About Richard Wagner
From the online book: Music Through the Centuries by Don Robertson (2005)
Published on DoveSong.com – Revised and expanded in 2023
Chapter Five – The 19th Century: “Heart”
Glimpses into the life of German composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Wagner is universally cast as an arrogant, cold, and selfish egotist.
The facts often contradict this, however.
The Cornerstone Story
A humble and honest Bayreuth citizen who worked at a local factory asked Wagner one day to be his child’s godfather, as the child had been born on the day that the cornerstone for Wagner’s theatre was laid. Wagner cheerfully agreed and brought his entire family to spend the entire afternoon in the man’s house, joking and telling stories.
Wine With the Overseer
One day while Wagner’s theater was being constructed, something had been done incorrectly because the builders had not understood Wagner’s directions correctly. One of the overseers, though not a builder, saw what was needed and redid the work. Wagner was so happy that he sought him out in town, escorted him to a tavern, and drank a bottle of wine with him.
Wagner on the Lion
Ferdinand Praeger came to see Wagner in Zurich and they went on a tour of the Rhine Falls. They spent the night at a hotel and agreed to meet for breakfast in the garden, but at breakfast time, no one could find Wagner. “Here I am!” they suddenly heard him call. He was sitting high up on the back of a plaster lion that decorated the outside area. He scurried down recklessly; laughing heartily saying he had gone up there to get his breakfast appetite.
Climbing the Alps
On July 10, 1852, Wagner began a trek through the Bernese Oberland of the Swiss Alps and climbed both the Faulhorn and the Sidelhorn. “The gem of my trip was my march over the Gries Glacier from Wallis through the Formazza Valley to Domo d’Ossola, which occupied two days. The Gries is a stupendously savage glacier-pass, very dangerous, and crossed but seldom from the Haslithal or Wallis by peasants fetching Southern wares such as rice, etc. from Italy.” On July 19th, he trudged down the Formazzathal to Domodossola and arrived that evening in Baveno. He was intoxicated with everything he saw and experienced, the peasants, the goat-herders, the chestnut groves and glaciers. All was so beautiful, he laughed out load for joy.