In the life and career of Richard Wagner, both Beethoven and Shakespeare played a vital formative role. A considerable amount of attention has been devoted to the creative bond between Wagner and the other German composer, Nilges argues, but the impact of Shakespeare on Wagner’s drama, his libretti, his music and his view of the theatre has been largely neglected so far. There was Margaret Inwood’s substantial “amateur study” (Liebhaber-Studie) of 1999, devoted to the “influence” of Shakespeare on Wagner, but Nilges believes that its traditional approach may in part explain why it has failed to have an impact on Shakespeare or Wagner studies, and why a new attempt was due.
Nilges begins her book with an in-depth analysis of Leubald, the excentric stage play that Wagner wrote in his teens, and which, as the composer himself remarked in his autobiographical writings, brought together strands from four Shakespearean plays: Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, and the first part of Henry IV. With a degree of accuracy that commands respect, Nilges illustrates that the traces of yet another five Shakespearean plays may be detected. As a consequence, Wagner’s collage of the mid-1820s enables one to discern new continuities in his life and work, and to antedate the biographical ‘origins’ of a number of ideas. The addition here of A Midsummer Night’s Dream proves vital for the later development of Nilges’ argument.
In this monograph much attention is also devoted to Wagner’s second opera, Das Liebesverbot (1836), based rather freely on Measure for Measure in an unambiguous attempt to support the demand for a life of free sensuality, as propagated at the time of its composition by the Junges Deutschland movement, and captured, for Wagner, in Wilhelm Heinse’s Italo-oriented Ardinghello. The Heinse context has long been taken to explain the opera’s change of setting from Angelo’s strict Vienna to a Palermo whose population is preparing for the carnival season. Nilges rightly complements this standard reading with the observation that Ardinghello, too, belongs to the German Shakespeare tradition, playing, among other things, on the individual’s identification with the festive Falstaff. Hence, it seems appropriate to dub Wagner’s Liebesverbot also as a “Falstaffication” of Measure for Measure. Nilges’ lengthy and lucid analysis of the plot changes, the Wagnerian shifts in characterization, and the composer’s creative response to the original play’s imagery are exhaustive and recommendable.
|Ausgabe / Jahr:||2 / 2008|
Seiten 414 - 416
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