Today is the 205th birthday of German composer Richard Wagner who was born the 22 May 1813 in Leipzig.
I‘m an avowed fan of Wagner‘s works and I‘m fighting against his image as the favorite composer of Adolf Hitler. When Hitler was born, Wagner had been dead for six years. In opposite to what most people think because it’s wrongly purported, Wagner wasn’t Hitler’s favorite composer because they shared the same antisemitism but because of his focus on mythology and mystery that Hitler’s entire staff as well as Hitler himself were crazy about.
Richard Wagner’s music and imagery heavily influenced my childhood and later my own imaginary world as I am – I have always been – susceptible to romantic subjects. Another reason why Hitler loved Wagner and why many Germans have been refusing him later was the concept of Hans Sachs’ final monologue in the opera “The Master Singers of Nuremberg” where he says: “Give honor to the German masters (…). What is true and authentic nobody would know if it didn’t live in the (concepts) of the German masters”, talking about cultural issues and issues of the teaching of art. Against all voluntarily false interpretation, this is not a hymn to Germany in Hitler’s sense. First of all, Wagner’s Germany was pretty different from the one Hitler found, also in terms of territories and the concept of what Germany was at all. Second, what did he actually say that he expressed poetically? He warned about not learning and not considering the traditions, while the entire opera is actually a hymn to the future and the transformation of culture based on talented people’s works. His advice goes that those talented people should base their works on tradition or better, they should first learn the bases and then amplify or break the rules, exactly like Wagner did, but also Mozart or Tchaikovsky, later Schönberg and Bartók did so, just to name a few. A valuable work that influences a people over time is necessarily a new interpretation of older knowledge, throwing away what’s no longer needed. This is what a genius does, and this is the big difference between Mozart and Salieri.
Returning to Hans Sachs and the Master Singers of Nuremberg, we’re living today the exact result of what happens if any country or culture forgets those principles. In a world where everything is being heavily influenced by one single culture, where almost everything has become “Western” in the name of the god of money, cultures and traditions have been destroyed in countries that now lost their roots. The energy swashes back and brings those rootless desperate people into Europe and elsewhere where they find peoples who have long been told that their cultural roots aren’t important. Again it’s about money and power and not about values.
So The Master Singers of Nuremberg is a German opera and talks about Germany or what Germany was at that time. But what’s said can be translated to just every country of the world. Culture grows with the exchange between different cultures, that is a fact. But if you don’t value what you have or are blinded by things that have no deeper meaning like merely consumerist goods, you’ll have a society that doesn’t know what’s true anymore and being foul inside, it will be cracked open and destroyed by others who eventually have the same problem. Isn’t it exactly what we’re living?