Autograph Letter - Richard Wagner

WAGNER, Richard (1813-1883). Autograph letter signed to [the conductor and composer Heinrich Esser], 78, rue de Lille, Légation de Prusse, [Paris], n.d. [24 July 1861].

In German. Four pages (182 x 134mm), bifolium, (old tape repairs on pp. 2-3). Provenance: Edwin Franko Goldman collection.

Plans for the projected premiere of Tristan und Isolde in Vienna. Wagner writes that a pressing invitation from Franz Liszt to attend a performance of Wagner’s orchestral compositions in Weimar obliges him to put off an intended trip to Vienna. Nevertheless, Wagner urges that the delay be used to enable the principal performers, the tenor Alois Ander and the soprano Marie Luise Dustmann-Meyer, to study the roles with the aid of Wagner’s close friend Peter Cornelius, to whom he has explained the nuances of the score. Thereafter the greatest difficulties lie with the orchestra, where again Wagner emphases the absolute need for preparation and study of the score. Wagner concludes with an expression of longing to be in Vienna, and hopes that Esser has recovered his health after a recent cure: he himself has been unwell since his last trip to Vienna, but feels that a return to his friends there will be the best cure.

I have privately asked Cornelius, who has studied the score in great detail, to work with both Ander and Frau Dustmann. If this is done beforehand with zeal and goodwill on the part of these two artists whom I so highly value, and especially if they have overcome the difficulties of intonation and of the combination of parts [die Schwierigkeiten der Intonation und des Treffens], much would be gained. For these two parts are by far the most difficult, and if Brangäne has also been prepared somewhat, I think the remaining parts should not take much time.

The attempt to stage Tristan und Isolde at the Vienna Court Opera was perhaps the most painful episode in its difficult gestation: in the event, Alois Ander proved incapable of mastering the role of Tristan, and in spite of over 70 rehearsals between 1862 and 1864 the projected production had to be abandoned. The premiere finally took place in Munich on 10 June 1865. Published (and date supplied) in R. von Seydlitz-München, ‘Richard Wagner und das K.k. Hofoperntheater in Wien mit Benutzung bisher unveröffentlichter Briefe Wagners aus den Jahren 1858-1870‘ in Die Musik, 11th series, vol. 44, 1911-12. The correspondence was then still in the possession of the Esser family.


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