853. The music of "Rheingold" was begun
in the autumn of 1853 at Spezzia, and finished in January, 1854. He
wrote to Liszt on Jan. 14: "I went to this music with so much faith,
so much joy; and with a true fury of despair I continued, and have
at last finished it." The music of "Die Walküre" was begun in June,
1854, and finished late in the same year. The instrumentation was
commenced with the opening of the following year. Then came the visit
to London, where the score of the first act was completed in April.
The score of the first two acts was sent to Liszt on Oct. 3. Wagner
having been delayed in the work by many distractions and by mental
depression, it was not till the ensuing year that the score was
wholly written.

The music of "Siegfried" was begun in 1857, and the first act was
finished in April of that year. The second act was begun, and then
came the interruption caused by Wagner's eagerness to return to
active touch with the stage, his pressing need of money, and his
fear that he would not live to complete his gigantic undertaking.
This second act, therefore, was not completed till June 21, 1865, at
Munich, "Tristan und Isolde" having been written in the meantime. The
third act was finished early in 1869. The music of "Götterdämmerung"
was begun at Lucerne in 1870, and completed at Bayreuth in November,
1874. The point at which the work on this tetralogy was suspended
for that on "Tristan und Isolde" is designated in a letter to Liszt,
dated May 8, 1857. Wagner says: "I have led my young Siegfried to a
beautiful forest solitude, and there have left him under a linden
tree, and taken leave of him with heartfelt tears. He will be better
off there than elsewhere."

Just how Wagner came to take up the subject of Siegfried's death is
not known. A recent German writer in one of the Munich newspapers
has asserted that the suggestion came from Minna, his first wife.
This assertion is in line with the belief of many that Minna was
more sinned against than sinning, and that Wagner's complaints of
her inability to understand him were intended to divert suspicion
from the real causes of the troubles between them. It seems hardly
likely, however, that a woman of Minna's simple character would have
conceived the availability of the Siegfried legend for Wagner's
ideal music drama. The fact that Siegfried had for centuries been
the popular mythical hero of the German people and that his deeds
and personality had constituted most of the materials of one of the
great mediæval German epics, the "Nibelungen Lied," seems sufficient
to have attracted the attention of the master to the subject. He
himself says in his "Communication" that even while he was at work
on "Lohengrin" he was debating which of two subjects, "Friedrich
Barbarossa" or "Siegfried," he should take up next. He adds:

"Once again and for the last time did myth and history stand before
me with opposing claims; this while as good as forcing me to decide
whether it was a musical drama or a spoken play that I had to write."

It was with the decision to utilise only mythical subjects for his
serious dramas that he concluded to lay aside "Barbarossa" and work
upon "The Death of Siegfried." This poem in its original form is
included in the collected writings of Wagner, and is interesting as
being the first attempt of Wagner to embody the legendary tragedy
in a drama. A reading of it will show clearly why he was obliged to
write three other dramas to lead up to this one and make its meaning
comprehensible. In working out the plan as a whole he selected and
utilised with his customary skill the salient points of the Norse and
German forms of the story, and he found more suitable material in the
sagas than in the German epic. And out of the Northern mythology, so
beautifully stored in the sagas, he evolved those ethical features
which raise "Der Ring des Nibelungen" to a position beside the great
Greek tragedies of antiquity.

We must study these dramas chiefly by tracing their sources and
showing how Wagner utilised his materials. He himself wrote an
article entitled "The Nibelungen Myth as Material for a Drama,"
and in it may be found the germinal form of the entire story as it
first took cognisable existence in his mind. In its completed shape,
however, it differs from this embryonic outline in many particulars.

First, then, the age of the legends upon which these dramas are
founded is not so great as might appear from their mythological
nature, and that will explain some of their curiosities. We are
prone, when watching the actions of Wagner's gods, to think that
these stories date from the antique age of fable, but the truth is
that they came into existence in the modern age of fable, the early
centuries of the Christian era. Furthermore, although Wagner has used
chiefly the Norse forms of the materials, the great Siegfried legend
was originally the production of the German people. The Scandinavian
bards obtained some of their ideas from Germany, and thus came about
the strange mingling of Norse mythology and Teutonic fable.

When the dominion of Rome in the west of Europe was overthrown in
476 A.D., the Teutonic race occupied the country from the
banks of the Rhine and the Danube to the coasts of Norway. The
invaders who settled in the southern provinces of Europe soon lost
their distinctive speech. But in Germany and Scandinavia the old
tongues remained, and consequently poetic recitation, the custom of
long centuries, continued. Tacitus tells us that the people of these
northern lands were accustomed to store their history in rhyming
chronicles repeated by the bards. It was not till the reign of the
wise and heroic Charlemagne (742-814) that these chronicles were
collected. Nothing remains of the collection which he made, but
it can hardly be doubted that some of the materials found in the
Siegfried legend formed part of the old stories of the bards, for it
has been traced back as far as the sixth century, when its germs were
recognisable. In the first preserved form of the story of this hero's
exploits we find recorded the fabulous history of times not widely
separated from those of the conquest of Rome's western empire, for
in the sixth century appeared in tradition the names not only of
Siegfried and Dietrich von Bern, but Theodoric the Great and Attila.

This first preserved form of the legend is called the "Heldenbuch"
("Book of Heroes"). In its present shape it dates from the latter
part of the twelfth century, but there is evidence that it was in
existence long before that period. It is a collection of poems
dealing with the events of the time of Attila and the incursions of
the German nations into Rome. The principal personages who appear in
this book are: Etzel, or Attila; Dietrich, or Theodoric the Great;
Siegfried, Gudrune, Hagen, and others who reappear in the "Nibelungen
Lied." The period of the events which occur in the Wagnerian dramas
may be estimated by the formation of a succession of incidents
leading back to Attila, an historical personage with an established
date. In "The Horny Siegfried," one of the poems of the "Heldenbuch,"
we find matter which serves as a prelude to the "Nibelungen Lied."
In this poem Siegfried appears as the embodiment of manly heroism,
beauty, and virtue, as he was known to Teutonic song and story
for centuries. From having bathed in the blood of dragons he was
invulnerable except in one spot, between the shoulders, on which a
leaf had happened to fall. Having rescued the beautiful Chriemhild
from dragons (or a giant) and obtained possession of the treasures
of the dwarfs, he returns her to her father, King of Wurms, and then
marries her.

The "Nibelungen Lied" identifies Chriemhild as the sister of Gunther,
the Gutrune of Wagner's version. Chriemhild, in order to obtain
revenge for the treachery of Siegfried and Brünnhilde, which I shall
recount in the outline of the "Nibelungen Lied," after the death of
the former marries Attila. It was twenty-six years after the death
of Siegfried when she carried out her plan of revenge. How long this
was before the death of Attila is not related, but we know that he
died in 453 A.D. He is supposed to have been born about
406, which would have made him forty-seven years old at the time of
his death. It was thirteen years after her marriage to Attila when
Chriemhild accomplished her revenge. Supposing that Attila's death
took place not less than a year later, that would fix the date of
the marriage at 439, or when this busy warrior was thirty-three and
perhaps ready to rest, and that of the revenge at 452. Therefore,
as the "Nibelungen Lied" tells us that the death of Siegfried took
place twenty-six years before the accomplishment of the revenge, we
may suppose that the hero expired in 426. At any rate, the date of
his death must have been in the early part of the fifth century.
And equally, therefore, much of the supernatural paraphernalia of
"Götterdämmerung" belongs to the store of fable which has come
down from that period. If one is curious to establish dates for
the earlier dramas he must first discover how long Siegfried and
Brünnhilde remained together on the Valkyrs' Hill after the sleeping
beauty was awakened by the young hero. The date of "Die Walküre"
would be some twenty or twenty-two years earlier, for in the last
scene of that work we learn that Sieglinde is to become his mother.
As for "Das Rheingold," that must be left to conjecture entirely.

From the _Heldenbuch_ the next step in the German versions of the
legend carries us to the "Nibelungen Lied." Here, as I have noted,
we find Chriemhild as the sister of Gunther. Siegfried has heard
of her beauty and determines to win her as his bride. But all his
efforts are in vain. Meanwhile, to the Court news comes of the
beautiful Brunhild, Queen of Isenland, a woman of matchless courage
and strength. Every suitor for her hand must abide three combats with
her, and if vanquished is put to death. Gunther decides to try to
win her, and Siegfried accompanies him on his expedition, with the
understanding that if they succeed he is to have Chriemhild to wife.
Arriving at the Court of Brunhild, Siegfried, in order to increase
respect for the standing of Gunther, poses as his friend's vassal.
The combats take place, and Siegfried, making himself invisible by
the aid of the magic cap which he obtained from the dwarfs, assists
Gunther to conquer the Queen.

Gunther weds Brunhild and Siegfried marries Gutrune, but the
proud Queen of Isenland does not relish the idea of having for a
sister-in-law the wife of a vassal. Gunther tells her that Siegfried
is a Prince in his own country, but she disbelieves her spouse, and
to punish him for his falsehood denies him her embraces, binds him
with her magic girdle, and hangs him on a nail. Siegfried, having
pity on Gunther, promises to deprive Brunhild of the girdle and make
her a wife in fact as well as in name. So on the following night,
disguised by the Tarnkappe, he takes Gunther's place, embraces the
unwilling Brunhild, and carries off her magic girdle and her ring.
Gutrune misses Siegfried from the chamber, and in the end he is
compelled to explain to her. He foolishly gives her the girdle and
the ring. The two women subsequently come to hot words on a question
of precedence in entering a church (like Elsa and Ortrud), and
Chriemhild in her anger charges Brunhild with her relations with
Siegfried, producing the ring as evidence. Then Brunhild, discovering
the deception of the Tarnkappe, vows vengeance, in the attainment of
which Hagen aids her. Having induced Chriemhild to disclose to him
the mortal spot on Siegfried's body, he drives a spear into it and
slays him. It is to secure revenge for this murder that Chriemhild
marries Attila.

This is a very brief and imperfect outline of the mighty epic of
mediæval Germany. It breathes the spirit of mediævalism, and it
contains none of the mythological features which appear in the
beautiful Scandinavian version of the story of Siegfried. Yet it
has certain incidents employed by Wagner in the dramas, especially
in "Götterdämmerung." The use of the Tarnhelm, the substitution of
Siegfried for Gunther in the wedding chamber, the discovery of the
deception through the recognition of the ring by Brünnhilde, and the
slaying of Siegfried by Hagen's spear-thrust in the back--all appear
in the drama in most significant forms.

It is to the Norse forms of the legend, however, that we must turn
for the earlier parts of Wagner's story and for the most significant
features of the undercurrent of ethical thought. This version in its
oldest form is found in the Eddas, some of which are undoubtedly of
great antiquity. Yet in these poems we meet with the historic name
of Attila. No doubt many deeds performed by earlier and forgotten
heroes were attributed to this wonder-worker of the early Middle
Ages, and in this way he became a sort of composite figure, and thus
was thrust into the later versions of the Eddaic tales. All the other
personages in the story are mythical. As Mr. Sparling notes in his
introduction to the translation of the Volsunga Saga made by William
Morris and Eirikr Magnusson,[39] only fragments of the Eddaic poems
still exist, but "ere they perished there arose from them a saga,"
that of the race of Volsungs.

[Footnote 39: London, Walter Scott, 1888.]

How old the original Eddaic stories are can only be conjectured.
When the Scando-Gothic races overran Europe they carried at least
the germs of these stories with them, but no man knows where they
got them. But it is certain that the northern versions of the
Nibelung tales, as known to us now, must have originated in the
same legends as the "Nibelungen Lied." It was not until the middle
of the seventeenth century that the collection of the rhymed Eddas
made by Saemund the Wise was discovered, and the prose Eddas of
Snorre Sturleson (born 1178, died 1224) were written a century
later than these. For Saemund the Wise was born in 1056 and died in
1131, and therefore the date of his collection of the rhymed Eddas
is not much earlier than that of the "Nibelungen Lied." Both the
Eddas and the Lied were widely diverging branches of an old trunk,
and that accounts in a measure for both their resemblances and
their differences. The southern version is more adulterated with
inexact history, while the northern embodies more of the fundamental
religious mythology of the people.

Far away in the snowy fastnesses of Iceland were preserved the
ancient stories of the hero Sigurd and the heroine Brünnhilde. Even
to this day these stories are sung or told by the secluded people of
the Faroe Islands. Whence did they procure them? From the scattering
of races, which, begun according to religious history at the end
of the flood, continued through the Dark Ages. So impressed upon
the imaginations of the wanderers were these old tales that they
connected historical personages with the actors in them, not only,
as we have seen, by attributing fabulous deeds to real beings, but
by tracing the descent of actual persons from those of mythical
nature. For example, the first King of Dublin was Olaf the White,
and, according to tradition, he was the son of Ingiald, son of
Thora, daughter of "Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye," son of Ragnar Lodbrok
by Aslaug, daughter of Sigurd by Brünnhilde. And the widow of Olaf
was one of the settlers of Iceland. It was in the ninth century that
Harold Fairhair determined to conquer all Norway. He fought also
in the British Isles, and after a long and bloody struggle made
himself master of Ireland as well as of the northern coasts. Many of
the vanquished, including Olaf's widow, took refuge in the western
islands, and with them went the legends, which had come up from the
Rhine valley, and which, safely buried in the fastnesses of Iceland
and the Faroes, grew into the sagas known to us as the Elder Eddas.
"There also shall we escape the troubling of kings and scoundrels,"
says the Vatsdoelsaga. In their security they made their wondrous

It was in 1643 that Brynjolf Sveinsson, Bishop of Skalholt,
discovered the manuscripts of Saemund the Wise, and he christened
them the "Edda Saemundar hinns froda," or "Edda of Saemund the
Wise." The term "Edda," which is Icelandic for "grandmother," had
been applied already to the prose tales of Sturleson, though the
latter are of later origin than the former. The two works are
frequently distinguished as the Elder and the Younger Edda. The
Elder is often called the Poetic Edda, because it consists chiefly
of songs, while the Younger is often named the Prose Edda. The
first part of the Elder Edda gives the mythology of the North,
while the lays of the heroes are found in its second part. One of
the translators of the Prose Edda has described it as a sort of
commentary on the Poetic Edda.[40]

[Footnote 40: For the substance of the Elder Edda consult "Asgard and
the Gods," by Wägner & McDowall; London, Swan, Sonnenschein, Le Bas &
Lowrey, 1886. For the Prose Edda, see "The Younger Edda," translated
by R.B. Anderson, Chicago; Scott, Foresman & Co., 1897.]

The poems which contain the story of Sigurd and Brünnhilde are
a portion of the second part of the Elder Edda. An important
part, recounting the story of Sigurd's life from his meeting with
Brünnhilde to his death, has been lost, and for that part of the
tale we are compelled to go to the Prose Edda and the Volsunga Saga.
In the second part of his Younger Edda, Snorre Sturleson rehearsed
briefly in simple prose the story of Sigurd the Volsung, which in
the Elder Edda ran through several poems, forming in their natural
connection an epic of great power. As one of the historians of Norse
literature says:

"The sad and absorbing story here narrated was wonderfully popular
throughout the ancient Scandinavian and Teutonic world, and it
is impossible to say for how many centuries these great tragic
ballads had agitated the hearts of the warlike races of the North.
It is clear that Sigurd and Brynhilda, with all their beauty, noble
endowment, and sorrowful history, were real personages, who had taken
powerful hold on the popular affections in the most ancient times,
and had come down from age to age, receiving fresh incarnations and
embellishments from the popular Scalds."

It is possible that this is true, but the original history of the
personages is quite lost. The story told in the "Skaldskaparmal," the
second part of the Younger Edda, is a rehearsal of the contents of
the "Short Lay of Sigurd," "The Lay of Fafner," and one or two others
in the Elder Edda bearing on the Volsung tale. Wagner has utilised
certain portions of these original lays, especially that of Fafner.
The words of the Forest Bird to Siegfried come very close to those of
the Eagles, who sang to Sigurd in "The Lay of Fafner":

     "There lies Regin,[41]
     How to deceive the man
     Who trusts him:
     Thinks in his wrath
     Of false accusations.
     The evil smith plots
     Revenge 'gainst the brother."

[Footnote 41: Mime.]

Compare this passage with the words of the Forest Bird in Act II. of

     "O trust not in Mime,
       The treacherous elf!
     Heareth Siegfried but sharply
     The shifty hypocrite's words,
       What at heart he means
       Shall by Mime be shown."

But it was in the Volsunga Saga that Wagner found his material in its
fullest and most available form. None of the editors of the remnants
of Icelandic literature makes it clear, so far as I have been able to
ascertain, whether the Volsunga Saga is older than Snorre's Edda or
not. The facts seem to be that most of the sagas, including this one,
had come into settled form about 900 A.D., and were written
down between 1140 and 1220, or during the lifetime of Snorre. It is
probable, therefore, that Snorre's recapitulation of the Volsung
story was founded as much upon the Volsunga Saga as upon the poems
of the Elder Edda. In all likelihood he knew both, and accepted the
definite outline of the saga as a shape into which to put his recital
of the contents of the lays.

The value of the Volsunga Saga in relation to the Nibelung tale lies
in the fact that its compiler was acquainted with some of the lays
of the Elder Edda, now lost, and that he recounted their incidents
for us, and that it supplied Wagner with the principal materials
for three out of four of the "Ring" dramas. The origin of this saga
is not known, but may easily be surmised. The Norse sagaman was a
luxury of every Court, as were the Norman minstrel and the Saxon
gleeman, and it was frequently his office to glorify his sovereign in
song by connecting him with the marvellous heroes of ancient fable.
Students of mediæval epics know that it was common for their makers
to seek thus to laud their patrons. An interesting instance of this
is the original French story of the Holy Grail, in which an attempt
is made by Kiot of Provence to show that the sacred vessel was first
consigned to the care of Titurel, a mythical Prince of the Anjou
Dynasty. The Volsunga Saga appears to have been arranged largely for
the purpose of glorifying the children of Olaf.

As a corollary to the chief saga there may be mentioned the Thidrek
(Dietrich) Saga, which includes the Niflunga Saga, and was, as
its writer states, made from the German stories. This saga agrees
in some parts with the poems of Eddaic origin, and in others with
the "Nibelungen Lied." There is also the Nornagest Saga, in which
Nornagest (the Guest of the Norns) tells how he witnessed some of
Sigurd's deeds and his death. But the fundamental saga is that which
tells the story of the Volsung race.

The story of the Volsunga Saga is too long to be repeated in full
in this volume, but an outline of its principal incidents must be
given. The genealogy of the Volsung race begins with Odin, whose son
was Sigi, who begat Rerir, the father of Volsung, a mighty king. In
the midst of Volsung's palace, with its branches piercing the roof,
stood the great tree called the Branstock. Volsung had ten sons and
a daughter, the latter born a twin with the eldest son. Their names
were Sigmund and Signy. King Siggeir of Gothland wedded Signy, and
at the feast there came into the hall an old, one-eyed man, wrapped
in a robe, and he struck a sword into the Branstock so that no man
save Sigmund could draw it forth. Siggeir was jealous and when he
had returned to his own land with his bride he invited Volsung and
his sons on a visit. When they had come, he fell upon them and
slew Volsung and set his sons in a wood to be devoured by wolves.
Sigmund escaped and dwelt in the wood. Signy, desiring to avenge the
slaughter of her kin, sent her sons to Sigmund to be tested as to
their fitness for the task. But he, finding them unfit, slew them.
Then Signy put a witch to sleep with her husband and in disguise went
to Sigmund's house and asked for shelter. Sigmund saw she was fair
and he kept her three nights. Then she went to her home. And she bore
another son, whom she called Sinfjotli. And when he was grown she
sent him to his father, Sigmund.

In time, Sigmund and Sinfjotli slew Siggeir, and Signy, having
revealed the fact that Sinfjotli was a full-blooded Volsung, died
with her husband. Sigmund now married Borghild, who hated Sinfjotli
and poisoned him. Sigmund divorced her and married again, his second
wife being Hjordis, who had rejected Hunding, the son of Lygni.
Hunding came with his followers and fought Sigmund, whose sword was
broken in the battle by the spear of an old, one-eyed man, wrapped
in a mantle. Dying, Sigmund gave the pieces of the broken sword
to Hjordis to keep for her son, who was to be the greatest of the
Volsungs. Hjordis went to the Court of the King of Denmark and bore
the son, who was called Sigurd. Alf, the son of the Danish King,
wedded Hjordis, and Sigurd grew up at the Court. His foster-father
and instructor was Regin, a famous smith, a man of wisdom. Regin saw
that Sigurd would be a hero, and hoped to make use of him. Sigurd
was sent to the woods to choose himself a horse, and on the way he
met an old man with one eye, who bade him drive the horses into the
water. One swam across the river and that one the old man told Sigurd
to choose. This horse's name was Grani, and it was of the strain of
Odin's stable. Now Regin told Sigurd of a dragon, Fafnir, which lay
guarding a mighty store of gold, and he urged Sigurd to slay this
dragon and get the hoard. And Regin told Sigurd the story of the gold.

One Hreidmar had three sons--Fafnir, Otter, and Regin. Otter was so
called because he was wont to take the form of an otter and go into
the lake called Andvari's Lake to catch fish. One day Odin, Hönir,
and Loki, three of the gods, came to the lake, and Loki threw a
stone at the otter and slew it. They took off the skin and went to
the house of Hreidmar, who recognised the skin and bade them pay
him a ransom of so much gold as should cover the skin as it stood
upright. Now Loki knew that Andvari had a great store of gold, and,
going back to the lake, he caught Andvari, who was swimming in the
guise of a pike, and refused to release him unless he gave up all his
gold and also the ring by whose magic power the gold was obtained.
And in his wrath Andvari cursed the gold and the ring and declared
that they should be the bane of every man who should thereafter own
them. Loki and the gods strove to cover the otter skin with the gold,
but Hreidmar still saw one muzzle-hair of the otter, and they were
obliged to add also the ring to hide this. Then Loki said to Hreidmar:

       "Thou and thy son
       Are naught fated to thrive,
     The bane it shall be of you both."

"Thereafter," continued Regin, "Fafnir slew his father and murdered
him, nor got I aught of the treasure, and so evil he grew that he
fell to lying abroad and begrudged any share in the wealth to any
man, and so became the worst of all worms, and ever now lies brooding
upon that treasure." Sigurd bade Regin make him a sword with which
to slay the dragon, but every one which the smith made the youth
broke across the anvil. Then Sigurd bade him weld the shards of the
sword Gram, which had belonged to Sigmund. And when these were welded
Sigurd smote the anvil with the new blade and clove it in twain.

Then Sigurd went to fight the sons of Hunding and slew them to avenge
his father's death. Next he went in accordance with his promise to
Regin and slew Fafnir, the dragon. And Fafnir told him that the
treasure which he would gain would be his bane. At the desire of
Regin he roasted the dragon's heart, and in preparing it he wet his
finger with the blood and cleansed it with his tongue. Immediately
he understood the language of the birds and heard the woodpeckers
chattering to the effect that he should slay the treacherous Regin,
who desired his death, should secure the gold for himself and ride to
Hindfell, where slept Brynhild, for there he would get great wisdom.
Sigurd slew Regin and rode off in search of Brynhild, who lay in a
castle on a mountain surrounded by fire. Sigurd rode to her through
the fire. He took off her helm and cut the byrny (breast-plate) from
her with his sword. And she awoke and asked the name of her awakener.
And when she had learned it she sang:

       "Long have I slept
       And slumbered long,
     Many and long are the woes of mankind.
       By the might of Odin
       Must I abide helpless
     To shake from off me the spells of slumber.

       "Hail to the day come back!
       Hail, sons of the daylight!
     Hail to thee, night, and thy daughter!
       Look with kind eyes adown
       On us sitting here lonely
     And give unto us the gain that we long for."

She told Sigurd how she had struck down in battle Helm Gunnar, whom
Odin had selected to be victorious. "And Odin, in vengeance for
that deed, stuck the sleep-thorn into me and said I should never
again have the victory, but should be given away in marriage; but
thereagainst I vowed a vow that never would I wed one who knew the
name of fear." Then she taught him all her runes, and they two
plighted their troth. He went his way, but they met again and renewed
their vows and he gave her a ring, the ring of Andvari. Before he
departed again she prophesied that he would wed Gudrun, the daughter
of King Giuki.

Giuki ruled south of the Rhine. He had three sons, Gunnar (Gunther),
Högni (Hagen) and Guttorm, and one daughter, Gudrun. His wife was
Grimhild, skilled in magic arts. Sigurd went to their court and
stayed five seasons, and Grimhild perceived how dearly Sigurd loved
Brynhild, for he spoke much of her, and she also saw that he was a
goodly man and she wished to have him wed Gudrun. So she mixed him
a drink which caused him to forget Brynhild and he began to love
Gudrun. He married her and swore the oath of brotherhood with Gunnar
and Högni. Brynhild was well known to all these persons, and one day
Grimhild, seeing that Gunnar was still unwed, urged him to go to
court Brynhild, and take Sigurd with him. Gunnar's horse, however,
would not go through the fire. Then he mounted Grani, but he would
not stir. So he and Sigurd changed shapes after a manner taught
them by Grimhild, and Sigurd in the guise of Gunnar rode through
the flames and, reminding Brynhild that she had sworn to wed no one
except him who pierced the fire, claimed her as his bride, and she,
being bound by the oath, yielded. He took the ring of Andvari and
her girdle from her, and rode away. And she went to Gunnar's home
and was married to him. Sigurd gave the ring and the girdle to his
wife Gudrun, and when, some time afterward, the two women fell into
a dispute as to which one's husband was the greater, Gudrun declared
that it was her own husband, Sigurd, who had overcome Brynhild on
the mountain and made her wed Gunnar. And in proof of her words she
showed the ring which Sigurd had taken from Brynhild's finger and
given to her. Brynhild was now eager for revenge, and conspired
with Gunnar and Högni to put Sigurd to death. But they had sworn
brotherhood, and so Guttorm, the youngest brother, who had not sworn,
was chosen; and he slew Sigurd as he lay asleep in his bed. And
Brynhild, aweary of life and the deceits of it, loving no man but
Sigurd, drove a sword into her bosom, and, dying, asked Gunnar to
burn her body with Sigurd's. And it was so done.

Such is the story of the Volsunga Saga as far as it concerns the
incidents of "Der Ring des Nibelungen." In the remaining part of
it is told how Gudrun became the wife of Atli (Attila) and how he
schemed to get possession of the treasure which Sigurd had taken
from Fafnir. But Gunnar and Högni sank the gold in the Rhine, and
thus it disappeared. Atli slew them, but they had not revealed its
hiding-place. I have rehearsed the tale of the Volsungs at more
length than that of the "Nibelungen Lied" because from it Wagner
obtained much more of his material. It now becomes necessary to
review the mythological elements of the dramas taken from the Eddas
and connected by Wagner with this story from mere hints in the
original. When that is done, we shall be ready to survey the dramas
in their entirety and see what use Wagner made of his materials.

The injection into the northern legends of the gods and goddesses
of Scandinavian mythology and of the stories of the sins of Wotan
and the certainty of future destruction of the gods furnished Wagner
with the material for all the early portion of his mighty drama. It
provided him with the ethical basis which makes Wotan the real hero
of a tragedy, to end in the extinction not only of himself and his
associate gods, but of the entire old order of the world, and the
establishment of a new one. This last idea is found in the songs of
the Elder Edda, "Odin's Raven Song," and "Song of the Way Tamer."
These relate to the death of Baldur, the favourite son of Odin,
and are dark with the mystery of an unknown terror. The gods are
disturbed to the depths of their beings, and Odin mounts his steed
and rides to Hell to consult the Wala (Erda) and force from her by
means of runes some information as to the death of his son. Compare
this incident with the first scene of the third act of "Siegfried."
Read the "Havamal," the High Song of Odin, which contains also the
rune song and expounds the entire scheme of Norse ethics. As one of
the commentators on it has well said, "It shows a worldly wisdom,
experience, and sagacity to which modern life can add nothing." The
power of runes is explained in this song. It was by runes that the
wicked princesses of mediæval tales cast spells over their enemies,
that sickness was healed, that flying spears were checked in battle,
that ships conquered the storms of Old Ocean. Yet these runes were
nothing but letters of the alphabet, and their mysterious power was
that of knowledge, denied to many in those dark times and seemingly
magical in its use by the few.

In order that we may understand the true plot of "Der Ring des
Nibelungen," we must briefly examine the mythological basis of it, as
furnished by the Eddas.

According to the Eddas, then, the gods dwelt in Asgard (the place of
the Ases or Aesir), in the castle named Walhalla, the abode of slain
heroes. These gods were not immortal, but were extraordinary beings
gifted with wonderful length of days. But they knew that at some time
they must meet in final conflict their enemies, of which the chief
were the giants. There was also in the far south a mysterious Surtur,
with a flaming sword, and the sons of Muspel, who would join in the
last great assault on the gods. Allied with these giants would be the
horrible children of Loki--the Midgard Snake, which encircled the
earth, and the Fenris Wolf. Loki was the spirit of evil, the god of
fire, yet he was received among the gods because of his wonderful
cunning. The dwarfs dwelt in the subterranean places and were
wondrous makers of weapons for the gods, whom, nevertheless, they

The master of all the gods was Odin, or Wotan, the lord of war and
the hunt. Upon the field of battle he was followed by his Valkyrs,
Wish-Maidens, choosers of the slain, who consecrated the fallen
heroes with kisses and carried them away to Walhalla. There they ate
of the feast of the blessed and waited to aid Wotan in his final
battle with the powers of evil. The mother of the gods was Fricka,
the wife of Wotan, the Juno of the Norse mythology. Freya was the
goddess of Love, the Venus of the assembly. Iduna, another goddess,
had care of the golden apples of endless youth, which the gods ate.
Thor was the wielder of the mighty hammer, made for him by the dwarfs.

The story runs thus: Fear of the giants led the gods to desire to
have the mighty burg Walhalla surrounded by a strong wall. By the
advice of Loki they swore a great oath to give the goddess Freya and
the sun and the moon to the builder of this wall, provided that he
had it finished before the coming of summer. If the work was then
incomplete, the contract was void. The builder, a Frost-Giant in
disguise, asked only the aid of his horse Svadilfare, and this was
allowed him. The horse carried such vast stones that the work was
almost done several days before the time expired. The gods held a
council, "and asked each other who could have advised to give Freya
in marriage in Jothunheim (the giant's land) or to plunge the air
and the heavens in darkness by taking away the sun and the moon and
giving them to the giant; and all agreed that this must have been
advised by him who gives the most bad counsels,--namely, Loki, the
son of Lauffey,--and they threatened him with a cruel death if he
could not contrive some way of preventing the builder from fulfilling
his part of the bargain."[42] Loki changed himself to the guise of a
mare the next night, and the giant's horse ran after the mare and did
no work. The giant, seeing that he was to lose his bargain, resumed
his natural form, and the gods called upon Thor, who slew him with
his hammer. So, as the "Wala's Prophecy" in the Elder Edda says:

     "Broken were oaths,
     And words and promises--
     All mighty speech
     That had passed between them."

[Footnote 42: "The Prose Edda"; translated by R.B. Anderson.]

Thus did sin enter among the gods, and by the breaking of the oath
they burdened themselves with guilt inexpiable. Evil portents came.
Iduna sank with her golden apples of eternal youth to the lower
depths, and could not be recalled. Baldur, the second son of Wotan,
the holy one, into whose presence no impure thing might come, had
terrible dreams. Hel, the goddess of the lower world and of death,
appeared to him and beckoned him to come to her.

Now the last scenes begin. Wotan rides to the realm of shades and
summons the Wala, who foretells the death of Baldur. Fricka begs
all things living or inanimate to swear that they will not injure
Baldur. She overlooks the mistletoe. Loki, noting the omission, makes
a dart of this wood and gives it to Hödur, the blind god. He in sport
shoots the dart at Baldur, who is supposed to be safe from harm, and
the bright one falls dead. The death of Baldur is the foreshadowing
of the end of the gods, and the dissolution of the universe. Sin has
entered among the gods, and they and all else must pay the penalty.
Then comes Ragnarök, the German Götterdämmerung, the twilight of the
gods. The hostile forces assemble for the last great battle. The sons
of Muspel, led by Surtur with the flaming sword, gallop from the
south. The Fenris Wolf and the Midgard Snake are loosed. Wotan leads
the gods in battle. A mighty conflict ensues, and all are slain.
Surtur's flames burn the world, and from the ashes arises a new one,
purified by fire. A youth and a maiden, Lif and Lifthrasir, come out
of the wood of Hoddmimir, where, in the innocence of childhood, they
have slept through all the battle, and they begin the population of
the regenerate world. And the gods themselves, purified by the fire,
reappear and dwell in eternal peace on the plain of Ida, on the site
where once stood the mighty Walhalla.

II.--The Story as Told by Wagner

We may now briefly review the four dramas of "Der Ring," and trace
the connection of their incidents. "Das Rheingold" is the prologue of
the whole, and it is essential that we should thoroughly understand
its story, for it lays down the basis, the motive, of the entire
tragedy. We see the Rhine maidens sporting around the Rhine gold
at the bottom of the river. They are interrupted by the appearance
of Alberich, the Nibelung, who comes up from the nether regions
of Nibelheim, and is at once overcome with the desire to possess
one of the maidens. The rising sun lights up the gold. Alberich's
curiosity in regard to it brings out the story of its nature. Here
enters Wagner's first original and highly poetic touch. Only one
who renounces love can make the ring of gold by which power is to
be obtained. That idea is not found in the old legends. Alberich,
failing in his attempt to win one of the maidens, forswears love and
snatches the gold from its resting-place.

One of the maidens tells us that their father had warned them of a
foe to come from the bottom of the river, but we never learn who
was that father. Nor is any light thrown on the origin of the gold
itself. In the Volsunga Saga we find it in the water, the possession
of Andvari. In the "Nibelungen Lied" Siegfried wins the gold from two
brothers, Schilbung and Nibelung, who brought it forth from a cave.
It had been stored there for centuries. In the Thidrek Saga Siegfried
wins it from a dragon, which he kills. But none of the versions
account for the origin of the gold. All agree that it finally
returned to the Rhine, and that may have been the source of Wagner's
idea. Nor is there any slightest foundation for the proclamation
that only he who forswears love will be able to profit by the gold.
Wagner has simply allowed his fancy to work with the old maxim that
money is the root of all evil, and to represent the gods themselves
as ignorant of the power of gold and innocent of wrong till they
acquired a knowledge of this power. Wotan, in his desire to save
Freia, is ready to yield to the tempter, and his temptation and fall
form the subject of the second scene.

In order to get at the full meaning of these Nibelung dramas we
must keep ever in mind Wagner's intent to follow in a measure the
methods of the Greek dramatists. Æschylus, the greatest of the Greek
tragic writers, excelled in showing the inexorable workings of Fate,
which in the Greek mind corresponded to the modern conception of the
inevitable punishment for sin. Wagner is purely Æschylean in his
method of constructing his tragedy, and he sets forth the inflexible
processes of Fate with the same high purpose. But as he addressed
himself to a modern audience he offered to it that conception of
Fate with which it was familiar, namely, the absolute certainty of
punishment for transgression of the moral law. That he found in
the old Norse legend a foundation for this idea was fortunate. It
simplified his work, yet left room for him to introduce striking
original matter. The rape of the gold by one who has renounced love
is original with Wagner.

In the second scene of the prologue, then, we find Wotan and Fricka
before the completed castle of Walhalla, which Wotan salutes in a
speech of majestic dignity. Fricka at once reminds him of the price
to be paid. When Freia enters, calling upon Wotan to release her
from the giants, we quickly learn that it was Loge who devised the
bargain and who is depended upon by Wotan to find a way out of it.
The giants demand their pay. Wotan tells them they cannot have Freia.
Then even the "stupid giant," as he calls himself, warns the god
of the consequences of violating the faith by which he rules. Loge
arrives in the height of the discussion and at once shows the evil,
cunning, flickering nature of his character. The arch-enemy of the
gods, trusted only by Wotan who confesses to a lack of cunning, Loge
has planned a temptation to work the downfall of the Aesir. He tells
the story of his wanderings. In all the earth none values aught more
than the worth of woman--save one, black Alberich alone, who has
forsworn love, stolen the Rhine gold and made from it a ring to give
him the mastery of the world. Donner exclaims that such a ring may
make Alberich master of the gods themselves, and Wotan cries that he
must have the ring. But the giants have also heard, and they offer
to accept the Nibelung hoard, the stolen Rhine gold, in ransom for
Freia, whom they carry off till such time as Wotan is ready to pay.
Here we see that Wagner has followed none of the original material
exactly. In the Eddas the giant is not allowed to complete the burg,
and the hoard does not enter into the matter at all. In the Volsunga
Saga the gold is paid in ransom for the gods held by Hreidmar for the
murder of Otter. The connection of the Rhine gold with the entry of
sin among the gods, as narrated in the Eddas, is Wagner's own work,
and it adds immeasurably to the strength and poetic beauty of the

Wotan and Loge in Nibelheim, the abode of the Nibelungs, is the next
picture. Alberich has welded the ring and is the master of his race.
Mime has made for him the Tarnhelm, which is to be the instrument
of much evil. He prates of the power which is yet to be his, and
even threatens the gods. The dwarfs and the giants are alike hostile
to the Aesir. Tempted by Loge's cunning to show the magic of the
Tarnhelm, Alberich changes himself first to a serpent and then to a
toad, and in the latter form the gods make him a captive and drag him
away to the surface of the earth before Walhalla. Then they demand of
him as ransom the Nibelung hoard. He gives it, for with his ring he
can get more. They call for the Tarnhelm. He gives that, too. Then
they demand the ring. Alberich warns Wotan not to rob him of it.

       "Say I have sinned;
     The sin on myself but falls:
     But on all things that were,
       Are, and will be,
     Strikes this evil of thine,
     If rashly thou seizest my ring."

The dwarf, like the giant, knows what must be the consequence of the
infraction by the presiding god of the law above all gods. But Wotan
tears the ring from his finger. Then Alberich curses the ring. It
shall deal out death, not power. It shall bring misery, not gladness.
But this curse is, after all, only a piece of stage property. It
makes a theatrical effect, and it marks a climax for the auditor. The
real curse already exists the moment Wotan stains himself with crime.
The thought of the Norse mythology, as set forth in the Eddas, but
lost by the maker of Volsunga Saga, is preserved by Wagner in the
prophecy of Alberich. The law will do its own work; but the curse has
an external and incidental value in the construction of the drama.
Alberich puts into words the inevitable operation of the law.

The prologue now moves swiftly to its end. The giants return with
Freia, and it is arranged that they are to receive for her enough
gold to hide her. This is Wagner's adaptation of the incident of the
filling of the otter skin in the Volsunga Saga. The hoard proves
insufficient, and the Tarnhelm goes to swell the heap. Fasolt, the
giant who is smitten by the charms of the goddess, still sees the
glorious glance of her eye, and demands that Wotan put the ring on
the pile to stop this last cranny. Compare Hreidmar's discovery of
the muzzle-hair with this poetic idea! The haughty god refuses. The
giants declare the bargain off, and start away again with Freia.
Loge's plan is working perfectly. He never loses any opportunity to
fasten more firmly upon Wotan his burden of guilt. When the giants
demand the ring, Loge interposes, saying that the gods must retain
that because Wotan means to restore it to the Rhine maidens. Wotan at
once falls into the trap, and says:

       "What pratest thou there?
     The prize so hardly come by
     I shall keep, unawed, for myself."

When Wotan has flatly refused to give the ring to the giants, Erda,
the embodiment of the earth itself, the impersonation of primeval
elements, arises in pale light and mystery. She warns Wotan to flee
the curse of the ring. She declares herself to be the all-knowing
prophetess, and says:

     "Alles was ist, endet.
       Ein düsterer Tag
       dämmert den Göttern."

     "All that exists, endeth.
       A dismal day
       Dawns for the Aesir."

This brief scene, so charged with dramatic and musical potency, is
Wagner's use of the prophecy of the Wala, as contained in the Elder
Edda. That prophecy foretells the end of the gods, but its situation
in the story is similar to that of the Erda scene in "Siegfried."
It comes near the end of the tragedy. Nevertheless from it Wagner
obtained the character of Erda and the prediction made by her in
"Das Rheingold." The prophecy of the Wala in the Edda does not touch
upon the sin of the gods, but it sets forth in detail the story of
Ragnarök, as I have already given it. Wagner, however, connects
the Wala's utterance with the ethical basis of his tragedy. Wotan,
impressed by the prediction, gives up the ring and ransoms Freia.
The curse at once begins to operate. The giants quarrel over the
division of the hoard and Fafner kills Fasolt. In the Volsunga Saga,
from which this incident is adapted, Fafner slays his father, while
his brother Regin plays the part allotted by Wagner to Mime in
"Siegfried," as we shall presently see. Fafner goes off to the forest
with his hoard, and there, as in the saga, becomes a dragon, by the
aid of the Tarnhelm, and lies guarding the hoard, which he does not
know how to use, for he is too stupid to employ the power of the ring.

Donner raises a thunderstorm to clear the air after the murder,
and when the rain is gone a rainbow is seen spanning the valley
of the Rhine. The new castle stands forth in all its glory, and
Wotan, inviting Fricka to enter with him, for the first time calls
it Walhalla. The goddess asks the meaning of the name, and Wotan

       "What might 'gainst our fears
       My mind may have found,
       If proved a success
     Soon shall explain the name."

The thought in Wotan's mind is that of raising up a race of free
heroes who shall perform vicariously the expiation denied to him.
One of them shall of his own volition rescue the ring and restore it
to its rightful owners, thus satisfying the demands of the law and
removing the curse. The conception of the hero in the mind of Wotan
is made known to us only by the orchestra, which intones the Sword
motive here for the first time. In recent years, with the sanction
of Mme. Wagner, a new idea has been introduced into this scene. In
the hoard is the sword, which is discarded by Fafner as valueless.
When Wotan conceives the hero-thought, he picks up this sword and
raises it aloft while the trumpet peals out the motive. This was
not Wagner's idea, but it is not an unpardonable concession to the
demands of the theatre. It was just a little too much for Wagner to
expect that his auditors would carry the Sword motive in their minds
from "Das Rheingold" to the first act of "Die Walküre," and remember
when hearing it in the latter how it was used in the former and thus
find out what it meant there.

Over the rainbow--Bifröst, as it is called in the Eddas--the gods
enter Walhalla, the Rhine maidens vainly pleading from the valley
below for the return of their ring, and Loge gloating over the end to
which, as he says, the Aesir are even now hastening. And thus ends
the prologue, to which I have devoted much space because it contains
the foundation of the tragedy. It presents to us the hero foredoomed
to destruction, the crime, and the certainty of its inevitable
punishment. That is the subject-matter of the propositional part of a
classic tragedy. We are now ready to observe the workings of Wotan's
futile plans.

With the passage from "Das Rheingold" to "Die Walküre" we enter upon
the struggles of the innocent human beings who have been created by
Wotan to work his will. The beautiful drama in which Wagner sets
forth the events leading to the birth of Siegfried and the slumber of
Brünnhilde on the mountain is built from mere hints in the Volsunga
Saga. Volsung is no longer the great-grandson of Wotan, but is Wotan
himself. Siegmund and Sieglinde are Sigmund and Signy of the saga,
twin children of Wotan. The name Sieglinde is that of Siegfried's
mother, according to the "Nibelungen Lied." It is Hunding, not
Siggeir, who marries Sieglinde. The fight between Hunding and
Siegmund takes place, not because of the former's rejection by the
maid, but because of the latter's flight with her. The mysterious
one-eyed man strikes the sword into the tree at the wedding-feast,
and on his spear the sword of Siegmund is broken in the fight.
Siegmund Wagner substitutes for the warrior whom Brünnhilde in the
saga once struck down, contrary to Wotan's wishes, and when she is
put to sleep on the mountain it is for protecting, not slaying, the
wrong man. We find that she is surrounded by fire at her own request,
that Wotan rules that she shall marry only the hero who will know
no fear and can pierce the fire, and that this hero is to be the
offspring of Siegmund and Sieglinde--Siegfried, the full-blooded
Volsung, in whose veins flows the blood and in whose heart, freely
and unconsciously, works the impulse of Wotan. Let the reader review
the story of the saga, and compare it with that of "Die Walküre."

The first act of the drama is taken up with the mutual recognition
of Siegmund and Sieglinde, their strange love for one another, the
reception of the sword by the hero for whom it was struck into the
tree, and the flight of the lovers. Then comes the deeply significant
opening scene of the second act. The Valkyr Brünnhilde, revealed to
us in all the glory of her divine beauty and strength, starting to
the field, is warned not to carry Hunding to Walhalla. To Wotan now
comes Fricka, stirred to the bottom of her nature by the deep affront
in the action of Siegmund and Sieglinde to her dignity as the goddess
of marriage. She demands the punishment of the erring pair. Wotan
vainly pleads that the gods need the aid of a hero working of his own
free will in their defence. Fricka brushes aside this plea with the
declaration that heroes have no powers which are denied to gods. She
tells Wotan that it is he who breathes courage into Siegmund, that
it was he who struck the sword into the tree, devised the need into
which Siegmund should fall, and guided him to the house of Hunding.
She stands upon her dignity as the celestial queen and demands that
the outrage of her especial laws shall be punished. Wotan must not
protect Siegmund in the coming fight and he must forbid Brünnhilde's
doing so. By hard-wrung oath she binds her spouse to abandon his own
plan and submit to the demands of the inexorable moral law.

Brünnhilde returns to his side only to learn the story of her sire's
grief. He tells her the history of the rape of the gold, of the
endless scheming of Alberich for the downfall of the gods, of his own
plan to fill Walhalla with defenders, of his search for Erda, and her
becoming Brünnhilde's mother. If Alberich recovers the ring Walhalla
is lost, for only he who forswore love can work evil with the circlet
of Rhine gold. The ring must be taken from Fafner, but Wotan dare not
take it himself because to do so would be a violation of faith and
bring more suffering upon him. Only the free hero can accomplish this
end. But Fricka has unmasked the truth. Siegmund is but the slave of
Wotan's will. And in his final outburst of grief and impotent rage
the god sums up his misery:

     "I have wrested Alberich's ring,
     Grasped the coveted gold!
         The curse I incurred
         Doth cling to me yet:--
     What I love best I must relinquish,
     Slay him I hold most sacred;
             Trusting belief
             Foully betray!
             Glory and fame
             Fade from my sight!
             Heavenly splendour,
             Smiling disgrace!
             Be laid in ruins
             All I have reared!
         Over is my work:
         But one thing waits me now--
             The ending,
             The ending!
         And for that ending
         Looks Alberich!
         Now I measure
         The meaning mute
     Of what the witch spake in wisdom:--
         "When that love's defiant foe
         Grimly getteth a son,
             The sway of the gods
             Full soon shall end!"
             The Nibelung dwarf
             I now understand
     To have won him a woman,
     By gold gaining his hopes.
         In lust she bears,
         Loveless, a babe,
         And hatred's fruit
         From her draws life.
         The love-scorner well
         Can work such wonders;
     But he I long for fondly--
     The free one--doth lack me yet!
         Then now take my blessing,
         Nibelung's babe!
         What thus I fling from me
         Hold as thy fortune:
     Walhalla's sumptuous halls
     Shall sate thy unhallowed desires!"

How Wagner builds upon his material! Hagen, the hatred-born son of
Alberich, offspring of gold, shall cause the downfall of the gods.
He, the child of evil, shall be the instrument of law! And all this
is original with Wagner. To mere hints in the sources he adds the
details of a complete poetic story, and always the development of the
fundamental ethical thought on which the whole tragedy rests is his.
Yet these scenes, in which the god is revealed to us as so intensely
human, are the ones to which the average attendant at Wagner
performances give the least thought. Wagner was much concerned about
this scene, and indeed about the whole act. On October 3, 1855, he
sent the first two acts to Liszt and wrote to him thus:

     "I am anxious for the weighty second act; it contains
     two catastrophes, so important and powerful that there
     would be sufficient matter for two acts; but then they
     are so interdependent and the one implies the other so
     immediately, that it was impossible to separate them. If it
     is represented exactly as I intend, and if my intentions
     are perfectly understood, the effect must be beyond
     anything that has hitherto been in existence. Of course
     it is written only for people who can stand something
     (perhaps in reality for nobody). That incapable and weak
     persons will complain cannot in any way move me. You must
     decide whether everything has succeeded according to my
     own intentions. I cannot do it otherwise. At times, when
     I was timid and sobered down, I was chiefly anxious about
     the great scene of Wotan, especially when he discloses the
     decrees of Fate to Brünnhilde, and in London I was once on
     the point of rejecting the whole scene. In order to come to
     a decision I took up the sketch and recited the scene with
     proper expression, when fortunately I discovered that my
     spleen was unjustified, and that, if properly represented,
     the scene would have a grand effect even in a purely
     musical sense."

The remainder of the drama is taken up with the development of
what has been prepared. Brünnhilde's mind is distracted. She feels
that Wotan, against his own inclinations, is about to sacrifice
Siegmund to the wrath of Fricka. Presently the fleeing and guilty
lovers approach. Sieglinde, overcome with shame and terrified at
the prospect of Hunding's attack, sinks senseless in the arms of
Siegmund. Brünnhilde appears, and in the beautiful scene, usually
named by its German title, the "Todesverkündigung," announces to
Siegmund his coming death. He passionately refuses to die or to go
to Walhalla without his bride, and Brünnhilde, overcome by his
pleading, promises to aid him in the fight. She does so, and Wotan
thrusts his spear between the combatants, so that Siegmund's sword is
shattered upon it. Hunding slays Siegmund and is himself stricken to
death by the sword of Wotan. Brünnhilde flees to the Valkyr's rock
with Sieglinde, gives her the pieces of the broken sword, foretells
the birth of a son, whom she names Siegfried, and sends Sieglinde
to secrete herself in the forest to the eastward, where Fafner
lies brooding on the hoard. Wotan arrives in hot pursuit of his
disobedient daughter, drives off her frightened, pleading sisters,
and sentences her, as already told. And all this Wagner has evolved
from a few scattered lines in the saga. The marvellous beauty of the
scene between Wotan and his beloved child cannot be described.

But let the reader remember that the punishment inflicted on her is
not solely because of her disobedience of a command, but also and
chiefly because the salvation of Siegmund would have violated Wotan's
oath to Fricka and thus have increased the burden of guilt already
upon the conscience of this unfortunate and very human god. Again the
ethical basis of the tragedy comes to the front, and the moral law,
operating as Fate, demands a victim. Brünnhilde becomes the Sleeping
Beauty, so familiar to us in the fairy tales, and waits for her
prince to wake her, a prince who shall be without fear, and who shall
see no terrors in the point of All-Father's dread spear. This hero
will be free, "freer than I, the god," as Wotan tells us, while the
majestic pealing of the young hero's motive by the orchestra reveals,
what the text does not, that Siegfried will be the awakener.

None of the sagas or legends in any way connect Brünnhilde
with the fate of Siegfried's parents or the birth of the hero.
Wagner's invention is here truly dramatic. He has welded separate
incidents into a sequence of beautiful poetry and immense dramatic
significance. In doing so he has greatly increased the splendour
of the character of Brünnhilde. He has enlarged the aspect of her
divinity, and has painted with the hand of a master the strange
commingling in her of godhood and womanhood. Her sympathy with the
doomed pair is wholly womanly, and it leads to her becoming entirely
a woman when Wotan, in the enforcement of the demands of law, kisses
the godhood from her. None of the old poems suggest such a Brünnhilde
as Wagner's. She is a creation as distinct as Shakespeare's Juliet,
as great as his Hamlet. In all dramatic literature there is no more
majestic female figure than the Brünnhilde of "Die Walküre" and
"Siegfried." In the final drama she diminishes in stature, by reason
of the loss of her virginity. Then she is only a weak woman, except
in the last scene, when she rises once more on the wings of grief to
the proudest heights of self-sacrifice.

And so we pass to the next drama of the trilogy, the second act of
the tragedy. The story of this is simple. Few ethical questions
arise. All is concerned with the acts of the free hero, working
without knowledge of Wotan, while the Nibelungs vainly strive to
divert the results of the action to their own benefit. Again we meet
with the warring forces,--gods, giants, and dwarfs,--but the gods
are passive. Wotan, disguised as a wanderer, watches the progress of
events, but does not interfere in it. The first act takes place in
the cavern occupied as home and smithy by Mime,[43] no longer subject
to his crafty brother, but now in business for himself and scheming
to make the young Siegfried his instrument for the recovery of the
gold and the ring. Sieglinde died in childbirth in Mime's cavern,
and the dwarf, knowing well who she was, has taken good care of her
son. Mime is an infinitely more picturesque character than the Regin
of the saga, and the cavern a far more romantic home for the nurture
of a forest hero than the Court of the Danish King. Wagner keeps
clear of historical surroundings and conventionalities and presents
to us a primal, elementary youth, a being whom we cannot fail to
love. For Siegfried is the free, untrammelled youth of all time, the
young man rejoicing in the strength of his youth, and arriving at
the fundamental laws of life and love by observation, introspection,
and the mighty workings of natural passion. He is a type, freed
from every convention of clothes-philosophy and custom, from every
condition of time or place. Siegfried is Young Manhood. His every
utterance demands of the impersonator a largeness of conception far
and away beyond the requirements of the ordinary operatic rôles.
These are the petty puppets of libretto machinists, who cut and fit
more or less dramatic stories according to the specifications of the
Meyerbeerian plan. But Siegfried must be conceived along the lines of
Brünnhilde's apostrophe:

     "O Siegfried! Herrlicher!
     Hort der Welt!
     Leben der Erde,
     Lachender Held!"

[Footnote 43: Wagner obtained the name of Mime from the Thidrek Saga,
in which Mimir is a cunning smith, the brother of Regin. In this
saga Regin is the name of the dragon. A naked child comes to Mimir,
and because a hind runs out of the wood and licks the child, Mimir
knows that it is a stray which the animal has cared for. He takes the
child and rears it and calls it Sigfrid. This youth slays the dragon,
and then the tale proceeds along the same lines as the other sagas
connected with Siegfried.]

"O Siegfried! Lordly one! Shield of the world! Life of the earth!
Smiling hero!" He must be big in every way--big in the brawn of his
brandished limbs, big in the bursts of his blithesome enthusiasm,
and big in the beauty and bloom of his song. For Wagner, in his
"Communication," tells us how, in the endeavour to discover what it
was that drew him to the heart of the sagas, he drove into the deeper
regions of antiquity,

     "where, at last, to my delight and truly in the utmost
     reaches of old time, I was to light upon the fair young
     form of Man in all the freshness of his force. My studies
     thus bore me through the legends of the Middle Ages right
     down to their foundation in the old Germanic Mythos; one
     swathing after another, which the later legendary lore had
     bound around it, I was able to unloose, and thus, at last,
     to gaze upon it in its chastest beauty. What here I saw was
     no longer the figure of conventional history, whose garment
     claims our interest more than does the actual shape inside,
     but the real, naked Man, in whom I might spy each throbbing
     of his pulses, each stir within his mighty muscles, in
     uncramped, freest motion; the type of the true human being."

It was the recognition of Siegfried in his perfection, not as
belittled in the "Nibelungen Lied," that made Wagner conceive him as
the hero of his drama. That conception, once formed, was not lost in
the subsequent development which made Wotan the real protagonist.
Siegfried, in the first drama in which he appears, stands as the
type of the utmost freedom of human impulse and action, the complete
foil to the far-seeing, law-constrained god. He represents the
complementary element in the ethical basis of the tragedy. He is the
pure one, over whom Fate, in the shape of the inexorable moral law,
has yet no control. He is himself. He makes his own deeds. He is the
free agent for whom the despairing god has yearned.

Thus, then, we see him in the first act of the drama,--an impulsive,
discontented youth, eager for larger fields of action, moved by
strange emotions which he does not comprehend, and for whose meaning
he vainly questions the cunning dwarf. A sword he needs, but none
which the dwarf makes will bear the force of his blow. At last he
wrings from Mime the true story of his birth, and the pieces of the
broken sword, which Siegmund in his hour of need christened "Nothung"
("Needful"), are produced as evidence. These shall Mime weld,
declares Siegfried, and then the free youth will make his home in the
wide world. But weld that particular sword, the sword which Wotan
struck into the tree Branstock, is just what Mime cannot do. Wotan,
in his wanderer's guise, comes to prophesy to Mime that only one who
never knew fear shall accomplish the task. To him is forfeit the head
which Mime has staked on answering Wotan's questions.

The scene of the questions between Wotan and Mime was probably
suggested to Wagner by the "Vafthrudnersmal," one of the poems of
the Elder Edda, which shows Odin holding a similar conversation with
the omniscient giant, Vafthrudner. Odin appears as a poor traveller
named Gangrader, and engages in a contest of knowledge with the
giant. Gangrader, in answer to Vafthrudner's questions, tells the
names of the horses that carry Day and Night across the sky and
of the river which divides Asgard from Jotunheim (Riesenheim, the
giant's land) and the field where the last battle is to be fought.
The giant tells the origin of the earth, the story of the creation
of the gods, what the heroes do in Walhalla, what was the origin of
the Norns, who will rule after the world had been destroyed and what
will be the end of the father of the gods. Finally the god asks:
"What did Odin whisper in the ear of his son before he ascended the
funeral pile?" The giant recognises Odin by this question, and says,
"Who can tell what thou didst whisper of old in the ear of thy son?
I have called down my fate upon my own head when I dared to enter on
a strife of knowledge with Odin. All-Father, thou wilt ever be the
wisest." We are not told whether the giant lost his head, but we are
led to believe that the whispered word was "Resurrection."

When Siegfried returns, Mime vainly endeavours to teach him the
meaning of fear, for he would save his head. Siegfried laughs at the
conception, and forthwith forges anew the broken blade of Nothung,
cleaving in twain the anvil and shouting in the joy of his strength.
As for Mime, he now sees that Siegfried will surely slay Fafner,
of whom he has told the youth. Yet the dwarf is in terror, for if
Siegfried does not learn fear from the dragon, then the dwarf dies;
and if he does learn it, who is to rescue the hoard from Fafner's

To the forest, then, in the second act, we follow the youth and
his scheming preceptor.[44] Alberich lies in watch outside Fafner's
cave, and Wotan comes to warn the giant that his fate draws near.
Alberich listens, wondering, while Wotan addresses the dragon in his
lair. Anon Mime conducts Siegfried to the spot and leaves him. Alone
the hero muses on his life, his birth, his mother's death, his own
lack of a mate. He hears the song of a forest bird and thinks, could
he but understand it, it might tell him of his needs. He fashions a
reed pipe wherewith to talk to the bird, but his effort is futile.
The scene is one of strange beauty, the orchestra imitating the
weaving of the forest leaves and shadows in a wondrous tone-poem, the
"Waldweben." Despairing of success with the reed, Siegfried winds
a blast upon his horn, and Fafner, the dragon, emerges from his

[Footnote 44: In the locale of this scene Wagner follows the Thidrek,
not the Volsunga Saga. The latter makes the place a heath.]

Siegfried attacks and slays the monster. Dying, the giant tells
him to beware of Mime. Plucking his sword from the beast's heart,
the youth wets his finger with the blood and cleanses it with his
lips. At once he understands the language of the bird. And here
we meet with one of Wagner's dramatic makeshifts, which has often
been ridiculed. Before the hero understands the bird its tones are
represented by the clarionet; afterward it sings German text in a
soprano voice. This is Wagner's plan for conveying the language of
the bird to the audience. It is awkward, but there was plainly no
other way to let the hearer into the secret. One needs the help of
his imagination here, and must bear ever in mind that he is listening
to one of the world's fairy tales. The bird sends Siegfried to get
the helm and the ring and warns the youth to be wary, for Mime is

And now comes another makeshift. Mime approaches, knowing that
Siegfried has slain the dragon and obtained the helm and the ring.
The dwarf plans to sink the youth in sleep by a potion, slay him,
and secure the treasure. But as he would prattle of his love and
fidelity, he unconsciously reveals the inner workings of his mind,
and to do this he has to utter them aloud. Siegfried and the
audience hear them. It is clumsy, but again there seemed no other
way. Siegfried slays Mime, and again lays himself down under the
linden tree. The "Waldweben" is heard again, and once more the bird
sings to the hero, this time to tell him that Brünnhilde sleeps on
the fire-girt rock, where only he who knows not fear can reach her.
Siegfried springs forward on the path, the bird showing him the way.
The whole structure and fancy of this beautiful act are original with
Wagner. The saga gave the dramatist only the facts of the slaying of
the dragon and the understanding of the language of the birds, which
warned the hero of the dwarf's treachery and told him of the sleeping
beauty. The treatment and development in the drama are infinitely
more poetic than in the original story.

The third act opens with an interview, suggested by the Elder Edda,
between Wotan and Erda at the foot of the Valkyr's mountain. Wotan
once more consults the Wala, but she tells him naught of value. The
god, now ready to resign the empire of the world and prepared for
the ending of the Aesir, awaits the hero's coming. Siegfried, led
by the bird, confronts him, and with the sword Nothung smites the
opposing spear in twain. I have seen it asked why this sword, which
was shattered upon the spear in "Die Walküre," now cleaves the runic
haft. The ethical basis of the tragedy explains this. Siegmund was
doomed to expiate his crime, a victim to Fricka, the avenger, and to
the law behind her. But, welded anew by the hand of a spotless hero,
the sword is resistless.[45] The law has no hold upon it. Crying "In
vain! I cannot stop thee," Wotan disappears from the tragedy. We hear
of him, but see him no more till the flames of Walhalla reveal him to
us in the blazing sky.

[Footnote 45: Rassmann holds that the name "Gram" ("Wrath") was given
to the sword in the Volsunga Saga because only Odin's wrath could
break it. See Rassmann's "Heldensage," vol. i.]

Siegfried penetrates the fire, and finds the sleeping beauty. He
cuts the byrny from her bosom, as in the saga, and wakes her with a
kiss. She sings her hymn to the sun and the light and the earth, and
proclaims herself Siegfried's from the beginning. One last struggle
for her maidenhood, and she yields herself. The union is made. The
old order is done. The new race is to come and rule the world. The
drama closes with a duo of passionate beauty, and we are ready for
"Götterdämmerung," the last act of "Der Ring des Nibelungen."

No doubt the legend of Sigurd's penetration of the flames was taken
from the old story of Freyr, the sun-god, who rode through a hedge,
guarded by fierce dogs, and a flame-circle within it, to win Gerda
for his bride. In the later form of the legend, as told in the
Elder Edda, Freyr once saw Gerda afar off and fell in love with
her. He pined, and his son told Skirnir, his faithful servant, of
this. Skirnir took Freyr's horse and magic sword, rode through the
flames, and conquered the unwilling Gerda by means of runes. Among
the things she refused before he employed the runes was the magic
ring which the dwarfs had made. From it eight new ones dropped each
ninth night. Thus we see that the myth is related to both of Sigurd's
exploits,--that in which he penetrated the flames for himself, and
that in which he represented Gunnar. The ring made by the dwarfs, of
course, became in the saga tale the ring of Andvari, carrying its
curse, and was given to Brünnhilde after the hero had won her.

The last drama of the series opens with a scene taken directly from
the Norse mythology. On the Valkyr's rock sit the three Norns,
weaving their rope of runes and peering into the events of the past,
the present, and the future. For such is their vocation. They are
the Fates of older legend. In the Scandinavian mythology they were
called Urd, who looked into the past; Verdandi, who surveyed the
present, and Skuld, the youngest, who gazed into the future. Wagner
does not use the names, nor does he discriminate in the occupations
of the three. Indeed, the scene has no close dramatic relation to
the drama about to be enacted, but is rather a pictorial and musical
mood tableau, designed to fill the mind of the auditor with portents.
In the narrative of the first Norn we hear how Wotan lost his eye,
selling it for a draught from the fountain of knowledge, and how
he broke a limb from the great ash Yggdrasil itself to fashion his
spear. These are incidents in the old mythology. The ash tree was
watered daily from Urd's fountain, and it could not wither till the
last battle was about to be fought. From the first Norn's tale we
learn that the tree has withered and the fountain dried. This is a
portent of the end.

From the stories of the other Norns we learn that as soon as
Siegfried had broken Wotan's spear the god summoned his heroes to
the world's ash tree and cut it down. From it were hewn fagots, and
these were piled high in Walhalla. Wotan and the heroes sit in state,
waiting for the flames which shall consume their abode. The dusk of
the gods is at hand. While the Norns are trying to fathom the outcome
of the curse on the ring, their rope breaks. With frightened cries
they sink into the earth, declaring that the world shall no more hear
their wisdom.

Siegfried and Brünnhilde, in the dawn of the new day, come forth
from their cavern home. The young hero has matured into a man. He
is clad in Brünnhilde's armor and wears her cloak. How long they
were together on the mountain no one knows. It was long enough for
the youth to become a man, and to learn all Brünnhilde's wisdom.
She is sending him forth to new exploits, fearing only that she may
not hold his heart in absence. She has taught him all her runes,
and surrendered to him her maidenhood's strength. What these runes
were we can learn from the Lay of Sigdrifa in the Elder Edda, but
they have no bearing upon the story of Wagner. The statement that
Brünnhilde has lost her maiden strength is of importance, for it
helps to explain why Siegfried is afterward able to snatch the ring
from her. With her maidenhood, departed the last vestige of her
divinity, her strength. Henceforth she is all woman. The decree of
Wotan is fulfilled. She says:

     "My wisdom fails,
     But good-will remains;
     So full of love
     But failing in strength,
     Thou wilt despise
     Perchance the poor one,
     Who, having giv'n all,
     Can grant thee no more."

Siegfried gives her the ring with a casual and insignificant remark
that he owes all his strength to it. Brünnhilde gives him her steed,
Grani, which has lost its magic powers together with her. Compare
this with the saga story of Sigurd's choice of a horse. The hero
now sets forth, and as the scene changes we hear his horn echoing
down the Rhine valley, and the orchestra paints his journey. The
second scene shows us the interior of the home of Gunther, the son of
Gibich, who is seated at a table with his sister, Gutrune, and his
half-brother, Hagen. Gunther is the Gunnar of the saga, but Wagner
uses the name from the "Nibelungen Lied" because it is German. The
name of Gibich is obtained from the "Lex Burgundionum" of Gundohar,
a Burgundian king of the fifth century, who in it names, as one of
his ancestors, Gibica. The word is derived from the same root as
Giuki, the name used in the Volsunga Saga. Wagner gets the character
of Gunther from the "Nibelungen Lied," where he is represented as
a weak person, usually under the influence of others. Gutrune is
the Gudrun of the saga, the daughter of Grimhild, who employs magic
to win Siegfried for her child's spouse. In the "Nibelungen Lied"
Chriemhild is Gutrune; the two personages have been moulded into one
and the magic eliminated. Wagner, as we shall see, identifies the
characters of Gutrune and Chriemhild as the Lied does, but retains
the magic, which is wielded by Hagen in furtherance of the Nibelung's
plan to recover the ring. He also retains the fact that Grimhild
was Gunther's mother. She was also the mother of Hagen, having been
overcome by an elf--an idea which Wagner borrowed from the Thidrek

This idea was essential to his plan of making Hagen appear in the
drama as the son of Alberich. It does not consist with Wotan's
statement that the Nibelung had won a woman with gold, but that
discrepancy is unimportant. The point is that Gunther's half-brother
is a Nibelung, and has been entrusted by his father with the task of
bringing about the downfall of Siegfried. Wagner has developed the
character of Hagen according to this idea, and not according to the
original sources. In the Thidrek Saga and the "Nibelungen Lied" Hagen
is represented as a crafty villain, while in the Volsunga Saga he
is of noble nature and will have naught to do with the plot against
Siegfried. In the other two poems he has no motive but malice, while
Wagner raises the character to a high tragic plane by giving Hagen
the purpose of the Nibelungs' revenge.

The second scene opens, then, with Hagen telling Gunther that he is
too long unwed, and that there sleeps on a mountain surrounded by
fire the woman who should be his bride. But she is to be reached only
by him who never knew fear. This leads to a narration of the exploits
of Siegfried, suggested by the narrative of Hagen in the "Nibelungen
Lied," when he sees Siegfried approaching the Court of Gunther.
Neither Gunther nor Gutrune learns what Hagen has already been told
by Alberich, that Siegfried has wed Brünnhilde; and so they readily
fall in with his suggestion that Gutrune administer a magic potion
to bind this great hero's heart to her. Siegfried arrives at the
castle, and is welcomed by Gunther, who in the mediæval style says
in effect: "All that I have and am is yours." Siegfried answers that
he has nothing but his good limbs and his home-made sword to offer
in return. Hagen immediately asks him where the Nibelungs' hoard is.
The hero replies that he deemed it worthless and left it in the cave,
except the Tarnhelm, which he has with him, but does not know how to
use. Hagen thereupon explains the virtue of it, and inquires where
the ring is. Siegfried says it is worn by a woman, and Hagen mutters,
"Brünnhilde." Gutrune proffers the magic draught. Siegfried drinks
to Brünnhilde and--forgets her. For the drink, artfully prepared by
Hagen, was one of forgetfulness. And here we come upon a weak spot in
the drama. The drink does not, as we shall see, make Siegfried forget
all the incidents leading up to his winning of Brünnhilde, but only
their relations. The only plea that can be entered here is that if we
accept a magic drink at all, we must not put logical limitations on
its powers.

Siegfried now falls in with Hagen's plan. He agrees to go through the
fire and get Brünnhilde for Gunther, provided he, in return for the
service, receives the hand of Gutrune. There is no talk of a futile
attempt on the part of Gunther to penetrate the flames. Siegfried and
Gunther swear blood-brotherhood, and the two start for the Valkyr's
rock, where, with the help of the Tarnhelm, they are to exchange
shapes, as in the saga. Hagen, left alone, gloats over the fact that
Siegfried will bring him the ring. Once more the scene changes to
the Valkyr's rock, and we meet with an episode in the story entirely
original with Wagner, an episode of great beauty and significance.
Brünnhilde hears once again the sounds of the passage of a
wind-horse, a Valkyr steed. A moment later her sister, Waltraute, is
clasped in her embrace. Why has she broken Wotan's command against
visiting Brünnhilde? Waltraute says she has fled hither from Walhalla
in anguish. "What has befallen the eternal gods?" asks Brünnhilde,
in fear. Then Waltraute gives a majestic description of the last
gathering of the gods in Walhalla, as already narrated in the Norns'
scene. Deep dismay has fallen on the gods. Wotan has sent his ravens
out to seek for tidings. This, according to the Eddas, he did daily.
Waltraute, weeping on her father's breast, has heard him say:

     "The day the Rhine's three daughters
     Gain by surrender from her the ring,
           From the curse's load
     Released are gods and men."

This is why Waltraute has come. Wotan dare not act, does not dream
of doing so; for the atonement must be the work of a free agent.
But a Valkyr is a wish-maiden, Wotan's will, and so Waltraute, like
Brünnhilde in "Die Walküre," strives to realise her father's wish.
Will Brünnhilde give back the ring? But Brünnhilde is no more a
virgin Valkyr, a mere daughter of the gods. She is a beloved and
loving woman. The ring is Siegfried's bridal gift. Perish the
world; perish the eternal gods; but the ring shall not leave her
finger where love kissed it into place. Even as Brünnhilde speaks,
the orchestra sings the motive of Renunciation, for, as Waltraute
flees in despair, the fire springs up in defence of Brünnhilde and
the beguiled Siegfried comes in the Tarnhelm, wearing the face
and form of Gunther, to wrest the ring from her and make her the
bride of the son of Gibich. This is tremendous tragedy; tenfold
more tremendous than anything that entered the minds of the sagamen
or the fashioners of the "Nibelungen Lied." The Waltraute scene,
accentuating, as it does, Wagner's connection of the Nibelung ring
with the burden of guilt resting on the gods, presents in a powerful
light the human tragedy leading to the restoration of the ring
to its rightful owners. Furthermore, the scene is essential to a
complete understanding of the character of Brünnhilde in the final
drama of the series. The last despairing appeal of Waltraute for the
Aesir meets with an answer which fully exhibits the change wrought
in Brünnhilde. When Wotan put her to sleep, saying, "So küsst er
die Gottheit von dir," he was the familiar Wotan of the trilogy,
planning, but seeing only half the issue of his plan. When Siegfried
laid the kiss of human love upon the virgin lips of the Valkyr, he it
was who truly kissed the godhood from her, and left her with a wholly
human disregard for the fading Aesir. All she has given for love, and
now comes a second claimant for her. Stricken with horror and shame,
she is driven into the cavern. Siegfried, following, announces that
his sword shall lie between them.

The second act brings us back to the castle of Gunther. Hagen, still
watching, is visited by Alberich, who urges him to persistence.
Alberich's speeches impress upon us two important points, namely:
that the curse cannot fall upon Siegfried, because he is ignorant
of the powers of the ring, and therefore does not use them; and,
secondly, that if he should give the ring back to the Rhine maidens
no art could fashion a new one. Both of these ideas are Wagner's.
The first is a natural outgrowth of the ethical basis of the drama;
the second was doubtless suggested by the old legends, which always
finish the story of the hoard by returning it to the waters.
Siegfried returns and announces his success, quieting the fears of
Gutrune by telling her that his sword lay between him and Brünnhilde.
Here we have an alteration of the original stories to suit modern
taste. In the legends there was no question of the relations of
the disguised Siegfried and Brünnhilde, and they existed with the
consent of Gunther. But in Wagner's drama it is made plain to us that
Siegfried was loyal in the modern sense, though he used an ancient
symbol of honour, the sword.

Gunther arrives with Brünnhilde, and she, seeing Siegfried there
with Gutrune, at once suspects treachery. She perceives the ring on
Siegfried's finger, and demands an explanation as to how he came by
the circlet which Gunther had wrenched from her hand the previous
night. This episode of the ring is entirely different, as the reader
will note, from those of the Volsunga Saga and the "Nibelungen Lied."
But it had to be so, because Wagner had already omitted the incident
which, in the sources of his story, led to Siegfried's presenting
the ring to his wife. Brünnhilde's questions about the ring evoke no
satisfactory answers, and she bursts out with the charge that not
Gunther, but Siegfried married her. "He forced delights of love from
me!" she cries. Siegfried avows that his sword lay between them. But
Brünnhilde is talking of a night long previous to that just passed,
a night of which only she and Siegfried should know, but which he,
under the influence of the drink, has forgotten. Brünnhilde knows
that her hearers are ignorant of that night, but she is bent upon
implicating Siegfried, and she lets the assembly believe that she is
speaking of the night just passed. Much good ink has been spilled
over this scene, one party contending that Brünnhilde was guilty of
deceit, and the other that Siegfried had been false to his trust. The
intent of the scene is, it seems to me, perfectly plain, but to quiet
all doubts we may go to Wagner's own sketch, "The Nibelung Myth as
Sketch for a Drama." He describes this point thus:

"Siegfried charges her with shamelessness: faithful had he been
to this blood brothership,--his sword he laid between Brünnhilde
and himself:--he calls on her to bear him witness. Purposely, and
thinking only of his ruin, she will not understand him."

In a speech of double meaning, she declares that the sword hung in
its scabbard on the wall on the night when its master gained him a
true love. Siegfried swears to his truth on the point of Hagen's
spear, calling upon it to pierce him if he is false. This is a purely
theatric touch. This spear does pierce him, yet was he not false.
Brünnhilde swears upon the same spear that Siegfried has committed
perjury. Thereupon Siegfried lightly says that she is daft, and bids
the guests to let the festivities proceed. Brünnhilde now suspects
some deviltry, but her runic wisdom is gone and she cannot fathom
it. But she can and does confide to Hagen that she had made her hero
invulnerable, except in the back. Gunther discerns that he has been
dishonoured, yet he is loath, for his sister's sake, to be revenged
upon Siegfried. This makes Brünnhilde all the more furious, and she
readily assents to Hagen's proposition that Siegfried must die. The
vacillating Gunther is overcome. Hagen shouts in triumph; the ring
and the power will soon be his.

The last act shows the Rhine maidens sporting on the surface of the
water in a little cove of the river. Siegfried, hunting and strayed
from his party, appears on the rocks above them. They beg him to
return the ring, and he is almost on the point of doing so when
they warn him of its curse. He refuses to be scared into parting
with it. This meeting with the Rhine maidens is not found in any
of the old stories, because the ring which causes the trouble in
"Götterdämmerung" is not in any way associated in the legends with
the end of the gods. In both the Thidrek Saga and the "Nibelungen
Lied," Hagen is warned of an evil by mermaids, and this may barely
have suggested this scene, which so accentuates the immediately
succeeding tragedy of Siegfried's death.

The hunting party arrives, and to cheer the gloomy Gunther Siegfried
volunteers to tell the story of his youth. All this is original with
Wagner. The hero narrates the incidents of the drama "Siegfried" to
a wonderful epitome of its music, up to the slaying of Mime. Then
Hagen administers an antidote to the drink of forgetfulness, and the
hero reveals his discovery of Brünnhilde. Gunther is shocked as he
realises Hagen's perfidy. Wotan's ravens fly past, and Hagen calls on
Siegfried to interpret their tones. As the hero turns his back, Hagen
drives the spear into it. Siegfried dies apostrophising his Valkyr
love. To the strains of the great funeral march, the body is borne
back to the home of the Gibichs, and laid at the feet of Gutrune, who
is told, as in the Thidrek Saga, that a wild boar slew her lord. She
accuses Gunther, who promptly denounces Hagen. The Nibelung demands
the ring; Gunther opposes him; they fight, and Gunther is slain.
Hagen reaches for the ring, but the dead hand of Siegfried rises in
solemn warning, and sends him staggering back in terror. At this
juncture Brünnhilde, who, as we vaguely learn from the text, has
heard the truth from the Rhine maidens, enters the hall, a picture of
outraged majesty.

After informing Gutrune that she was never the real wife of
Siegfried, Brünnhilde sums up the dénouement of the entire tragedy
in a speech which must be carefully read by anyone desiring
thoroughly to understand Wagner's design. She perceives the whole
of Wotan's plan, and upbraids him for throwing on a guiltless man
the curse of his own crime. Let the ravens tell Wotan that his
plan is accomplished. And let the weary god have rest. She takes
the ring from Siegfried's finger, and places it upon her own. When
she is burned with him on the funeral pyre, the Rhine maidens may
get the ring again. And now fly home, ravens. Pass by the Valkyr's
rock and bid the flickering Loge once more visit Walhalla, for the
dusk of the gods is at hand, and with this torch will the bride of
Siegfried fire the towers of Asgard. Then she addresses the wondering
retainers and bids them, when she is gone, to put aside treaties and
treacherous bonds as laws of life, and in their place to let Love
rule alone. With her steed, Grani, she mounts Siegfried's funeral
pyre. The flames rise to heaven. Upon the Rhine are seen the three
maidens, one of them holding aloft the ring. Hagen madly springs
into the water after the accursed bauble, and is drawn under by the
maidens and drowned. The sky blazes and we see the assembled gods, as
described by Waltraute, sitting in the burning Walhalla. It is the

So ends the tragedy. Nothing in the final scenes closely resembles
the original legends except the burning of Walhalla. In the legends
the gods are destroyed in battle with the powers of evil. Here
they die in solemn atonement for sin. And their punishment, which
is their release, is accomplished by the voluntary sacrifice of a
woman through love. Brünnhilde, wiser in the end than Wotan himself,
perfects and completes his plan. The death of the hero, innocent and
unoffending, was not enough. The intentional sacrifice, hallowed by
love, accomplishes what all Wotan's schemes failed to achieve. The
ethical plot of the drama is finished. "The eternal feminine leadeth
us upward and on."

This glorious Brünnhilde of Wagner is a grander figure than any
conceived by the sagamen. Dimly, indeed, may her sacrifice be
connected with the death of Nanna, the wife of Baldur, the bright
one, who could not outlive her husband. But that death was merely
from a broken heart. This one is a magnificent atonement.

Baldur's horse, fully caparisoned, was led to his master's pyre.
Wotan placed on the pile his ring, Draupner, which every ninth night
produced eight other rings. But none of these incidents have the
enormous significance of Wagner's final scene. His reconstruction of
the story of the end of the gods, of their release from the burden
of sin by a voluntary, vicarious sacrifice, raises the poetic issue
of his drama to a plane far above the conceptions of the old Norse
and Teutonic skalds. With "Der Ring des Nibelungen," in spite of its
defects, Wagner set himself beside the Greek dramatists.

III.--The Music of the Trilogy

In "Der Ring des Nibelungen" the leitmotiv system is found at its
best. In this gigantic and complex drama it provides a musical
aid to an understanding of the intent of the dramatist. It is a
running commentary on the action, a ceaseless revealer of inner
thoughts and motives. And, owing to the development of plot and
character, the musical device of thematic development is employed
with admirable effect in this work. Unfortunately for the credit of
Wagner, the typical handbook of these dramas, and the fashionable
"Wagner Lecture," which consists of telling the story and playing
the principal motives on a piano, have gone far to convey wholly
erroneous ideas of this unique musical system. The hearer of the
lecture and the reader of the handbook are led to suppose that the
score consists of a string of disconnected phrases, arbitrarily
formed and capriciously titled, and that this is the whole result of
the system.

The truth is that the score becomes symphonic in scope. The various
motives are invented with a profound insight into the philosophy of
musical expression and are repeated or developed according to the
principles of musico-dramatic art formulated in the mind of Wagner
when he had fully elaborated his theory of the organic union of the
text and the music. Reading the handbooks or hearing the lectures
and afterward recognising the motives as they appear in the dramas,
even when their significance is known, is not all that Wagner asks of
one who attempts to understand his system. It is necessary to study
the scores very thoroughly, to note the intimate union of text and
music, to observe the changes which motives undergo when new shades
of meaning are to be expressed, to grasp the treatment of rhythm and
tonality and the formation and expansion of themes, and generally to
follow the composer through the various ramifications of the most
elaborate plan for dramatic expression in music ever invented.

On the other hand, none of this study is essential to a mere
enjoyment of these dramas. For that, only a perfect comprehension of
the text is necessary; if you know what the characters are saying and
doing, the music will do its own work. It will create the right mood
for you, though you do not know the name of a single leading theme.
But the thematic system is there, and to understand it will add
enormously to your intellectual and artistic pleasure and give Wagner
a far higher position in your estimation than he would otherwise
occupy. Only, if you intend to study it, do not treat it as if it
were nothing more than a thematic catalogue. What I am about to put
before the reader cannot claim to be more than some pertinent hints.
An exhaustive study of these scores would fill a volume.

Let the reader refer to the classification of motives given in
Chapter III. of "The Artistic Aims of Wagner" (page 193), and apply
it to the themes now to be considered. He will find in these scores
all the classes there enumerated and will note that they are used and
developed with extraordinary skill.

After the preliminary measures of the introduction to "Das
Rheingold," we hear the first guiding theme of the drama, the motive
of the Primeval Elements:


This motive plays an important part in the trilogy. When Erda rises
from the earth in the last scene of the prologue we hear this same
theme in the minor mode, and we at once perceive that by this
simple process of musical development Wagner associates her with
the primeval elements (earth, air, and water), but emphasises the
sadness of her character and her peculiar office in the tragedy as
a prophetess of woe. When she utters the words, "Ein düst'rer Tag
dämmert den Göttern" ("A dismal day dawns for the Aesir"), we hear
her motive first in its natural form, and then inverted, and we then
learn that this inversion has an especial meaning, the end of the
gods, the "Götterdämmerung":


     Ein düst'rer Tag dämmert den Göttern]

Now let us turn to the scene in which Waltraute comes to tell
Brünnhilde how Wotan has had the ash cut down, hewn into faggots,
and assembled the gods to wait for the end. In the accompaniment to
her words appears the Erda theme, originally that of the Primeval
Elements which surrounded the Rhinegold, transformed into a stately
progression of octaves. Presently over these we hear the Walhalla
theme, and then the octaves descend in a new development of the
"Götterdämmerung" theme:


     The stem in sticks he bade them to stack
     and arrange in a bulk, 'round the Aesir's sanctified seat.
     The Gods he called unto the council;]

Turn next to the last scene of all, to the entrance of Brünnhilde. We
find that the music is this:


Brünnhilde has come to fulfil the prophecy of Erda; the dusk of the
gods is at hand. And so when she commands the retainers to erect the
funeral pyre, which is kindled at Walhalla, we hear once again the
"Götterdämmerung" theme as it was introduced to us in the Waltraute


This is an excellent demonstration of the leitmotiv system in its
fullest expansion, and it should warn the reader against accepting
these themes as merely arbitrary labels. Let him always seek for
their musical philosophy and their relations to one another.

When the Rhine maidens appear swimming around the rock in which lies
the gold, they sing these cabalistic words and this melodious music:


     Weia waga! Woge, du Welle,
     walle zur Wiege! Wagala Weia!
     Wallala, weiala, weia!]

Presently, as narrated in the story, the gold discloses itself, and
we hear the ascending theme of the Appearing Gold:


But when the maidens burst into song in its praise, they sing this:


     Rheingold! Rheingold!
     Leuchtende Lust, wie lachst du so hell und hehr!

     Rheingold! Rheingold!
     Lust'rous delight, thou laughest in radiance rare!]

The first measures of this melody are employed throughout the
drama to signify the gold. Examination will show that the words
"Rheingold! Rheingold!" are sung to precisely the same melodic form
as "Weia" at the beginning and the end of the phrase quoted from
the Rhine daughters' music. Here, again, we see how Wagner persists
in preserving the musical associations of allied themes, and of
deriving one from the other in the symphonic style. In the last act
of "Götterdämmerung," when the maidens warn Siegfried of coming evil,
they sing his name to the Rhinegold theme in the minor mode. The
significance of this is unmistakable.

At the first mention of the ring, we hear the Ring theme:

[Music: THE RING.]

This theme is subjected to so many developments that they cannot be
enumerated in a work of this kind. A single glance, however, will
show the reader how closely related it is to the "Götterdämmerung"
motive. In certain passages, as in the scene between Brünnhilde and
the disguised Siegfried in "Götterdämmerung" this theme and the
Walhalla theme are combined, by an ingenious use of the rhythm and
melodic sequence of the one with the melody and harmony of the
other, to identify Brünnhilde's personality with possession of the
ring. Other important motives introduced early in the "Rheingold" are
the following:


     Nun wer der Minne Macht entsagt,
     nur wer der Liebe Lust verjagt

     But he who passion's power forswears,
     and from delights of love forbears]

[Music: WALHALLA.]

[Music: COMPACT.]

[Music: GIANTS.]

The Renunciation theme is employed throughout the tragedy to
signify renunciation without regard to its original connection
with the ring. The Walhalla motive indicates not only the place,
but the origin of persons who come thence. In this sense it is
sometimes applied to Brünnhilde, as well as to Wotan. The next
theme of significance is that of the Tarnhelm (see page 195). Here,
again, we meet with a theme for which there is a companion closely
associated with it in form and in the action of the drama. This is
the theme of Forgetfulness, heard in "Götterdämmerung" when Siegfried
takes the drink offered him by Gutrune. The close relationship in
the meaning of these themes is best displayed in the scene of
Siegfried's arrival at the Valkyr's rock in the guise of Gunther.
Brünnhilde says: "What man art thou?" And, as Siegfried stands at
the rear and begins his answer, we hear these three motives in
succession--Forgetfulness, Gibichung, and Tarnhelm.



     Brünnhild'! A lover comes!


The meaning is clear, and the kinship of the Forgetfulness and
Tarnhelm themes unmistakable. Siegfried uses the Tarnhelm but this
once in the whole tragedy, and uses it because of the forgetfulness
and in the guise of a Gibichung.

When Freia has been carried off by the giants to wait for Wotan's
decision as to the ransom, Loge taunts the gods with their pallor and
failing glory. As part of the accompaniment to his speech, we hear
the motive of Departing Divinity:


Now turn to the last scene of "Die Walküre," and when Wotan tells
Brünnhilde that he will plunge her into unbreaking sleep we hear this
same motive in this form:


The theme is heard again in its fullest harmonies when the god kisses
her eyes and she sinks to sleep. Here, again, Wagner uses uncertainty
of tonality to produce an effect of mystery in his music.

At the entrance of Loge we hear another important motive, that of the

[Music: LOGE.]

From this is developed the magic fire music of "Die Walküre," and
the theme is heard frequently throughout the trilogy. Sometimes
it ascends, and again it descends, and at times it becomes purely
melodic in the diatonic scale and the major mode, but it never loses
its flickering, wavering character. When Wotan and Loge descend into
Nibelheim, we hear the important theme of the Nibelungs, the smiths:


This is heard very often in the tragedy, and always signifies
the Nibelung race. Alberich's appearance, driving before him the
Nibelungs, who have become his slaves through the power of the ring,
introduces the theme of Alberich's mastery:



As it was the Rhinegold which made him lord of the Nibelungs,
the theme is compounded of the Rhinegold motive and that of the
Nibelungs, the latter being brought to a firm and definite close with
a major chord. With the entrance of the dwarfs carrying the gold, we
hear the theme of the Hoard:

[Music: THE HOARD.]

The Dragon motive appears when Alberich transforms himself for the
first time:

[Music: THE DRAGON.]

This theme is employed again in "Siegfried" for the transformed
"Fafner." The motive of the Nibelung's Hate is used very often in
"Siegfried" and "Götterdämmerung," as well as in the prologue:


The instrumentation of this theme, the lower part being given to
strings and the upper to clarinets, is especially expressive. It
has a snarl and a sneer. The next important theme introduced in the
prologue is that of the Curse:

[Music: THE CURSE.


     Wie durch Fluch er mir geriet,
     verflucht sei dieser Ring!

     As through curse to me it came,
     accursed be this ring!]

This is heard when Fafner kills Fasolt, and throughout the drama at
points where the curse is especially significant, as at the death
of Siegfried. The Sword theme (see page 195) appears when Wotan
conceives his plan. I have not given the minor themes, which are
heard only in the "Vorabend," such as those of Fricka, Froh, and
Freia. Donner's theme is of little import, being heard again only in
the storm music in "Walküre." There is a long list of minor themes,
but their significance can always be learned from the text.

In "Die Walküre" a number of significant motives not heard in the
prologue are brought forward. The first of these indicates the gentle
and sympathetic personality of Sieglinde:


Next comes the Love motive, a melody of some length, written for
celli, and full of feeling:

[Music: LOVE.]

These two motives belong particularly to this drama; they do not
figure in the other works. In the first act, however, appear two
themes which are used thereafter throughout the tragedy, the themes
of the Volsungs' sorrow and the Volsung race:



The reappearance of the Sword motive (see page 195) in this act
should be noted for its pregnant meaning. Siegmund calls upon his
father and says, "Where is the promised sword?" The firelight at this
instant strikes the hilt of the sword in the tree, and the orchestra
gives out the Sword theme with almost startling effect. It would be
superfluous to trace the manifold treatment of the various melodic
fragments through the score. The hearer of the works cannot fail
to become acquainted with their import. The motive of the Volsung
race is especially touching in its noble dignity and melancholy.
It epitomises in a fragment of music the nature and suffering of
the unhappy Volsungs. Much of the music of the first act is freely
composed, the love song and most of the duet being thus written.
A motive indicative of the personality of Hunding will be easily
recognised when heard. With the opening of the second act we make
the acquaintance of two motives associated with Brünnhilde in her
character of Valkyr:



The second of these is afterward used whenever the nature of the
Valkyr is of significance in the drama. The theme, it will be noted,
is designed rhythmically to suggest the motion of the Valkyr steed.
When Fricka imposes upon Wotan the oath to honour her rights, we hear
the theme of Wotan's Wrath, a wrath in which there is a deep note of


When Wotan informs Brünnhilde that only a free hero can make the
atonement, we hear this theme beautifully combined with the Erda
theme and a suggestion of the "Götterdämmerung" motive:

[Music: WOTAN.

     Nur einer könnte, was ich nicht darf:
     Ein Held, dem helfend nie ich mich neigte,

     But one may compass what I must leave,
     A hero held by none of our number,]

It is by such wonderful combinations of the guiding themes that
the scores of these dramas become so rich in variety, beauty, and
meaning. The significance of this passage is clear and eloquent.
The plan must fail and the dusk of the gods must come. The phrase
marked A is usually designated the theme of the "Gods' Stress."
It is plainly, however, the Erda theme and a variant of the
"Götterdämmerung." When Siegmund sits on the rock with Sieglinde
fainting in his arms, we hear for the first time the motive of Fate,
often used afterward:

[Music: FATE.]

The treatment of the "Todesverkündigung" is free, the theme being
heard only in that scene. Motives already made known form the warp
of the score to the end of the act, and the third act opens with the
familiar "Ride of the Valkyrs" built on the Valkyr's Call and the
Valkyr theme. When Brünnhilde informs Sieglinde that she is to be the
mother of the "highest hero of worlds," we hear for the first time
the magnificent Siegfried theme, which is to play such an important
part in the remainder of the tragedy:


And in response to this announcement Sieglinde sings thus:


     O hehrstes Wunder!
     Herrlichste Maid!

     O glorious wonder!
     Maiden divine!]

This theme is heard again at the close of the last scene of
"Götterdämmerung," and there we instantly recognise its significance
as an embodiment of the glorious divinity of Brünnhilde, the divinity
of ideal womanhood, ennobled by love and sanctified by sacrifice.
Another significant motive heard in this scene is that of Slumber:

[Music: SLUMBER.]

This, with the Fire and Siegfried themes, forms the magnificent
closing passage of this drama. The melody of Wotan's farewell, though
it can hardly be described as a leitmotiv, reappears with beautiful
effect in Waltraute's narrative, when she tells of Wotan's sadness.

In "Siegfried" we meet with a score which contains a great amount
of freely composed music. There is so much that is external and
incidental in this work that the constant employment of guiding
themes was unnecessary. The result is that we enter an atmosphere of
buoyant, jubilant out-door life, full of the vigour and sweetness of
spring and young manhood. The whole of the scene of the forging of
the sword is sung in music aglow with the flame of the forge, alive
with the rhythm of the bellows and the hammer. The forest scene
gives us the bird music and the "Waldweben," freely written, the
latter a mood picture, using only the Volsung theme as a reminder.
Wotan's splendid summons to Erda is free music, and in the matchless
scene of the awakening we hear much that is new and belongs only to

The first of the important new themes is that intoned by the young
hero's horn. It is the theme of Siegfried, the buoyant, fearless,
militant youth:


Out of this theme and that of the Sword, the melodies and rhythms
being combined perfectly, is made the brilliant motive of Siegfried,
the hero who welds and wields the sword:


This is heard often in the early part of the work. Wotan, disguised
as a wanderer, is indicated by a theme without tonality, which,
therefore, belongs to the same class as the Tarnhelm and Departing
Divinity motives:


In the second act, while Siegfried is alone in the forest, is heard
this beautiful and significant theme:


After this, till the first scene of the third act, the listener will
not hear any motive of high import. All is either free music or the
employment of themes whose significance has been previously made
known. But in the opening of the last act appears the splendid melody
of the Heritage of the World, which is used to embody the readiness
of Wotan to resign himself to his approaching fate and to hand over
his kingdom to the new race:


Wonderful, too, are the strains which accompany the arrival of
Siegfried at the top of the Valkyr's mountain, but most wonderful is
the music of Brünnhilde's Awakening:


This is only a fragment of it, but it contains the pregnant phrase of
marvellous beauty which returns with such agonising eloquence in the
final speeches of the dying Siegfried in "Götterdämmerung." When the
Valkyr maid is awake and has recognised Siegfried, their voices unite
in the passionate measure of a duet, founded on the motive of Love's


In "Götterdämmerung," when Siegfried raises the drink of
forgetfulness to his lips, he drinks to the memory of Brünnhilde
and intones the words to this very theme. That is one of Wagner's
most poignant strokes of musical pathos. The drama of "Siegfried"
comes to its end with a sweep of overmastering passion. The themes
are peculiar to this work, but most of them are heard in the lovely
"Siegfried Idyl," so often played in concert.

"Götterdämmerung" opens with a repetition of known themes in the Norn
scene. In the second scene we meet with two new ideas, the themes of
Brünnhilde, the woman, and Siegfried, the mature hero:



The first of these expresses very beautifully the loving, clinging
nature of the transformed Valkyr. The second is a thematic
development of the motive of Siegfried, the youth. The change is
chiefly one of rhythm. Siegfried, the youth, is depicted musically
in six-eighth measure, a rhythm buoyant and piquant. For Siegfried,
the mature hero, the melodic sequence is preserved, but the
rhythm is changed to a dual one. The change is one founded on the
nature of music, for the dual rhythm is firm, square, and solid.
The injection of minor harmony at the end is heard in the first
announcement of this theme and serves to indicate approaching sorrow.
This motive rises to its grandest development in the funeral march
after Siegfried's death, when the orchestra passes in review, in a
composition of wonderful beauty and power, the themes most closely
associated with him. This theme forms the climax of the march and is
pealed forth by the brass in this form:


Two other new themes heard in "Götterdämmerung" are worthy of note.
They are that of Gutrune and that of Brünnhilde's Despair, the former
appearing in the third scene of the first act and the latter in the
second act:



There are also themes for Gunther, the Gibichung (already quoted),
and for Hagen. But "Götterdämmerung" is most wonderful, musically,
for the manner in which the themes of the earlier dramas are repeated
in it. The expressiveness of the system is nowhere more forcibly
illustrated than in the hero's narrative of his youthful days, when
the most significant themes of "Siegfried" pass before us, bringing
the whole story back in all its vitality. And in the death of the
hero and the wonderful apostrophe of Brünnhilde again we find that
the recapitulation or development of familiar themes knits for us
the substance of the long tragedy into a perfect texture of poetry.
And with the use of the many-voiced orchestra Wagner weaves these
motives into a glittering web of counterpoint, which cannot be copied
even faintly by the piano arrangement. Several motives are sometimes
heard at once, and by the aid of the device of instrumental colouring
their expressiveness is greatly heightened.

Thus the orchestra becomes an actor in the drama, continually
commenting on the passing action, revealing to us the hidden
well-springs of emotion, explaining thoughts to us and flooding
the whole drama with the light of its eloquence. Not by the mere
cataloguing then of these themes are we to arrive at a full
understanding of the composer's intent, but by a careful study of
their repetitions and developments. The knowledge thus gained will
add immeasurably to the intellectual pleasure of the hearer; but, as
I have already said, Wagner's music makes the right mood pictures
even for him who does not know the guiding themes. And that is one of
the most satisfying proofs of his greatness.


A Sacred Stage Festival Play in Three Acts.

First Performed at Bayreuth, July 26, 1882.

_Original Cast._

  Parsifal                                Winkelmann.
  Amfortas                                Reichmann.
  Titurel                                 Kindermann.
  Klingsor                                Hill.
  Gurnemanz                               Scaria.
  Kundry                                  Materna.

The copyright of this work is still held by the Wagner family, and
hence the drama has not yet been performed outside of the Festival
Playhouse at Bayreuth.


I.--The Original Legends

The last of the great music dramas of Richard Wagner began to
occupy his mind as early as 1857. Professor William Tappert says:
"Wagner told me (in 1877) that in the fifties, when in Zurich, he
took possession of a charming new house, and that, inspired by the
beautiful spring weather, he wrote out the sketch that very day of
the Good Friday music." A letter to the tenor Tichatschek defines
the year as 1857. The poem was completed in 1877, and on May 17
of that year was read to an assembly of Wagner's friends at the
house of Mr. Edward Dannreuther, in Orme Square, London. It was
read to the delegates of the Wagner Societies at Villa Wahnfried,
Bayreuth, on Sept. 16, and was published in December. Wagner was in
his sixty-fifth year when he set to work to write out the music.
The sketch of the first act was finished in the spring of 1878.
The second act was completed on Oct. 11, and the sketch of the
third, begun after Christmas, was finished in April, 1879. The
instrumentation was begun almost immediately afterwards, and was
completed at Palermo, Jan. 13, 1882.

As we have already seen, it was while gathering the materials for
"Tannhäuser" and "Lohengrin" that the character and writings of
Wolfram von Eschenbach became known to Wagner. His famous epic,
"Parzival," is the immediate source of Wagner's drama, but the origin
of such a remarkable art-product cannot be dismissed with this simple
statement. Wagner's drama opens to us the entire field of Arthurian
romance and the whole circle of legends of the Holy Grail. These old
tales have played so important a part in the literature of our own
time, as well as in that of the Middle Ages, that it seems fitting
and proper that we should seize this opportunity for a glance over
the whole ground. Wagner, as we shall find, has in this work, as in
his others, taken hints from all the sources, and has introduced
special and highly significant ideas of his own.

Wolfram's history I must recount but briefly, for little is known
of his life. We learn from his name that he was probably born
(about 1170) at Eschenbach in Bavaria, and it is certain that he
was buried there; for toward the end of the seventeenth century his
tomb, with an inscription, could be seen in the Frauen-Kirche of
Ober-Eschenbach. He tells us that he was of the knightly order and
with some humour refers often to his poverty. It does not appear,
however, that he was obliged to roam about, reciting his verse for
a living. He was extremely proud of his knighthood, and his entire
poem breathes the spirit of chivalry. It was probably written--or
dictated, for Wolfram was ignorant of writing--in the early years of
the thirteenth century, and it was published in 1477.

According to Wolfram, the source of his work was a story of the Holy
Grail by one Kiot of Provence. No such poem is now known. According
to Wolfram, Kiot found at Toledo an ancient black-letter manuscript
in Arabic, and learned from it that Flagetanis, a heathen, born
before Christ and celebrated for his acquaintance with occult arts,
had read in the stars that there would at some time appear a thing
called the Grail, and that whosoever should be its servitor would be
blest among men. Kiot set out to ascertain whether anyone had ever
been worthy of this service, and, as the house of Anjou was then
in power, he had no difficulty in discovering that one Titurel, a
very ancient king of this dynasty, had once been the keeper of the
Grail. Of course this story was invented by Kiot to do honour to
his sovereign liege. Wolfram declares that Kiot related the tale
incorrectly, and at any rate his version, so far as reported by
Wolfram, contains nothing about Parsifal. And this brings us to an
important point.

How far back the legends of the Grail go, is unknown. No matter
how far we trace them, we always find references to a source. But
it seems almost certain that in their earliest forms they had no
relation to the tale of Perceval, or Peredur, the Parsifal of later
versions. The story as it is now known to us is a union of two
originally separate legends. There is good ground, according to
all the folk-lorists, for believing that in its original form the
Celtic, or, more exactly, Kymric, legend of Peredur was independent
of the Grail stories. The latter appeared between 1170 and 1220,
and constituted a large body of literature, dealing with a talisman
not at first distinctly Christian. For half a century poets sang
this legend enthusiastically and then suddenly dropped it. A few
scattered and worthless Grail romances date from a later period,
and, with Mallory's "Morte d'Arthur," written 300 years later,--a
noble fragment, indeed,--they came to an end. Mr. David Nutt, in his
"Studies on the Legends of the Holy Grail," holds, with apparently
excellent reason, that the Grail was originally a Pagan talisman,
and that a history of the legend is the history of the development
of this talisman into a Christian symbol. He further shows that the
legends may be divided into two classes, one dealing entirely with
the talisman itself, and being largely influenced by Christian ideas,
and the other treating of the quest of the Grail. Somewhere or other
in the stories of the adventures of Peredur was found a resemblance
to some legend of the search after the Grail, and thus the Kymric
folk-hero became the protagonist of the Grail-drama.

The Arthurian legends are British; the Grail stories are French. Let
us see how they came together. Undoubtedly the former went first from
France to England, and the latter followed them. To understand this
we must bear in mind that France was ancient Gaul, and that a large
part of the ancient population was Celtic. The Celts fairly filled
all that part of France extending from the Garonne River to the Seine
and the Marne. In this land dwelt the Celtae proper, but their speech
and their influence spread beyond its confines. For these Celts in
France were but a surviving and compressed fragment of the great
vanguard of the Aryan race, which, issuing from its forest cradle in
Asia Minor, and carrying in its bosom the nursling star of empire,
swept westward toward the Atlantic. It peopled most of Europe and
the isles of the sea, and it planted among the sunny fields of the
Midi and the verdant vales of Britain the seeds of the Arthurian
legends, the Nibelung tales, the Norse Sagas, all garnered first from
some great parent stem of folk-lore in the Eastern jungles. How it
chanced that the Arthurian tales blossomed into full fancy in England
first no one knows, but it is equally inexplicable how the Grail
legends were first developed in France. For the Grail was originally
a vessel in which was offered a draught of wisdom or youth, and its
transformation into a sacred cup dates from a period considerably
later than the time of Christ.

In Gaelic chants descended from remote times we read of a vase or
basin which conferred upon its possessor superhuman power. This
basin was always placed by the legends in the hands of some famous
warrior by a giant or a dwarf, or both, emerging from the waters.
The possession of the vase caused him to be envied, and so arose
many fierce combats. Not unlike the hoard of the Nibelungs was this
famous basin. It is not difficult to see how, as Christianity spread,
the wondrous powers of the vessel were attributed to its connection
with the Saviour. Wolfram von Eschenbach does not agree with older
writers as to the origin of the Grail. He accepted the version of the
mediæval poem called the "Wartburgkrieg."

According to this, sixty thousand angels, who wished to drive God
out of Heaven, made a crown for Lucifer. When the archangel Michael
struck it from his head a stone fell to the earth, and this became
the Grail. In the latest mediæval French version the Grail was the
cup in which was received the sacred blood from the wounds of the
dying Saviour. Indeed, the etymology of the word itself has been a
subject of inquiry and dispute. In the Middle Ages it was thought
that the name "san-gral" was a corruption of the words "sang real,"
"blood royal," referring to the office of the cup. Dr. Gustave Oppert
has written a long and ingenious argument to prove that "coral"
was derived from "cor-alere," and this theory consists well with
Wolfram's story of the origin of the Grail as a precious stone. The
word, however, is most rationally derived from the Provençal word
"grial," a vessel. This derivation accords best with the finest of
the early versions of the story, that written by the remarkable
French poet, Chrétien de Troyes; and the word "grial" in its several
forms is still used in Provence to signify a vessel.

Efforts have been made by tracing the derivation of "Perceval"
to show that he was connected with the earliest forms of the
Grail legends. One writer derives the name from "perchen," a root
signifying possession, and "mail," a cup. The latter word by
inflection becomes "vail," and we get as a result "Perchen-vail" or
"Perchenval,"--whence Perceval,--a cup-holder or Grail-keeper. This
derivation is of little value in face of the undeniable fact that in
the Mabinogi version of the Peredur story he is not the holder of the
Grail. Indeed, the Grail itself appears here only in one of its early
forms, that of a charger on which lay a bleeding head. This head was
afterward decided to be that of John the Baptist. Peredur becomes a
searcher after this, and that is the foundation of his connection
with later forms of the legend.

We may now review briefly the manner in which the Grail entered the
Arthurian romances, and then take a glance at the principal versions
which were of value to Wagner. In 1154, died Geoffrey of Monmouth,
a learned Welsh monk, who is celebrated for his work entitled "The
History of the Britons." In this we find set forth in full for the
first time the account of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round
Table. Fact and fiction were, of course, curiously mingled in this
work, and historical personages were accredited with some of the
deeds narrated in the ancient legends. But here, at any rate, we find
the Arthurian cycle in its earliest recorded form. The old Welsh
collection of romances known as the Mabinogi, which is sometimes said
to be the oldest version of these tales, shows too many evidences of
influence from the Grail stories. It must be of a later date than
the work of Geoffrey, and certainly much later than the fundamental
utterance of the Perceval legend.

In the year in which Geoffrey died, Henry II. of Anjou ascended
the throne, uniting under his sceptre the sovereignty of England,
Normandy, Anjou, and a great part of Southern France. In this reign
flourished Walter Map, or Mapes, the great son of Hertfordshire,
who, under Richard I., in 1197, became Archdeacon of Oxford. His
chief work seems to have been the introduction of the Holy Grail
into the legendary romances. He systematised the Arthurian tales by
spiritualising them and making them essentially Christian. This he
accomplished largely by the employment of the Grail, an element which
he undoubtedly obtained from French sources through the unification
of the kingdoms under Henry. Map created Sir Galahad, the stainless
knight, and it is regarded as probable that he wrote the Latin
original of the "Romance of the Saint Grail." It is accepted as
certain that he wrote the original of "Lancelot of the Lake," "The
Quest of the Grail," and the "Mort Artus."

German scholars accept as the next version of the story the Provençal
poem, written by Robert Borron, a trouvère, born near Meaux. Borron's
labours consisted in introducing into the Breton Epic, as it is
called,--namely, the French version of the Arthurian tales,--the
active workings of the Holy Grail. His labour seems to have been
precisely the same as that of Geoffrey, and he has even been credited
with liberally helping himself to the Latin works of the British
writer. In his "Joseph of Arimathea" he makes the Grail the vessel
in which Joseph received the blood of Christ on the cross. This
vessel was none other than the cup used at the Last Supper, and had
been given to Joseph by our Lord himself. French savants have pretty
thoroughly proved that Borron's work was not written about 1170 or
1180, as the Germans believe, but something like forty-five years
later. It gives, in fact, one of the latest French versions of the
Grail legend and is valuable for that reason. Gaston Paris, a high
authority on French mediæval literature, has taken the ground that
this version belongs to the thirteenth century, and his views have
been supported by other French investigators. The French version
which lies nearest to the works of Geoffrey is that of Chrétien de
Troyes, who died about 1195.

Little is known of the life of Chrétien, except that he was a native
of Champagne and spent most of his time in Courts. About 1160 he
wrote his lost "Tristan," which he followed with "Erec," a Breton
legend. Then he wrote his "Cligés," on an Oriental legend dealing
with the abduction of a wife of Solomon (with her own assistance).
About 1170 he wrote his "Lancelot of the Lake," and soon afterward
"Ivain; or, The Chevalier of the Lion." About 1175 he wrote "Perceval
the Gaul; or, The Story of the Grail." This he tells us he adapted
from a book lent to him by Philip of Alsace, who, in 1172, fought in
England against Henry II. It seems altogether probable that this book
was either Geoffrey's, or one utilising its materials.

According to Chrétien, Perceval is the son of a widow, Kamuellés,
whose husband has been slain in a tournament and who therefore
is desirous that her son shall never hear of the allurements of
knighthood. She retires with him to a forest and seeks to bring him
up in ignorance of all the customs of chivalry. But one day in the
depths of the wood Perceval sees five knights, and from them learns
what knighthood and the Round Table are. He returns to his mother
and tells her what he has learned. Now he will not rest till he may
be a knight. The poor mother, knowing that it is useless to oppose
him, tells him how to be knightly and sends him forth on his travels.
Utterly ignorant, almost foolishly simple in mind, the youth makes
many errors, and at the Court of Arthur is ridiculed by the knights.
But he engages in combat with one and slays him with a single blow.
Equipped with this knight's arms, he sets out again.

He falls in with an aged and wise man, named Gonemans de Gelbert,
who for nearly a year instructs him in the use of arms and in other
matters. Then Perceval, whose foolish mind is gradually becoming
enlightened, begins to feel the emotion of pity for his mother,
and he goes forth once more, hoping that he may see her again.
His wanderings and adventures are numerous and not especially
significant. He fights with the King of Deadly Castle. He meets and
consoles Gonemans's niece, the beautiful Blanchefleur, who tells
him of her many sorrows and bids him rescue the knights and ladies
imprisoned in Gringaron. He does her bidding. He is constantly riding
on knightly errands, and his nature is expanding and his wisdom

At length he comes to the Court of a king who is suffering from an
incurable wound. While seated at the bedside of this king, he sees
for the first time the Grail and a bleeding spear, but gazes upon
them in silent wonder, not asking their meaning. The next morning he
is ready to ask, but to his amazement he finds the castle deserted.
He departs, but as he crosses the drawbridge it is raised, and his
horse has to leap. He turns and asks who raised the bridge, what the
Grail is, and why the spear bleeds, but no one answers. After he has
travelled some distance he meets a maiden, his cousin, who tells him
of the death of his mother, and of his error in not asking about the
things he had seen. Now Perceval falls in love, with whom we are not
told, and his nature becomes tender and affectionate.

He returns to Arthur's Court, where he is visited by a strange wild
woman. She tells him that if he had asked the needed question about
the Grail, the sick king would have been healed. She also tells him
of knights and ladies imprisoned in Castle Orguellous. Perceval and
other knights swear to release them, and Perceval vows that he will
never rest till he knows what the Grail is, and finds the bleeding
lance. He goes to seek a certain wise hermit, who gives him much
advice about seeking for the Grail and the spear. A little further on
the story comes to an end unfinished. The tale of Perceval's finding
of the Grail was told by others, or it may be that Chrétien completed
his work and the latter part was lost. Chrétien's successors,
however, provided the conclusion of the story, no doubt adding many
unessential details, but preserving the vital point of the original.

For example, according to Borron, Bron, the brother-in-law of Joseph,
received the Grail into his care and became the head of the line
of Grail-warders. Bron remained on the Continent, but his son Alan
settled in Britain, and was the father of Perceval. This youth was to
see the Grail, but only after many trials. He made two journeys. On
the first he saw the sacred relics, but asked no question. The second
time he did ask, and learned the mysteries of the Grail, of which he
became the keeper. Other writers, who followed Chrétien, narrated how
Perceval found the castle of the sick king again, and asked the vital
question, thus restoring the sufferer. Out of these materials Wolfram
von Eschenbach made his version of the story, the completest and most
beautiful that has come down to us, and the direct basis of Wagner's

Wolfram's first two books are introductory to the story of his
hero.[46] In the first, however, it may be noted that he devotes
some space to the praise of true womanhood as contrasted with
merely external beauty. This reminds us of the position taken by
Wagner's Wolfram in "Tannhäuser." The main portion of the first two
books is taken up with the adventures of Parzifal's father, here
called Gamuret. This knight is not slain in a tournament, but is
killed through treachery while serving in the army of the Caliph of
Bagdad. The widow, Herzeleide, tries to bring up the son, Parzifal,
in ignorance of everything pertaining to chivalry, but one day he
sees three knights and is entranced. The story now follows closely
that of Chrétien, and is filled with interesting details well worth
reading, indeed, but not germane to the subject-matter of Wagner's
drama. It is well to bear in mind, however, that in this version, as
in Chrétien's, Parzifal is so simple-minded and so ignorant as to be
fitly described as a "guileless fool." His mother in Wolfram's tale
dresses him in fool's clothes, and in these he appears at Arthur's
Court and asks to be made a knight. His immediately subsequent
adventures are the same in all the legends. He slays a knight,
obtains his armour and equipments, and reaches the castle of an
old knight named Gurnemanz, the Gonemans of Chrétien. From him he
receives much instruction, being particularly warned against asking
too many questions.

[Footnote 46: See "Parzifal," translated by Jessie L. Weston, London,
David Nutt, 1894; Book V., "Anfortas."]

Setting out again, Parzifal arrives at a city which is besieged. He
aids the besieged people, and when they have won their victory, he
marries their Queen, the beautiful Conduiramour. After a time he
leaves her to seek his mother, of whose death he is ignorant, and
to find new adventures. He comes to the bank of a lake where some
men are fishing, and asks for shelter for the night. He is taken to
a magnificent castle, and shown into a great hall where there are
four hundred knights. The master of the castle invites Parzifal to
recline beside him on a couch. A squire enters, bearing a bleeding
lance, whereupon all burst into loud wailings. Then a steel door
opens and there enters a procession of twenty-four beautiful women,
splendidly attired, bearing various articles seemingly of import
and value. Finally appears "our lady and queen," Repanse de Schoie,
bearer of the Holy Grail, for which exalted office we learn she has
been designated by the Grail itself. The Grail is placed on a table
before Parzifal and the master of the castle, Anfortas, whose face
shows that he suffers intense pain, both bodily and spiritual. There
is a feast, for which the food is provided by the power of the Grail.
Anfortas presents to Parzifal a magnificent sword, his own. Through
all the guileless fool, remembering that Gurnemanz had told him not
to be too "swift to question," asks nothing, but thinks that if he
stays there long enough he will learn without asking. Whereupon
Wolfram moralises:

     "But he who his story aimeth at the ear of a fool shall find
     His shaft go astray, for no dwelling it findeth within his mind."

Parzifal retires to his sleeping apartment, but in the morning he
finds no attendants, and the castle is apparently empty. He mounts
his horse and departs, but as he goes a squire scolds him for not
asking a question, on which depended the recovery of the afflicted
Anfortas and his own happiness. Still confused in mind, Parzifal
rides away. Again his adventures have no relation to the Wagnerian
drama, though they are extremely interesting. Some of the incidents
in this part of the story rise to high beauty. One of these is the
effect of a bird's blood on the snow, which so forcibly reminds
Parzifal of the red lips and fair brow of his wife that he is
overcome. Finally, however, he returns to the Court of Arthur, and
while a feast is in progress there appears a woman of dreadful
appearance, called Kondrie the Sorceress. She fiercely denounces
Parzifal for not asking the essential question at Monsalvasch, the
castle of the Grail. Parzifal renounces the Round Table, believes
himself unworthy, despairs of mercy in the hereafter, and declares
that his wife's love is henceforth his only shield.

Parzifal is now for some time relegated to the background of the
story, which occupies itself with the adventures of Gawain, another
of the Knights of the Round Table. Finally, we learn how Parzifal
meets with an aged knight and his wife, walking barefoot through
deep snow, on a pilgrimage to the dwelling of an holy hermit. They
reproach Parzifal for not remembering the season. The words of
Wolfram's poem here are nearly the same as those of Chrétien, which
are these:

     "Knowest thou not the day, sweet youth?
     'T is holy Friday, in good sooth,
     When all bewail their guilt."

Parzifal arrives at the cell of the hermit, whose name is Trevrezent.
The hermit tells Parzifal the story of the Grail and the bleeding
spear. Anfortas had yielded to the temptation of lust, and as a
punishment he had received in combat a wound from a poisoned lance,
and this wound would not heal, while the sight of the Holy Grail kept
him from dying. A prophecy finally appeared on the Grail itself,
announcing that if a knight came and asked of his own accord the
cause of the King's sufferings, they should end, and the inquiring
knight should become the Grail king. Parzifal confesses that he once
went to the castle, but did not ask the question. Trevrezent now
gives him further instruction, absolves him of his sins, and sends
him on his way.

We now read of many struggles between the Knights of the Round Table,
as representatives of Christianity, and the agents of the evil one.
Gawain frees the maidens imprisoned by the magician Klingsor in
Chateau Merveil. But Gawain goes no further than this. Parzifal,
being the more pious of the two, is permitted after many adventures,
including a fight with Gawain, whom he does not recognise, to ride
to Monsalvasch, ask the cause of the King's suffering, free him from
his agony, and receive the crown. Now his wife arrives with his two
sons, one of whom is Lohengrin, and destined to succeed his father as
the keeper of the Grail. The story of Lohengrin and Elsa is told, and
there are other details, which, fascinating in themselves, have no
bearing on the materials used by Wagner.

II.--The Drama of Wagner

Let us now briefly review the story of the drama. According to
Wagner, the castle of Monsalvat, as he calls it, stands upon a
mountain just above the valley in which is situated the castle of
the magician, Klingsor. Monsalvat is the temple of the Holy Grail
and the dwelling of its knights. Klingsor's castle is the abode of
temptation. The magician represents the powers of evil. He rages
against the servants of the Grail, because he for his sinfulness
has been refused admission to their number. Therefore he spends his
life in trying to corrupt them and for this purpose he has a garden
of wonders, the chief of which is a company of fascinating women.
Amfortas, the keeper of the Grail, once succumbed to the allurements
of one of these, whereby he lost the sacred lance and was wounded by
it. This lance is that which was thrust into the side of the Saviour
on the cross and was placed in the keeping of the knights of the
Grail. The touch of the spear which gave the wound alone can heal it.
But the spear is in the hands of Klingsor.

All this we learn from the conversation of Gurnemanz and several
esquires in the first scene. Kundry, the strangest and most potent
character of the drama, sometimes the repentant servant of the
Grail, at others the unwilling and agonised slave of Klingsor,
appears with balsam for the King, but it can give him only temporary
relief. Gurnemanz tells us that the King will be healed through the
instrumentality of a sinless fool, enlightened by pity. This person
presently appears in the character of Parsifal. He shoots a wild swan
and when he rejoices in the accuracy of his aim Gurnemanz reproaches
him. The aged knight asks him whence he came, who is his father, who
is his mother, and what is his name, but to all of these questions
he can only reply, "I do not know." Gurnemanz, astonished at his
ignorance, questions him further, and finds that he remembers his
mother and her goodness. He tells how he saw the knights in armour,
and followed in the hope of becoming like them. Kundry, who is an
interested listener to the conversation, contributes some items of
information, and finally informs Parsifal that his mother is dead. He
flies into a rage, and attacks Kundry, but is withheld by Gurnemanz.
And now Kundry is suddenly overwhelmed by a mysterious sleep. This is
the result of a spell which has been cast upon her by the magician
Klingsor. When she is herself, she struggles always for good; but
when Klingsor's power is operating, she becomes the most seductive of
his agents. This is one of Wagner's most striking ideas. It is his
own, for although in a way Kundry is a composite of characters found
in the old epics, she is, in Wagner's drama, a new creation. But of
that I shall speak further.

Gurnemanz surmises that Parsifal may be the pure fool destined to
save Amfortas, and therefore escorts him to the castle of Monsalvat.
There he sees the ceremony of the unveiling of the Grail. Amfortas,
dreading the ordeal, prays most pitifully for release from his
sufferings, but the voice of his father Titurel, too weak to sustain
the duties of Grail-warder and living a kind of life in death, bids
him face his duty. Amfortas unveils the Grail, and the ceremony of
the Lord's Supper is performed. Gurnemanz invites Parsifal to partake
of it, but he stands dumbfounded and silent. The Grail is borne away
again, and when the knights have disappeared, Gurnemanz pushes the
still stupefied Parsifal out of the hall, saying:

     "Letting in future the swans alone,
     Go seek thee, thou gander, a goose."

The rising of the curtain on the second act reveals to us the chamber
of Klingsor in a tower of his castle. He is there awaiting the
arrival of Parsifal, who he knows has been cast out of Monsalvat and
is approaching his domain. He summons Kundry, calling her she-devil,
rose of hell, and Herodias, the daughter of Herod. She arises in a
cloud of vapour, apparently in the sleep into which we saw her sink
in the first act. Klingsor orders her to tempt the pure fool, whose
very foolishness makes him dangerous to the powers of evil. Kundry
struggles in vain. Her will is mastered by Klingsor, for she is not
pure. The scene changes to the magic garden. Parsifal is standing
upon the wall lost in amazement. Beautiful maidens, half clad,
changing presently to something almost like flowers, allure him with
blandishments of the most seductive kind. These are the servants
of Klingsor and they do his bidding. But the pure fool does not
understand them. Presently from a thicket comes the voice of Kundry,
calling, "Parsifal."

It is the first time the name has been uttered, and he remembers it
as in a dream. He now sees Kundry, who has changed from the wild,
dishevelled, weeping creature of the first scene to a young woman of
surpassing beauty. She tells Parsifal the story of his origin, of
his mother's woes and death, and, when his heart is touched, bids
him learn the mystery of love. She presses her lips upon his in a
long kiss. The result is startling; Parsifal springs up in terror and
appears to suffer suddenly intense pain. Then he cries: "Amfortas!
The wound, the wound!" He has received the needed enlightenment,
through the pity for his mother. His own breast is now torn with the
anguish of Amfortas, and with the terrible self-accusation of his
own failure to save the sufferer. He realises that the seductions
aimed at him are those to which Amfortas succumbed, and he bids the
accursed sorceress begone. In her rage she discloses to Parsifal
that it was Klingsor who wounded Amfortas with the sacred spear.
The magician comes to aid Kundry in her struggle with Parsifal. The
flower maidens also return. Klingsor, enraged, hurls the spear at
Parsifal to slay him, but the sacred weapon remains suspended above
his head. He grasps it, and, making with it the sign of the cross,
bids the castle disappear. At once the whole is wrecked, and, as the
curtain falls, Parsifal, standing on the ruined wall, tells Kundry
that she knows where she may find him again.

The third act shows us Gurnemanz, now very old, living as a hermit
in a little hut at the edge of a forest. It is Good Friday, and the
loveliness of spring is in the land. To Gurnemanz comes Kundry,
clothed in the garb of a penitent, and without her early wildness of
mien. She begs leave to serve, and goes about it at once. Parsifal,
clad in black armour with closed helmet visor, and bearing the holy
spear, approaches. He plants the spear in the earth, takes off his
helmet, kneels, and prays before the lance. Gurnemanz, amazed,
recognises him. Parsifal expresses his gratitude at finding the
aged man once more, and we learn from his speech that he has passed
through many experiences since he left the garden of Klingsor. Now
he has only one thought, to return to the castle of the Grail and
release Amfortas from his sufferings. Gurnemanz tells him that
Titurel has died and Amfortas has refused longer to perform his
office as Grail-warder. No more is the sacred vessel revealed, for
thus Amfortas hopes to win release by death. Parsifal is deeply
moved by the consciousness that he might have prevented all this.
He almost faints, and Kundry eagerly brings water to revive him.
She bathes his feet, and at his request Gurnemanz baptises him.
Kundry produces a phial of ointment and anoints his feet. Again at
his request, Gurnemanz anoints his head. Then Parsifal, with water
from the spring, baptises Kundry, bidding her trust in the Redeemer.
Kundry weeps. Parsifal is clad in the mantle of a knight of the
Grail, and with Gurnemanz and Kundry he goes to the great hall at
Monsalvat. The body of Titurel is borne in, followed by Amfortas on
his litter. The knights conjure him once more to reveal the Grail,
but he, in desperate agony, discloses his terrible, unhealing wound,
and beseeches the knights to bury their swords in it.

At this moment Parsifal, accompanied by Gurnemanz and Kundry,
advances. Parsifal says solemnly that but one weapon will suffice,
the spear which made the wound. With it he touches Amfortas's side,
and the wound is healed. Parsifal declares the identity of the spear
and holds it aloft, while all gaze upon it in rapture. Parsifal
commands the pages to uncover the Grail, which he takes out and
swings gently before the kneeling knights. Kundry sinks expiring to
the floor. Gurnemanz and Amfortas kneel in homage to Parsifal, while
from the dome above voices are heard singing, "O heavenly mercy's
marvel, redemption to the redeemer!"

No other drama of Wagner shows wider departures from the original
material or more condensation of it than this, the last of his
works. Here, as in other dramas, he has not rested upon any one
foundation, but, using the story of Wolfram as his chief guide, he
has selected from other versions of the Grail legend such ideas
as were in harmony with his own poetic purpose. Thus he discards
Wolfram's conception of the Grail as a stone from the crown of
Lucifer and goes back to the Provençal idea of it as the vessel
in which Joseph of Arimathea, the rich man who bought the body of
Christ from Pilate, received the precious blood from the wounds. From
Wolfram he took the idea that the knights who dwell in Monsalvat, and
who went forth to aid the needy in distress (as in "Lohengrin"), were
fed and strengthened by the Grail itself. The significance of the
bleeding spear he obtained from Chrétien de Troyes. Wolfram, it will
be remembered, made it simply a poisoned lance, with which an unknown
pagan, in the strife for the Grail, had wounded Amfortas. Chrétien
described it as the spear with which Longinus had pierced the side of
the crucified Saviour. This idea could not fail to attract Wagner,
for it gave him an opportunity to strengthen the ethical basis of his
drama. Amfortas, yielding to the seductions of Kundry, the temptress,
becomes the prey of the powers of evil, represented by Klingsor, is
robbed of the sacred lance, and wounded with it. Such a wound is more
than physical; it is a mortal hurt of the soul. The cure comes only
through the touch of the spear itself in the hands of one who is
pure. The wounded King exists in all the versions of the legend, and
is always to be made whole by the expected knight, who is to ask the
essential question.

But in Wagner's version the question is not asked. It has no
dramatic value. As Wolzogen has well noted, for an audience a visible
and symbolic act is far more effective; and so, instead of hearing
Parsifal say, as in Wolfram's epic, "What ails thee, uncle?" we
see him touch the wound with the spear and bid Amfortas "be whole,
forgiven, and absolved." By this simple change of the original
story the conclusion of the drama is infinitely improved. But the
alteration goes farther than that, for it touches the character of
Parsifal. He is, in Wagner's book, the same guileless fool as he
is in the original legends, but his enlightenment comes to him in
another way. Wagner has subjected his hero to the temptation which in
Wolfram's story is undergone by Gawain.

The psychologic plan of the garden scene is subtle, but not at all
difficult of comprehension. Parsifal has known but one love; he
remembers but one tenderness. The sorest spot in his conscience
is that where dwells the memory of the dear mother whom he left.
Kundry, acting as the agent of the evil powers, seeks to touch that
spot. She awakens in her intended victim the divine spark of pity,
akin to love, and then she strives to lead him onward to love itself
by the imprint of a passionate kiss. But the influence of pity has
enlightened the inexperienced heart of the guileless fool, and the
kiss which would draw his soul from him serves but to reveal to
him the nature of the sin for which Amfortas suffers. He cries out
with the anguish of the very wound itself, and bids the temptress
begone. This is a conception of unusual power, and for the purpose of
exposition through music it is most admirable, in that it centralises
the dramatic action entirely upon the play of emotion. Here we find
the Wagnerian theory of the music drama working in its fullest
freedom and completeness. Parsifal needs no question. He never
hears of one. His awakened soul has already given him the necessary
information, and when, after long and weary wanderings, he once more
finds the domain of the Grail he is ready to heal the sufferer by the
only means capable of performing that merciful act.

Kundry is entirely Wagner's creation. In Wolfram's story Condrie is
the messenger who upbraids Parsifal for not healing the sick King,
and Orgeluse is the beautiful woman who tempts Gawain. Wagner has
united the two, but has created a personality of his own. According
to one of the legends, Kundry was Herodias, the daughter of Herod,
and had been cursed for having laughed at the head of John the
Baptist on a charger. Wagner makes her a woman who had laughed
at the suffering Christ and had been condemned by him to endless
laughter. Thenceforward she wanders through the world in search of
her redeemer. This wandering is common to heroines of the old German
legends, and shows us that Kundry had certain traits in common with
the Valkyrs of the Northern mythology. One of the names applied to
her by Klingsor, Gundryggia, we find also in the Eddas as that of a
Valkyr, and we further recognise the Valkyr nature in the union of
hostile and helpful traits which was characteristic of the Choosers
of the Slain.

Wagner's Kundry seeks to expiate her sin by serving the Grail,
but the curse prevents her. Through it she becomes the slave of
the powers of evil, represented by Klingsor, and, when under the
spell, exercises her entire force in seducing the defenders of the
right. Not until one of the righteous resists her can the power of
the evil one be overthrown, and not till then can she be released
from the burden of her sin. In other words, through resisting her,
Parsifal becomes her redeemer, and it is thus natural and proper
that he should baptise her, and that in the scene of the baptism the
laughter-cursed woman should receive the blessing of tears.

The relation of Kundry and Parsifal as temptress and tempted was one
which had long dwelt in Wagner's mind. When in 1852 he revived the
idea, conceived in 1849, of writing a drama on incidents in the life
of Jesus, he told Mrs. Wille, his Zurich friend, that he thought of
showing Christ as beloved by Mary Magdalene and resisting her. Again
in "The Victors," the Buddhistic drama, which he only sketched, we
find that Ananda, the hero, renounced love and was perfectly pure,
while Prakriti, the heroine, after loving him in vain, herself
renounced love and was received by him into the true faith. It
was with these plans still in his mind that Wagner developed the
suggestions of the original sources of his drama into the wonderful
scene of the temptation in "Parsifal," and their influence also was
potent in the composition of the character of Kundry. Mr. Kufferath,
in his interesting study of "Parsifal," says that Kundry was to
Wagner's mind simply another incarnation of the eternal woman, of
whom Mary and Prakriti were earlier embodiments. And, indeed, the
extraordinary capacity of Kundry's nature makes this theory more
than merely plausible. Another fact which adds to the value of Mr.
Kufferath's idea is that, according to one of the earlier German
legends, the real cause of the enmity of Herodias for John the
Baptist was his refusal of her love. When the head was presented to
her on a charger, she wished to kiss the dead lips, but from them
was breathed upon her a blast of breath so fierce that it sent her
wandering through the world as the unfortunate Francesca flew through
the Inferno forever. This stormy wandering was a peculiarity of the
Valkyrs, and thus with the union of so many elements in the history
and nature of Kundry, we come easily to a belief that Wagner intended
to make her one of the aspects of the "eternal feminine." Beautifully
he gives her rest when the same blessing is conferred upon the man
whose life she ruined. She has repented, but till her victim is freed
from the consequences of the joint sin, she, too, must suffer her

In the character of Parsifal himself certain traits are accentuated
by Wagner. These are the complete innocence and the compassionate
nature. With compassion Wagner had a deep sympathy. He was so tender
to dumb animals and to animate creatures in general that he felt
readily the essence of pity which plays so important a part in the
old legends. But the older Parsifals, when on their travels, were
warriors; they fought their way through life, felling ruthlessly all
who opposed them. Wagner's Parsifal is all tenderness and pity. Here,
again, we meet with the powerful influence on Wagner of Schopenhauer.
Enlightenment by pity is the ethical principle of Schopenhauer's
philosophy. Something, too, must be attributed to Wagner's interest
in religion. Liszt, an emotionalist in worship, inspired Wagner with
emotionalism in sacred matters, and we may infer that certain rapt
states of mind, not uncommon to thinkers of the hysteric sort,
worked in the formation of "Parsifal."

For the rest there is little to say. Gurnemanz combines the persons
and acts of the Gurnemanz and Trevrezent of the epics. Klingsor
follows the outline provided by the earlier stories, but Wagner has
added one feature not found in them. This magician, with his soul
tainted with some unknown sin, was unable to slay the lust which
ever burned in his bosom, and in order that he might win the Grail
he mutilated himself. Here we come upon another resemblance between
this story and that of the Nibelung hoard. To win the gold Alberich
renounced love. We have already seen how the Grail resembles the
hoard, and this incident in the life of Klingsor, added by Wagner,
brings the two stories even closer together.

In telling the story, Wagner has pushed to the front all the most
beautiful elements, and has accentuated the Christianity of the tale.
He has preached a sermon on the necessity of personal purity in the
service of God, on the beauty of renunciation of sensual delight,
on the depth of the curse of self-indulgence, and on the nature
of repentance. But let it not be supposed that the influence of
"Parsifal" rests wholly on the ethical truths contained in it. Its
real power is in Wagner's perception of the emotional force of the
action of certain ethical ideas upon human nature. By centralising
the action of his drama on these emotions, he has put before us a
tremendous play of the inner life of man's soul when struggling with
its most formidable problems, its own most irresistible passions.
"Parsifal" is a religious drama, but it is one for the same reason
that the "Prometheus" of Æschylus was. It is a problem play also,
and for the same reason as any modern French social drama is. Its
boldness lies in the fact that it readopts the stage as the medium
for the publication of tenets of religious belief and for the
exhibition of the naked soul besieged by lust and tried by the moral
law. That use was common in the time of the Greek tragedians. It is
an exemplification of Wagner's theory that the theatre ought to be an
artistic expression of the thoughts and the aspirations of a people.
Its moving power lies in its grasp on the secret life of every man
and woman who goes to witness its performance.

III.--The Musical Plan

The musical plan of "Parsifal" is one of peculiar power and its
outward aspects are of great beauty. The first act is almost wholly
devoted to an exposition of the fundamental thoughts of the drama. We
are introduced to the realm of the Grail, the suffering of Amfortas,
the eagerness of Kundry to serve and her enslavement to the will
of Klingsor, to the "guileless fool" and his failure to ask the
question, and to the solemn ceremony of the Last Supper. The second
act is devoted to a presentation of the working of the evil element.
Klingsor through his flower-maidens strives to seduce the guileless
fool, who is saved largely by his own guilelessness. Here we have all
the most sensuous and freely composed music. The first act teems with
the fundamental and significant motives of the score. The second is
rich in luscious melody, spontaneous, dance-like in form and colour,
and asking of the hearer nothing but self-relaxation. The third act
again becomes solemn, but in its first scene the solemnity is charged
with the deep and quiet joy of Good Friday. With the return to the
castle of the Grail, the fundamental motives are once more brought
into action and the development of themes reaches its climax.

The prelude to the drama sets forth some of the principal musical
ideas and attunes the mind to the key of the first act. It opens with
the solemn strains of the theme of the Last Supper.


This theme becomes one of the principal elements of the score, being
utilised throughout the drama to signify the sacredness of the
association of the knights of the Grail. The second theme of the
prelude is that of the Grail itself, which is here presented to us in
a different musical aspect from that of the "Lohengrin" score. There
the Grail was celebrated as a potency by which the world was aided,
while here it is brought before us as the visible embodiment of a
faith, the memento of a crucified Saviour. The theme is, therefore,
one of much solemnity.

[Music: THE GRAIL.]

The Vorspiel next proclaims, in a manner which leaves us no doubt of
its purport, the triumphant motive of Belief:

[Music: BELIEF.]

These three ideas--the Last Supper, the Grail, and Belief--form the
materials of the prelude, and become of fundamental importance in
the score of the drama proper. They play their parts chiefly in the
first and third acts in putting the hearer in the proper mood for the
appreciation of the solemn ceremonials in the Grail castle and for a
full comprehension of the religious elements of the drama. For the
suffering of Amfortas, with which we are made acquainted in the first
scene, there is a musical symbol, which is utilised throughout the
score at the proper places:


A very beautiful answer to this is the music with which the promise
of the healing knight is introduced. It is sung by Gurnemanz, and
repeated by the young knights who are with him:


     Durch Mitleid wissend,
     der reine Tor.

     By pity 'lightened
     The guileless fool.]

With Kundry we find associated three principal musical ideas. The
first of these is that which places before us the wildness of her
nature, the stormy flight, and the curse of laughter:


The second is a theme designed to represent the element of magic, as
exercised by Klingsor in the control of Kundry:

[Music: SORCERY.]

Lastly, we have one of those simple themes in thirds which always
seemed to mean sympathy or helpfulness to the mind of Wagner. It
first appears in the score when Gurnemanz asks Kundry whence she
brought the balsam:


The personality of Klingsor himself is indicated by this theme:

[Music: KLINGSOR.]

Two themes are especially associated with Parsifal. The first is
that of his mother, Herzeleide. This theme has importance because of
Kundry's use of the history of the mother to touch the heart of the


The Parsifal theme, however, is used to designate directly the
personality of the guileless knight:

[Music: PARSIFAL.]

Let the reader compare this motive with that of Lohengrin (see
page 286), and note the close musical relationship. This is in
part an inversion of that, while the triple rhythm here used
robs the Parsifal theme of the militant brilliancy found in that
of the rescuing knight of the earlier drama. At the entrance of
Parsifal, who has just shot a swan, we hear again the Swan motive
from "Lohengrin" (see page 287). The interval between the first
and second scenes of the first act introduces a new theme of great
beauty. Gurnemanz leads Parsifal toward the castle of the Grail, and
a remarkable change of scene is effected by the use of a panorama.
During this change an instrumental passage is built up on the tones
of the castle bells, which, at first heard distantly, gradually swell
to a grand peal:

[Music: THE BELLS.]

As we come with the two to the hall of the Grail we hear the musical
representation of the cry or lament of the Saviour:

[Music: THE LAMENT.]

The love-feast scene, which follows, is made up of the principal
themes relating to the Grail and the faith of the knights, which are
developed in choruses of wonderful beauty. The opening of the second
act brings the motives of Klingsor, sorcery, and the suffering of
Amfortas all into active use. The music is stormy, passionate, at
times furious, till the flower-maidens appear to tempt Parsifal, and
then we come to the long passage of freely written melody already
described. The significant themes return in the scene between
Kundry and Parsifal, but their use is so obvious that it requires
no comment. With the awakening of Parsifal's understanding and his
recital of his new discoveries, there enters a motive not previously
heard, that of Good Friday:


In the first scene of the third act another new theme, that of the
atonement, comes forward:


We have now before us the principal musical materials of the score.
But in no other of Wagner's dramas is the mere enumeration of themes
so unsatisfactory as it is in "Parsifal." The combination of the
musical ideas is so subtle, the building of the large mood pictures,
of which they are the elements, so masterly, the effect of the
general result so potent with the hearer, that in "Parsifal" one
may with the most perfect security throw aside all study of the
thematic catalogues and abandon himself to the dramatic influence
of the music. This does not mean that "Parsifal" is a more artistic
work than Wagner's other dramas, but that the moods are so large
and so elementary that music very readily embodies them and brings
the auditor under their influence. Much of this is due no doubt
to the atmosphere of the Bayreuth Theatre, where alone up to the
present this work can be heard. What the effect of "Parsifal" will
be when divorced from its present surroundings must be a matter of
speculation, but the most devoted Wagnerites will continue to hope
that this art-work will not speedily become the property of the
ordinary opera-house.



Most of Wagner's biographers have underestimated the historical
importance of the juvenile symphony of the master. Mr. Seidl wrote:
"As one takes off his hat in Leipsic before the house in which Wagner
was born, in order to honour the spot where a great genius first saw
the light, so the musician of the future will take this symphony
into his hands with the greatest interest and amazement, since it is
one of the foundation-blocks of the structure whose capstones are
'Tristan,' 'Götterdämmerung,' and 'Parsifal.'" The truth is, that
most of the biographers never heard the symphony performed. It was
produced by the late Anton Seidl in Chickering Hall, New York, on
Friday evening, March 2, 1888, and it was my fortune to hear the
performance. At that time Mr. Seidl wrote to the _New York Tribune_
the letter from which the foregoing quotation was taken, and gave an
account of the finding of the lost parts of the work. He said:

"He [Wagner] was continually recurring to a symphony which he had
lost sight of after one performance in Leipsic at a concert of the
Euterpe, and one performance in Würzburg. In the latter place it
was that the trombone parts were lost. Letters were written in all
directions to all his friends and acquaintances, but no trace of the
symphony was found. Then he requested the littérateur Tappert, of
Berlin, a zealous and lucky discoverer of Wagnerian relics, to make
journeys wherever he thought it advisable in the interest of the
symphony. Tappert, after many inquiries and much reflection, drafted
a plan of discovery following lines suggested by the biography of
the master, and set out upon a tour through Würzburg, Magdeburg,
Leipsic, Prague, and finally Dresden. In each place he ransacked
all the dwellings, inns, theatres and concert-rooms in which
Wagner had lived or laboured; but in vain. At last in Dresden he
visited Tichatschek, the famous tenor, who at this time was already
bedridden. He knew all the houses in which Wagner had lived while
he was Hofkapellmeister, but nothing was to be found in any of them.
Tichatschek got a little disgruntled at the much questioning to which
he was subjected and Tappert had to return to Berlin. Before doing
so, however, he requested Fürstenau, the flautist, to cross-question
Tichatschek thoroughly some day, when he was in a good humour,
concerning the possible whereabouts of some trunks which Wagner had
left behind him in Dresden; for Wagner had once said that when he
fled from Dresden he left all his possessions and did not know what
had become of them.

"The scheme was successful. Tichatschek remembered that in his own
attic were several old trunks belonging to he did not know whom.
Fürstenau looked through them, but soon came down and declared that,
though musical manuscripts were in the attic, they were only unknown
parts and that none bore Wagner's handwriting. Tappert called for
the parts to be sent to Berlin for his inspection. He recognised at
a glance that they were not in his handwriting, but on carefully
examining the separate sheets he found memoranda in lead pencil
which he thought looked like the youthful handwriting of Wagner. To
assure himself, he copied the first theme of the first violin part
and sent it to Wagner's wife, who played it on a pianoforte in a room
adjoining that in which Wagner, suspecting nothing, sat at breakfast.
The master listened a moment in silence and then ran into the room,
joyfully shouting that it was the theme of the symphony for which he
was hunting. The discovery was made! The parts were sent at once to
Bayreuth, and I was called upon to make the score out of them."

The trombone parts of the last movement were missing, but Wagner
subsequently discovered the key to the leading of these voices in the
elaborately contrapuntal scheme of the movement and rewrote them. The
symphony was then ready for performance. It was Wagner's original
intention to play the symphony on the fiftieth anniversary of the
beginning of his artistic career. But he was unable to carry out this
plan. He subsequently decided to have it given for the Christmas
celebration of 1882, and accordingly it was played under his own
bâton in Venice at the birthday fête of his wife.

The symphony, which is in the conventional four movements, and is
in the key of C major, contains a curious mingling of juvenility in
ideas with maturity of handling. It shows that Weinlig's lessons in
counterpoint were not lost, for its polyphony is masterly, and the
close working out of the last movement, in the style of Mozart's
fugal "Jupiter" symphony, may well have aroused the admiration of

The symphony begins with an introduction marked sostenuto e maestoso,
built on this theme.


It will readily be seen that this is a simple and effective theme,
designed with a view to contrapuntal treatment. Free modulation,
transposition of parts, and alteration of details make up the general
treatment of this motive. The first movement, allegro con brio, is
built on a first subject, inspiringly vigorous in movement, but quite
devoid of originality in melodic form.


This is announced in a forcible manner, copied after some of the
Titanic outbursts of Beethoven. There is a short development of this
theme, in the course of which the germ of the second subject appears.
Thus Wagner early endeavoured to follow the plan of Beethoven in
making his second subjects grow out of his first. The second theme,
when revealed in its entirety, proves to be this:


The master utilised the rhythmic clearness of this thought in the
production of bold, march-like effects. Two episodes are introduced,
and in these one hears the voice of the future Wagner. One of them
bears a striking resemblance in character to the music of the fight
between Siegfried and the dragon. The working out is confined almost
wholly to the first subject, with occasional use of the episodes, and
the recapitulation is reached by a strenuous climax, in which the
orchestral thunderer of the future may be heard.

The second movement, andante, opens with two sustained notes, C and
E, given out by the oboes and clarinets, followed by a graceful
introductory phrase, prefatory to a lovely melody of folk-song
character, which is announced by the violas and gradually spread
among the entire body of instruments.


Wagner himself said that this movement could never have been written
had not the fifth and seventh symphonies of Beethoven been known
to him, but although his method of construction follows that of
the sovereign of the symphonic world, his ideas and his orchestral
expression of them are his own. The second theme of the andante,
which need not be quoted, is martial, thus giving the necessary
contrast to the movement.

The third movement is the scherzo, marked allegro assai. The movement
is decidedly imitative, yet it shows that the youth had attained a
remarkable mastery of form and style. The first theme is this:


This sweeps along in a bright and vivacious manner, full of sunny
simplicity. Then comes the trio founded on this idea:


The working out of the ideas is really very ingenious, and despite
the imitations the movement goes far to demonstrate the possession of
high gifts by the young composer. The last movement, allegro molto
vivace, is the least pleasing to the average hearer, but it is an
amazing exhibition of contrapuntal mastery in one so immature. The
principal theme is this:


Here the model in thought is Mozart, and the same master is followed
in the working out. Wagner, in later years, speaking of the boy
who wrote this symphony, said: "He cares no more for melodies, only
for themes and their treatment; he delights in the stretti of the
fugue, in the combination of two or three motives; he enters into
orgies of counterpoint; he exhausts every imaginable artifice." This
is a sufficient description of this new "Jupiter" movement, which
ends with a stirring peroration, presto, closing with as many chords
of the tonic and dominant as there are at the finish of the fifth
symphony of Beethoven.



The difficulties which have always stood in the path of a realisation
of Wagner's ideals in regard to the ballet in opera are worthy of
some consideration, because they are the results of a high conception
of the functions of the dance in the drama. Wagner's troubles in
this department began with his "Rienzi." In his "Communication" he
says: "I by no means hunted about in my material for a pretext for
a ballet, but with the eyes of the opera composer I perceived in it
a self-evident festival that Rienzi must give to the people, and at
which he would have to exhibit to them in dumb show a drastic scene
from their ancient history, this scene being the story of Lucretia
and the consequent expulsion of the Tarquins from Rome." He confesses
in a note that this ballet had to be omitted from all the stage
performances of "Rienzi."

Why? Simply because the pantomimic ballet called for imagination on
the part of the ballet-master and mimetic skill in the dancers. If
these elements in the ballet were wanting in Wagner's day, they are
almost wholly absent now. Yet, except in cases where the ballet is
seen by the spectator to be a mere entertainment for the personages
on the stage, as in the garden scene of "Les Huguenots," it ought
to have some connection with the drama. That later composers than
Wagner have had some desires of this sort is proved by the presence
of the Brocken scene in Boïto's "Mefistofele," the inferno scene in
Franchetti's "Asrael," and other such episodes. But nowhere is there
such an opportunity for a highly significant ballet as in the first
scene of "Tannhäuser."

Whoever cares to read it, may find in the essay of Wagner on the
"Art-work of the Future" a long disquisition on the nature of the
dance. In brief, he says that in the dance the material is man
himself, and the method of expression is motion. This motion is
governed by rhythm, but its purpose is the communication of the
essence of the material to the spectator. In other words--not
Wagner's--dance approaches speech from one side just as absolute
music does from the other. It is a painter of mood pictures, just as
an orchestra is. It therefore reaches its highest form in pantomime,
or mimetic action. Again, in "Opera and Drama," Wagner tells us at
some length how ballet music as written by the conventional opera
composer has cramped the development of this beautiful art of mimetic
dancing, the very art, in a sense, from which the drama itself
originated at the altar of Bacchus. By writing in the prescribed
dance-forms and rhythms the composer compelled the dancer to confine
himself to certain conventional steps and figures. Wagner's ideal
was a symphonic poem of motion, mimetic in its essence, following
the incidents of a story, and moving to the strains of an orchestral
background which should free the dancer from formulas and at the same
time paint in tone-colours the moods of the pantomime.

The difficulty in the way of realising this ideal at present is the
total separation of the arts of dancing and pantomime. Only a few
of the dancers of to-day possess the old-fashioned schooling which
would make possible a performance of Auber's "La Muette de Portici."
To this unique work Wagner owed much of the food for thought which
resulted in his opinions upon the office of the ballet in opera.
I have witnessed some representations of this work in recent
years--not many--but always with sorrow at the utter inability of the
impersonator of the dumb girl to realise the author's conception.
She has always been a mere ballet-dancer, striving to perform her
work on the strict lines of the conventional stage dance. Now what
such a part requires is some one who can dance, but who does act. And
that is what the Wagner ballet, especially in "Tannhäuser," needs.
The conventional ballet steps and arm movements are at once seen to
be absurd, or else they make the scene appear so to the thoughtless
spectator, who notes only what he sees. To interpret properly the
Venusberg scene of Wagner's third opera there should really be a
corps of Pilar-Morins. But just here again would come a difficulty.
The Pilar-Morins would not be dancers, and, while they might perform
an intelligible pantomime, they would obliterate from their work
every trace of rhythm, and thus once more be untrue to Wagner's
almost intangible, yet not impracticable, ideal.

And of course in the end we have to reckon with a public which has
no skill in the comprehension of pantomime, and hardly any in the
appreciation of the dance. For in this frivolous age of pictorial
dramatic art the dance means coloured lights and high kicking. Hélas!
Yet I still believe that if Wagner's designs in such scenes as that
of the Venusberg and the Roman festival in "Rienzi" could be properly
carried out, the public would awake to the existence of a poetic and
beautifully graphic art which is now quite unknown to it.



EXPLANATORY NOTE.--Subjects directly connected with
the personal experiences of Wagner will be found alphabetically
indexed under WAGNER, RICHARD. Names of persons and topics
associated with Wagner's life and works, but having importance in
themselves, will be found in the general index. All topics directly
connected with the great music dramas (except leading motives) are
indexed under the titles of the works. All the musical illustrations,
with their explanations, are indexed under LEADING MOTIVES.


  "Allons à la Courtille," 41

  Ander, 118

  Anderson, 98

  "A Pilgrimage to Beethoven," 42

  "Art and Climate," 86

  "Art and Revolution," 76, 86, 179, 180

  Art, as found by Wagner, 176

  Arthurian legends, _see_ "Parsifal" and "Tristan und Isolde"

  Artistic career of Wagner, periods of, 213, 214

  ART-THEORIES OF WAGNER, 167 _et seq._;
    alliteration, 200 _et seq._;
    ballet, 487;
    commercialism opposed to, 174, 176;
    discovery of, 176;
    drama, not opera, 204;
    early, 18 _et seq._, 228;
    emotions, musical treatment of, 183, 185, 197, 205, 208, 209, 216;
    ethical ideas, 215;
    feeling and understanding, 182;
    form, adopted, 186 _et seq._, 198, 199;
    forms, abolished, 178, 185 _et seq._, 197;
    fully developed, nature of, 167 _et seq._;
    good and evil principles, war of, 216;
    Greek drama, relations to, 179, 184, 207, 218;
    historical drama as opposed to mythical, 183 _et seq._;
    ideal of his work, 206;
    incompatibility with "opera" discovered, 177;
    later, conceived, 53;
    later, expanded, 61, 74;
    leitmotiv system, 186, 187, 190 _et seq._;
    leitmotive classified, 193;
    leitmotive, development of, 193 _et seq._;
    libretto a drama, 178;
    lyric drama, relation to, 168 _et seq._;
    materials of poetic drama, 182, 183;
    melody, endless, 186, 187;
    metaphysics, 216, 217;
    misunderstood by admirers, 161;
    misunderstood by public, 167;
    moods, embodiment of, 198, 205, 206;
    music for music's sake, 178;
    music, office of, in drama, 190;
    musical system, 186, 189 _et seq._, 196, 197, 198, 208, 209;
    myth, advantage of in drama, 183 _et seq._;
    nationalism, 167, 208;
    opera, old style, differences of, 168 _et seq._;
    opposed to public taste, 61, 66, 67, 69, 70, 160, 161;
    orchestra, 189, 190, 206;
    organic union of arts, 178, 180, 186;
    philosophical basis of dramas, 216;
    propagation of, 67, 85 _et seq._;
    prose works embodying, 86 _et seq._, 179 _et seq._;
    realism as opposed to high art, 206, 207;
    reforms included in, 178;
    Schopenhauer's ideas, 184, 216, 217;
    staff-rhyme, 200 _et seq._;
    symbolism in drama, 204 _et seq._;
    text and music, union of, 186, 202, 203, 219;
    understood by Liszt, 81;
    verse-form, 200 _et seq._;
    woman, saving grace, 215;
    "Word-tone-speech," 204

  "Art-work of the Future," 86, 179, 180

  Attila, 369 _et seq._

  Auber, "La Muette de Portici," influence on Wagner, 18, 43

  Auditorium darkened, 140

  Autobiographic sketch, 52


  Ballet in "Tannhäuser," 114, 115

  Ballet, Wagner and the, 114, 487

  Barbarossa, Friedrich, 72

  Bayreuth, becomes famous, 140;
    festivals, deficit of first, 144, 146;
    festivals, directed by Mme. Wagner, 153;
    festivals, still popular, 153;
    plan nearly fails, 139;
    theatre, _see_ Festspielhaus; Wagner goes to, 136;
    why selected, 137

  _Bayreuther Blätter_, 147, 150

  "Beethoven," essay by Wagner, 134

  Beethoven influences Wagner, 6

  Belart, Hans, "Richard Wagner in Zurich," 111

  Bellini, Wagner's admiration for, 18, 33

  Belloni, 82

  Berlioz, Hector, 42, 43, 57, 112

  Beroul, 297

  Bertram-Mayer, Mme., 131

  Borron, Robert de, 297, 454

  Boston, Wagner nights, 104

  Brandt, Karl, 143

  Bruckwald, Otto, 143

  Brückner Brothers, 143


  Caedmon, "Beowulf," 201

  "Centennial March," 139

  Chivalry, German age of, 331

  Chrétien de Troyes, 454

  Christian trilogy, 218

  "Christopher Columbus" overture, 20, 43

  "Communication to My Friends," 16, 30, 61, 66, 67, 92

  Concert Ouvertüre mit Fuge, 10

  "Conducting," essay on, 58, 134

  Conrad III., 331

  Cornelius, Peter, 125

  Costa, Michael, 100


  Dannreuther, Edward, on Wagner's character, 154, 156

  "Das Liebesverbot," 19 _et seq._

  "DAS RHEINGOLD," 388 _et seq._;
      _see also_ "Der Ring des Nibelungen";
    Alberich, warning and curse, 392;
    book finished, 365;
    curse, the, 392, 394;
    Erda, significance of, 393;
    ethical ideas in, 389-392, 394;
    first performances, 356;
    gold, the, origin of, 389;
    gold, the root of evil, 389;
    music, 424;
      _see also_ LEADING MOTIVES;
    music, when written, 365;
    mythologic basis, 384;
    original casts, 356, 357;
    produced at Munich, 131, 132;
    renunciation of love, 389;
    score written, 94;
    sin, entry of among the gods, 391;
    sin of gods, connected with "Götterdämmerung" by Wagner, 394;
    sin, Wotan's, burden of, 392;
    story of, 388 _et seq._;
    sword, stage business with, 395;
    Wotan's plan, 395;
    Wotan's sin, 392

  Davidson, _Musical World_, 100

  Deputy, 41

  "DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER", 234 _et seq._;
    art theories in, 213, 236;
    book, Wagner's view of, 243;
    book written, 45;
    characterisation in, 248;
    composition of, 244;
    conception of, 237;
    Daland as a character, 248;
    duet of Dutchman and Daland, Italian style of, 247;
    elements of Wagner's system in, 242;
    embryonic, 213, 236, 242, 246;
    emotional states in, 243;
    failure of, 54 _et seq._;
    first performances, 234, 235;
    Fitzball's play, 237;
    foreshadows future Wagner, 248, 249;
    Heine's story, 237, 240;
    instrumentation, 248;
    Italian music in, 247;
    legend of, 34, 238;
    leitmotiv foreshadowed, 243;
    "Lohengrin," resemblance to, 283;
    lyricism of, 244;
    Marryatt's version, 239;
    music, character of, 246, 248;
    music, plan of, 243;
    music, principal ideas, 244 _et seq._;
    mythical development, 239;
    original casts, 234, 235;
    original story, 238;
    overture, 248;
    produced at Cassel and Riga, 55;
      Dresden, 54;
      Munich, 126;
      Zurich, 97;
    Senta's ballad, 244, 245;
    Senta's character, 248;
    sources of book, 236 _et seq._, 283;
    Spohr on, 55;
    thematic germs, 245;
    Van der Decken, character of, 248;
    Wagner's additions to story, 241;
    Wagner's view of story, 241, 242;
    when written, 236;
    woman's sacrifice in, 240

  "Der Liebesmahl der Apostel," 59

  "DER RING DES NIBELUNGEN," 355 _et seq._;
      _see also_ "Das Rheingold," "Die Walküre," "Siegfried," and
    abandoned for "Tristan und Isolde," 106, 107, 109, 366;
    Æschylean methods in, 390;
    art-theories in, 74;
    begun, 93;
    book completed, 93;
    book, conception of, 72 _et seq._, 366;
    book published, 120;
    Brünnhilde, 401, 402, 416;
    critics confused by, 142;
    curse, the, 392, 398;
    dates of events in the dramas, 370;
    Eddas and, 372, 373;
    ethical basis of story, 384, 385, 394, 416;
    expanded into tetralogy, 93, 364;
    expenses of production, how provided, 137, 138;
    fate and punishment for sin, 390;
    "Final Report" on, 129;
    first mentioned by Wagner, 364;
    first performances, 355;
    free hero, 405;
    Hagen, significance of, 399;
    "Heldenbuch" and, 369;
    King Ludwig and, 126;
    legends in, age of, 367;
    legends in, origin of, 368;
    leitmotiv, method of developing, 424 _et seq._;
    leitmotiv system in, 422, 423, 424 _et seq._;
    Liszt on, 94, 106;
    motives, classification of, 424;
    music, 422 _et seq._;
    music, advances in, 74;
    music, how to enjoy, 423;
    music, philosophic nature of, 423;
    music, relation of certain themes, 424-426, 428;
    myth and history, 366;
    "Nibelungen Lied," story of, 371;
    Norse legends of, 372 _et seq._;
    Norse mythology in, 384 _et seq._;
    opposition to, at Munich, 129;
    orchestra in, 445;
    period of events in, 369, 370;
    production at Bayreuth, 140;
    resurrection in, 405, 406;
    revenge of the Nibelungs, 413;
    rights sold to Munich, 144;
    Ring, the, Nibelungen Lied account of, 371, 372;
    Ring, the Volsunga Saga account of, 380, 382, 383;
    Ring, the, Wagner's use of, 389, 391-393, 398, 416, 417, 419;
    scenery of, 143;
    Sigurd and Brünnhilde, story of, 374, 375;
    sin of gods, how treated by Wagner, 391, 394;
    sources of, 367 _et seq._;
    sources of, historical connections of, 370, 374;
    story as told by Wagner, 388 _et seq._;
    Volsunga Saga, 373 _et seq._;
    Volsunga Saga, story of, 378 _et seq._;
    work on in London, 99;
    Wotan's eye, how lost, 410;
    Wotan's plan, 395-398, 405, 437;
    Wotan's sin, 392

  "Die Feen," 16 _et seq._, 148

  "Die Glückliche Bärenfamilie," 32

  "Die Hochzeit," 14, 15

  "Die Hohe Braut," 30, 31

  "DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG", study of, 328 _et seq._;
    artistic doctrine of, 343, 344;
    Beckmesser, character of, 335;
    begun, 64, 330;
    book finished, 120, 330;
    characters historical, 333, 335;
    Cosima Wagner on, 341;
    critical view of, 342;
    first performances, 328, 329;
    meisterlied and minnelied, construction and relations of, 334;
    meistersingers, customs of, 333;
    meistersingers, origin of, 332;
    minnesingers, forerunners of meistersingers, 330-332;
    Müglin, Heinrich, his "Long Tone" used by Wagner, 345;
    music, 344 _et seq._;
    music, Act II., finale of, 352;
    music, begun, 120, 330;
    music, characteristics of, 353;
    music, chorale, Act I., and theme, 347;
    music, completed, 330;
    music, monologue of Sachs, 350;
    music, significant beauty of Meistersinger themes, 345;
    original casts, 328, 329;
    pendant to "Tannhäuser," 330;
    period of the comedy, 333;
    prelude, 344;
    prize song, 340;
    produced at Munich, 131, 328;
    quintet in, 340;
    Sachs, history of, 333, 336;
    story of, 336 _et seq._;
    symbolism in, 343;
    Walther not Wagner, 343

  "Die Sarazener," 50, 61;
      _see also_ "Manfred"

  Dietsch, Pierre Louis, 46, 115

  "DIE WALKÜRE," 396 _et seq._;
      _see also_ "Der Ring des Nibelungen"; begun, 94;
    book finished, 365;
    Brünnhilde, character of, 402;
    Brünnhilde's punishment, meaning of, 401;
    curse, 398;
    ethical ideas in, 397-399, 401, 402;
    finished, 105;
    first performances, 358;
    Fricka's importance, 397 _et seq._;
    music, 434;
      _see also_ LEADING MOTIVES;
      when written, 365;
    original casts, 358, 359;
    produced at Bayreuth, 141;
    produced at Munich, 132;
    rehearsal at Zurich, 105;
    second act, meaning of, 397;
    second act, Wagner on, 400;
    sin and its punishment in, 397;
    sources of, 396;
    story of, 396 _et seq._;
    sword in, 397;
    "Todesverkündigung," 400;
    work on at Zurich, 121;
    Wotan's plan, 401;
    Wotan's plan overthrown by Fricka, 397

  "Die Wibelungen," 72

  Dom Pedro of Brazil, 109

  Dorn, Heinrich, 8, 9, 31

  "Dors, mon enfant," 42

  Drama, spoken, Wagner's study, 181

  Dramas, Wagner's, 213 _et seq._

  Dumersan, 38, 41

  "Du Métier de Virtuose," 44


  Edda, the Elder, discovered, 373, 374;
    mythology in, 385;
    Poetic, 375;
    Sigurd and Brünnhilde in, 375

  Edda, the Prose, or Younger, mythology in, 385 _et seq._;
    when written, 373

  Eilhart von Oberge, 297

  "Eine Faust" overture, 38-40, 97

  Ellis, W.A., "1849, A Vindication," 78;
    translation of Wagner's Prose Works, 16

  "End of a Musician in Paris," 47


  Festspielhaus at Bayreuth, 136, 138;
    builders and artists of, 143;
    described, 142

  Feuerbach, 216

  Feustel, Frederick, 138, 152

  Fischer, Wilhelm, 45, 47

  "Flying Dutchman," _see_ "Der Fliegende Holländer"

  France, mixture of peoples in, 296


  Gasparini, A., 41

  Geoffrey of Monmouth, 296, 453

  German Music, Wagner's essay on, 41

  Geyer, Ludwig, 2, 3;
    "Slaughter of the Innocents," 3

  Gluck, 169 _et seq._

  "GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG," 410, _et seq._,
      _see also_ "Der Ring des Nibelungen";
    Brünnhilde, character of, 416;
    Brünnhilde, divinity gone, 411, 416;
    Brünnhilde imparts wisdom and strength to Siegfried, 411;
    Brünnhilde's deception, 418;
    Brünnhilde's self-sacrifice, 421;
    curse, in operation on Siegfried, 417;
    drink of forgetfulness, 414;
    drink of forgetfulness, antidote, 419;
    "Dusk of the Gods," described, 415;
    ethical ideas in, 416, 417, 421, 422;
    expiation of sin of gods, 421, 422;
    first performances, 362, 363;
    Gibichung, origin of name, 412;
    Grani, 412;
    Gunther identified, 412;
    Gutrune, identified, 412;
    Hagen, character of, 413;
    Hagen, mother of, 413;
    Hagen, the ring and, 420;
    music, 442;
      _see also_ LEADING MOTIVES;
    music, when written, 366;
    "Nibelungen Lied," ideas taken from, 372;
    Norns scene, 410;
    original casts, 362, 363;
    penetration of the fire, 409, 410;
    produced at Bayreuth, 141;
    return of ring to Rhine daughters, 417, 419, 421;
    Rhine daughters, meeting with Siegfried, 419;
    ring, connected with sin of gods, 416;
    runes, Brünnhilde's, 411;
    Siegfried matured, 411;
    story of, 410 _et seq._;
    sword, between Siegfried and Brünnhilde, 417, 418;
    Waltraute's narrative, 415;
    Wotan's eye, how lost, 410;
    Wotan's plan in, 420;
    Wotan's spear, 410

  Gottfried von Strassburg, 108, 297

  Grail, Holy, _see_ "Parsifal"

  Greek drama, 168, _see also_ ART-THEORIES of Wagner

  Grimm Brothers, "Deutsche Sagen," 272

  Gross, Adolph, 152, 153


  Heine, Ferdinand, 45, 47

  "Heldenbuch," 369

  Hoffmann, E.T., influence on Wagner, 7, 8

  Hoffmann, Joseph, 143

  Hohenstauffen dynasty, 331

  Holtei, Karl von, 32

  "Huldigungs Marsch," 124


  "Jesus von Nazareth," 71, 72

  Jockey Club, of Paris, and "Tannhäuser," 114, 115

  Joukowsky, 150

  "Judaism in Music," 86, 87

  Jullien, Adolphe, 38, 39


  "Kaisermarsch," 134

  Krehbiel, H.E., "Studies in the Wagnerian Drama," 310


  "La Déscente de la Courtille," 41

  "L'Attente," 42

  Laube, Heinrich, 41

  Leading Motives, _see_ Art-Theories of Wagner, leitmotiv;
    leading motives, not essential to know, 219

    "Das Rheingold":
      Alberich, master of the Nibelungs, 432;
      Compact, 429;
      Curse, 433;
      Departing divinity, 431;
      Dragon, 433;
      Erda, 424, 425;
      Giants, 429;
      Gold, the appearing, 427;
      Gold, the gleaming, 428;
      Götterdämmerung, 425, 428;
      Hoard, 433;
      Loge, 431;
      Nibelung, smiths, 432;
      Nibelung's hate, 433;
      Primeval Elements, 424;
      Renunciation, 429;
      Rhine daughters, 427;
      "Rhinegold," theme explained, 428;
      Ring, 428;
      Sword, 195, 395, 434;
      Tarnhelm, 195, 429;
      Walhalla, 429.
    "Der Fliegende Holländer":
      Dutchman theme, 245;
      Senta, the redeeming element, 245;
      Yearning, 246;
      "Wie, hor' ich recht?" 247.
    "Der Ring das Nibelungen":
      _see_ "Das Rheingold," "Die Walküre," "Siegfried," "Götterdämmerung."
    "Die Meistersinger":
      "Am stillen Herd," 349;
      Art of Song, 348;
      Beating, the, 350;
      Chastisement, 348;
      Council, 348;
      Derision, 347;
      Eva, 351;
      Kothner's song, 349;
      Meistersinger march, 345;
      Meistersingers, 344;
      Nuremberg, 350;
      Prize Song, 346, 353;
      Sachs's monologue, 350;
      St. John's Day, 349;
      Spring, 346, 347, 349;
      "Wahn, Wahn," 352;
      Walther's emotion, 346;
      Walther, the Knight, 349;
      Yearning of Love, 346.
    "Die Walküre":
      Brünnhilde's divinity, 438;
      Departing divinity, 431;
      Fate, 437;
      Götterdämmerung, 437;
      Love, 434;
      Siegfried, 438;
      Sieglinde's sympathy, 434;
      Slumber, 439;
      Sword, 435;
      "Todesverkündigung," 438;
      Valkyr's call, 436;
      Valkyrs, 436;
      Volsung race, 435;
      Volsungs, sorrow of, 435;
      Wotan's wrath, 436.
      Brünnhilde and the Ring, 428, 429;
      Brünnhilde, entrance of, 426;
      Brünnhilde's despair, 444;
      Brünnhilde's divinity, 438;
      Brünnhilde the woman, 443;
      Forgetfulness, 430;
      Gibichung, 430;
      Götterdämmerung, 425, 426;
      Gutrune, 444;
      Rhinegold, 428;
      Siegfried, the Man, 443, 444;
      Tarnhelm, 430.
      Elsa's faith, 287;
      Elsa's faith broken, 288;
      Grail, 285;
      Lohengrin, 286;
      Ordeal, 290;
      Ortrud, 289;
      Prohibition, 288;
      Swan, 287.
      Amfortas's suffering, 475;
      Atonement, 479;
      Belief, 475;
      bells, 478;
      Good Friday, 479;
      Grail, 474;
      Herzeleide, 477;
      Klingsor, 477;
      Kundry, the helpful, 477;
      Lament, the, 478;
      Last Supper, 474;
      Parsifal, 477;
      Promise, the, 476;
      Sorcery, 476;
      Swan, 478;
      Wild Kundry, 476.
      Brünnhilde's awakening, 441;
      Dragon, 433;
      Love's greeting, 442;
      Siegfried, the sword wielder, 440;
      Siegfried, the youth, 440;
      World's Heritage, 440;
      Wotan, the Wanderer, 440;
      Yearning for love, 440.
      Bacchanale, 266;
      Pilgrims' Chorus, 266;
      Praise of Venus, 267;
      Venus's pleading, 267.
    "Tristan und Isolde":
      Anguish, 326;
      Day, 323;
      Death, 322;
      Fate, 322;
      Glance, 321;
      Grief, 325;
      "Liebestod," themes of, 324, 327;
      Love, 321;
      Love Call, 324;
      Love, Triumph of, 324;
      Mark, 325;
      Mark's Grief, 325;
      Sea, 322.

  Lehmann, Lilli, 138

  Leitmotiv, _see_ Leading Motives;
    not necessary to recognise, 190, 191

  "Le Vaisseau-Fantôme," Dietsch, 46

  "Liebesmahl der Apostel, der," _see_ "Der Liebesmahl"

  "Liebesverbot, das," _see_ "Das Liebesverbot"

  Liszt, Franz, 44, 73, 78-84, 93, 94, 98, 104, 105, 150-152

  "LOHENGRIN," study of, 270, _et seq._;
    Act I. compared with sources, 277;
    Act II. compared with sources, 278;
    Act III. compared with sources, 282;
    begun, 64, 273;
    book written, 273;
    cadence, dominance of, 284, 285;
    combat, use of sword in, 277;
    conception of, 51;
    "Der Fliegende Holländer," resemblance of story to, 283;
    "Der Schwanen-Ritter" ("Chevalier au Cygne"), story of, 274;
    dialogue, not recitative, 284;
    Elsa, character of, 276, 282, 283;
    endless melody approached, 285;
    finale to Act III. at Dresden, 70;
    first heard by Wagner, 117;
    first performances, 270 _et seq._;
    Godfrey of Bouillon, relation to, 275;
    instrumentation, significant features, 290;
    King Henry, character of, 277;
    letters on performance of, 91;
    Lohengrin's narrative, source of, 283;
    music, analysed, 283 _et seq._;
      _see also_ LEADING MOTIVES;
    music, classification of, 291;
    music, popularity, reason for, 291;
    music, when written, 273;
    old poem, 273;
    organic union of text and music, 284;
    original casts, 270, 271;
    original materials, 273, _et seq._;
    Ortrud, character of, 276,279, 280, 281;
    prelude, 285, 286;
    produced at Munich, 130, 131;
    produced at Weimar, 90, 91;
    power of Lohengrin to be taken away by a wound, 283;
    recitative, abolished in, 284;
    rhythm, dominance of, 291;
    score sold, 273;
    score sent to Liszt, 81;
    sources of, 272 _et seq._;
    sources, treatment by Wagner, 276 _et seq._;
    stage pictures in Act II., 280;
    story according to Wagner, 277;
    sword, Telramund felled by, 278;
    Telramund, character of, 282;
    Telramund, his death, source of idea, 283;
    time signatures in score, 290, 291

  London critics offended, 100

  London Philharmonic Society, 97 _et seq._

  Ludwig, King of Bavaria, 122, 123, 128, 139, 148, 152

  Lully, 170

  Lüttichau, von, 44

  Lyric drama, birth and development of, 168


  Mackaye, Steele, 142

  "Manfred," 50, 61;
    _see also_ "Die Sarazener"

  Map, Walter, 296, 453

  Meissen, Heinrich von, 333

  Meisterlied, nature of, 234

  "Meistersinger von Nürnberg, die," _see_ "Die Meistersinger"

  Meistersingers, history of, 332 _et seq._

  Metternich, Princess, 113

  Meyerbeer, 36, 38, 43, 44, 89, 174

  Meyerbeer, "Les Huguenots," 89

  "Mignonne," 42

  Minnelied, nature of, 334;
    origin of, 331

  Minnesingers, history of, 332, _et seq._

  Monteverde, Claudio, 169

  Morelli, 113

  Mozart, 170

  Müglin, Heinrich, 335

  Müller, Gottlieb, 7

  Muncker, Franz, 138, 152

  Munich Conservatory, 125, 126

  Munich, new Wagner theatre, 128

  Munich, proposed Wagner theatre, 126, 128

  "Music of the Future," the, 114

  Music, theories as to, _see_ Art-Theories;
    _also works under separate titles_

  Mystic gulf, the, 141

  Myths as subject for drama, 182


  Neumann, Angelo, 145

  Nibelungen Lied, 73, 369

  "Nibelung Myth as sketch for a Drama," the, 73

  Niemann, Albert, 113


  "On the Performance of 'Tannhäuser,'" 86

  Opera, birth of, 168;
    development of, 168 _et seq._;
    Wagner's study of, 181;
    Meyerbeerian ground-plan, 174

  "Opera and Drama," 86, 88, 180, 181

  Orchestra, concealed, 140


  Pagan trilogy, 218

  "PARSIFAL," 446 _et seq._;
    Arthurian legends, 450 _et seq._;
    Arthurian legends, entry of Grail into, 453;
    book completed, 447;
    book read to friends, 144, 477;
    Borron's story of, 457;
    Breton epic, 454;
    Chrétien's story of, 455 _et seq._;
    conception, 447;
    conception of, 51, 71;
    Celtic legend of Peredur, 449;
    date of production changed, 145;
    enlightenment of Parsifal, 464;
    ethical ideas in, 472;
    finished, 147;
    first performance, 446;
    garden scene, plan of, 468;
    Grail, nature of, 449, 450, 451, 452;
    Grail stories, origin of, 449 _et seq._;
    Grail, the word, origin of, 452;
    Kundry, character of, 462, 464, 469, 470;
    Kundry the temptress, 470;
    Kundry's wandering, 471;
    music, 473,
      _see also_ LEADING MOTIVES;
    music, plan of, 473, 479;
    music, second act, 479;
    music, when written, 447;
    original cast, 446;
    panorama's failure, 149;
    Parsifal's character, 471;
    "Parzival," Wolfram's, 448, 449, 457;
    Perceval, derivation of name, 452;
    pity, enlightenment by, 471;
    prelude played at Wahnfried, 148, 474;
    preparations to produce, 146;
    problem play, 473;
    produced at Bayreuth, 149, 152;
    Provençal versions of story, 452;
    question, not asked, 467-469;
    rehearsals begun, 148;
    ended, 149;
    relation of "The Victors" to, 470;
    religious drama, 472;
    score completed, 148;
    sources of, 447 _et seq._;
    sources of, compared with drama, 467;
    subscriptions for production, 148;
    Wagner's drama, story of, 461 _et seq._;
    Wolfram's story of, 457;
    working on, 145, 147.

  Patron's certificates, 137, 139.

  Peri, Jacopo, 168

  Perl, Henry, "Richard Wagner in Venice," 150

  Pillet, 45, 46

  Plan for music school at Munich, 125

  Planer, Minna, death of, 30;
    jealousy of, 110;
    Wagner's alleged neglect of, 130;
    Wagner's marriage to, 27;
    Wagner's separation from, 30, 119;
    unsuited to Wagner, 27 _et seq._, 62, 63, 83, 160

  "Polonia," overture to, 40, 41

  Praeger, Ferdinand, account of revolution of 1848, 76 _et seq._;
    relations with Wagner, 97;
    "Wagner as I Knew Him," 25, 35, 70

  Prince Albert, 102


  Queen Victoria, 102


  Rameau, 170

  Recitative, early, 168 _et seq._

  "Recollections of Spontini," 86

  Reissiger, 45, 51

  "Rheingold, das," _see_ "Das Rheingold"

  Richter, Hans, 125, 130-132, 134, 144

  "RIENZI," 221 _et seq._;
    Adriano, air of, 232;
    art-theories in, 52, 172, 176, 223, 225, 227, 228;
    Berlin performances, 70, 71;
    character of hero, 230;
    completed, 44;
    conception of, 223, 224;
    divided into two parts, 52;
    first performances to 1882, 221, 222;
    first mentioned by Wagner, 31;
    libretto begun, 224;
    libretto, nature of, 228, 229, 230;
    materials of, 176, 225, 226;
    music begun, 224;
    music, nature of, 228, 229;
    music, Rienzi's prayer, 231;
    offered to Dresden, 44;
    opera instead of music-drama, why, 225 _et seq._;
    performance of, suggestions as to, 47;
    prayer in, 230, 231;
    preparations to produce, 47, 48, 51;
    produced at Dresden, 51;
    Berlin, 52;
    Schuré's criticism of, 232

  "Ring des Nibelungen, der," _see_ "Der Ring"

  Rinuccini, Ottavio, 168

  Rochlitz, 11

  Roeckel, August, 53, 64

  Rossini, 89

  Royer, Alphonse, 114, 116

  Rudolf of Hapsburg, 332

  "Rule Britannia" overture, 30, 31


  Sachs, Hans, 333, 336

  Saemund the Wise, 373-375

  Sainton, Prosper, 98

  "Sarazener, die," _see_ "Die Sarazener"

  Saxe, Marie, 113

  Scharfenberg, Albrecht von, "Der Jüngere Titurel," 272

  Schladebach, 67, 68

  Schlesinger, 38

  Schnorr, Ludwig, 125, 127, 128

  Schopenhauer, A., 108, 184

  Schroeder-Devrient, Wilhelmina, 18, 48, 54, 65

  Schumann, Robert, 68

  Seidl, Anton, 145

  Semper, Gottfried, 126

  Siegfried, date of his death, 370;
    character as conceived by Wagner, 403;
    German hero, 369

  "SIEGFRIED," 402 _et seq._;
      _see also_ "Der Ring des Nibelungen";
    bird's voice a soprano, 407;
    book written, 93;
    conception of, 93;
    conception of hero, 404;
    Erda, 408;
    first performances, 360;
    Forest Bird, voice of, 407;
    Forest Bird and the "Lay of Fafner," 376;
    free hero, 405;
    Mime, origin of name, 403;
    Mime, Regin compared with, 403;
    Mime's betrayal of himself, Act II., 408;
    music, 439,
      _see also_ LEADING MOTIVES;
    music, when written, 365;
    original casts, 360, 361;
    originality of Act II., 408;
    penetration of the fire, legend of, 409;
    produced at Bayreuth, 141;
    question scene in Act I., origin of, 405;
    Siegfried's nature and character, 403, 404;
    story of, 405 _et seq._;
    sword, power and name of, 409;
    "Vafthrudnersmal," 405;
    "Waldweben," 407;
    Wotan's plan in, 405, 408

  "Siegfried's Death," 367

  "Siegfried Idyl," 134

  Smolian, Arthur, 265

  Snorre Sturleson, 373

  Spontini, 60, 68

  Standthartner, Dr., 149

  "State and Religion," 124

  Symphony in C, 11, 12, 151;
    analysis of, 482 _et seq._;
    history of, 481


  "TANNHÄUSER," 250 _et seq._;
    additions to story by Wagner, 258;
    Biterolf, 261;
    book written, 50, 252;
    characterisation in, 268;
    characters historical, 260;
    completed, 62;
    conception of, 50, 252;
    contest of song, origin of idea, 256;
    Elizabeth, character of, 257, 261;
    essay on performance of, 253;
    essence of, Wagner's words on, 269;
    ethics of the drama, 261, 262;
    failure of, 65;
    first performances, 250, 251;
    good and evil principles, 261-263;
    good and evil principles, music of, 265;
    grotto of Venus, 258;
    Heinrich of Ofterdingen, identified with Tannhäuser, 256, 259;
    Hermann the Landgrave, 256;
    Jockey Club of Paris and, 114, 115;
    legend of, 254, 255;
    leitmotive, absence of, 265;
    letter to Carl Galliard on, 65;
    Lord Lytton's, 264;
    man, a drama for, 263;
    misunderstood, 65, 66;
    music, analysed, 264 _et seq._;
    music, finished, 252;
    music, nature of, 264 _et seq._;
    music, principal ideas, _see_ LEADING MOTIVES;
    mythology, Roman and Teutonic, 257, 258;
    narrative of Tannhäuser, 263;
    original casts, 250, 251;
    original ideas in, 254;
    overture in London, 101;
    Paris version, nature of, 253;
    Paris version, origin of, 114, 115, 252, 253;
    praise of Venus, 259;
    preparations for production, 64;
    produced at: Dresden, 65;
      Munich, 130, 131;
      Paris, 112 _et seq._;
      Weimar, 81;
      Zurich, 97;
    provisional title, 252;
    Reimar, 260;
    relations to "Tristan und Isolde," 253, 269;
    "Sängerkrieg," 254;
    score completed, 252;
    Smolian, Arthur, pamphlet on music, 265;
    sources of, 254 _et seq._;
    Tannhäuser, character of, 258, 259, 261;
    "Tannhäuser Lied," 254;
    transition period, belongs to, 213, 252;
    Venus, 257, 258, 259;
    "Venusberg, Romantic Opera," 252;
    "Volksbuch," 254;
    Wartburg Castle, 255;
    "Wartburgkrieg," 256, 259;
    Wogelweide, Walther von der, 256, 260;
    Wolfram, 255, 256, 260;
    woman, the saving grace of, 262, 263

  Tausig, Carl, 109, 110, 137

  Text of Wagner Dramas, importance of knowing, 219

  Thomas, Theodore, 139

  Tichatschek, 48, 51, 131

  "TRISTAN UND ISOLDE," study of, 293 _et seq._;
    Act I., 302;
    Act II., 305;
    Act III., 308;
    abandoned, as impossible, 118;
    accepted at Vienna, 118;
    art-theories in, 316;
    Arthurian legends, now Gallicised, 296;
    begun, 109;
    book written, 295;
    Celtic origin of story, 295 _et seq._;
    conception of, 106, 107, 108, 294;
    day and night, riddles of, 306-308;
    death, basic thought of drama, 304, 306, 311, 312;
    death, idea in Isolde's mind, 302, 303;
    death, yearning for, 311, 312;
    emotions, treatment of, 316 _et seq._;
    Fate, workings of, in drama, 311;
    finished, 110;
    first act written, 109;
    first performances, 293;
    Gottfried's version, 297;
    Isolt of the White Hand, 299, 300, 314;
    King Mark, his "sermon," 313, 314;
    legend, fundamental idea of, 301;
    leitmotiv system in, 315, 316;
    love of Tristan and Isolde not caused by the magic drink, 301, 310;
    "Liebestod," musical germs of, 324, 327;
    Liszt on, 107;
    metaphysics in, 312;
    musical plan of drama, 314;
    music, 315 _et seq._;
      _see also_ LEADING MOTIVES;
    music, general plan of, 318 _et seq._;
    music, third act, 314, 320;
    music, when written, 295;
    narrative of Isolde, 303;
    organic union of arts in, 312, 317, 318;
    original casts, 293;
    "O sink' hernieder," 307, 324;
    pessimism in Act II., 310, 313;
    potion, office of, 301, 304, 305, 310;
    prelude, 321;
    produced at Munich, 127;
    production, difficulties of, 111, 125;
    pronounced impossible, 122;
    Schopenhauer's influence in, 312, 313;
    second act sketched, 110;
    sources of, 108, 295 _et seq._;
    sources of, Wagner's treatment, 300 _et seq._;
    story, completions of, 299, 300, 314;
    story, Gottfried's, 297;
    story, oldest versions of, 297;
    story, origin of, 295 _et seq._;
    story, Wagner's version, 300 _et seq._;
    text, character of, 317;
    torch in Act II., 305;
    wound, Tristan's, meaning of, 307, 308

  Troubadours, influence on German song, 330

  Troyes, Chrétien de, 297

  "Two Grenadiers," 42


  "Ueber das Dirigen," 58, 134

  Unger, George, 141


  Viceroy of Egypt, 139

  "Victors, The," 108

  "Victory," the, 108

  Vogl, Heinrich, 131;
    Therese, 131, 132

  Volsunga Saga, 73;
    corollaries of, 378;
    origin of, 377;
    story told in, 378 _et seq._

  Von Bülow, Cosima, 90, 112, 125, 130, 132, 133

  Von Bülow, Hans, 90, 112, 124, 130, 131, 132

  Von Bülows, the, separation of, 130, 132;
    divorce of, 133


  Wagenseil, Johann Christoph, 335

  Wagner, Albert, 2, 15;
    wife and daughter, 2

  Wagner, Cosima, 133, 134, 153, 160;
    _see also_ Von Bülow

  Wagner, Friedrich, 1

  Wagner, Johanna, 2, 65, 138

  WAGNER, RICHARD, abandonment of career contemplated, 119;
    affection of, 103;
    ambition to reach Paris, 30;
    America, asked to visit, 104, 159;
    amnesty, 118;
    ancestry, 1;
    appearance of, 162;
    appreciates his own genius, 121;
    approach of death, 149, 150;
    artistic aims of, 167 _et seq._;
    artistic impulse, 158, 159;
    art-theories, _see separate title_;
    attachment to Cosima von Bülow, beginning of, 125;
    attitude toward public, 55, 67;
    autobiographic sketch, 52;
    autobiography, unpublished, 153;
    ballet and, 487;
    Bayreuth, goes to, 136;
    Bayreuth, work at, 137 _et seq._;
    Biebrich, visit to, 120;
    birth, 2;
    boyhood, 3 _et seq._;
    boyish tragedies, 4;
    Buddhistic drama, rumours about, 153;
    burial of, 152;
    calumniated, 130;
    character of, 29, 103, 154 _et seq._;
    chorus master at Würzburg, 15;
    church music, director of, 58;
    clothes, rich, love of, 157;
    "Communication to My Friends," _see separate title_;
    concert tours, 118, 119, 144;
    conducting, essay on, 48;
    conductor at Dresden, 56, 59, 60;
    conductor at Königsberg, 25, 27 _et seq._;
    conductor at London, 94 _et seq._, 144;
    conductor at Magdeburg, 19;
    conductor at Riga, 31;
    conducts at Zurich, 89;
    conducts juvenile symphony, 151;
    conducts "Flying Dutchman," 54, 97;
    corner-stone of Festspielhaus laid by, 138;
    Cosima von Bülow, love for, 125, 130;
    critics on, 69, 142;
    death, 152;
    debts, troubled by, 74, 85, 95, 116, 120;
    depression, 158;
    despair, period of, 119-121;
    disappointed by public misunderstanding, 53, 55, 119, 121, 147,
      148, 160, 161;
    dissatisfied with theatre, 32, 174, 175, 179;
    Dresden, flight from, 79;
    Dresden, work in, 59 _et seq._;
    drudgery in Paris, 46, 47 _et seq._;
    dual individuality, 154 _et seq._;
    dyspepsia, 92, 94, 151;
    early models, 16;
    early musical studies, 5 _et seq._;
    enemies of, 155;
    erysipelas, 92;
    extravagant habits, 157 _et seq._;
    faints at rehearsal, 149;
    Fantaisie Castle, lives in, 136;
    Fatherland Union, speech before, 75;
    final illness, 151;
    finding himself, 53-56;
    first compositions, 7, 8;
    first compositions published, 9 _et seq._;
      _see also separate titles_;
    friendship with Liszt, 74, 80;
    friends of, 155;
    funeral in Venice, 152;
    funeral in Bayreuth, 152;
    Geneva, visits, 129;
    habits of, 156;
    heart trouble, 149-151;
    household, 150;
    improvidence of, 83, 85, 86, 157, 158;
    insomnia, 94;
    Italy, visits to, 94, 110, 147;
    King Ludwig's friendship, 122 _et seq._, 128;
    King Ludwig's friendship, scandals about, 114, 128;
    Königsberg period, 25, 27 _et seq._;
    Lachner's prize symphony, objects to conducting, 99;
    Leipsic period, 17;
    "Lohengrin," first heard by Wagner, 92, 117;
    London, concerts in, 100, 101;
    London, criticism in, 102;
    London, critics offended, 100;
    London, first visit to, 34;
    London, residences in, 99;
    London, second visit to, 96 _et seq._;
    London Philharmonic Society, conductor of, 97 _et seq._;
    Lucerne, visits, 110, 129;
    luxury, love of, 156, 157;
    manners of, 156;
    Marienbad, visit to, 64;
    marriage to Minna Planer, 25, 27 _et seq._, 83, 160;
    marriage to Cosima von Bülow, 132-134, 160;
    meets Meyerbeer, 36;
    mother of, 2;
    Munich, goes to, 123;
    Munich, leaves, 129;
    Munich, opposition in, 128;
    myth in dramas, 72;
      _see also separate title_;
    Nibelungen Lied taken up as a subject, 73;
      _see also separate titles_: "Nibelungen Lied," "Siegfried's
        Death," and "Der Ring des Nibelungen";
    opposition to, 63, 67, 68, 94, 100, 102, 112, 114;
    Palace, Vendramin, 150;
    Palestrina, admirer of, 58;
    Paris, first sojourn in, 36, 37, 38 _et seq._;
    Paris, revisited, 82, 103;
    Paris, second sojourn in, 112;
    Paris, concerts in, 112;
    Paris, leaves for Germany, 48;
    Paris, leaves for Vienna, 116;
    Paris, residences in, 39, 46, 112;
    "Parsifal," work during rehearsals of, 149;
    Penzing, visit to, 120;
    Peps, his dog, 92, 103;
    performances unsatisfactory to, 161;
    poverty, 95;
    Prague, visit to, 14;
    prose writings, beginning of, 67;
      _see also separate titles_;
    purpose of his life, 167;
    Queen Victoria and, 102;
    Religious mysticism, 148;
    Revolution of 1848, 71, 73 _et seq._;
    Riga engagement, 31;
    Riga engagement, its end, 33;
    rudeness of, 155;
    school days, 4;
    Schopenhauer's influence on, 108;
    search for by King Ludwig's messengers, 123;
    Seelisberg, visit to, 103;
    sense of humour, 99, 100;
    sensuous enjoyment, 19;
    separation from first wife, 119;
    silk garments, fond of, 157;
    songs, 42;
      _see also separate titles_;
    Starnberg, Lake, villa on, 123;
    starving his wife, charged with, 130;
    suicidal thoughts, 158;
    symphony in C, 11, 12;
    symphony in C performed in Venice, 151;
    "Tannhäuser," effect of its failure on Wagner's life, 67;
    Teplitz, visit to, 19, 50;
    Triebschen, settles at, 129;
    Vendramin Palace, goes to, 150;
    Vendramin Palace, household in, 150;
    Vendramin Palace, life in, 150;
    Venice, first visit, 110;
    Venice, last days in, 150 _et seq._;
    Vevay, visits, 129;
    Vienna, visits, 117;
    Wahnfried, goes to, 136;
    weakness in character, 158;
    Weber's remains removed by, 60;
    Weimar, goes to, 80, 118;
    Wesendonck, Mrs., intrigue with, 110, 111;
    worship of Weber, 5, 6;
    Würzburg period, 15 _et seq._;
    Zurich, concerts at, 106;
    Zurich, goes to, 81;
    Zurich, return to from London, 103

  Wagner, Rosalie, 2, 15

  Wagner, Siegfried, 133, 153

  Wagner Societies formed, 138;
    consolidated, 153

  Wagnerites, English, 103

  "Walküre, die"; _see_ "Die Walküre"

  Weber, art-theories of, 175

  Weber, influence on Wagner, 175

  Weber's remains removed by Wagner, 60

  Weinlig, Theodore, 9

  Wesendonck, letter to, 111

  Wesendonck, Mathilde, 107, 110, 111

  "Wieland the Smith," 89

  Wilhelmj, 144

  Wille, 94, 120, 121, 123

  Wittgenstein, Countess, 105

  Wolff, O.L.B., 81

  Wolfram von Eschenbach, history of, 448;
    "Parzival," story of, 457

  Wolzogen, Hans von, 147

  Würzburg, Konrad von, "Der Schwanen-Ritter," 272



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