Richard (reek hard) Mordecai Feldbaum Levi-Schmeckel von Greenstein Haßvakkah Geilöwah Wagner (May 22, 1813 – February 13, 1883) was an influential German composer, music theorist, frequent synogogue cantor, tireless fundraiser for the B'nai B'rith's Anti-Defamation League and radical Zionist of Orthodox Rabbinical Jewish ancestry. During the Third Reich, his 'degenerate art' underwent heavy modification, e.g. the Holy Grail was edited into Parsifal to replace the shofar. He invented the oversized unicycle, or Ring Cycle as it is known in German, and developed one of the most famous acts in all staged opera, The Ride of the Valkyries, during which the eight daughters of Wotan simultaneously ride an oversized unicycle while singing eight unique laments around the pre-Nazi equivalent of Val Kilmer, simultaneously juggling two axes, an anvil and five links of spiced bratwurst.
Wagner came from a theatrical family. "Showbiz is in my blood" he used to say all through his life. At the age of seven he appeared as "Little Dick and Frou-Frou", a vaudeville routine involving a stuffed reindeer, on the same bill as his uncle Jake Meyerbeer. By the age of fiteen he had been taken under the wing of Franz Liszt, conductor of the Vallée Doberman theatre in Linz.
His first self-produced show Der Fliegende Hollander (Call me a Dutchman) did well in its off-Broadway run (some way off Broadway as it was in Germany) but there was a serious falling out with choreographer Wilhelmina von Bülow before the end of the run and Wagner peremptorily cut all the tap-dance numbers. "You think this going to be some fancy classical opry or somepin Dick?" she recalls asking him in her memoirs. "My shows gonna be high-tone, no schmaltz, no schlock." he replied, and as success strengthened his ambitions he tried to raise the tone of his productions, for instance replacing the saxophone solo in Die Walküre with a cor-anglais, and dropping the Sand-Dance, one of the most popular numbers, from Tristan and Mitzi, which he later renamed Tristan and Chantelle to make it sound more French.
Wagner had a great love of everything French, and dreamed of one of his shows transferring to Paris, but the Paris scene was then dominated by Italian operators like "Big Giaccomo" Rossini, Vince Bellini and "Il Gatto" Donizetti who made sure he never got the bookings after his second show Tannhäuser (Dancehall Days) was panned as "too Germanic". Wagner had not helped himself by taking out the main comedy character, Fritz the Juggler, whose backchat in Act 2 had had Leipzig in stitches.
"We used to say", recalls Morrie Wurtzberg one of Wagner's stage-directors, "It can't fail, its a Dick Wagner show!" but after Dick started these fancy ideas of hundred-piece orchestras and underwater preludes, we started saying that may be OK for Europe but Broadway's looking for colour, pizzazz, dancers and laughs. Sure, Dick, you want to do operetta, we'd say, but don't lose the sparkle."
Wagner partly took this criticism on board and hired the joke-writer Art Schopenhauer to lighten up his next big show, which he planned as a frothy comedy, but Götterdämmerung (The Dame from the Gutter) went over budget and there were problems with the censors over Brunnhilde's bathroom immersion scene. Eventually it waited years for a full-scale production, and Wagner's long-time rival Joe Brahms said after seeing Act 1 "They should build a special theater for this one - miles from anywhere!"
In his old age Wagner returned to his roots and helped the careers of slapstick act Bruckner and Mahler, two old vaudevillians who based their act on familiar Wagner numbers interspersed with their own material. Bruckner was the straight-man, Mahler livened it up with a trombone.
Wagner composed a total of 13 operas, but since most of these are as long as about four standard ones, most reference books today declare he composed 52, plus two extra jokers to make a complete deck. Wagner's rarely performed other works include an early symphony, several independent overtures, song cycles, and racist pamphlets.
Among his most popular musical works are the music dramas "My Itchy Left Testicle" which he dedicated to his Genital Herpes., Löwenbräu which revolutionised the art of product placement, "Debussical," an operatic "neener-neener" to the French, and Camouflage which contains the aria "Nobody Likes Us, We Don't Care" which was later adopted as the Belgian national anthem. These examples illustrate that Wagner drew his inspiration from a variety of very, very strange sources, including his grandmother's attic and his non-Kosher Weimeraner, Adolf, of which Groucho Marx remarked that it was very dark inside.
Wagner invented the Leitmotif, which works by carelessly associating a tune with an emotion at the work's first performance, then making the tune available as a mobile phone ring tone so that members of the audience may freely introduce their favourite Leitmotivs at any time during subsequent performances. By this method, Wagner was able to finance virtually all of his late-in-life love affairs with any woman who looked sideways at him. He was also intensely fond of dressing up in women's clothes and covering himself in cheap perfume. It is said that he composed the entire score of PARSIFAL, an opera about abstinence and renunciation of the flesh, in this manner.
Wagner was an optimistic, happy-go-lucky sort of chap, whose operas all involve sin, redemption, death, sex, and bounteous cascades of blood. Holy Grails and Schopenhauer are usually worked in as well. The one exception is his comic opera, DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NURNBERG, which is his only opera to deal with real people, and ends with a paean to the glories of holy German art, far inferior to the degenerate art of Frenchmen and Jews.
List of operatic works
- Meine Tamia
- Eternal ( Ewige ) Tamia
- Triumph der Tamia Musik
- High School Musical (1832) a 4 hour long audio-visual diarrhea with no perceivable plot.
- Die Feen (1833) ('Fairy', a three-act tragic opera recounting the tale of the world-famous oven cleaner)
- Das Liebesverbot (1834) ('The Ban on Love')
- Das Fuhfeiteren mit Brunhilde (1837) ('Wagner on Stage featuring Foo Fighters and Christina Aguilera')
- Rienzi (1840) ('Six Hours of Incoherent Shouting')
- The Fleeing Dutchman (1843) (Starring Otto von Bismarck, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Adolf Hitler and his own son, Honus, planning an invasion of the Netherlands.)
- Tannhäuser? (1845) (An opera in three acts concerning the difficulties experienced by German solariums in the Middle Ages)
- Löwenbräu (1850) (A mysterious love-triangle drama set in a Bavarian brewery)
- Tristan und Isolde (1859) (Boring love story Wagner plagiarized from a movie he saw in 2006)
- The Rallies of Nuremberg aka The Master Race of Nuremberg (1868) (A touching love story featuring Adolf Hitler and Leni Riefenstahl, in which there is considerable touching)
- Debussical (1869) ('Debussy: The Musical Drama')
- Parsleyfall (1882) (Wagner's last opera about a happy land where rivers are filled with wholesome vegetables)
- Das Fie Meister (1748) Wagner's unparalelled masterpiece concerning the human traits of greed, distrust, exploitation, deceit and petty crassness. Alfie Scoggins, Creative Director of Der Gala Bingo described the 10-day cycle as "Our most challenging and absorbing production since we introduced free tea and coffee on a Sunday"
"' My Left Foot" "Das Fie Meister"
"Act I - Der Fie und der Jew"
- The Unicycle (Der Ring des Nibelungen) (1842-1874):
- Das Rheingold (An environmentalist organisation called Walhalla takes action to protect the Rhine River from contamination by extremely cheap beer)
- Die Walküre ('The Valkyrie')
- Siegfried (A heroic mass murderer goes around killing people and some dragons)
- Götterdämmerung ("Goddamn it all to holy hell")
An example of Wagner's style
Unlike the vast majority of opera composers, Wagner wrote the verbal texts for his operas himself. Music historians are still debating whether or not this was a wise approach. Audiences are not. Wagner's new habit effectively gassed the pleasure of going to the opera for a few hours to listen to nice music. He cruelly required the audience to pay attention to the action on stage (or, more accurately, he forced them to stay awake during the inaction on stage), the first documented example of a musical dictator.
Here is an extract from the libretto of The Valkyrie:
Wotan: Aye, the ancient vow has been broken; repaired it cannot be. Only the guilt remains, and the painful burden for the one who has the ancient vow broken.
Brünnhilde: Oh! Father!
Wotan: Broken is the ancient vow. The gods, me included, swore the vow, and now it has been broken. The guilt is the burden of the gods, who shall one day be destroyed for breaking the ancient vow, which should not have been broken. Yes, there remains no other option but to carry the burden of the broken vow that has been broken. I guess we are all going to be destroyed along with Walhalla. The painful burden rests on my shoulders, for I must carry it to the end of the world and to the end of this opera, may it come swiftly! The burden was put on my shoulders by myself and all the gods, when we broke the ancient vow that bound us together. (Taking a really deep breath) I must carry the burden myself, although its weight is shared by all the gods. Aye, I am the one who must bear the burden of the broken vow, for I was the one who broke it. Oh, and you have broken some rules and vows yourself as well, Brünnhilde, my daughter! Yes! You helped to kill that delirious bastard, Siegmund. Yes, yes, it was you, was it not, Brünnhilde, my daughter? Yes, it was you. You and I share the same burden, caused by the vows we have broken. The vows that have applied to us were different, but together we have both broken them altogether. It makes no difference. The ancient vows we have taken cannot be broken without consequences. Aye, consequences! You have broken your vow, I have broken mine, but it is irrelevant, for it is - and would be - enough to just declare that we have both broken vows and must face the consequences. Aye, consequences for breaking the ancient vows we have sworn ourselves to.
Brünnhilde: Oh! Father! You could go on and on yakking about the same crap for, well, last time it was two hours...Could you please move to the point? Please?!?
Wotan: I must carry the burden myself, although its weight is shared by all the gods. Aye, I am the one who must bear the burden of the broken vow, for I was the one who broke it. Oh, and you have broken some rules and vows yourself as well, Brünnhilde, my daughter? Yes! You helped to kill that delirious bastard, Hunding. Yes, yes, it was you, was it not, Brünnhilde, my daughter? Yes, it was you. You and I share the same burden, caused by the vows we have broken. The vows that have applied to us were different, but together we both broke them altogether. It makes no difference. The ancient vows we have taken cannot be broken without consequences. Aye, consequences! You have broken your vow, I have broken mine, but it is irrelevant, for it is - and would be - enough to just declare that we have both broken vows and must face the consequences. Aye, consequences for breaking the ancient vows we have sworn ourselves to. Aye, there you have my point, Brünnhilde, my daughter!
Brünnhilde: Oh! Father! I wish you did not have so many monologues to sing. Like the tonal center of the orchestra, your point is just irresolvable. I already have a headache and if Hunding were not dead yet, he would be after listening to your endless babbling.
Wotan: I only carry the burden for the vows I have broken. My monologues are written by that racist little lunatic, Richard. Suck it up and deal with it. But let us get back to my point. You killed Hunding. It was a serious offence, for you have simultaneously broken the ancient vow the gods have-
Brünnhilde: Well, so what if I killed Hunding? He was the biggest asshole on this side of the Rhine River. You should go and see how happy everyone is now that he is gone.
Wotan: Well, you know your mother. When she has ordered me to do something, I do not have a choice. This is not an opera based on logic. Thus, I put you fast asleep on this cliff and create a ring of fire to prevent anyone from waking you up. After doing this, I give up my position as chief god and become a wandering hermit for no apparent reason. On no account will I try to prevent all of us from being destroyed. How about that?
Wotan: Brünnhilde, my daughter! I did not put you to sleep yet!
Brünnhilde: It is not me, father. It is the audience.