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Hermann Grampp: Wagner and the Kaiserreich

Posted: Tue Sep 03, 2013 2:20 pm
by alberich00
A new installment of my mini reviews of talks presented at the Wagner Worldwide 2013 bicentennial symposium sponsored by the Univ. of South Carolina in the winter of 2013.

"Wagner and the Kaiserreich" by Hermann Grampp (Freie Universitaet, Berlin):

Grampp asks why the Reich was so uninterested in Wagner. Two questions:

1. What did Wagner expect of the Reich in 1871?
2. Why did the Reich refuse to respond?

Wagner became a Bismarckian, and even wrote the "Kaiser March." Prussia needed to "contain" Bavaria. Bismarck received Wagner in Berlin in 1871, but evidently all they did was talk social gossip. After 1866 [PH: if memory serves, after Prussia's defeat of the Austrian/Bavarian alliance?], Bismarck considered Wagner an important ally thanks to Wagner's involvement with Ludwig. Wagner wrote to Bismarck several times but got no response. Wagner was requested not to correspond with the busy Chancellor. Wagner tried to get the government of a unified Germany interested in Bayreuth as a national cause. Of course, Wagner got help from Ludwig II of Bavaria when Berlin wouldn't respond.

Bismarck had no interest in music, and didn't wish to interfere in Ludwig's affairs in Bavaria, including the Bayreuth Festival Theater. Bismarck did not want national patronage for Bayreuth. The Kaiser, Wilhelm I, was well disposed to Wagner, but not as a patron. He visited Bayreuth [PH: for the premier of the "Ring"] in 1876 as Head of State.

The succeeding Kaiser, Wilhelm II, visited Bayreuth in 1886. Bismarck at this time dismissed the idea of national patronage. Wilhelm II was himself also uninterested in music.

The Reichstag was against making Bayreuth a national institution or symbol, and in this concurred with the Chancellors and Emperors.

In 1933, for the first time, the government made Bayreuth a national symbol and institution, but with fatal consequences [PH: The Third Reich].

Q&A: Someone noted that the French admired Wagner as a universal symbol of the avant-garde, though Wagner couldn't be staged in France until 1891.

Anno Mungen noted that Wagner's artworks are not ideal as national symbols.

Someone stated that National Socialism was not born in Prussia, but in Bavaria and Austria.

PH: No comment, really. It is frankly not surprising that the Prussian State, which was unifying Germany and preparing to enter the world-stage as a major power, was skittish around an avant-garde artist like Wagner with a reputation as a former militant revolutionary, a danger to the State.

Evidently the government did get involved in the "Parsifal" copyright issue. Bismarck was sacked in 1890.