(My editorial to the November 2013 (7/3) edition of 'The Wagner Journal'. For more information on its contents and for instructions on how to order a free electronic introductory copy, click here.)
Wagner Rescued from the Opera House?
‘The most admirable twin-genius of musical composition and dramatic poetry. Add to that the fact that he is at the same time the dramatist, decorator, machinist, copyist, Kapellmeister, and schoolmaster par excellence when it concerns his own works, and tell me if he has not in him the stuff of some Indian god with any number of heads and hands.’ Thus did Liszt describe Wagner in a letter written 180 years ago, when Wagner was still formulating his Ring project. The praise might have been yet more fulsome, though nevertheless accurate, even understated, had Liszt been writing in the aftermath of the Ring and Bayreuth. The multivalent nature of Wagner’s achievement is part both of what attracts us to him and what makes our efforts to deal with him an extreme case of Beckett’s imperative to ‘fail better’.