The Wagner Journal

Arnold Whittall, A Tale of Two Brothers: The Giants and the ‘Ring’

Arnold Whittall, A Tale of Two Brothers: The Giants and the ‘Ring’

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March 2012, Volume 6, Number 1, 35–49.

12 October 1848. In the evening Kapellmeister Wagner came. […] He read us his compilation of the Siegfried legends; it showed great talent. He wants to turn it into an opera, but nothing will come of it, I fear. Nordic myth finds little sympathy, not least because it is unknown; and these rough-hewn giants must be left to the imagination, theatrical reality belittles them and turns them into mere playthings. Also, Wagner always casts his net too wide and works in his modern ideas.

21 October 1848. Kapellmeister Wagner brought me the draft of an opera, his head is again bursting with big ideas on socialism. Now a united Germany is no longer enough for him, what he wants now is a united Europe, united humanity.

These diary entries by Eduard Devrient, member of the Dresden Court Theatre at the time and a former singer, fascinate in their vividness, their portrait of the ‘real’ Wagner at his most confident and ambitious – a 35-year-old ‘bursting with big ideas’. 

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