While anyone is welcome to read it in whole or part, I am writing this in large part with the “I love Wagner’s music but I hate him” folks in mind. To my mind that is a nonsensical statement. Wagner’s music was a window to his soul, and he was completely conjoined to his music in a way unique to opera composers. At least I will spend a year trying to make that point. (This, by the way, is some of the dissonance resolution part of the blog’s subtitle.)
I first started thinking seriously about—and writing about —Wagner on a road trip to Seattle to see my first Ring Cycle in 2001. As I was driving, my mind was dribbling out random thoughts about him, which I jotted down as I went along. (Okay, okay, I admit this probably isn't the safest way to write, but I kept my eyes on the road at all times, which made many of my scribblings near-illegible.) Since then, I have continued thinking—and safely writing—about Wagner on long trips. (You will, perhaps, be relieved to know that I fly way more than I drive on such journeys).
However, it was not on that sort of a trip that I fell in love with opera in general, and Wagner in specific. It was on LSD. My love affair with tripping and opera will take up some blog posts (and be focused on the ecstasy in the subtitle).
While I originally became enamoured with Wagner under the influence, the love remained when I came down. Various blog posts will be focused on his musical effects on me and countless others. (Yep, more ecstasy...)
When I first encountered Wagner's music, I knew nothing about him. I assumed that anyone who could write such profound and beautiful music had to reflect those traits personally in some way. Interested to find out about the man behind these works, I began reading. Boy, what a let down! "A monster" "a dreadful human being" "an impossible human being" "arrogant, dishonest, jealous, hypocritical, racist, sexist and passionately anti-Semitic." Was Wagner as bad as all that? (This is the other part of the dissonance to be resolved.)
After much further reading and reflection (and tripping out on it), my answer is a resounding no. I will argue that one of the things that has been lost in history is an accurate sense of Wagner as a man—only a negative caricature remains. I will try to correct that problem in a series of posts.
A large part of the reason I wanted to write this blog is to counter some of the extremely sloppy scholarship and gratuitous bashing that is ubiquitous. Some bashing is just mindless repetition, while others really go after him in a systematic, but rarely fair, way. I will take on a selected few of these “scholarly” critiques in some detail. These particular posts may not be of interest to many people but I am driven to do this because they really piss me off. Hey, then I can post them on Amazon, too, and give them one of those 1 star reviews.
You just don't get credit for writing a fair and balanced book about Wagner. (By the way, I wrote that phrase “fair and balanced" way before obnoxious Fox claimed it, but hell if I am going to let them have sole claim to it.) Any book that attempts a reasonable perspective is immediately dismissed as an "an apology." As if perspective isn't important! Well, that is utter nonsense, which is why I feel forced to write a few posts just to establish some historical perspective. I hope I will thus be able to show what a rotten deal Wagner has been given, particularly in the last several decades.
The last blog post of the year will bring it all together to reclaim and celebrate him as a full, and quite remarkable, human being. I am, for one, very glad he was born 200 years ago.
Anyway, that is the plan. How much I end up doing of it, who knows? But I will give it my best. My plan is to try to write a post about once a week. Next post up: there will be very little Wagner, but lots of Tripping
I am going to back-edit this whenever I feel like the need, usually without noting it unless I think the change is particularly significant. The truth is that, while I have points I want to make to the ambivalent Wagner crowd, I am really writing this for me. My aim is that the blog will be what I always wanted to read about Wagner but never found. I’m just fantasizing about the time in 10 or 20 years when I reread it and I say, "Damn, I am glad someone said that!"