Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Wagner and August Röckel

(Article first published in The Cambridge Wagner Encycopedia, ed. Nicholas Vazsonyi (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Röckel, (Karl) August (born 1 December 1814, Graz; died 18 July 1876, Budapest.) Conductor, composer, pamphleteer; son of tenor, Joseph Röckel. Assisted Rossini at the Paris Théâtre Italien, before assuming positions in Bamberg, Weimar, and finally Dresden (1843-9) as assistant to Wagner. Röckel withdrew his 1839 opera, Farinelli, accepted for Dresden performance, as unworthy compared to Wagner’s work. Dismissed for subversion, Röckel edited the socialist Volksblätter, to which Wagner contributed. Following the Dresden uprising (account published in 1865), Röckel received a death sentence, commuted; prison correspondence adds greatly to understanding of the Ring. In a letter of 25/26 January 1854, Wagner presents Wotan (Wodan) rising to the tragic heights of willing his own destruction, summarising a fundamental ‘pessimistic’ shift in his conception. Following release from prison in 1862, Röckel edited newspapers in Coburg, Frankfurt, Munich, and Vienna, and joined August Bebel’s Verband Deutscher Arbeitervereine.  Friendship faltered during the later 1860s: Wagner held Röckel responsible for dissemination of rumours concerning Wagner’s relationship with Cosima.