Way back in 1898 George Bernard Shaw wrote The Perfect Wagnerite — A Commentary on the Niblung's Ring. Well, I'm an IMperfect Wagnerite, but I still like the music.
My love for the music of Richard Wagner goes back to circa 1939, when as a five-year-old I accompanied my mother to rehearsals of his opera Lohengrin. This was at the long-defunct Allentown Opera in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where as an aspiring opera singer she had the lead role of Elsa. She also sometimes sang in the chorus of the much greater Philadelphia Opera, but this was really her chance to shine locally.
During these rehearsals, I used to move around from the prompter's booth to the stage wings, and to the box seats, all the time taking in these glorious sounds.
Understand, my love for this music — still strong nearly 70 years later — does not extend to the composer himself. It always amazed me how such a despicable person could write such sublime music. Wagner (1813-1883) was a backstabbing con artist who milked the Bavarian Kingdom for all it was worth, lived a highly disreputable life, and openly espoused the most virulent form of antisemitism. No wonder Hitler admired him so much.
My fascination with this duality has led me to visit some sites associated with the composer, most notably his home (photo, right) at Triebschen, on the lake just outside Luzern, Switzerland. Now operated as a museum of his life, the house is filled with powerful music. And you almost expect the Rhinemaidens to appear along the water's edge.
Of course, I just had to make the pilgrimage to Bayreuth in the northern reaches of Bavaria. Twice. But not for the festival, just to see the sights. This is where he built his very own opera house, a mansion called Haus Wahnfried (photo, below), where he is buried, and where the industry built around his music holds its annual extravaganza.
Over the years I have attended performances of several of his operas, usually at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and have a nearly-complete set of LP recordings of them along with excerpts on CD. On a Good Friday in the late 1970s I took my mother to the Met to see Parsifal, his last opera and one that is most effective on that holy day.
And, much as I love the music (but not necessarily the stories) of Wagner's operas, I also enjoy modern classical music, jazz, and even rock. Actually, in my former business of photographing album covers, I met several major rock stars who also admired Wagner's music. CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON MY MUSICAL TASTES.
Interested in photography? Check out my "Assisting Avedon" blog.
SO, just what Little Adventure am I up to now in 2013? Why, just the most challenging one of them all! CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT.
CHECK OUT these books about Wagner by clicking on their titles in the boxes below, or on the Buy buttons to purchase: