RHS Lecture, Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, UCL, 2 July 2014
The (partial) unification of Germany as ‘The German Empire’ in 1871 was the great political event of Wagner’s life (1813-83). In August 1876 the new German Emperor William 1 went to Bayreuth to attend the first complete performance of The Ring of the Nibelung in the Festival Theatre Wagner had built for the purpose. The relationship between these two events, however, was much more problematic than the chronology suggests. In this illustrated lecture, Tim Blanning will argue that Wagner’s attitude to the new German state was highly critical, despite an initial burst of enthusiasm for Prussia during the war of 1870-1. He will pay particular attention to the influence of Friedrich Schiller and Constantin Franz, concluding with an examination of the much-misinterpreted final scene of The Mastersingers of Nuremberg.