Thursday, June 25, 2009
Quite a bit of interest was stirred up by the announcement this week that Haus Wahnfried, the home built in Bayreuth, Germany by Richard Wagner, will be renovated and restored. A major tourist stop for opera lovers attending the Wagner Festival at Bayreuth, the house has been a museum for many years. It's a new exhibit that will be opened within the renovated museum that’s causing the stir.
The composer’s 29 year old great granddaughter Katherina Wagner, recently named co-director of the Bayreuth Festival along with her half sister Eva, will present an exhibit on the intimate relationship of the Festival and the family with Adolph Hitler. In particular Winifred Wagner, the composer’s widowed daughter-in-law who ran the Festival during the 1930s and the war years, was “in bed” at least metaphorically (some think literally) with Hitler and the Nazi regime, which used the Festival and the composer’s operas as major propaganda tools. The regime subsidized the Festival by purchasing huge blocks of tickets and sending troops from the army of the Reich to Bayreuth for R&R.
That much is pretty well known but as Katharina has also announced that the Festival archives will be made available for unrestricted scholarly research, the door is finally being opened to a full and honest revelation of the most difficult and disreputable period in the family-run Festival’s past.
While Wagner’s grandsons Wieland and Wolfgang (Eva and Katherina’s father) were placed in charge of reopening a presumably “deNazified” Festival in 1951 with the approval of American occupation authorities, the extent of their association with Hitler and approval of his policies has never been fully examined. The fact that a family member who is in control of things is making this move is of enormous importance.
“When I was growing up,” [Katherina] said, ” I was repeatedly confronted with this topic. Was my grandmother Hitler’s lover? To what extent was my father embroiled with Hitler? No one in the family ever spoke about it. If my sister [Eva Wagner-Pasquier] and I don’t ask the questions, who then will?” Katharina is currently seeking financial and organizational backing for the investigation, which she hopes will be completed in time for the 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth in 2013.
There are also plans to host a show next year on the expulsion of Jews from Germany’s opera houses and to set up a permanent exhibition some point in the future at Wahnfried, the composer’s former villa, that focuses on the relationship between the Nazis and Bayreuth.
From an internet news source
This interesting item was a birthday gift from Fritz's office manager who also does AIDS education in southern New Hampshire funded by a Federal grant. Any guesses as to what this might be? The answer is at the end of this post.
All the perennials for the garden were supposed to be delivered Wednesday of this week, after we had returned from Denver. Instead, through mixed signals, they arrived the previous Wednesday, probably during our flight out of Manchester, NH. Nicely grown in generously sized pots, what you see above is about half of the total, which is just above 100. We found them Sunday, the morning after we got back.
There was a design drawing of the location of each plant in the big garden plot in front of the house. I had made up markers--popsicle sticks with the name of each plant written in permanent marker--so we could do the layout and adjust things before putting the plants in.
Once the markers were in the ground, we placed each plant by its marker in readiness for the arrival Wednesday afternoon of the landscape designer of the landscaping scheme who was going to make adjustments in the layout as needed. This is what it looked like just before she came.
In consultation with us, she made quite a few adjustments. We think she was surprised at how organized we were because she mentioned that she was used to doing all the layout work herself. Having all the preliminary work done by the client allowed all the consultation and changes to be done in just an hour and a half. Yesterday morning we began planting and most of the work was finished yesterday afternoon; only six rose bushes remain to have their holes dug and be placed in the earth. Pictures of the completed planting in the next entry.
More on the trip. I had booked the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel through Travelocity for what I later discovered was about half the going rate for our room. It turned out the hotel was undergoing a $70 million renovation and lots of services weren't available. We were upgraded at the front desk to a suite, which was OK, but we discovered that even if the hotel weren't under renovation, niceties like WiFi in the rooms wasn't free but available for $10 a day plus tax. There were also a couple of very strange pieces of furniture and, for a suite that could sleep four, the single tiniest bathroom I think I've ever encountered in a hotel or motel anywhere in this country. There was a great view from our 17th floor windows, however:
All things considered, it wasn't so bad as we don't tend to hang out at the hotel a lot when there's a city to explore. We found this dear little house, now a lawyer's office, that got landmarked and survived the razing of the entire block on which it stands. Everything else is parking lot.
We'd be very interested to see how the block will eventually be developed around this house with its little garden behind that has to remain untouched because of its historical status.
Answer: it's for the garden, a house for mason bees. Not a hive, but a house for the eggs of a variety of bees that usually lay their eggs in holes bored in trees by beetles or pecked by woodpeckers. The bamboo tubes mimic the bored holes. The females retreat to the furthest depth of the tubes, lay eggs and then seal the opening of the tube with a plaster made of mud--the reason they're called mason bees. The young develop over the winter and break their way out when spring warmth wakes them. The bee house can then be cleaned out and prepared for a new breeding cycle the following fall.
Katherina Wagner is wise. Healthy families have privacy, sick families keep secrets.
In many ways, her family's struggle echoes that of the German nation. There is a profound sense that something shameful happened in the past, but few confront the fact that it happened as the result of human weakness and fear.
Germans (and the world through their eyes) need to see their ancestors not as monsters, nor as hapless victims of an evil spell, but as human beings capable of mistakes.
it is always good to have bees around
The Wagners are fascinating people.
I also provide houses for the mason bees.
Why does Teutonic anything still scare me. My fear keeps me from exploring the works of Wagner. I am I nutty?
If that disconnect is made, it is then possible to look at Wagner in relation to the culture and era in which he grew up, and in relation to the institutionalized anti-semitism of major Institutions such as the Papacy, the Catholic Church at large, and various governments going back at least to the Visigoths that had sponsored pogroms and/or other forms of persecution. Wagner may or may not emerge as any more appetizing, but he will almost inevitably be seen as no more anti-semitic than most others of the time, except that he wrote about it more and from a more public platform.
As to exploring Wagner's operas, the man wrote about himself and his work obsessively--he never once identified any character from his operas as representing a Jewish point of view or influence.