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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Monday, February 8

Wagner on the banks of the Mississippi?

Synopsis

For a magic golden ring, the dwarf Alberich was willing to renounce love to become master of the world. At least, that’s the story in Richard Wagner’s four operas entitled “The Ring of the Nibelungen,” which premiered in 1876 at Wagner’s specially-constructed theater in Bayreuth, Germany.

And for $1 million, Wagner was prepared to renounce not only Bayreuth, but Germany, and settle in America, offering in exchange the premiere and exclusive performance rights to his latest opera, “Parsifal.”

That was the offer Wagner outlined in a letter to his American dentist on today’s date in 1880. Wagner’s wife, Cosima, recorded in her diary that Wagner seemed obsessed with idea of settling in Minnesota, of all places.

Dr. Jenkins dutifully passed the proposal on to wealthy music patrons in the states. But even the most ardent Wagnerians among them said if his operas couldn’t sell in Germany, they wouldn’t fare any better on the banks of the Mississippi.

Well, Dr. Jenkins broke the news that a) the million dollars was not going to materialize, and b) there were such things as mosquitoes and blizzards in Minnesota. Wagner prudently decided to give Germany one more chance.

Music Played in Today's Program

Richard Wagner (1813 - 1883) Das Rheingold excerpt Soloists and Bavarian Radio Symphony; Bernard Haitink, cond. EMI 54633

Parsifal excerpt Netherlands Radio Philharmonic; Edo de Waart, cond. BMG 44786

Additional Information

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