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Richard Wagner

The Sorcerer of Bayreuth

Barry Millington


An in-depth and approachable account of Richard Wagner’s life, work and times

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Richard Wagner is one of the most influential – and controversial – composers in the history of music. Over the course of his long career, he produced a stream of spellbinding works that challenged musical convention through their richness and experimentation, ultimately paving the way for modernism.

Moving at a fast pace, the book encompasses a refreshingly wide range of themes, from the composer’s sources of inspiration, his fetish for exotic silks, and his relationship with his wives and mistresses, to accusations of anti-Semitism, the operas’ proto-cinematic nature, and the turbulent legacy both of the Bayreuth Festival and of Wagnerism itself.

Making use of the very latest scholarship – much of it undertaken by the author himself as editor of The Wagner Journal – Barry Millington reassesses received notions about Wagner and his work, demolishing ill-informed opinion in favour of proper critical understanding. The result is a radical – and occasionally provocative – reappraisal of this most perplexing of composers. With its many intriguing images and quotations from contemporary documents, Richard Wagner: The Sorcerer of Bayreuth will grip anyone interested in music and in the wider cultural life of the 19th century and beyond.

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'An excellent book … lavishly illustrated, with photographs and portraits of the leading participants in Wagner’s astounding life … this book should be on every budding Wagnerian’s shelves'
Opera Now

'Exemplary lucidity whether outlining an opera plot or musical structure, unravelling a complex philosophical argument or adjudicating a contentious socio-political issue'

'A balanced and beautifully illustrated compendium of life and works, written in Millington’s easy-to-read style'
Financial Times (Best Books of 2012)

'The Wagner book of the bicentenary … sumptuous … If you only read one book about Wagner, make it this one … Puts the great man into context and perspective, and this is a wonderfully readable book about a musical genius. Simply fantastic'
Books Monthly

'The most readable of books, engagingly presented and beautifully produced - with striking illustrations on good paper that make it a pleasure to turn the pages'
Ham & High

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 24.0 x 16.5 cm

Extent: 320 pp

Illustrations: 285

Publication date: 22 October 2012

ISBN: 9780500516430

Contents List

1. Father of the Man: Paternity and Childhood • 2. Learning the Craft: Youthful Apprenticeship • 3. Earning his Keep: First Professional Appointments • 4. Under the Yoke: Kapellmeister in Dresden • 5. The Eternal Wanderer: Der fliegende Holländer • 6. Desperately Seeking Venus: Tannhäuser • 7. Swansong to Traditional Opera: Lohengrin • 8. Revolutionary Road: Uprising in Dresden • 9. The Zurich Years: Wagner’s Exile in Switzerland • 10. The Rise and Fall of Valhalla: Der Ring des Nibelungen • 11. ‘Most Excellent Friend': Franz Liszt • 12. Muses, Mistresses and Mother-Figures: Wagner’s Women • 13. The Behemoth of Bayreuth: Wagner’s Personality • 14. Always Short: Wagner and Money • 15. In the Pink: The Role of Silks and Satins in Wagner’s Life • 16. ‘My Adored and Angelic Friend’: Ludwig II • 17. Fatal Attraction: Tristan und Isolde • 18. ‘Art is What Matters Here’: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg • 19. Grit in the Oyster: Anti-Semitism in Wagner’s Life and Work • 20. Creative Spark: Sources of Inspiration in Wagner’s Work • 21. The Silent Sufferer: Cosima Wagner • 22. Tribschen Interlude: The Lucerne Years • 23. A Home for the Gods: The Bayreuth Project • 24. Wagner’s Last Card: Parsifal • 25. Death in Venice: The Events of Wagner’s Last Days • 26. Perfect and Imperfect Wagnerites: The Spread of the Wagner Cult • 27. Panning for Gold: Wagner and Cinema • 28. Swastikas Over Bayreuth: Wagner and the Third Reich • 29. Regime Change: The Grandsons Usher In the Era of New Bayreuth • 30. Renewing the Legacy: Bayreuth Today and in the Future • Family Tree

About the Author

Barry Millington is chief music critic for the London Evening Standard and the editor of The Wagner Journal. He has written and edited, or co-edited, seven books on Wagner, including The Wagner Compendium, The Ring of the Nibelungen: A Companion and the New Grove Guide to Wagner and his Operas.

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