I’ve just left Bayreuth, Germany, where the famed annual Wagner Festival began on Monday with Parsifal. Anticipation was high, the city on alert, as the Wagner-obsessed descended. After a few walks through town and visit to the newly-renovated Richard Wagner Museum and Wannfried House, the concept of Wagner seems to be punctiliously marketed (no doubt because the Wagner family estate still maintains powerful influence there). The Richard Wagner Museum’s audio tour carefully notes, for example, that despite Wagner’s blatant anti-semitism, “he had many Jewish friends.”A Bayreuth local mentioned to me in a whisper that some say Wagner’s music had an influence on Hitler–a understatement that surprised me given the widely-acknowledged association elsewhere. A favorite of mine, Stephen Fry’s notable 2015 documentary Wagner and Me is rooted in the reconciliation of the value of Wagner’s music (it’s magnificent, no denying it as far as I’m concerned) and Wagner’s problematic philosophy at large.
A plaque in the park below the Festspielhaus suggests that unrest nevertheless persists in Bayreuth.