Between Charity and Ecstasy
On love in Richard Wagner and Giacomo Puccini
“And there was nothing more tender on earth,” Thomas Mann has Hans Castorf say in his novel The Magic Mountain, as Castorf winds up a phonograph, puts on a record and enthuses over Puccini’s La bohème, while also paying tribute to Wagner’s minstrel Wolfram von Eschenbach and his secret love for Elisabeth. Puccini admired Wagner to the extent of quoting the Tristan chord in Manon Lescaut. But did Puccini, with his powerfully effective description of love, also pick up on the discourse on love that typifies a composer described by Adorno as “the most famous erotic artistic of the bourgeois world”? In 2022 the Munich Opera Festival focused on Richard Strauss and on the idea of time as what the Marschallin calls a “strange thing”, while in 2023 the focus shifted to Verdi, Wagner and the future of opera. In 2024 we shall be exploring Puccini’s and Wagner’s accounts of the most disparate aspects of love, an emotion that is one of opera’s central topoi. A varied programme of events will complement the performances of Parsifal, Tannhäuser, Tosca and La fanciulla del West. As in the past four critics will contribute to the discussion. On this occasion they are Eleonore Büning, Markus Thiel, Kai Luehrs-Kaiser and Serge Dorny. Lectures and discussions will examine themes such as the trials of love, bans on love, love-feasts and nights of love. And new light will be shed on the compositional affinities between Wagner and Puccini.