Bayreuth: A History of the Wagner Festival

Frederic Spotts

Bayreuth is the oldest and most famous of the music festivals. Wagner aficionados know complete scores, are able to detect any mistakes pertaining to performances, reserve their seats five years in advance and are able to endure hard, wooden seats for six-hour performances. This book tells the tale of this venerable edifice, and thus the tale of Wagner and his heirs, who continue to run Bayreuth to this day. Ranges from its construction to Wagner’s specifications in the 1870s to the premiere of The Ring in 1876, through its debasement during the Third Reich—which prompted Thomas Mann to term it “Hitler’s court theater”—to the present. JAT

Publisher: Yale University
Paperback: 334 pages

The Complete Operas of Richard Wagner

Charles Osborne

Wagner, the man and his music, are known for the passionate feelings, both positive and negative, which they inspire. One of the best single volumes from among the vast plethora of writing about Wagner, The Complete Operas of Richard Wagner provides detailed synopses, musical analyses, and liberal quotations from Wagner’s extensive writings and those of his contemporaries (including Franz Liszt, Edvard Grieg, and King Ludwig II, of Bavaria), and places each of Wagner’s 13 operas within a greater biographical and historical context. The Complete Operas of Richard Wagner vividly portrays both the creator and his creations with a level of objectivity often missing from other works about a man whose immense talent may have only been matched by his ego. JAT

Publisher: Da Capo
Paperback: 288 pages

My Life

Richard Wagner

A complete and authentic edition based on the manuscript was not published until 1963. Memoirs from Wagner’s birth in 1813 to 1864, a mid-career point where many of his greatest operas had yet to be written and the founding of Bayreuth was but a dream. As this accunt was composed principally for his wife Cosima and patron King Ludwig’s benefit, Wagner downplays the importance of past romantic liaisons and the value of career assistance received prior to Ludwig’s patronage: yet unflattering material in the memoir raises questions as to whether the memoir was in fact the malicious fabrication of his enemies. My Life has the feel of a lengthy and incredible oral saga spun by a master dramatist. JAT

Publisher: Da Capo
Paperback: 802 pages

Penetrating Wagner’s Ring: An Anthology

Edited by John Louis DiGaetani

The Ring of the Niebelung has proved to be one of the most enduring of operatic spectacles. This book presents the writings of such noted exports as Robert Donington, Ernest Newman, Andrew Porter and Sir Georg Solti encompassing a broad range of thought and viewpoints. An excellent, annotated bibliography, an annotated discography, and a Ring chronology are also included. JAT

Publisher: Da Capo
Paperback: 458 pages

The Perfect Wagnerite

George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw wrote The Perfect Wagnerite in 1898 and continued to revise it until 1923. With intelligence and ample doses of wit, Shaw freely interprets The Ring through his strongly socialist political filter. JAT

Publisher: Dover
Paperback: 136 pages

Wagner on Music and Drama

Albert Goldman and Evert Sprinchorn

Culled from Wagner’s prose writings, this text condenses the master’s writings to a single volume of approximately 400 pages, arranged into eight major subdivisions. The editors manage to make Wagner’s thoughts both accessible and coherent while faithfully reflecting his intentions. “Art was his religion and the theater its temple. Moral and spiritual values existed for him only insofar as his art might benefit from them.” JAT

Publisher: Da Capo
Paperback: 448 pages

Wagner: Race and Revolution

Paul Lawrence Rose

Argues that the German concept of revolution always contained a racial and anti-Semitic core. Dissecting and analyzing each of Wagner’s operas, the author presents a comprehensive collection of the anti-Semitic elements found within Wagner’s writings and operas. Links Wagner’s strain of anti-Semitism and revolution to the flowering of German Nationalism in the Third Reich. JAT

Publisher: Yale University
Hardback: 246 pages

Wagner’s “Ring” and Its Symbols: The Music and the Myth

Robert Donington

Often able to evoke both the excitement of the music and the action experienced in the theater, Wagner’s “Ring” and Its Symbols takes a Jungian approach in exploring The Ring and its mythological underpinnings. Includes an appendix of musical examples and selected motifs following the main discussion, allowing the reader to cross-refer to significant leitmotifs. JAT

Publisher: Faber and Faber
Paperback: 342 pages

Dancing Ledge

Derek Jarman

First in the series of memoirs by late filmmaker and artist Derek Jarman, Dancing Ledge charts Jarman’s growth as a man and artist. Starting with childhood memories as an army brat in occupied Italy after World War II and continuing through his years at public school and university, Jarman recounts his youth in a journal-like format. JAT

Publisher: Overlook
Hardback: 254 pages

At Your Own Risk

Derek Jarman

Second in the series of memoirs by late filmmaker and artist Derek Jarman, At Your Own Risk is a distillation of his philosophy of life and a witty guide to gay sexuality from the repressed ‘40s through the AIDS-chilled present. “Landscapes of time, place, memory, imagined landscapes. At Your Own Risk recalls the landscapes you were warned off: Private Property, Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted; the fence you jumped, the wall you scaled, fear and elation, the guard dogs and police in the shrubbery, the byways, bylaws, do’s and don’ts, Keep Out, Danger, get lost, shadowland, pretty boys, pretty police who shoved their cocks in your face and arrested you in fear.” JAT

Publisher: Overlook
Paperback: 314 pages