wagner summer


Richard Wagner will not be ignored. The two-hundredth birthday of the “Sorcerer of Bayreuth,” to borrow the title of a recent book by Barry Millington, arrived on May 22nd, and the sixteen-hour epic that is “The Ring of the Nibelung” has rolled through New York, London, Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Milan, Paris, and a dozen other cities—most notably, the Wagner capital of Bayreuth, whose adjective-defying new “Ring” makes all others look timid and sane. By the end of the year, there will have been more than forty performances of the cycle, from Riga to Melbourne. Record companies are releasing deluxe boxed sets of Wagner; sadly, the most vital of them, Sony’s archival collection “Wagner at the Met,” stops in 1954. Dozens of new Wagner books are appearing, including Millington’s handsome volume and, later this year, the nine-hundred-page Cambridge Wagner Encyclopedia, whose entries range from “absolute music” to “Zurich,” by way of “Baudelaire,” “Nietzsche,” and “pets.” It would be good to report that the anniversary year has yielded a raft of fresh insights. Alas, outside of scholarly precincts, discussion of Wagner is stuck in a Nazi rut. His multifarious influence on artistic, intellectual, and political life has been largely forgotten; in the media, it is practically obligatory to identify him as “Hitler’s favorite composer.”

more from Alex Ross at The New Yorker here.