© Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Das Rheingold, Hans-Jörg Michel 2019

Last Keynotes

Schloss Fürstenried, Munich
Wagner as Politician
Keyword Wagner, an event organised by the WS Munich under the auspices of the RWVI took place from October 14 to 16 in Schloss Fürstenried near Munich.  About 60 Wagnerians from German-speaking countries came together in this historic location (Ludwig II often visited the castle, as his ailing brother Otto had been lodged here for many years).

The event comprised lectures by well-known scholars on the subject of "Richard Wagner as a politician". RWVI President Horst Eggers opened the event, noting also other major RWVI sponsored events to come. In particular, he looked forward to a good turnout for  the International Richard Wagner Congress in Budapest in June next year. Karl Russwurm, the host on this occasion and Chairman of the WS Munich, then introduced the programme for the weekend.

The Saturday, first day of the event proper, began with a tour of the house and the garden focusing on its history and artistic contents. Dr. Bermbach initiated the lectures with a talk focused on "Wagner and his aesthetic world order - utopian elements in Wagner's thinking and work." This was followed by a talk given by Thomas Bogatz, Chairman of the WS Stuttgart, who dealt with the work "Rienzi" and the problematic reception that it received. Illustrated by both musical and visual examples, it became clear how contradictory conclusions had been drawn from the rise and fall of the “Volksstribunen” (peoples’ tribunes) and how difficult it is today to stage this early work in a contemporary production without engendering false reflections about Wagner's prejudices. Appropriations and misinterpretation have perhaps done more damage to "Rienzi" than to any of the Bayreuth Master’s other works.

In the afternoon, discussion focused around a "speculative picture" by the painter Herber Friedrich Rauh, containing motifs of the leading lights of the 1849 Dresden uprisings and included the entanglement of Richard Wagner in this event.  This formed part of the special "Keyword" exhibition of paintings by Mr. Rauh, many of which concerned his "rain images", the development process of which was explained in detail.

Two concerts framed the academic events of this conference. On Saturday - musical extracts by the string quartet "Reich an Hall" were performed. On Sunday the mezzo-soprano Idunnu Münch performed a programme of songs, including works by Mahler, Brahms, Grieg, Schumann and Wagner. She was accompanied by Susanna Klovsky on the piano.  Both these artists were scholarship holders of the WS Munich.

Presentations of two important books were included in the programme.  See the book list at the end of this article for details.

On Sunday, the lectures addressed various aspects of the political activities and influence of Richard Wagner on politics.

Dr. Kroeplin gave numerous examples of how close Richard Wagner was to early socialism and communism (reference the book: Richard Wagner and Communism listed below).

Dr. Naegele focused on the special relationship between King Ludwig II and Richard Wagner, the exploitation of the king by the "erstwhile" (?) revolutionary and the true reasons why the composer had to leave Munich so soon. At that time, the state’s ministers were worried that Wagner was acting as the king's permanent political agent, and was also bringing to Munich some of his former revolutionary colleagues from the 1840s.

The final lecture by Alexandros Diamantis focused on a presentation of the development of Attic democracy. He drew parallels with the "Ring of the Nibelungen" and made it clear that Attic democracy constituted an important model for Wagner's utopia of a "society of the future".

The following works were highlighted and displayed during the conference:

"Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Wagner's Son in Law - Hitler's Mastermind" by Prof. Dr. Bermbach

 "The Beidlers - In the Shadow of the Wagner-Clan" by Verena Naegele

"Richard Wagner and Communism" by Eckart Kröplin

"The Richard Wagner Chronicle" by Eckart Kröplin

"Wahnfried - The House of Richard Wagner" "Central text" by Verena Naegele

This versatile and varied weekend event was unqualifiedly well received, living up in every way to with its descriptive headline: "An exciting exploration of a problematic subject around Richard Wagner, held in a concentrated and yet relaxed atmosphere".