2013: Wagner Year

2013 is the year of both the 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth (22nd May) and the 130th anniversary of his death (13th February). Celebrations are taking place around the world to mark his bicentenary, particularly in Leipzig and Bayreuth, and at The Met, Royal Opera House and La Scala.

The project ‘From Leipzig to Bayreuth‘ highlights the two of the influential cities in Wagner’s musical career. Throughout the year, and across the world, special effort is being made on staging his earliest operas which are far less well-known, particularly Das Feen (The Fairies), Das Liebesverbot (The Ban on Love) and Rienzi.

Death in Venice & La Lugubre Gondola

Wagner died of a heart attack on 13th February 1883, whilst in Venice for the winter with his family. Liszt had been staying with Wagner at the palazzo on the Grand Canal in late 1882, and had already started composing a work for the piano which, upon Wagner’s death, he turned into a memorial to the composer.

Liszt’s La Lugubre Gondola No. 1 has been seen to evoke a funeral gondola on the Grand Canal in Venice:

And the single melodic line of the opening of La Lugubre Gondola No. 2 resembles Wagner’s unending melodies. Liszt later brings in the left hand accompaniment (around 1:40), developing the melody into a more lyrical, romantic line:

This opening, with its unresolved diminished sevenths and unfinished phrases, is reminiscent of the prelude to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde:

Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice

Mann was noticably influenced by Wagner, transporting the concept of the leitmotif into his literary works. This is particularly prevalent in Mann’s Death in Venice where repeating themes, structures, words and ideas form the basis of the novel.  Potential inspiration from Wagner’s own death in Venice?

Wagner’s funeral and final music

Below is Siegfried’s funeral music from Götterdämmerung. Dramatic ebbs and flows take hold around 1:00 and the funeral chorale beginning at 1:13.

The end of Parsifal; Wagner’s last notes:

Links on Wagner’s bi-centenary:





More posts on Wagner will be coming soon. Next up: Wagner & Nietzsche;  a Gesamtkunswerk Relationship?