Richard Wagner’s 200th birthday celebrated in museums
Richard Wagner wrote ‘Lohengrin’ here in 1846. Today, the Lohengrinhaus is one of the Richard-Wagner-Stätten, Pirna-Graupa. Photo: Christoph Münch
Throughout the Richard Wagner Festival Year 2013, many institutions in Dresden (including the Semper Opera House, the Dresden Philharmonia and the Staatskapelle Dresden, among others) are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of the composer and court musical director with a series of special themed events under the banner ‘Where Wagner evolved into WAGNER’.
A major component of the ‘Richard Wagner in Dresden – Mythos und Geschichte’ (‘Richard Wagner in Dresden – Myth and History’) exhibition in the Stadtmuseum (City Museum), which runs from 27 April until 25 August, is a topographical focus on sites associated with Wagner, his places of residence and private retreats. Prominent figures in Dresden’s intellectual and creative circles, as well as politicians and decision-makers of the time with links to Wagner are also highlighted. Wagner’s time in Dresden culminated in his participation in the May Uprising of 1849: the failure of this revolution forced his hasty flight into exile in Switzerland. The numerous myths surrounding the chequered history of the reception of the composer’s music in the 20th and 21st centuries is examined in another section of the exhibition. Appropriated by the National Socialists for its anti-Semitic tendencies and Germanic cult elements, it was, in contrast, also integrated in the socialist cultural heritage policies of the GDR due to its profession of social reform and progressive ideas. Even today, the myths surrounding Richard Wagner continue to be pervasive.
Manuscripts by Wagner are displayed in the Schatzkammer (Treasure Room) of the Saxon State and University Library (SLUB), Dresden. The autograph score of Wagner’s oratorio ‘Das Liebesmahl der Apostel’ (The Love Feast of the Apostles) can be viewed, as too can his household account books, in which, for example, details of Wagner’s well-stocked Dresden wine cellar can be discovered. In addition, historic maps and other documents make it possible to form a clear picture of Wagner’s life and work, and his surroundings. Wagner spent the summer of 1846 on a country estate in Graupa, today part of Pirna. The Lohengrinhaus, which is only 500 metres outside the Dresden city boundary, is the only surviving authentically preserved Wagner residence in eastern Germany, and – particularly during the closure of Haus Wahnfried in Bayreuth for renovation – a mecca for Wagnerians from all over the world. A small exhibition here deals with the creation of Wagner’s opera ‘Lohengrin’, a substantial part of which was composed in the house. Only a few metres away, in the baroque Jagdschloss (Hunting Lodge) Graupa, the new Richard Wagner Museum, opened in January, presents the composer’s life and work in Saxony. Here, impressive multi-media installations make his works accessible to a wider public.
Anyone wishing to experience live performances of Wagner’s operas can do so in the Semper Opera House. In addition to his own works, ‘Lohengrin’, ‘The Flying Dutchman’, ‘Tannhäuser’, ‘Tristan and Isolde’, and (from 2014) ‘Parsifal’, there are also performances of operas which Wagner brought from Paris to stage their first performances in Dresden, such as Spontin’s ‘La Vestale’ and Halévy’s ‘La Juive’. To complement these, a small temporary exhibition on Wagner as orchestra director of the first Semper Opera House is presented in the foyer. Incidentally, today’s building was inspired by Wagner’s concept for a festival theatre: Gottfried Semper based his design for Dresden on his plans for the Wagner festival theatre in Munich, which was never built. This and many other fascinating details can be discovered on guided tours of the Semper Opera House (tours in English usually start at 3 p.m.)
- Wagner exhibition in the Stadtmuseum (City Museum). Opening hours: Tue–Sun 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays until 7 p.m. Closed on Mondayswww.museen-dresden.dewww.stadtmuseum-dresden.de
- Wagner autograph scores in the Book Museum of the Saxon State and University Library (SLUB). Opening hours: daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.www.slub-dresden.de
- Wagner-Stätten-Graupa (Wagner Sites Graupa), Pirna. Opening hours: daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sat/Sun to 6 p.m. November to February, closed on Tuesdayswww.wagnerstaetten.de
- A Google street map of Dresden, showing places associated with Richard Wagner, with notes in English, is available at:http://goo.gl/maps/undVK