Opera in three Acts op.1
Text and Music by Siegfried Wagner
Siegfried Helferich Richard Wagner was born as the only son of Richard and Cosima Wagner in Tribschen near Luzern on the 6th June 1869. Richard Wagner celebrated his joy at the birth of his son with the composition of his Siegfried Idyll. Siegfried initially wanted to study architecture, but then in 1889 began to study harmony and counterpoint under Engelbert Humperdinck. After a year, Humperdinck was already of the opinion that he could not teach him anything more, and that he should now become independent. At the same time he began to study at the Charlottenburger Hochschule for Architecture. In Berlin he met Clement Harris (English composer 1871 – 1897) and they had a homosexual relationship. Together they visited Oscar Wilde. In 1892, he travelled for six month with Clement Harris in East Asia, which made a great impression on him and features conspicuously in his memoirs, published in 1922. During his travels he decided to concentrate on music and thereafter began his apprenticeship at the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth.
In the Marktgräfliche Opera House in Bayreuth he first appeared as a conductor and in the following years conducted numerous concerts in Rome, London, Budapest, Leipzig and Vienna. As conductor of the Der Ring des Nibelungen in Bayreuth in 1896 he was most highly praised by Gustav Mahler. In 1899 his first opera Der Bärenhäuter was first performed with sensational success. In the following years the tireless Siegfried composed and wrote several operas (Herzog Wildfang 1900, Der Kobold 1903, Bruder Lustig 1904, Sternengebot 1905, Banadietrich 1909), which were also often performed. However, the public generally saw in him the son of Richard Wagner and grandson of Franz Liszt; particularly after 1908, when he was the sole director of the Bayreuth Festspiele and conducted and directed the productions. Thus Arnold Schönberg said of him in 1912: “The son of this father, who by the way is without doubt, as an artist, the victim of a pedantic theory, is not measured according to his own value, but in accordance with an assumed law of nature, which states that a famous man may not have a famous son, although Johann Sebastian Bach had two very famous sons, and although Siegfried Wagner is a more profound artist than many of those who are today very famous”. This phenomena is also apparent as Siegfried is appointed a honorary citizen of Bayreuth in 1913, as the son of Richard Wagner.
During the First World War there were no productions in Bayreuth. In 1915 Siegfried Wagner married Winifred Williams who was 28 years younger. They had four children (Wieland, Friedelind, Wolfgang and Verena). Two years later, he could once more with his new fairytale opera An allem ist Hütchen schuld repeat his success with the Bärenhäuter. At the same time further operas were composed (Schwarzschwanenreich 1910, Sonnenflammen 1912, Der Heidenkönig 1913, Der Friedensengel 1914). However these were first performed after the war. —
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