chapter  6
11 Pages

How to do Things with Music Criticism

Performances of Victory in German Wagner Reception, 1918–1933
ByÁine Sheil

The connection between Wagner and militarism is easily made, particularly since Francis Ford Coppola's use of "The Ride of the Valkyries" in Apocalypse Now (1979) at the point when American military helicopters attack a Vietnamese village. In a sense, though, any acknowledgement of Wagner's finely wrought instrumentation or complex dramatic themes pales in the face of one particular association. In August 1933, the first performance at that year's Bayreuth Festival was of Die Meistersinger, with Hitler in attendance. This annual festival in the northern Bavarian town of Bayreuth was founded in 1876 by Wagner himself, and is still in existence. It stages only Wagner opera and has always been artistically directed by a member of the Wagner family. Although Wagner began a first prose draft of Die Meistersinger as early as 1845, the bulk of his work on the opera, including subsequent prose drafts and composition of the music, was undertaken in the 1860s.