Bayreuth: A History of the Wagner Festival (Revised)

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Bayreuth: A History of the Wagner Festival (Revised)
Germany's cultural glory - Germany's political shame: the opera festival established by Richard Wagner in 1876 is one of the most intriguing phenomena of modern European cultural history. The oldest and best known of music festivals, Bayreuth was from the beginning not simply a place for model performances of Wagner's works but equally the centre of an ideological cult, with the Festspielhaus its sacred shrine and audiences its devout pilgrims. This book is the first to provide a frank and comprehensive account of the institutions's history and functioning. The core of the study is a critical analysis of the performances and productions, brought alive with illustrations of stage settings, conductors and singers in costume. Around this artistic history is woven the remarkable story of why Wagner established the Festival and how his controversial descendants have managed it after him. At the same time the book traces Bayreuth's connection with the political fate of the German nation. It explains why the Festival became enmeshed in nationalism, racism and fascism until it was ultimately debased into what Thomas Mann labelled 'Hitler's court theatre'. The work concludes with a discussion of the postwar revolutionary productions of Wagner's operas that eventually liberated Bayreuth from its disgraceful political associations and that have made it the most exciting of operatic institutions. Exploring the links among Wagner's art, the Festival, the personalities of the Wagner dynasty and Germany's ideological development, this provocative study provides compelling reading not only for Wagner enthusiasts but also for anyone interested in European intellectual history since the mid-nineteenthcentury.
Publication Date: 
April 24, 1996