Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/366

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.


350

��WAGNER.

��Herr Ringelhardt, after perusing the libretto, stated that his paternal conscience would not permit him to sanction the appearance of his daughter ' in a piece of such frivolous tendency.' Wagner next applied to the Konigstaedter Theater at Berlin equally in vain. Penniless, he left Berlin for the Prussian town of Konigs- berg, where colleagues from Magdeburg Frau Pollert the prima donna, and his special friend Wilhelmina or ' Minna' Planer, the actress (erste Liebhaberin) had found engagements. With a view to the conductorship he arranged concerts at the Schauspielhaus, at one of which an overture of his, presumably ' Columbus, ' was performed. At length the appointment as conductor was promised; and he forthwith married Fraulein Planer (Nov. 24, 1836) the third daughter of the ' Mechanicus ' G othilf Planer of Dresden. ' I wasted a year at Konigsberg amid petty cares, worrying myself and others. An overture " Rule Britannia " is the only thing I wrote.' How to get out of this groove of mediocrity ? He longed for Paris. In those days success in the operatic world began in France. Had not Meyerbeer recently cleared 300,000 francs by ' Les Hugue- nots' ? Wagner sent sketches for an opera in four acts ' Die hohe Braut,' after a novel of Heinrich Kb'nig's to Scribe the librettist, hoping thus to approach the Parisian Ope'ra. 1 Of course Scribe took no notice. About Michaelmas the Director at Konigsberg followed Herr Bethmann's ex- ample, and declared himself bankrupt.

Wagner eagerly grasped at a chance which presented itself from the Russian side of the Baltic. A theatre was about to be started under Karl v. Holtei at Riga. On the recommendation of Dorn, who had gone thither some years befoce, Wagner was chosen 'First Musikdirector,' and his wife, and her sister, Therese Planer, were engaged for the ' Schauspiel.' As compared with Magde- burg or Konigsberg, Riga was a wealthy place, and the salaries were liberal. Wagner found all that was needful to attain good performances, and set to work energetically. During the winter sea- son he conducted orchestral concerts ; his over- tures 'Columbus' and 'Rule Britannia' were played ; he wrote various arias for the vocalists ; and the text to a comic opera in two acts, ' Die gluckliche Barenfamilie.' 8 Dec. i ith is the date of a ' Benefizvorstellung von Bellini's Norma, fur Herrn Musikdirector Wagner.' During the summer of 1838 he rehearsed Mogul's ' Joseph* ' with great love and enthusiasm for the work ' and completed the book of ' Rienzi/

When in the autumn I began the music to Kienzi, my sole care was to do justice to the subject. I had BO laid it out that a first performance would be impos- sible at a second-rate theatre. I had Paris in view. The thought of conscious triviality, even for a single bar, was intolerable. The character of Bienzi, ardent,

1 In 1842 these sketches were carried out In light verse to oblige Capellmeister Keissiger, Wagner's colleague at Dresden. In 1848 the opera, entitled (Bianoa and Giuseppe, or) 'Die Franzosen In Nizza,' in 4 acts, and with sundry alterations enforced by the Austrian censorship, music by Kapellmeister J. F. Kittl, was performed at Prague with considerable and lasting success.

2 L. Nohl found the MS. at Biga in 1872, together with sketches for bits of the music 'a la Adam.' These are quoted in Neue Zeitschrift (1884, p. 244).

��WAGNER.

aspiring, amid barbarous surroundings, interested me. I approached it by way of the grand opera ; still my first care was to depict it in accordance with my feelings.*

In the spring of 1839, at the termination of his contract, the first two acts were finished. He returned to Konigsberg (July 1839), paid his debts, repaired to the port of Pillau, and took berths, on board a sailing vessel bound for London, for himself, his little wife, and a huge Newfoundland dog, en route for Paris. ' I shall never forget the voyage : it lasted three weeks and a half, and was rich in disasters. Three times we suffered from the effects of heavy storms. The passage through the Narrows made a won- drous impression on my fancy. The legend of the ' Flying Dutchman * (he had read it in Heine's Salon) 'was confirmed by the sailors, and the circumstances gave it a distinct and characteristic colour in my mind. We stopped eight days in London to recover from the trying effects of the voyage. I was interested above all things in the aspect of the town and the Houses of Parliament ; of the theatres I saw nothing.'*

At Boulogne he made the acquaintance of Meyerbeer, and remained four weeks to cultivate it. How far the music to ' Rienzi ' pleased Meyer- beer does not appear, and the saying attributed to him that 'Rienzi is the best opera-book extant* is not sufficiently authenticated. Meyerbeer provided Wagner with letters of introduction to the Directors of the Ope'ra and the Theatre de la Renaissance, to Schlesinger the music- publisher and proprietor of the 'Revue et Gazette Musicale/ and to M. Gouin his agent, T alter ego du grand maltre.' Assertions in German journals that Wagner was then or at a later period under pecuniary obligations to Meyerbeer are groundless, and have been publicly contra- dicted. The true relations of the two men will be described further on.

PAEIS. Wagner arrived in Paris in September 1839, and remained till April 7, 1842 (set. 26-29). His hopes and plans were not realised ; yet, for the growth of his power as an artist this was an important and eventful time.

Except for the sake of my poor wife, whose patience was sorely tried, I have no reason to regret the adven- ture. At two distinct periods we felt the pinch of poverty severely actually suffered from cold and hun- ger. I did a good deal of work, mere drudgery for the most part, but I also studied and wrote assiduously, and the performances of Beethoven at the Conservatoire were invaluable to me.

They found lodgings in an out-of-the-way quarter, Rue de la Tonnellerie, 'au fond d'un appartement garni d'assez triste apparence,' in an old house which claims to have been the birthplace of Moliere. Patronised and intro- duced by Meyerbeer, Wagner was received

  • See ' Elne Mlttheilung an meine Freunde.'
  • They lodged for a night at the Hoop and Horseshoe, 10 Queen Street,

Tower Hill, still existing ; then stayed at the King's Arms boarding house. Old Compton Street, Soho ; from which place the dog dis- appeared, and turned up again after a couple of days, to his master's franticjoy. Wagner's accurate memory for localities was puzzled when he wandered about Soho with the writer in 1877 and failed to find the old house. Mr. J. Cyrlax, who has zealously traced every step of Wagner's in London, 1839. 66, and 77, states that the premise* have been pulled f

�� �