Wagner and Venice

November 2008
47 black and white, 1 line illustrations
456 pages
9x6 in
Eastman Studies in Music
ISBN: 9781580462884
Format: Hardback
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS050000, MUS020000, HIS020000

Wagner and Venice

John W. Barker

Explores Wagner's lengthy stays in Venice, his death there, and the meaning of his works -- and his death -- for that great city and its mystique.
Richard Wagner had a longstanding love affair with the city of Venice. His sudden death there in 1883 also initiated a process through which Wagner and his reputation were integrated into Venice's own cumulative cultural image.
In Wagner and Venice, John Barker examines the connections between the great composer and the great city. The author traces patterns of Wagner's visits to Venice during his lifetime, considers what the city came to mean to Wagner, and investigates the details surrounding his death. Barker also examines how Venice viewed Wagner, by analyzing the landmark presentation of Wagner's Ring cycle two months after the composer's death, and by considering Venice's subsequent extensive Wagner celebrations and commemorations.
Throughout the volume, biographical detail from new and previously unavailable sources provides readers with a fresh interpretation of this seminal figure. Those already familiar with Wagner's life will find new information about, and insights into, the man and his career, while simultaneously discovering a neglected corner of Italian and Venetian cultural history.

John W. Barker is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, specializing in Medieval (including Venetian) History. He is also a passionate music lover and record collector, and an active music critic and journalist.

Table of Contents

Prologue: A Letter to Ludwig
The First Encounter
From Visit to Vacation
From Residence to Mortality
Venice in Wagner's Eyes
Remembering: A German for the Germans
Remembering: An Italian for the Italians
Italy, Venice, and "Wagnerism"
The "Wandering Wagnerians"
Today the Fenice, Tomorrow all Italy
Venetian Assessments
Memory and Commemoration
Surviving Significance


The strength of this study is to have assembled a series of works by fourteen -- mostly German-language -- authors, . . . many [of which] have remained outside the reach of mainstream audiences but deserve renewed critical analysis. Succeeds in drawing attention to a vast body of Wagner fiction, in the process correcting some distorted assumptions. . . . Barker probes in nuanced ways [Egon Gunther's] "postmodern" sensibility. Cosima's character picture itself receives some nuanced reassessment." MONATSHEFTE [Rolf J. Goebel]

As the author of a book on Wagner's death in Venice, John Barker is well poised to survey the many works of fiction on the topic, most of which are unknown to the Wagner community. In the interplay between his analysis and excerpts from the novels, Barker gives loving detail to the divergence from reality in these fictional accounts. The material is fascinating and opens many doors for the musicological community. --Karen Painter, author of Symphonic Aspirations: German Music and Politics, 1900-1945

A huge amount of material not previously available first-hand observations and analyses. The amount of detail here is astonishing. Forty-six black-and-white photos bring people and places to life. . . . A loving tribute to Wagner and Venice. AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE [Charles H. Parsons]

Throughout his book Barker makes effective use of newspaper archives. . . . Barker's "assimilative source study" has now largely filled the critical gap [regarding the disputed biographical documents collected in 1883 by Henriette Perl]. . . . [The book is marked by] the author's palpable enthusiasm for and knowledge of both Wagner and Venice. MUSICAL TIMES [David Cormack]

It was in Venice that Wagner composed much of the second act of Tristan und Isolde, with its ecstatic love duet, and it was in Venice that he died two and a half decades later. Charting the composer's own love affair with La Serenissima over that period has been the quarter-of-a-century mission of John W. Barker, who sifts the plethora of eye-witness accounts with a forensic skill that brings to light all manner of fascinating documentary detail. A book to be relished by lovers of Wagner, of Venice, or of both. --Barry Millington, Author of Wagner, editor of The Wagner Compendium, and coeditor of Selected Letters of Richard Wagner

Also by Author

Also in Series

Related Titles