Wagner, Richard Wilhelm

In the art life of Paris Wagner found no little of intrigue and politics, and his enthusiasm was turned to disgust thereby. He could get no conductor in the city to present a splendid orchestral piece written by him in 1840, the work years afterward published as a Faust Overture. To M. Fillet, director of the Grand Opera, he submitted sketches for a new opera, The Flying Dutchman, having obtained from Heine consent to make use of his version of the legend; and M. Fillet coolly sent word that he would keep the sketches but that he must give the writing of the music to another composer. Wagner deeply felt the insult and demanded the return of his manuscript, which demand was not acceded to. In the end M. Fillet sent Wagner $100 and retained the sketches. Wagner, in accepting the money, was not in any way restrained from writing an opera on the subject given the director, and did not delay putting into form the work that had been haunting his brain. He wrote the poem and began on the music. Finding opportunity to sublet his rooms in Paris he retired to the suburb of Meudpn, and there, away from the oppression and noise of the city, close to the green forest, composed the music of The Flying Dutchman, finishing the score, except the overture, in seven weeks. The writing of the opera afforded him relief from the hack-work of arranging music and reading proof for Herr Schlessinger's publishing house. .This work was varied also by the writing of sketches for Schlessinger's Gazette Musicale and for the Neue Zietschrift fur Music and the Dresden Abendzeitung, the articles being forceful, original and markedly Wagnerian. He found himself taking a keen delight in these efforts, which attracted considerable attention later, several being included in his published works. During the last days in Paris he was engaged in reading that kept his thoughts much occupied with Teutonic myth and legend, which from this time on was to dominate his work. Then in the midst of dreams and drudgery, he received word that Rienzi, which had proved acceptable to the great theatre in Dresden, was at last to be presented and that he must come on to direct rehearsals. The good news was of infinite cheer; and in the spring of 1842 he bade good-bye to friends scholars and painters, but very few musicians and with his wife set forth on return to the home land.

In Dresden Wagner found a cordial welcome awaiting  him, and after the rebuffs of Paris it was an inspiring change to have his advice sought concerning the manner of presentation of an opera. Before beginning the rehearsals of Rienzi there was time for him to take his wife, whose health was impaired, to Teplitz, a resort in the Bohemian Forest. These days the tireless Wagner could not give over to holiday-making, and here was sketched the plot of Tannhauser. Rienzi, produced in Dresden, October 20, 1842, proved a tremendous success. Jan. 2, 1843, Der Fliegende Hollander was presented at the Dresden Opera House. This opera, proving no rival to Rienzi but by no means a failure, was given at Cassel by Spohr in the summer of 1843, and became included in the Gewandhaus repertory.   A month after the debut of The Flying Dutchman Wagner was appointed Royal conductor at Dresden, the salary a good one, about $1200, and the post regarded as a life tenure. Meanwhile work on Tannhauser progressed, the first performance of the opera being given Oct. 19, 1845. It did not meet with general appreciation; the public appeared bewildered, the singers criticized the work and the general director made comparisons not meant to be flattering. The splendid success that attended the first productions of Rienzi was now superseded by the old story of disappointment and financial stress, for added to this mortification of Tannhauser's reception was the pressure of pecuniary obligations. Then, to add further to the tenseness of the situation, prejudiced Dresden correspondents were sending to Berlin, Leipsic and other outside journals, articles detrimental to Wagner. Through it all work with Lohengrin advanced and the book of the Meistersinger was begun. When Rienzi finally had presentation at Berlin the press of that city spoke slightingly of the author as a " local kapellmeister foisting upon the capital his aberrations of youth." Moreover, the papers were moved to speak of the work as dangerous, reference being made in it to liberty and other firebrand ideas; these words penned in the days of strain leading to the German revolt of 1848.