Wagner and the Erotic Impulse

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2012-05-07
  • Publisher: Harvard Univ Pr
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Though his image is tarnished today by unrepentant anti-Semitism, Richard Wagner (18131883) was better known in the nineteenth century for his provocative musical eroticism. In this illuminating study of the composer and his works, Laurence Dreyfus shows how Wagner's obsession with sexuality prefigured the composition of operas such as Tannhäuser, Die Walküre, Tristan und Isolde, and Parsifal. Daring to represent erotic stimulation, passionate ecstasy, and the torment of sexual desire, Wagner sparked intense reactions from figures like Baudelaire, Clara Schumann, Nietzsche, and Nordau, whose verbal tributes and censures disclose what was transmitted when music represented sex. Wagner himself saw the cultivation of an erotic high style as central to his art, especially after devising an anti-philosophical response to Schopenhauer's "metaphysics of sexual love." A reluctant eroticist, Wagner masked his personal compulsion to cross-dress in pink satin and drench himself in rose perfumes while simultaneously incorporating his silk fetish and love of floral scents into his librettos. His affection for dominant females and surprising regard for homosexual love likewise enable some striking portraits in his operas. In the end, Wagner's achievement was to have fashioned an oeuvre which explored his sexual yearnings as much as it conveyed-as never before-how music could act on erotic impulse.

Author Biography

Laurence Dreyfus is Professor of Music at University of Oxford and a Fellow of Magdalen College.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Abbreviationsp. xv
Echoesp. 1
Music and Eros
Søren Kierkegaard
Suggestive Music
Peculiarities of Musical Erotics
Charles Baudelaire
Friedrich Nietzsche and Malwida von Meysenbug
Édouard Schuré and Hans von Bülow
Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld
Gabriele D'Annunzio and Thomas Mann
WagnerÆs critics
Clara Schumann
Intentionsp. 40
Julius Kapp and Ernest Newman
Das Liebesverbot
Salvation from Arousal
Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient
Arthur Schopenhauer
Opera, Not Philosophy
Harmoniesp. 73
Der Fliegende Holländer
Erotics in the Literary Sources
A Tour of the Venusberg
Love in the Ring Poem
Die Walküre
Tristan und Isolde
The Tristan Chord
Musical Paradigms in the Tristan Prelude
Tristan, Act II
Renunciations of Love
Die Meistersinger and Götterdämmerung
Pathologiesp. 117
Theodor Puschmann
Nietzsche the Pathologist
Worries about Masturbation
Pink Satin and Rose Perfumes
Wagner and His Milliners
Judith Gautier
Julius Cyriax
Fetishism and Cross-dressing
Fabric and Perfumes in the Operas
James Gibbons Huneker
Paul Lindau, Max Kalbeck, and Paul Heyse
Berthold Auerbach and Daniel Spitzer
Max Nordau and Theodor Herzl
Otto Weininger
Effeminacy and Jewishness
Homoeroticsp. 175
Paid von Joukowsky and Pepino
Henry James
Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Oscar Panizza
Hanns Fuchs and the ôHomosexual in Spirit"
Homosexual Sensibilities in German Literature
Ludwig II of Bavaria
Rejection of Pederasty
Signs of Romantic Friendship
King Marke
Wagner and His Romantic Friends
Epiloguep. 218
Appendix: Musical Examplesp. 225
Notesp. 243
Indexp. 261
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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