The Wagner Journal

Emre Aracı, Wagner and the Ottomans

Emre Aracı, Wagner and the Ottomans

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July 2020, Volume 14, Number 2, 25–37.

‘I arrived with Minna in Constantinople and was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the place that I cried out that nobody could have any idea of such a thing without having seen it’, was how Richard Wagner described to Cosima a visit he had made to the Ottoman capital, which was then duly recorded by her in a diary entry on 30 November 1870. Wagner’s dog Rus had also accompanied his master on this trip, but the whole visit turned out to be rather an adventurous expedition, for the composer had lost his wife Minna and searched for her in vain through a maze of streets in the city, during which time Rus suffered an injury to his leg. With the heavy beast under his arm, Wagner finally managed to arrive panting at an inn and inquired about a carriage and a boarding house. Later he was driven around in a carriage by a Turkish coachman and saw the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. The sight of the city kept sending him into raptures. Yet later in the evening, at Tribschen, he and Cosima were laughing about the particulars of this unusual Wagnerian episode, for it was all but a dream he had had the night before, a vivid dream about a place which he had, in actual fact, ‘never set eyes on in real life!’ So ended Wagner’s brief fantasy trip to Constantinople and the Ottoman lands.

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