Richard Wagner


Like the Germanic Archtypes he brought to the Operatic stage, Richard Wagner was a controversial Leviathon whose influence; both Musickal and Literary, held sway over the last half of 19th century Europe like no other artist. Through the blazing force of his Ego and will, Wagner almost single-handedly Elevated Germanic Opera into a new art-form, a musickal and metaphorical journey into the very spirit of mythology, tragedy, and drama of so grand a scale, only a man as willful and Egotistical as Wagner could hope to completely realize such lofty goals.

Passionate and intensely visionary, even as a young man, Wagner found his first love in literature. In the works of Shakespeare, Homer, and Dante, and the stories and mythologies of his native homeland, Wagner saw the foundation of a grand unified artform which would elevate Germanic culture to the forefront of European society, with himself as its consumate head. Even in his teens, Wagner realized his talent with the written word would not be enough to formulate the grand vision he wanted to portray, and taught himself the rudiments of musickal theory in order to conjure forth the evocative spirit neccesary to accompany the Universal drama he wished to unfold.

Wagner knew his was a life of destiny, and dedicated his whole life to one purpose, himself. To say he was an egoist would be an understatement, yet so dedicated was he to his own vision, his own core of being, that nothing else could come between him and his desires. Throughout his life, Wagner pitted himself against those who would either try to help or hinder his destiny, forcing the hands of nobility and kings, and coming into conflict with many who surrounded him both friend and foe. There was to be no denying of this deep rooted desire to give rise to a truly Germanic Operatic artform, which Wagner felt only he himself could create.

And so, with the hammer and chisel of his will, Wagner crafted an art of his own vision, steeped in the lore and Nationalism of his birthplace. Combining the metaphors and mythological Archtypes of Germanic folk-lore with a romantic musick which was to be the emotional equal to the words played out on stage, Wagners creations became as large as his ego. The Orchestra of the past was too small for Wagner, so he brought in more musicians, almost doubling the size, and also giving us many of the elements we take for granted in todays modern Orchestra.

A larger Orchestra was not enough however, and Wagner worked during his day to change the way his orchestras worked, from fighting the heirarchial tree whereby retiring players were replaced from within the orchestra with his own desires to implement fresh blood from outside who brought new talent into his performances, to conducting performances of others works with a frenzy and passion which many at the time found disconcerting. Even the Opera houses of the day were not fitting for the grand vision Wagner had for his Operas, and so he took it upon himself to create the Bayreuth Opera house, which he felt would be the pinnacle of Germanic Opera, and a cornerstone of intellectual and artistic society throughout Europe.

A fiery, passionate man, he delved into German politics, writing revolutionary tracts which eventually, along with his accumulated debts, forced him his departure from Germany. A voiciferous man, Wagner pounded out essay after essay on thoughts as varied and pointed as he was. Politics, philosophy, art and music, were all prime fodder for the pulpit of Wagners written word, and were all subject to his changing ideals as well. If he no longer held truth in a thought or philosophy, Wagner would be the first to destroy that which earlier he had held aloft, even if his new ideals were formulated from an egotistical sense of self.

One of most visible forms of Wagners importance comes from the controversy that surrounded everything he did. His Operas were the talk of Europe, as many people hated his works as obnoxious and over the top as loved the new ideas and ways he was implementing the use of voice and Orchestra. His essays were challenged as well as championed by coffeehouse philosophers throughout high society, and there is even one quote which clearly summerizes the debate,"I never discuss Politics, Religion, or Wagner.It always makes for bad blood and originates quarrels."

Wagner was not a good or moral man by any means. He was a liar, a cheat, a hypocrite, he lived beyond his means most of his life, he used everyone around him to further his own aims, he held many a double standard with himself as the only worthy focal point. But he was also a creator, a charismatic force of nature who sucked others into his realms, who by force of his will changed the nature of things as we know them today, and as such, serves as a worthy example of the true power of the individual to create and to destroy, and through his works, achieve immortality.

Le' rue Delashay

NOT LIKE MOST magazine, issue #14