Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Video clips: Wagner performances in The third reich

I have been asked by several people, why admirers of Richard Wagner´s music often seems to ignore the role his music played in The third reich (I am not sure this is true), though the exact nature of this role is still the focus of much debate. As a follow up to my previous post, the following video clips may help explain the association by many of Richard Wagner´s music with Nazism.

Below: Furtwängler or Abendrot conducting Meistersinger in Bayreuth 1942




Below: Speech by Göbbels and performance of Meistersinger at Deutsche Oper Berlin conducted by Böhm and with Vilhelm Rode as Hans Sachs in 1935:



I must admit, these clips make my blood run cold, and on a personal level these associations are the main reason I have avoided the Meistersinger for 20 years, only starting to listen to it last year although I admit, that from a logical point of view it probably doesn´t make sense to separate Wagner´s works like that, since I´ve been listening to the all his other works for more than 20 years.

Information for readers not extensively familiar with Richard Wagner: RW himself was not a nazist and did not personally know Hitler, since he died in 1883, but he was clearly antisemitic and several books have been written on the influence of RW´s music on later political events in Germany. However, several of RW´s descendants (including daughter-in-law Winifried and son-in-law Houston Stewart Chamberlain) WERE personally acquainted with Hitler and supported his political views. As far as I know, Wagner WAS NOT Hitler´s favorite composer (allegedly that was Beethoven), but Wagner´s works were performed at several official occasions and among Wagner´s operas Meistersinger was Hitler´s favourite. It doesn´t look like RW generally was a "favourite Nazi composer" since most Nazi party members apparently preferred lighter entertainment such as cabarets etc..

11 comments:

Gloriana said...

It's a document alright, though it's awful.
Pitty for Wagner, or not???

bo said...

The connections between Bayreuth and the nazis are well documented and can hardly be discredited. Some time ago I watched a documentary on TV, and for some reason the thing that upset me the most was the fact - which was stated - that parts of the first draft of Hitler's "Mein Kampf" was written on stationary sent to him by Winifred Wagner. Hitler's favorite Wagner opera, as far as I can remember, was "Rienzi".

daland said...

stop the first clip at second 23.

you'll see in front of you a very familiar face!

Gloriana said...

Who is that familiar face???

mostly opera... said...

My guess is Wieland Wagner, Richard Wagner�s grandson (the young man standing just next to Hitler), but I am not 100% sure. Hopefully Daland will tell us.

daland said...

Wolfgang!

mostly opera... said...

My mistake. You are right of course! It´s Wolfgang Wagner. But, I am sure Wieland was around on the same day to pay his respect to The Führer as well...

daland said...

Well, actually the two brothers had very similar physiognomies (even 20 years later...). I wasn't myself sure 100%, so I checked with other "experts" and they also favoured the Wolfgang option.
Surely Wieland was around... perhaps with a camera, that was his passion.

mostly opera... said...

Glad to hear it: Before I settled on the Wieland option I checked several old photographs...but after your choice of Wolfgang I checked and re-checked 10-15 photographs from that period and the physiognomy of that young man just looks more like the "old" Wolfgang than the "old" Wieland, after all.
That apart, I still think Wolfgang owes the public a thorough account of these years, and no matter what, I think it is a problem that the current Festival leader is seen on such a picture.

richard said...

I was intrigued with the identity of the individual behind Hitler but had not recognised him as one of Wagner’s grandsons. However, from what I can deduce from “Bayreuth – the history of the Wagner festival” by Frederic Spotts, the performance would be either 1943 or 44 as 1942 was limited to the Ring and Die Fliegender Hollander (Pages 192 and 193)

The involvement of Wieland and Wolfgang with Hitler is well documented in Nike Wagner’s book “The Wagners”.

Hitler personally favoured Wieland with exemption from military service in 1939 (page 105) with Wolfgang being visited by Hitler in hospital after being wounded in Poland. Hitler also subsequently discharged him from the Wehrmacht. (page 219).

Having been exempted from military service, Wieland designed the sets for the 1943-44 production of Die Meistersinger (page 106), so it is not surprising that they would be at the centre of any celebrations surrounding Hitler’s visit to Bayreuth. If the photo is of Wolfgang Wagner, Wieland was probably otherwise occupied with the production.

In addition, I believe it is pretty well documented (but can’t find the reference this evening) that pre-war, Hitler was referred to by the boys as “Uncle Wolf”, from which one can draw the inference behind Wieland naming his only son “Wolf-Siegfried”, born in 1943.

Whilst the style “New Bayreuth” was an attempt to purge the Nazi influence, there can be no doubt as to their involvement with the regime and the favour and patronage from which they benefited. Whilst Winifred was effectively banished from the festival for her relations with Hitler, the questions surrounding her sons remain to be answered.

As an aside there is a great photo caption in Nike’s book where she describes her father Wieland as being in a rehearsal for Lulu in 1960 “with his lover Anja Silja”; so no family love lost there!

PS Another quick comment that turned into an epic!

Anonymous said...

What is sure is that the Nazis never understood Wagner's message nor read its librettos. Stalin loved Mozart (ask Maria Yudina!), by the way.

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