Walter Mencken 11:31 a.m., Feb. 1
Here Comes Wagner
The time has come. I must now come out of the closet and reveal myself as a Wagner fan.
To my mind, Wagner is the most fascinating figure in all of classical music. Is there anyone else who creates as much heated, irate debate as Wagner?
No one has a lukewarm opinion about Wagner.
Why? A few people will get into the value of his music but most of it stems from Wagner’s personality and anti-Semitism.
Regarding Wagner’s personality, let’s put it this way, Nietzsche couldn’t stomach him.
Early on Nietzsche looked to Wagner as a father figure.
Nietzsche was obsessed with living a life with the aesthetic and grandeur of a Greek tragedy. His first book, The Birth of Tragedy lays this out clearly.
He saw in Wagner’s operas the potential for reviving Greek tragedy.
There is no doubt that Wagner was an anti-Semite. He wrote about it.
His book Judenthum in der Music, Jewishness in Music, was an attack on Jewish musicians, particularly Giacomo Meyerbeer.
After his political exile from Dresden, Wagner tried his hand in Paris and perceived Meyerbeer to be blocking his success. This was mostly the creation of Wagner’s megalomania. Meyerbeer had been a big supporter of Wagner’s first successful opera, Rienzi.
What fascinates me about Wagner is that as a personality he is selfish and disgusting.
As a composer, he is divine. There are moments in Wagner’s operas that I consider to me more powerful and beautiful than any other music.
Every single Wagner opera is about redemption.
I can’t apologize for Wagner. I will say that I enjoy the grotesque imbalance of his personality and his art.
After writing "Contra Wagner", Nietzsche had this to say about Wagner's finale opera Parsifal,
"I will not deny it, other really good music, which I have at other times heard and loved, seems, as against this, a misunderstanding! "
I will be writing about Wagner every so often because his music and his personal life are fertile and largely unexplored by the general music lover.
Conclusion of Parsifal.