By Raymond Furness
With their complex textures, rich harmonies and elaborate use of leitmotifs, the operas of Richard Wagner remain some of the most influential – and contentious – in the history of the genre. But while Wagner won enormous renown for what he achieved on the stage, his life was marked by political exile, turbulent love affairs, and intermittent poverty. Because Wagner and his music are exceedingly intertwined with the great upheavals of his time, it is difficult to produce an impartial assessment of his work.
Published in the bicentennial of his birth, Raymond Furness’s Richard Wagner provides a clear and balanced view of both Wagner’s great successes and the controversies generated by his life and art.
Using Wagner’s wide-ranging engagement with Germanic mythology and folk traditions as a starting point, this book explores the composer’s music and prose writings, delving deeply into Wagner’s essential operas, such as The Ring and Tristan and Isolde, and offering new insights. Because the great operatic pieces often overshadow the rest of Wagner’s compositions, Furness also considers neglected fragments like Wieland the Smith, The Mines at Falun and The Visitors, producing a more rounded critical picture of the composer.
With up-to-date dissections of recent Bayreuth productions and a refreshingly uncluttered approach to a much-misunderstood life, this book is a rewarding investigation of a true titan of European music.
Critical Lives/ Reaktion Books