Wagner, Richard Wilhelm

But brilliant promise of success was not wanting, for there was issued, by none other than Napoleon himself, an order for the production of Tannhauser at the Grand Opera, Wagner having a friend at court in the person of the Princess Metternich. And there was to be free hand in the matter of presentation, the Emperor to pay all expense. It was a moment of great triumph, and the most elaborate preparations were begun. Wagner chose his own singers and drilled with even more than his former zeal so furiously as to antagonize the artists and almost ruin his own health, there being over one hundred and fifty rehearsals. And at last the great day arrived, March 13, 1861. The great scandal, rather, for this wonderful opera put on at such cost of thought and money the money cost about $40,000 had its presentation before a mob; bands of conspirators raising such a tumult that the work could not be judged, often none of it heard. The second night was even worse, young society men, members of the aristocratic Jockey Club, disapproving of the absence of the ballet, to them the chief part of the opera, in the midst of the second act broke in upon the music with a pandemonium that could not be drowned by the efforts of the many in the audience desirous of giving the piece a fair hearing. At the third performance the Jockey Club rowdies again made their demonstration, and won what appeared to them a memorable victory, the withdrawal of the opera. Wagner probably never appeared to better advantage than in his manner of meeting the tremendous disappointment following the brilliant promise, in the ordeal showing a front of dignity and composure. And while the Tannhauser failure looms large in the record of the second sojourn in Paris, other events of moment belong to that period: the writing of one of his most important essays, The Music of the Future, and the granting of the longed-for pardon, permission to return to German soil. After twenty-five years of married life the Wagners now separated, residence in Paris in 1861 being the last days spent together. Minna went to make her home in Dresden with members of her family, while Wagner began a series of wanderings, sorely missing his companion of so many years. No divorce was obtained, but the separation was final. In the poverty that still continued to hound him Wagner never neglected providing for Minna, supporting her until her death at Dresden, in 1866.