De-Nazification and De-Wagnerization: Hitler's Legacy at Wieland Wagner's Bayreuth
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SubjectSewanee, Tennessee; Department of History, University of the South; Adolf Hitler; Richard Wagner; Wieland Wagner; Bayreuth; Opera; National socialism; Nazism; Anti-Semitism
AbstractRichard Wagner is and will probably always be one of the most controversial figures of the nineteenth century. A composer of undeniable brilliance, his reputation in the twentieth century has been scarred by a perceived connection between the illustrious creator of Der Ring des Nibelungen and Adolf Hitler. What reinforces this commonly held idea of intellectual and artistic kinship between these two men? What was the extent of the relationship between Hitler and Wagner’s daughter-in-law, the English-born and strikingly anti-Semitic Winifred Wagner, a woman who idealized the National Socialist powerhouse yet kept the Bayreuth Festival free of Nazi interference? Both of these questions were answered—or, at least, valiantly addressed—by Winifred’s son, Wieland Wagner, whose iconic opera productions at Bayreuth from 1951 to the mid-1960s not only place him firmly among the geniuses of modern theatre but also at a crucial point in understanding the hazy Hitler-Wagner tangent as well as the extent of Wagner’s own oft-misunderstood anti-Semitism.
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