Alison Kinney at Lapham's Quarterly:
Opera fans have their own special ways of abandoning themselves to the objects of their affection. They have been known to hitch themselves to a diva’s carriage and pull it triumphantly through the streets, shower roses onto the stage, sprinkle the ashes of dearly departed fellow fans into orchestra pits. Ludwig’s style was supported by a monarch’s power and magnificence; one of his first acts following his coronation was to summon Wagner to court. “I burn with ardor to behold the creator of the words and music of Lohengrin,” he wrote, sending a ruby ring and a signed photograph of himself as gifts. The king soon funded the premiere of Tristan und Isolde, Wagner’s masterpiece of love, death, and transcendence, which had been composed six years prior and condemned as unstageable. In the days before the premiere, Ludwig suffered from tremors and nervous anticipation; he wept at the dress rehearsal. His mash note to Wagner declared, “You are the world’s miracle; what am I without you?…My love for you, I need not repeat it, will endure forever!” In need of a way to vent his emotions, he pardoned all the participants of the 1848 revolutions that had forced his grandfather Ludwig I to abdicate the Bavarian throne.
In the deepest throes of opera fandom, Ludwig began to build castles as tributes, shrines, refuges, and monuments to his great passion. He envisioned Neuschwanstein during his first year on the throne and began its planning. A few years into his work, he wrote to Wagner, “There will be several cozy, habitable guest rooms with a splendid view of the noble Säuling, the mountains of Tyrol, and far across the plain; you know the revered guest I would like to accommodate there; the location is one of the most beautiful to be found, holy and unapproachable, a worthy temple for the divine friend who has brought salvation and true blessing to the world.”