The Wagner Journal

Ulrich Drüner, Legend and Reality in Wagner’s Creativity

Ulrich Drüner, Legend and Reality in Wagner’s Creativity

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March 2019, Volume 13, Number 1, 47–58.

If we look at Wagner’s biographical documents to find out how his artistic ideas came into being, we learn something astonishing. We tend to assume that inspiration comes ‘from on high’, for example through meditation or even through Christian prayer, as in the case of Joseph Haydn. There are analogies with Wagner: one of the inspirations for Die Meistersinger putatively came to him from a Venetian Madonna painting; ideas for Tannhäuser also supposedly came from witnessing the drama of nocturnal nature at Schreckenstein near Dresden, but the theatricality inherent in these situations is too great to be taken at face value – Wagner was no devout Christian, and his relationship with ‘nature’ is ambivalent.

More surprising but almost more convincing are Wagner’s rare reports of inspirations that came to him in a state of anger and pain, thus when he was under attack: for instance, it was an argument dating around 1853–4 with the Zurich journalist Dr François Wille that inspired Loge’s address to the Rhinemaidens in its entirety (words and music).

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