Sunday, August 01, 2010

Opening Performance: Bayreuth Festival -- Lohengrin July 25, 2010

German Chancellor Angela Merkel can be seen at 3:30 on the video:



"It seemed true indeed," Wagner wrote in his "Retrospect of the Stage Festivals of 1876," "that never had an artist been thus honored; for though it was not unknown for such a one to be summoned before an emperor and princes, no one could recall that an emperor and princes had ever come to him."
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.

Wagner was not just a great musical genius, he was a politically well-connected one at that.

One of the royal attendees of the first Wagner festival at Bayreuth in 1876 was Ludwig II of Bavaria.  Ludwig was 18 years old when he ascended the Bavarian throne in 1864.  One of the first acts of Ludwig's reign was to summon composer Richard Wagner to his court in Munich.  Wagner had a notorious reputation as a revolutionary and was constantly on the run from creditors. But Ludwig had admired Wagner since first seeing his opera, Lohengrin. Wagner's operas appealed to the king's fantasy-filled imagination. On 5 May 1864, Wagner -- 51 years old and penniless -- met Ludwig in the Royal Palace in Munich; later the composer wrote of his first meeting with Ludwig, "Alas, he is so handsome and wise, soulful and lovely, that I fear that his life must melt away in this vulgar world like a fleeting dream of the gods." The king was likely the saviour of Wagner's career. Without Ludwig, it is doubted that Wagner's subsequent operas would have been composed, much less prestigiously premiered at an opera house built expressly for their performance with funds generously donated by the king.

Wagner had written Lohengrin in the mid-1840s before Ludwig was born.  The operatic tale of rescue by a selfless benefactor seemingly anticipated Wagner's later rescue by the King of Bavaria.

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

The opera performance on July 25, 2010 was Lohengrin.

At Bayreuth performances begin at 4:00 in the afternoon. There is a one-hour intermission between acts so that guests can get refreshments.

The performances end at about 10:00 PM, depending, of course, on the length of the opera.

It was Wagner who originated the idea of the summer music festival. The first Wagner festival at Bayreuth was in August 1876.