Richard Wagner

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"Property" has acquired an almost greater sacredness in our social conscience than religion: for offence against the latter there is lenience, for damage to the former no forgiveness.
I like Wagner’s music better than any other music. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time, without people hearing what one says. ~ Oscar Wilde.

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22 May 181313 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is chiefly known for his operas (or, as some of his mature works were later known, "music dramas"). Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works in the romantic vein of Carl Maria von Weber and Giacomo Meyerbeer, Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk ("total work of art"), by which he sought to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama.


I hate this fast growing tendency to chain men to machines in big factories and deprive them of all joy in their efforts — the plan will lead to cheap men and cheap products.
The oldest, truest, most beautiful organ of music, the origin to which alone our music owes its being, is the human voice.
  • "I believe in God; and Mozart, and Beethoven as his only sons."
    • Last words of the hero in "The Life's End of a German Musician in Paris" (1840), a short story written for the Gazette Musicale, as quoted in Autobiographical Sketch (1843)
  • It is necessary for us to explain the involuntary repugnance we possess for the nature and personality of the Jews … The Jews have never produced a true poet. Heinrich Heine reached the point where he duped himself into a poet, and was rewarded by his versified lies being set to music by our own composers. He was the conscience of Judaism, just as Judaism is the evil conscience of our modern civilization.
    • Judaism in Music (1850)
  • The error in the art-genre of Opera consists herein: a Means of expression (Music) has been made the end, while the End of expression (the Drama) has been made a means.
    • Opera and Drama (1851)
  • The oldest, truest, most beautiful organ of music, the origin to which alone our music owes its being, is the human voice.
    • Opera and Drama (1851)
  • Recently, while I was in the street, my eye was caught by a poulterer's shop; I stared unthinkingly at his piled-up wares, neatly and appetizingly laid out, when I became aware of a man at the side busily plucking a hen, while another man was just putting his hand in a cage, where he seized a live hen and tore its head off. The hideous scream of the animal, and the pitiful, weaker sounds of complaint that it made while being overpowered transfixed my soul with horror. Ever since then I have been unable to rid myself of this impression, although I had experienced it often before. It is dreadful to see how our lives—which, on the whole, remain addicted to pleasure—rest upon such a bottomless pit of the cruellest misery! This has been so self-evident to me from the very beginning, and has become even more central to my thinking as my sensibility has increased … I have observed the way in which I am drawn in the [direction of empathy for misery] with a force that inspires me with sympathy, and that everything touches me deeply only insofar as it arouses fellow-feeling in me, i.e. fellow-suffering. I see in this fellow-suffering the most salient feature of my moral being, and presumably it is this that is the well-spring of my art.
    • Selected Letters of Richard Wagner, translated by Stewart Spencer and Barry Millington (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1987), pp. 422-424

Autobiographical Sketch (1843)

As translated by William Ashton Ellis
The July Revolution took place; with one bound I became a revolutionist, and acquired the conviction that every decently active being ought to occupy himself with politics exclusively.
I fixed my mind upon some theatre of first rank, that would some day produce it, and troubled myself but little as to where and when that theatre would be found.
  • I had translated the first twelve books of the Odyssey. For a while I learnt English also, merely so as to gain an accurate knowledge of Shakespeare; and I made a metrical translation of Romeo's monologue. Though I soon left English on one side, yet Shakespeare remained my exemplar, and I projected a great tragedy which was almost nothing but a medley of Hamlet and King Lear. The plan was gigantic in the extreme; two- and-forty human beings died in the course of this piece, and I saw myself compelled, in its working-out, to call the greater number back as ghosts, since otherwise I should have been short of characters for my last Acts. This play occupied my leisure for two whole years.
  • The July Revolution took place; with one bound I became a revolutionist, and acquired the conviction that every decently active being ought to occupy himself with politics exclusively. I was only happy in the company of political writers, and I commenced an Overture upon a political theme. Thus was I minded, when I left school and went to the university: not, indeed, to devote myself to studying for any profession — for my musical career was now resolved on — but to attend lectures on philosophy and aesthetics. By this opportunity of improving my mind I profited as good as nothing, but gave myself up to all the excesses of student life; and that with such reckless levity, that they very soon revolted me.
  • Germany appeared in my eyes a very tiny portion of the earth. I had emerged from abstract Mysticism, and I learnt a love for Matter. Beauty of material and brilliancy of wit were lordly things to me: as regards my beloved music, I found them both among the Frenchmen and Italians. I forswore my model, Beethoven; his last Symphony I deemed the keystone of a whole great epoch of art, beyond whose limits no man could hope to press, and within which no man could attain to independence.
  • The utter childishness of our provincial public's verdict upon any art-manifestation that may chance to make its first appearance in their own theatre — for they are only accustomed to witness performances of works already judged and accredited by the greater world outside — brought me to the decision, at no price to produce for the first time a largish work at a minor theatre. When, therefore, I felt again the instinctive need of undertaking a major work, I renounced all idea of obtaining a speedy representation of it in my immediate neighbourhood: I fixed my mind upon some theatre of first rank, that would some day produce it, and troubled myself but little as to where and when that theatre would be found.

Religion and Art (1880)

As translated by William Ashton Ellis
  • Though physiologists are still divided as to whether Man was meant by Nature to feed exclusively on fruits, or also upon flesh-meat, from its first faint glimmerings History shews Man's constant progress as a beast of prey. As such he conquers every land, subdues the fruit-fed races, founds mighty realms by subjugating other subjugators, forms states and sets up civilisations, to enjoy his prey at rest.
    • Part II
  • Attack and defence, want and war, victory and defeat, lordship and thraldom, all sealed with the seal of blood: this from henceforth is the History of Man.
    • Part II
  • From of old, amid the rage of robbery and blood-lust, it came to wise men's consciousness that the human race was suffering from a malady which necessarily kept it in progressive deterioration. Many a hint from observation of the natural man, as also dim half-legendary memories, had made them guess the primal nature of this man, and that his present state is therefore a degeneration. A mystery enwrapped Pythagoras, the preacher of vegetarianism; no philosopher since him has pondered on the essence of the world, without recurring to his teaching. Silent fellowships were founded, remote from turmoil of the world, to carry out this doctrine as a sanctification from sin and misery. Among the poorest and most distant from the world appeared the Saviour, no more to teach redemption's path by precept, but example; his own flesh and blood he gave as last and highest expiation for all the sin of outpoured blood and slaughtered flesh, and offered his disciples wine and bread for each day's meal:—"Taste such alone, in memory of me." … Perhaps the one impossibility, of getting all professors to continually observe this ordinance of the Redeemer's, and abstain entirely from animal food, may be taken for the essential cause of the early decay of the Christian religion as Christian Church. But to admit that impossibility, is as much as to confess the uncontrollable downfall of the human race itself.
    • Part II
  • That it must have been hunger alone, which first drove man to slay the animals and feed upon their flesh and blood; and that this compulsion was no mere consequence of his removal into colder climes … is proved by the patent fact that great nations with ample supplies of grain suffer nothing in strength or endurance even in colder regions through an almost exclusively vegetable diet, as is shewn by the eminent length of life of Russian peasants; while the Japanese, who know no other food than vegetables, are further renowned for their warlike valour and keenness of intellect. We may therefore call it quite an abnormality when hunger bred the thirst for blood … that thirst which history teaches us can never more be slaked, and fills its victims with a raging madness, not with courage. One can only account for it all by the human beast of prey having made itself monarch of the peaceful world, just as the ravening wild beast usurped dominion of the woods … And little as the savage animals have prospered, we see the sovereign human beast of prey decaying too. Owing to a nutriment against his nature, he falls sick with maladies that claim but him, attains no more his natural span of life or gentle death, but, plagued by pains and cares of body and soul unknown to any other species, he shuffles through an empty life to its ever fearful cutting short.
    • Part III
  • As we began with a general outline of the effects produced by the human beast of prey upon world-History, it now may be of service to return to the attempts to counteract them and find again the "long-lost Paradise"; attempts we meet in seemingly progressive impotence as History goes on, till finally their operation passes almost wholly out of ken.
    Among these last attempts we find in our own day the societies of so-called Vegetarians: nevertheless from out these very unions, which seem to have aimed directly at the centre of the question of mankind's Regeneration, we hear certain prominent members complaining that their comrades for the most part practise abstinence from meat on purely personal dietetic grounds, but in nowise link their practice with the great regenerative thought which alone could make the unions powerful. Next to them we find a union with an already more practical and somewhat more extended scope, that of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: here again its members try to win the public's sympathy by mere utilitarian pleas, though a truly beneficial end could only be awaited from their pursuing their pity for animals to the point of an intelligent adoption of the deeper trend of Vegetarianism; founded on such a mutual understanding, an amalgamation of these two societies might gain a power by no means to be despised.
    • Part III

Know Thyself (1881)

"Know Thyself" : A Continuation of "Religion and Art." (1881)
It seems as if the State's disposal of the apparently so simple idea of Property had driven a beam into the body of mankind that dooms it to a lingering death of agony.
Let us save and tend and brace our best of forces, to bear a noble cordial to the sleeper when he wakes, as of himself he must at last.
  • "Property" has acquired an almost greater sacredness in our social conscience than religion: for offence against the latter there is lenience, for damage to the former no forgiveness. Since Property is deemed the base of all stability, the more's the pity that not all are owners, that in fact the greater proportion of Society comes disinherited into the world. Society is manifestly thus reduced by its own principle to such a perilous inquietude, that it is compelled to reckon all its laws for an impossible adjustment of this conflict; and protection of property — for which in its widest international sense the weaponed host is specially maintained — can truly mean no else than a defence of the possessors against the non-possessors. Many as are the earnest and sagacious brains that have applied themselves to this problem, its solution, such as that at last suggested of an equal division of all possessions, has not as yet been found amenable; and it seems as if the State's disposal of the apparently so simple idea of Property had driven a beam into the body of mankind that dooms it to a lingering death of agony.
  • Clever though be the many thoughts expressed by mouth or pen about the invention of money and its enormous value as a civiliser, against such praises should be set the curse to which it has always been doomed in song and legend. If gold here figures as the demon strangling manhood's innocence, our greatest poet shews at last the goblin's game of paper money. The Nibelung's fateful ring become a pocket-book, might well complete the eerie picture of the spectral world-controller. By the advocates of our Progressive Civilisation this rulership is indeed regarded as a spiritual, nay, a moral power; for vanished Faith is now replaced by "Credit," that fiction of our mutual honesty kept upright by the most elaborate safeguards against loss and trickery. What comes to pass beneath the benedictions of this Credit we now are witnessing, and seem inclined to lay all blame upon the Jews. They certainly are virtuosi in an art which we but bungle: only, the coinage of money out of nil was invented by our Civilisation itself; or if the Jews are blamable for that, it is because our entire civilisation is a barbaro-judaic medley, in nowise a Christian creation.
  • This possibility, of always drawing from the pristine fount of our own nature, that makes us feel ourselves no more a race, no mere variety of man, but one of Manhood's primal branches, — 'tis this that ever has bestowed on us great men and spiritual heroes, as to whom we have no need to trouble whether fashioners of foreign fatherless civilisations are able to understand and prize them; whilst we again, inspired by the deeds and gifts of our forefathers, and gazing with unclouded eye, are able to rightly estimate those foreigners, and value them according to the spirit of pure Humanity indwelling in their work.
  • What "Conservatives," "Liberals" and "Conservative-liberals," and finally "Democrats," "Socialists," or even "Social-democrats" etc., have lately uttered on the Jewish Question, must seem to us a trifle foolish; for none of these parties would think of testing that "Know thyself" upon themselves, not even the most indefinite and therefore the only one that styles itself in German, the "Progress"-party. There we see nothing but a clash of interests, whose object is common to all the disputants, common and ignoble: plainly the side most strongly organised, i.e. the most unscrupulous, will bear away the prize. With all our comprehensive State- and National-Economy, it would seem that we are victims to a dream now flattering, now terrifying, and finally asphyxiating: all are panting to awake therefrom; but it is the dream's peculiarity that, so long as it enmeshes us, we take it for real life, and fight against our wakening as though we fought with death. At last one crowning horror gives the tortured wretch the needful strength: he wakes, and what he held most real was but a figment of the dæmon of distraught mankind.
    We who belong to none of all those parties, but seek our welfare solely in man's wakening to his simple hallowed dignity; we who are excluded from these parties as useless persons, and yet are sympathetically troubled for them, — we can only stand and watch the spasms of the dreamer, since no cry of ours can pierce to him. So let us save and tend and brace our best of forces, to bear a noble cordial to the sleeper when he wakes, as of himself he must at last.

Cosima Wagner's Diaries (1978)

Quotes of Wagner from Cosima Wagner's Diaries : An Abridgment (1994) edited by Geoffrey Skelton
This is Alberich's dream come true — Nibelheim, world dominion, activity, work, everywhere the oppressive feeling of steam and fog.
I am writing Parsifal only for my wife — if I had to depend on the German spirit, I should have nothing more to say.
  • This is Alberich's dream come true — Nibelheim, world dominion, activity, work, everywhere the oppressive feeling of steam and fog.
    • 25 May 1877, quoting Richard's impressions of London
  • I am writing Parsifal only for my wife — if I had to depend on the German spirit, I should have nothing more to say.
    • 2 December 1877
  • Certain things in Mozart will and can never be excelled.
    • 26 February 1878
  • Oh, I hate the thought of all those costumes and grease paint! When I think that characters like Kundry will now have to be dressed up, those dreadful artists' balls immediately spring into my mind. Having created the invisible orchestra, I now feel like inventing the invisible theatre!
    • 23 September 1878
  • It should not be presumed that these people (the Jews), who are so separated from us by their religion, have any right to make our laws. But why blame the Jews? It is we who lack all feeling for our own identity, all sense of honour.
    • 14 November 1878
  • Music has taken a bad turn; these young people have no idea how to write a melody, they just give us shavings, which they dress up to look like a lion's mane and shake at us... It's as if they avoid melodies, for fear of having perhaps stolen them from someone else.
    • 21 June 1880

Quotes from his operas

  • "Fürchtest du ein Lied, ein Bild?"
    • "Are you afraid of a song, of a picture?"
      • Senta, to Erik
  • "Wohl kenn ich Weibes heil'ge Pflichten;
    sei drum gestrost, unsel'ger Mann!
    Lass über die das Schicksal richten,
    die seinem Spruche trotzen kann!
    In meines Herzens höchster Reine
    kenn ich der Treue Hochgebot.
    Wem ich sie weih, schenk ich die eine;
    die Treue bis zum Tod."
    • "I know well Woman's holy duty;
      Be comforted, unhappy man!
      Let Fate judge me; I defy its sentence!
      In my heart's highest purity
      I know faith's high demand
      To him who sees it I give
      Love until death!"
      • Senta, to the Dutchman
  • "Die in linder Lüfte weh'n da oben ihr lebt, lacht und liebt:
    mit gold'ner Faust euch Göttliche fang' ich mir alle!
    Wie ich der Liebe abgesagt,
    Alles was lebt soll ihr entsagen!
    Mit Golde gekirrt, nach Gold, nur sollt ihr noch gieren!
    Auf wonnigen Höh'n, in seligem Weben wiegt ihr euch;
    den Schwarzalben verachtet ihr ewigen Schwelger!
    Habt Acht! Habt Acht!
    Denn dient ihr Männer erst meiner Macht,
    eure schmucken Frau'n, die mein Frei'n verschmäht,
    sie zwingt zur Lust sich der Zwerg, lacht Liebe ihm nicht!
    Ha ha ha ha!
    Habt ihr's gehört?
    Habt Acht!
    Habt Acht!
    vor dem nächtlichen Heer,
    entsteigt des Niblungen Hort
    aus stummer Tiefe zu Tag!"
    • "You, who enjoy the breezes and love, laugh, and live in them:
      With my golden fist I'll grip all you godly ones!
      Just as I gave up love, everyone who lives will give it up too!
      Distracted by gold, you will yearn only for gold!
      On your beautiful mountain tops, clad in pleasure, you sway, and you despise [me,] the dark goblin, you eternal luxuriants!
      Watch out!
      Watch out!
      Because when you fall into my power, your overdressed women, who despized my wooing, will be forced to my pleasure, without love.
      Ha ha ha ha! Do you hear?
      Watch out,
      Watch out for the army of the night, when the hoarde of goblins rises from the silent depths into the daylight!"
      • Alberich the goblin ("Nibelung"), Scene 3
  • "Der durch Verträge ich Herr, den Verträgen bin ich nun Knecht."
    • "I, who rule by means of contracts, am now slave to my contracts."
      • Wotan (ruler of the gods), Act 2, Scene 2
  • "Zum Ekel find' ich ewig nur mich in Allem was ich erwirke; das And're, das ich ersehne, das And're erseh' ich nie: denn selbst muß der Freie sich schaffen; Knechte erknet' ich mir nur."
    • "To my horror I always find only myself in all that I create; the Other, whom I need, I never find: a free man himself must create himself; I can only create slaves!"
      • Wotan, Act 2, Scene 2
  • "Was der Meister nicht kann,
    vermöcht’ es der Knabe,
    hätt’ er ihm immer gehorcht
    Jetzt mach’ dich fort, misch’ dich nicht drein:
    sonst fällst du mir mit in’s Feuer!"
    • "If a student always follows the teacher's instructions, how can he accomplish something which the teacher cannot accomplish? Now go away and don't interfere, or I'll put you into the fire!"
      • Siegfried, forging his sword, Act 1, Scene 3
  • "Hier hilft kein Kluger, das seh’ ich klar: hier hilft dem Dummen die Dummheit allein!"
    • "No clever person can help here; I see that clearly. Here, only stupidity can help the stupid one!"
      • Mime, the dwarf (and master metal-smith), Act 1, Scene 3
  • "Gab mir die Mutter Muth,
    nicht mag ich ihr doch danken,
    daß deiner List sie erlag:
    frühalt, fahl und bleich,
    hass' ich die Frohen,
    freue mich nie!"
    • "Although my mother gave me courage [and power], I do not thank her for yielding to your trickery; prematurely aged, colorless and pale, I hate happy people, and nothing gives me pleasure!"
      • Hagen, Act 2, Scene 1
  • "Des Ritters Lied und Weise,
    sie fand ich neu, doch nicht verwirrt;
    verliess er unsre Gleise,
    schritt er doch fest und unbeirrt.
    Wollt ihr nach Regeln messen,
    was nicht nach eurer Regeln Lauf,
    der eignen Spur vergessen,
    sucht davon erst die Regeln auf!"
    • "The knight's song and direction
      I found new, but not confused;
      He left our path,
      but strode strongly and confidently.
      When you want to evaluate, according to rules, something which doesn't follow your rules,
      You have to forget your own ways,
      And seek out its rules!"
      • Hans Sachs, Act 1, Scene 3
  • "Mein Kind, für den ist alles verloren,
    und Meister wird der in keinem Land;
    denn wer als Meister geboren,
    der hat unter Meistern den schlimmsten Stand."
    • "My child, all is lost for him, and he will never achieve the rank of 'Master' in any land, because someone who is born a master, always has the lowest standing among 'Masters'."
      • Hans Sachs, Act 2, Scene 4
  • "... in Flucht geschlagen,
    wähnt er zu jagen;
    hört nicht sein eigen Schmerzgekreisch,
    wenn er sich wühlt ins eig'ne Fleisch,
    wähnt Lust sich zu erzeigen!"
    • "... forced to flee, he imagines that he is hunting. He does not hear his own cry of pain when he claws into his own flesh; he thinks he is expressing pleasure!"
      • Hans Sachs, Act 3, Scene 1
  • "Glaubt mir, des Menschen wahrster Wahn
    wird ihm im Traume aufgetan:
    all' Dichtkunst und Poeterei
    ist nichts als Wahrtraumdeuterei."
    • "Believe me, mankind's truest madness is revealed to him in dreams. All word-craft and poetry is nothing but true dream-interpretation."
      • Hans Sachs, Act 3, Scene 2
  • "Drum bitt' ich, lasst den Groll jetzt ruh'n!
    Ihr habt's mit Ehrenmännern zu tun;
    die irren sich, und sind bequem,
    dass man auf ihre Weise sie nähm'.
    Wer Preise erkennt und Preise stellt,
    der will am End' auch, dass man ihm gefällt.
    Eu'r Lied, das hat ihnen bang' gemacht;
    und das mit Recht..."
    • "Please, leave your anger outside! You are dealing with honorable men. [Of course,] they make mistakes, and they enjoy having everyone follow their rules; [but] anyone who gets to judge and award prizes expects that people will try to please him! Your song made them uncomfortable, and rightly so...."
      • Hans Sachs, Act 3, Scene 2
  • "Mein Freund, in holder Jugendzeit,
    wenn uns von mächt'gen Trieben
    zum sel'gen ersten Lieben
    die Brust sich schwellet hoch und weit,
    ein schönes Lied zu singen,
    mocht' vielen da gelingen;
    der Lenz, der sang für sie.
    Kam Sommer, Herbst und Winterszeit,
    viel Not und Sorg' im Leben,
    manch' ehlich Glück daneben,
    Kindtauf', Geschäfte, Zwist und Streit:
    denen's dann noch will gelingen,
    ein schönes Lied zu singen,
    seht; Meister nennt man die!"
    • "My friend, in your youth, when you are in love for the first time, your breast swells high and wide, and it's easy to sing a beautiful song: the spring sings it for you. But when summer, then autumn, and winter come, and you have worries and responsibilities, family, children, and family quarrels, whoever can still succeed in singing a beautiful song then, you see: that person is called 'Master'!"
      • Hans Sachs, Act 3 Scene 2
  • "Die schwache Stunde kommt für jeden,
    da wird er dumm und lässt mit sich reden."
    • "A moment of weakness comes, for everyone, but then he feels stupid, and listens to his good sense."
      • Hans Sachs, Act 3 Scene 3

Quotes about Wagner

  • What a wonderful work Wagner has done for humanity in translating the toil of life into the readable script of music! For those who seek the tale of other worlds his magic is silent; but earth-travail under his wand becomes instinct with rhythmic song to an accompaniment of the elements, and the blare and crash of the bottomless pit itself.
  • he asked,
    "who wrote those?"

    "you did," he was

    "ah," he responded,
    "its as I have always
    suspected: death
    does have some
  • Richard Wagner said something I found extraordinary. He said that the "reason for being of music is poetry." I wholeheartedly subscribe to that notion. At times, somewhere in my mind I hear the music of a poem long before the words come together.
    • Lucha Corpi interview in ‘’Chicana Ways’’ (2001)
  • Wagner’s sensualism is not only more elemental than mere ostentation, but also more genuine and spontaneous than the whole ‘blood, death and lust’ mysticism of his time. It was not without reason that for many of the most sensitive minds of the century his work signified the very essence of art—the paradigm which first revealed the meaning and underlying principle of music to them. It was certainly the last and perhaps the greatest revelation of romanticism, the only form of it that is still alive today. No other allows us to apprehend so intimately with what intoxication of the senses it impressed itself on the contemporary public, and how much it was felt to be a revolt against all dead conventions and the discovery of a young, blissful and forbidden world. It is comprehensible, although at first surprising, that Baudelaire, who was himself not musical at all, but the only one of Wagner’s contemporaries whose accents create in us the same feeling of happiness as the Tristan music, was the first to recognize the significance of Wagner’s art.
    • Arnold Hauser, The Social History of Art, Vol. IV, Naturalism, Impressionism, the Film Age (1962)
  • Heartless sterility, obliteration of all melody, all tonal charm, all music. This revelling in the destruction of all tonal essence, raging satanic fury in the orchestra, this demoniacal, lewd caterwauling, scandal-mongering, gun-toting music, with an orchestral accompaniment slapping you in the face. Hence, the secret fascination that makes it the darling of feeble-minded royalty, of the court monkeys covered with reptilian slime, and of the blasé hysterical female court parasites who need this galvanic stimulation by massive instrumental treatment to throw their pleasure-weary frog-legs into violent convulsion. The diabolical din of this pig-headed man, stuffed with brass and sawdust, inflated, in an insanely destructive self-aggrandizement, by Mephistopheles' mephitic and most venomous hellish miasma, into Beelzebub's Court Composer and General Director of Hell's Music — Wagner!
    • J.L. Klein, Geschichte des Dramas (1871), p. 237
  • Wagner, the master of language, the mythologist and myth-maker, the philosopher, historian, aesthetician and critic, poet of previous societies, who has made simple dramas new again, and clarified the place of the arts in human culture, and understood the values of the past, and who has for the first time encircled the entire structure in one ring, and engraved the runes of his spirit on it - what an abundance of knowledge he had to accumulate and compile, in order to accomplish all this! And yet the magnitude of the task never daunted him, nor did the details and the beauty distract him.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Unzeitgemäße Betrachtungen, Viertes Stück: Richard Wagner in Bayreuth ("Untimely Essays, Part 4: Richard Wagner in Bayreuth") (1876, before the opera Parsifal turned him against Wagner)
  • Is Wagner a human being at all? Is he not rather a disease? He contaminates everything he touches — he has made music sick.
  • I have been told that Wagner's music is better than it sounds.
  • Monsieur Wagner a de beaux moments, mais de mauvais quart d'heures.
    • Monsieur Wagner has good moments, but awful quarters of an hour!
    • Gioachino Rossini, Letter to Emile Naumann, April 1867, quoted in E Naumann Italienische Tondichter (1883) vol. 4, p. 5. Translation from The Riverside Dictionary of Biography (2005), p. 689.
  • After the last notes of Götterdämmerung I felt as though I had been let out of prison.
  • As he [John Dough, the Gingerbread Man] walked along he heard the sound of a piano, and paused at an open door to peer within the room, for he imagined someone was pounding upon the keys of the piano with a sledge-hammer. But immediately a fluffy-haired man looked up and saw him, and the next instant pounced upon the gingerbread man in much the same way that a cat would pounce upon a rat, and seized him fast, drew him into the room, and closed and locked the door. John was astonished, but the fluffy-haired musician began pacing up and down the room, swinging his arms and shouting: "I have it! I have it at last! I am great! I am magnificent! I am better than Vogner himself!" He paused to glare upon John. "Why don't you shout, you baked idiot? Why don't you weep with joy?" he cried. "It is great, I tell you! It is great!"

    "What is great?" asked John.

    "The symphonie! The divine symphonie, you heartless molasses-cake, or devil's food, or whatever you are! And I composed it—I—Tietjamus Toips! I am greater than Vogner!"

    "I didn't hear it," said the gingerbread man.

    The musician threw himself upon the piano, and produced a succession of such remarkable sounds that John was surprised. "Did you understand it?" demanded the fluffy-haired one, jumping up again.

    "No," said John.

    "No! Of course not! No one can understand it. It is genius! It will be played at all the great concerts. The critics will write columns in praise of it. Some folks can understand Vogner a little. No one can understand me at all! I am wonderful! I am superb!"
  • Die Meistersinger can have an unpredictable effect on audiences. It's a mystifying work -- odd among Wagner's operas, odd among operas generally. It's billed as a comedy, and by comparison with Wagner's normal mode of cosmic tragedy, it can fairly be called lighthearted. But it doesn't have much in the way of laughs; the funny scenes are so enormous and diffuse they're like slapstick performed by cumulus clouds.
    • Lee Sandlin, "Losing the War"
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