Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wagner in Venice

R. J. Stove tells of the influence Venice had on Wagner, saying:
Venice's own beauty and mystery jolted Wagner into genuine reportage, so different from the turbid philosophising that elsewhere dominated his prose. Late in life he casually admitted to Saint-Saëns - first a devotee, afterwards a passionate opponent - that when he re-read his early theoretical writings: "I find I no longer understand them."

At first Wagner's Venetian residence had severely practical reasons. Harassed by Saxony's government, after the abortive Dresden uprising into which he had thrown himself with characteristically rampageous enthusiasm, he needed a bolt-hole beyond the writ of the policeman, the debt collector, or the jealous husband (this last category having made life awkward in Zürich).

Yet La Serenissima grew on him, as it grows eventually on everyone. While he only stayed there a year before returning to Paris in 1859 - there to superintend Tannhäuser's French premiere - he retained fond memories of existence among the canals. So when, in 1882 after Parsifal's completion, angina pectoris forced the 69-year-old Wagner to a comparatively tranquil refuge, there could only be one choice: Venice it was.

"Riccardo Wagner" (for thus journalists Italianized his name) became something of a local mascot, in a city all too conscious that creative musical prestige had largely abandoned it since Vivaldi and Albinoni had disappeared from the scene more than a century earlier.

No comments: