Friday, 2 May 2008

Wagner and Wagnerism

This week it was announced that Wolfgang Wagner, Director of the Bayreuth Festival since 1951, would retire at the end of August. Although it seems that problems with his successor have not been completely ironed out, the two main contenders, Wolfgang’s daughters Katharina Wagner and Eva Wagner-Pasquier, have submitted a joint proposal to the foundation that runs the Festival.

It was a production of Parsifal at the 1966 Bayreuth Festival that signified Pierre Boulez’ move into mainstream repertoire. His tempi were controversial, he remembers in a fascinating interview with Nicholas Wroe in the Guardian, and although he claims not to enjoy controversy “if you feel something deeply, then you shouldn’t fear polemic.”

Our US-based imprints the University of Rochester Press and Camden House continue to publish widely on Wagner, with the announcement of John W Barker’s Wagner and Venice for November 2008. Wagner died there in 1883, and this book will use new and previously unavailable sources to chart his visits to the city, what it meant to him, and the process through which Wagner and his posthumous reputation became integrated into Venice’s own cultural image.

It joins a distinguished list of publications on the composer, most recently Chris Walton’s well-received Richard Wagner’s Zurich, as well as a companion to Parsifal, a fascinating book of essays on Wagner’s Meistersinger, an examination of the Wagner cult in Scandinavia and the Baltic region, and an analysis of Wagner’s operas in the context of German nationalist ideology. More on Wagner and Venice in future posts.

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