Wagner, Richard Wilhelm


Love of the stage Richard Wagner inherited from his father, Carl Friedrich Wilhelm, clerk to the city police courts at Leipsic, and during the French occupation, chief of police, a man of considerable cultivation, something of a linguist, fond of poetry and the drama, and an amateur actor. The mother is described as a woman of much refinement and intelligence. Richard, the youngest of nine children, was born in a quaint old house in the Bruhl, Leipsic, May 22, 1813. When Richard was not yet   six months old the father died a victim of the epidemic that followed the battle of Leipsic. The widow was left to bring up her large family on a very limited pension, the eldest son being only fourteen years old. She presently married Ludwig Geyer, actor, singer, playwright, and in addition a portrait painter of no mean skill. After the marriage the family moved to Dresden, where Geyer had a position at the Court Theatre. He died in  1821, leaving the mother again a widow with an income very limited in proportion to the demands on it. Finck records: "Throughout his life Richard Wagner referred to his mother as mein liebes Mutterchen (my dear little mother), and Praeger is undoubtedly right in suggesting that the exquisitely tender strains in Siegfried with which the orchestra accompanies the reference to Siegfried's mother, symbolize Wagner's love for his own mother." To help solve the financial problem her three older children went on the stage. At the age of nine Richard was sent to a classical school in Dresden, which he attended under the name of Richard Geyer. He remained there five years, showing a special fondness for the Greek classics. Out of school hours he translated the first half of the Odyssey; studied English by him r self that he might read Shakespeare in the original; wrote some acceptable verse, and at the age of fourteen set to work to write a tragedy founded upon Hamlet and Lear. During the boyhood days in Dresden he formed his deep-rooted attachment for Weber; grew very fond of Der Freischütz, trying to play the overture of this opera when he should have been practising his finger exercises, and was always on the lookout to catch a glimpse of the composer as he passed by on his way home from rehearsals. In the autumn of 1827 Richard left the Dresden School, early the following year entering the Nicolaischule in Leipsic, the family having moved there some time before. It was now that he became interested in Beethoven at the Gewandhaus concerts, and began to neglect his studies because of growing absorption in music. In response to urgent pleading he was given an opportunity to take lessons in counterpoint, and at eighteen Wagner had a thorough knowledge of the works of Beethoven.

Following matriculation at the University, in 1830,   there was a season of student dissipation, when music as well as books was neglected; but this phase soon passed, and, finding an inspiring teacher, he became engrossed in the study of counterpoint. Of the compositions of this time, a concert overture was performed at the Gewandhaus and met with success. In 1832 he wrote the symphony in C major, his one symphony, which was performed at a Gewandhaus concert, January, 1883. On the way home from a visit to Vienna, in the summer of 1832, Wagner stopped off for a while at Prague, and here wrote his first libretto, Die Hochzeit, a rather brutal tragedy, which was so disliked by his sister, Rosalie, that he eventually destroyed the verses. The music was begun and the first number of the opera written after his return to Leipsic. There is extant, in manuscript form, the introduction, a chorus and septet of Die Hochzeit. Wagner was now twenty years old, and was in need of money. The University work did not appeal to him, and he decided that the time had come for him to settle upon a career. His brother, Albert, dramatic singer and stage-manager at Würzburg, offered him the place of chorus-director there, a position he eagerly accepted; and here began his practical experience. At Würzburg, in addition to his duties as director, he wrote a number of compositions, including the words and music of the opera, Die Feen (The Fairies). The Fairies brought to completion, Wagner returned to Leipsic, in the hope of getting his opera produced in that city. It was accepted by the theatredirector, but was not performed at this time, Italian and French Opera having such ascendency that a German writer's chance was of the slightest. In his disappointment over his failure to get the opera presented the young composer turned for a season from his worship of Weber and Beethoven to consideration of vastly inferior models. Longing for success was influenced by the easy popularity of the operas of Bellini and Auber. While filling the post of music-director at the theatre in Magdeburg he wrote Das Liebesverbot (Love Forbidden), two-act opera, supposed to be based upon Shakespeare's Measure for Measure; in reality an audacious apology for Free Love. Wagner at this time was tossed about by strange doctrines. During his University days he had become intimate with Heinrich Laube, editor and revolutionary poet, and Hadow refers to Wagner and Laube at this period as two unfledged enthusiasts. In 1834 he commenced work on Das  Liebesverbot; at Magdeburg it was given its first and sole performance in March, 1836.

After failure to dispose of his opera at both Leipsic and Berlin Wagner, penniless, moved on to Konigsberg. Here he entered into the bonds of matrimony at the age 9f twenty-three, with no money in his purse, debts behind him and little in the way of prospects. The lady who became his wife, Wilhelmina Planer, had been a member of the Magdeburg Company, and it was her presence at Konigsberg that drew Wagner thither. "Minna," one of twelve children of a poor spindle-maker, brought to the union no dowry; but when in time a period of bitter poverty fell to their lot she met those years with a brave front and with helpfulness. She was pretty and good and devoted, with a taste for domesticity left quite unspoiled by her professional experience. Soon after his marriage Wagner received an appointment as conductor of the Konigsberg Opera, a position that entailed much labor and left little time for composition, the only production of this period being the overture, Rule Britannia. But the Konigsberg days were cut short by the bankruptcy of the theatre-director, and again Wagner moved on; this time to Riga, Russia, where he dwelt from August, 1837, till the close of June, 1839. In the Russian city he found good material for an opera company and performed his duties as music-director with much zeal and energy. In addition to his work as director he wrote arias for interpolation in the operas; the text to a two-act comic opera, the Happy Bear Family; and, coming across Bulwer Lytton's Rienzi, set to  work on an opera much more ambitious than previously attempted, dreaming of no lesser stage for its presentation than the famous Academic de Musique in Paris. The libretto to Rienzi and the music of the first two acts were completed by the spring of 1839, and his contract with the theatre-director at Riga now ending, he was eager to set out for Paris. The leaving Riga was complicated by the difficulty of getting away from their creditors. The story goes that the Wagners were forced to escape in disguise, Minna crossing the border by passing herself off as wife of a lumberman, and that Wagner's friends of the theatre made up a purse for him and smuggled him out of the country. On his way to Paris he traveled by sailing vessel bound for London from the port of Pillau, East Prussia, taking with him "a wife, an opera and a half, a small purse and a terribly large and terribly voracious Newfoundland dog." He was ever passionately fond of animals, especially dogs. A rest of a few days in London, and then the party went on to Boulogne, where Wagner halted to make acquaintance with Meyerbeer. The latter received him affably, gave him letters of introduction to the directors of the Opera and the Theatre de la Renaissance and one to Schlessinger, the 'musicpublisher. He entered Paris September, 1839; procured modest lodgings, then set out to present the letters. Over-encouraged by the cordiality with which they were received and by the acceptance of his opera, Das Liebesverbot, from the Theatre de la Renaissance, Wagner changed his residence to a more pretentious quarter. But the day that he made this change came word of the failure of the theatre where the opera was to appear. There were no funds, there were no prospects; the Wagners moved back to an humble shelter, and now only by severest struggle were able to maintain even a mean home. The two years and a half spent in Paris were marked by disappointment succeeding disappointment. The composer sought to earn his bread by singing in the chorus, wrote songs that could find no buyer, obtained a pittance by scoring dance-music and setting airs from operas of Donizetti and Halevy for various instruments. Impatient for work, he in time turned to the unfinished Rienzi; completed the opera, and sent it back to Germany to the Intendant at Dresden. Shortly after this he derived some encouragment from hearing his Columbus Overture played at a private concert given by Schlessinger February, 1841; but disappointment continued to dog his footsteps, for, when he sent the manuscript to Jullien in London and it was returned, he did not have money with which to get it back from the transportation company, and the Columbus score was only recovered recently.

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.

Wagner's time was now divided between brooding over projects of reform, both in the state and theatre, and work on opera and sketch. It was in these days that he completed Lohengrin, wrote a series of historical essays and prepared the greater part of the text of Gotterdammerung. The last part of his service at the Dresden Opera was marked by humiliations very hard to bear; he could not get Lohengrin produced, and proposals for reform at the theatre were ridiculed by the court. Reference is not infrequently made to Wagner as a " revolutionist in behalf of the theatre." Whatever the impelling motive, there is proof that he took part in the progress of events; before a meeting of Radicals made a speech that called down upon him police reprimand, and had active part in the rioting of May, 1849. When the Prussian soldiers took possession of Dresden his friend Roeckel was among those seized and imprisoned, but Wagner succeeded in escaping. He found his way to Weimar, and here Liszt, " who was producing Tannhauser as serenely as though there were no such things as revolutions in the world," befriended him ably. When word came that a warrant was out for his arrest, instant effort was made to assist him in further flight; Liszt gave him money, a passport under an assumed name was secured, and Wagner got safely out of the country. He hastened to Zurich, later going to Paris. There, meeting nothing but discouragement in regard to his operas and for his plan of a series of articles on Art and Revolution, he turned his back on the French capital and returned to the hospitable shelter of Zurich.

After a few months of separation Minna Wagner was enabled to rejoin her husband, generous Liszt making the journey possible. But close upon rejoicing over the arrival of his wife Wagner found reunion resulting in added perplexity. Minna  could give her husband no sympathy in his highflown ideas, dreams to her fantastic, baseless of great operas and opera reform; she urged him to try something popular for the French stage, to aim for what the people liked. In response to such urging from both friends and wife he set to work on a pot-boiler, Wieland, the Smith, and when the sketch was in shape went to Paris to make effort at getting it accepted. Finding no encouragement, again he came back to Zurich, where he was destined to spend the chief part of his twelve years of exile. When word arrived, soon after his return from Paris, that Liszt was to give at Weimar a production of Lohengrin, Wagner rashly planned to present himself at Weimar for the event; but Liszt forbade the risk. Presently news came that the first appearance of Lohengrin, August 28, 1850, was given to an audience on the whole sympathetic and appreciative and that Liszt purposed to present the work again and again. In addition to this effort in Wagner's behalf the famous virtuoso wrote a long analytical essay on the opera, which attracted wide attention; public interest in Lohengrin was awakened, and the opera houses in the German cities opened their doors to the work which was to become the most widely popular of all operas. Concerning the debt owed Liszt by Wagner, Finck declares Liszt gave the first impulse to the Wagner movement. The friendship that existed between Liszt and Wagner belongs to the roll of great friendships, their correspondence covering a period of thirty years and being the story of true comradeship, of rare sympathy and affection. The history of Wagner's early years in exile is concerned especially with his literary efforts. He had decided to write no more operas because of the impossibility of their getting proper presentation; for even in his poverty and unpopularity he would not lower his requirements of artists and stage-setting. For six years he did not write a note of music, but in place of operas produced the five theoretical works: Art and Revolution, Art and Climate, Art Work of the Future, Opera and Drama, Communication to my Friends, and Judaism in Music. Finck analyzes the value of these essays and books thus: "With the exception of the last part of Opera and Drama these writings are not among Wagner's best literary productions, and some of them are so dry, abstruse and uninteresting that only an enthusiast for his operas could ever be expected to work his way through them from beginning to end."

In Zurich the Wagners were again miserably poor, and perhaps small wonder that practical Minna could not understand her husband's attitude in refusing to pander to public taste. There were their own necessities to provide for, and also their share in the support of her parents. While devoting himself to creative work, there were but meager returns from performances of the operas. Wagner, though   of tireless industry "his chief vices: working and dreaming" often could not pay his own way; the man whose operas years later were to bring in an annual profit of $50,000 had at various periods in his life to make of himself a beggar in order to guard for himself time in which to write these operas. Biographers not a few find this hard to forgive; others who speak of "splendid mendicancy " assert that no shame should be attached to this mendicancy, the world profiting so greatly thereby. And of a truth all Wagner asked at this time was " a small house, with meadow and a little garden; to work with zest and joy." For several years he was provided regularly by Frau Julie Ritter with a small sum, and to the faithful Liszt he seldom turned in vain, Liszt giving joyfully; only sorry that he could not send as freely as once he had been able. But in spite of the good friends there were days so dark Wagner not infrequently harbored the thought of ending it all by ending his life. Ill health was probably at the bottom of these moods quite as often as outward circumstances, for Wagner was never robust, almost his whole life being tormented by frequent attacks of erysipelas, and for year a sufferer from dyspepsia and overworn nerves. His devotion to his art and his persistence therein in the face of continued public indifference, miserable health and poverty, was nothing short of marvelous. But it would be misleading not to call attention to what of cheer there was in the long days of exile, not to refer to the circle of valued friends, to Wagner's liking of the sturdy Swiss people, and to his deep love for the beauty of the land. He rejoiced, too, in the solitude, and it was amid the beauty and quiet of his exile surroundings that there came the dream of the Nibelung poem, the shaping and finishing of the great Tetralogy. Early in 1854 the four poems were finished; by midwinter of 1855 the scores of Rheingold and Walküre were completed, and work begun on the music of Siegfried. And at this time the story of Tristan and Isolde and the story of Parsifal were beginning to appeal to his imagination; this is the period of his coming under the influence of Schopenhauer, whose influence marks subsequent work.

A letter from London arrived late in 1854 inquiring if he would accept the post of conductor of the Philharmonic Society, followed later by an offer of $1000 for the four months of service. The music critics derided him throughout his stay in London. They announced that he was no musician at all; spoke of the absolute chaos of the so-called music written by him, and did their utmost to defame him and themselves. But the members of the orchestra, recognizing a great leader, rallied to his support, the Queen showed him marked favor, the public did not accept the critics' judgment as final; and, though again and again tempted to resign, he remained in the uncongenial situation to the last concert. He had found time in London to practically finish the first two acts of Walkure, and on his return to Switzerland occupied himself for some time with the Nibelung. In 1856 the Walkure was completed, and two acts of Siegfried were finished. Then he turned to Tristan and Isolde, proceeding with the opera in a charming retreat on a height overlooking the lake of Lucerne. It was here that the genial music of the second act of Siegfried was written, and then Nibelung was laid aside that the story of Tristan and Isolde might take its place. Early in 1857 the poem was ready, and the music of the first act was written the same year. The second act of the great love story progressed and reached completion in the congenial environment of Venice; but the Saxon official not allowing him long refuge in Venice, he went on to Lucerne, and there finished the opera. On its completion there followed the old story of delay, and it was seven years before the first presentation was given of this greatest of love stories in opera form. Meanwhile ill health, poverty and domestic difficulties added their quota to Wagner's hapless struggles. Minna, suffering from failing health, had developed an irritability and suspiciousness that found vent in private and public outburst. She kept his house carefully, she made the most of their irregular income; but to offset these were her excitability, her lack of faith in her husband's genius, her asking him when he railed at the public taste: "Why don't you write something for the gallery?" In the autumn of 1859 the pair were together in Paris, pleasantly established in a quiet street and Wagner ready to make an effort to get his work to public notice. He succeeded in arranging for a number of concerts at the Theatre Ventadour, at which concert selections were given from Der Fliegende Hollander, Tannhauser, and Tristan, and aroused much enthusiasm, although the concerts were attended by a large financial loss loss increased rather than repaired by added ones given at Brussels.

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.

The three years following his departure from Paris form as distressing a period as mark the stressful life of Richard Wagner. At Vienna, hearing for the first time a performance of Lohengrin, the idea came that Vienna was the right place to present Tristan. The opera was offered and accepted; over fifty rehearsals were gone through with, and then the performance abandoned. Though at this time his operas were being performed everywhere in Germany, his proceeds therefrom were miserably inadequate. Jn order to pay his way he had to resort to concert-giving, in spite of his dislike to a work appearing other than as a whole. He gave concerts in Vienna, Prague, various cities in Germany and in Russia, meeting with special success at Moscow and St. Petersburg. But the German and Vienna papers kept up their insults and did their utmost to influence the attitude of the public. That he had the heart to proceed with new creations at this time is significant of that heroism in his art to which reference has been made. He took up residence in Penzing, near Vienna, and, though the revilers of the Penzing period concerned themselves principally with tales of his silk and velvets, he does not appear to have been so affected by luxury as to lapse into indolence; for here work was continued on The Meistersinger, the poem having been completed in Paris and some of the music written at Biebrich-am-Rhine. These days are marked also by the publication of the Nibelung poems, which came put with a preface wherein was given in full detail the plan for an ideal presentation of the work, a Nibelung Festival. But such a plan involved a patron of princely fortune and princely aim. Was he to be found? The answer was to come ere long. It was at Stuttgart, whither he had fled from creditors, that " The Prince " appears on the scene, young King Ludwig II. of Bavaria. The King, a boy of eighteen, had just ascended the throne. Hearing Lohengrin two years before, he had watched the composer's career with the greatest interest. The appeal in the preface of the Nibelung poems fell on ears eager for such a message, and the King hastily sent his private secretary to search for Wagner and convey to him this word from the King at Munich : " Come here and finish your work." Meeting the King, Wagner met a most ardent disciple and one whose power gave promise of the realization of longunrealized dreams. He became a naturalized subject of Bavaria and settled in Munich, protected and uplifted by the sympathy and encouragement of his Royal patron, whose feeling for him proved something more than a passing romantic attachment. In honor of his new friend Wagner composed the Huldigungsmarsch, and at the request of the King wrote the essay on State and Religion. A house was placed at his disposal; he was granted a pension, and formally commissioned to finish his Nibelungen. To aid in projected performances of his works he sent for Hans von Billow, his long-time disciple, and presently the von Bülows arrived, Hans relinquishing a remunerative career as pianist to devote himself to Wagner's interests. And now was renewed congenial companionship with Cosima von Bülow, who, acting as his secretary, became a member of his household, June 10, 1865, von Bülow conducting, the first performance of Tristan was given. Added to the triumph of the moment was the prospect that Wagner's plan for a new music school was to be followed, and that under his direction a special theatre for the presentation of the Nibelungen was to be built. But not in Munich were the dreams to become a reality. The great plans were frustrated by enemies jealous of the King's "favorite," and Wagner found himself again banished, though the King assured him the banishment from Munich was only for a season.

Again he sought refuge in Switzerland, and at Triebschen, just out of Lucerne, established his home. Amid the beautiful surroundings there, a pension from the King allowing freedom from petty worries, he accomplished much. Here he finished The Meistersinger, performed at Munich June, 1868; continued work on Der Ring des Nibelungen; published a series of articles entitled Deutsches Kunst und Deutsches Politik, and his remarkable treatise on Beethoven. To the quiet retreat at Triebschen King Ludwig came again and again. Here Wagner had for assistant young Hans Richter, destined to become the best interpreter of his works. And at Triebschen Cosima von Billow rejoined him and entered his home not to leave it again. In the fall of 1869 von Billow obtained a divorce, and on the twenty-fifth of August, 1870, in the Protestant Church of Lucerne, Cosima and Wagner were married, Wagner at his second marriage being fifty-seven years old. Cosima was the daughter of Liszt and the French Countess d'Agoult. She had married von Bulow in her early youth and the marriage had not proved happy. Her devotion to Wagner is a matter of history. Von Billow's attitude also is a matter of history; his continuance of faith in the artist if not in the man. Liszt is thought to have been estranged for a while because of the marriage, but ere long reconciliation was effected. Wagner named the son born  to   him and Cosima Siegfried, and in his honor and in commemoration of Cosima's birthday, he wrote the beautiful Siegfried Idyll.

From the time that work was begun on the Nibelungen to the putting it down finished twenty-three years are counted. When the monumental task at last neared completion Wagner's mind dwelt on a special theatre essential to proper presentation of the Tetralogy, and frequently discussed ideals and means with his friends. One of these, the gifted Carl Tausig, conceived the idea of a Society of Patrons, which, it was hoped, would be of such power and enthusiasm as to insure a large sum for the longdreamed-of festival playhouse. Then Emil Heckel, of Mannheim, started a Wagner Society, beginning a movement that spread to the far ends of the musical world; Wagner Societies from all over the Old World and generously from the New sending funds toward forwarding the work. More than once Wagner in his struggles and failures had thought of trying his fortunes in America. It is of certain interest to note that in 1875 an American city, Chicago, came to the fore with expression of desire for the honor of the first Nibelung Festival. For the celebration of the American Centennial at Philadelphia in 1876 Wagner was commissioned to write a composition, and sent the Centennial March, a work that suggests "written to order." Bayreuth was the place selected for the building of the theatre Wagner favored, because it was near the center of Germany and was a Bavarian town. In 1872 he removed there from Triebschen, and on May 22, 1872, his fiftyninth birthday, the laying of the foundation stone of the new theatre was celebrated, the occasion made doubly memorable by a splendid performance of Beethoven's Choral Symphony, Wagner's Kaisermarsch also being given. Land for the theatre was donated by Bayreuth, and also ground on which to establish a home; and in the little Franconian town Wagner built the now famous " Wahnfried." Though the years at Wahnfried were happy ones on the whole, the period was by no means free from strife and strain, these seeming to attend him as long as he lived. In raising the needed funds for the theatre, he aided the work of the societies by conducting concerts in various musical centers, himself, friends and patrons working with unabated zeal; but these efforts came against apathy and enmity, a lack of national interest, and a hostile press. Again and again was the festival delayed, Germany being slow to help the son, who with Weber may be said to have created German Opera. But King Ludwig could not see the project fail and saved the day by advancing the sum of 200,000 marks. At last the Festival was announced. At Bayreuth, in August, 1876, Der Ring des Nibelungen was given in its entirety, Hans Richter conducting, and nearly every great operatic artist in Germany aiding- in the performance.

But the first Festival was attended by a heavy financial loss, a deficit of about $35,000. A series of concerts in London was undertaken to repair the loss, which notable series was given at Albert Hall during the month of May, 1877, selections from all of his operas being presented. Some money was realized from these concerts, but the greater part of the deficit was made up by a season of the Ring at  Munich. Previous to the London visit the poem of Parsifal was written; on return to Bayreuth work was begun on the music, and mention may be made of an interesting series of essays that appeared during this period in the Bayreuth Blatter. Work on the Parsifal music progressed but slowly, interrupted by failing health, and, strangely, by the indifference of the German public. The Parsifal music did not reach completion until January, 1882, being finished during a winter sojourn in Italy. Of the friends that came to the support of the Parsifal Festival, attention should be called to Hans von Bülow, who testified to his belief in the " Music of the Future " by the gift of $10,000. King Ludwig again gave his powerful aid. Others sent in generous contributions. At Bayreuth, July, 1882, a great festival production of Parsifal was given under Wagner's supervision, this event being the climax of his career.

The days of struggle being finally at an end, now a goodly income was assured, and unquestioned recognition at last won. But, following the strain of work on Parsifal and the excitement of its production, Wagner's health was much impaired,  and an early start was made for a sojourn in the south, which he had been wont to find so refreshing. Early in the fall the household moved to Venice, and there, in the Palace Vendramin, the last months were passed. Old ailments had returned and there were increasing symptoms of heart trouble. He worked up to the end, however, and alternated the hours of labor with the customary enjoyment of family life, hours of ease at home or gondola excursions with  wife and children. Liszt was with him part of the time, but left in January, and one month later, Feb. 13, 1883, Wagner closed his eyes on the tempest of life. In death all honor was paid him; Venice offered silent sympathy as the black gondolas passed from the Palace. All Bayreuth was in mourning at the sad home-coming. King and humblest citizen gave tribute to the great dead, as he was laid to rest in a corner of the garden at Wahnfried.

The maintenance and building up of Bayreuth now rested on the shoulders of Cosima, a burden of no small weight; for the press was still hostile and  enemies aggressive; but her devotion triumphed, and Frau Cosima has had no small part in making Bayreuth a place of world pilgrimage. The adverse criticisms of Wagner, the bitter, malicious, scandalous things penned against him, are matters of history. They begin with his early work; Rienzi was spoken of as "an opera without music." The Music of the Future has been derided with all possible play of wit, the composer mildly addressed as fool, lunatic, ruffian, swindler and song-murderer. Distorted pictures of his character so long held the public eye that the real Wagner has had scant justice. Always emphasis was laid on these qualities: a colossal egotism that allowed no consciousness, no consideration of others; violence of temper; a cruel tactlessness; unsociability; unpardonable extravagance, and inordinate love of luxury, with an effeminate liking for soft, rich apparel and draperies. Without doubt these qualities made up a large part of his personality, but there should be added to the accusation of luxury-lover the other side of the picture, the fact of his colossal industry, and the fact that he would not pander to the public for the sake of gaining wealth; that in keeping to his ideals he struggled a lifetime with poverty and debt; and to offset somewhat the tales of exhibition of violent temper, the equally true tales of his patience with his wife, his kindness to servants, his love of pets, and his efforts in defense of the helpless lower animals. In extenuation of the unsociability, his absolute need of solitude for the accomplishing of the great mass of work produced, and the exhaustion and nervousness arising from ill-health and long-continued labors. He was a tremendous worker, and inaccessible because such a worker; but that he had capacity for friendship, and could show imself friendly, there is full and free evidence given in his voluminous correspondence; and the witness of not a few friends presents a view of a charming social side uppermost in hours   of leisure. He loved Nature with intensity, and was always disturbed and oppressed when townlife deprived him of the soothing and inspiration thereof. And any study of his character would be most incomplete if there were left out mention of his courage rash, perhaps, in its manner of expression, but a courage of inviolable independence, above consideration of question of policy, and by all means his democracy should have attention, a democracy illustrated in practise as well as put forth in theory.

In appearance he was a man slightly below the average height, but of an erectness of carriage that added seemingly to this height His quick movements suggested the nervous temperament and irrepressible energy. " If we look at his face," says Finck, "the two features that first strike us are the noble massive forehead the thinker and the prominent, stubborn chin the reformer." Though unconventional, he was of refined habits and taste. His library was large and varied, made up of books with which he was closely familiar. He was fond of reading aloud, read very well, but could neither sing nor play in a way tc give pleasure. Wagner left ten volumes of prose works. The musical compositions include fourteen operas, the Faust overture, three marches, the Siegfried Idyll, a chorus, a male quartet, a funeral march (written at Dresden when Weber's body was brought there for reburial), five piano-pieces, and a few beautiful songs. One writer speaks of Wag- ner as the composer with the temperament for opera. Frederick Graves, writing in the Westminster Review, says: "Wagner contended that the music drama was the one art, and that poetry, painting and sculpture should be merged with it. Wagner found the opera in a bad state, trashy and shallow; the brilliant but superficial style of the Italian Opera had swamped everything; dramatic and poetic truth had been sacrificed to mere tunefulness. The old opera form scena, aria and recitative disappeared when Wagner took up the pen." In place of the cheap librettos he gave the opera stage poems % He wrote the poems of all of his operas himself. In answer to the assertion that Wagner will never found a school, Finck declares: "All the younger composers belong to the Wagner school in modulation, melody and instrumentation, even if they do not write music dramas with leading motives. Today it is almost impossible to take up an opera or orchestral score without noting the effect of Wagner's 'schooling' in harmony and orchestration." Of the masters from whom he -in turn drew, reference has been made to the influence on his work of Weber and Beethoven, and from Berlioz he received not a few suggestions.

The real Wagner may be said to begin with Der Fliegende Hollander, a music drama in distinction to opera of the old type. The last seven operas are all music dramas; "serious dramatic stories, which are of great interest in themselves, and are not merely threads, on which to string brilliant jewels of song." Wagner, in going to original sources for his subjects, made a change from the hackneyed opera themes, and put on the German stage German myth and legend. That he was not the originator of the "leit-motif," the characterizing musical phrase, is shown by a glance back at the operas of predecessors. It was frequently made use of by Weber and is found in Mozart; but, says Edward Dickinson, " Wagner was the first to make the leading motive the whole basis of his musical structure, not introduced at random, but united to word and action." " Endless melody " is another phrase frequently employed in description of Wagner's later style, the composer in his aim of true dramatic expression discarding the old operatic divisions into solos, duets and choruses, and giving in place an unbroken stream of melody.

Musicians generally agree that Die Meistersinger and Tristan are Wagner's greatest works; the former classed by the composer as comedy, but the serious meaning of the opera not lost in the inimitably humorous scenes, and the whole wonderfully rich in melody; the latter a love tragedy. Hadow declares Tristan in intensity of passion  and charm of melodic phrase unrivaled in the whole record of opera; Finck assigns to Tristan this place: "It forms with Romeo and Juliet, and Goethe's Faust part of the world's great trilogy of love tragedies." Tannhauser, from the standpoint of its poetry most highly regarded, belongs in its music to his earlier more conventional style. Lohengrin, which has proved the most popular of all operas, was from the first recognized by Liszt as a magnificent work of art. Of the four dramas forming Der Ring des Nibelungen, Siegfried is the finest and strongest. Concerning Parsifal great diversity of opinion exists, as Dickinson writes: '* Some look upon it as an act of worship, and the purest modern portrayal of the essential principle in Christianity; to others it is morbid and sensual, corrupt in its conception and degrading in its effect. Musically there is a slight falling off in Parsifal compared with its predecessors; there is less spontaneity, less impression of endless resource in development of themes. Its panoramas are the most beautiful in the history of the modern stage, and to them the overpowering effect of the work is largely due." Wagner stands forth as a great poet as well as a master musician, as a born dramatist, unrivaled stage-manager, wonderful drill-master and conductor, a leader in the art of orchestration and a " supreme musical scenepainter."