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The University of Southampton

Wagner, Reputation, and the Question of Canon, Paris, 1860–1910 Seminar

11 October 2011
Room 1079, Building 2 Highfield Campus

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Dr Florian Scheding at .

Event details

By 1900 the music of Richard Wagner was performed in Europe as widely as had been the case for Ludwig van Beethoven or Giaochino Rossini. That happened largely because excerpts from Wagner’s operas were performed so often in concerts, variously at orchestral series, benefit concerts, recitals, and promenade concerts.

The pieces ranged from the overtures to individual solos to an act or the concert version of a full opera. Endless repetition of the best-known pieces developed a wider and commercially more potent public than stagings of Tristan und Isolde or Götterdammerung. Franz Liszt’s transcriptions and fantasies of music by Wagner became standard répertoire, stimulating violinists as well as pianists to make arrangements. Singers sought out little-known pieces by Wagner such as the songs he set to words by Victor Hugo and Pierre de Ronsard while in Paris as a young man. Thus was Wagner’s music recognized in canonic terms originally in Parisian concert world. The extreme popularity of his music forced the Opéra de Paris to introduce Lohengrin in 1891, thirty years after the failed performance of Tannhäuser.

Important questions arise as to where Wagner’s reputation stood when he died in 1883. On the one hand, what standing did he achieve among the composers of “classical” music performed in concerts? On the other hand, did he join a canon in opera? Is it indeed appropriate to speak of such a phenomenon in that world? This problem can be studied in particular depth in Paris, since the most significant debate Europe-wide arose over Wagner's music at the Opéra de Paris. I will focus on three periods: the 1860s, the 1880s, and the decade prior to World War One.

Speaker information

William Weber, California State University Long Beach. Professor of History

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