©2008 NewFoundations

Wagner On "Woman"

edited 8/19/11

Wagner pioneered the fusion of text and music in opera, calling his works “music dramas” to highlight this new genre. Drawing upon Germanic myth and legend as well as the works of German poets and thinkers, Wagner sought to create a new national mythology as a counterpoint to the decline of Western civilization. Many consider him the greatest operatic genius of all time.

Wagner’s relations with women were colored by an acute mother fixation. His letters to his mother bordered on the incestuous, and later in his life he was attracted only to “attached” women. He boasted that, despite his two marriages and numerous affairs, he never had an “untouched” woman in his life.

Reflecting this confusion of the maternal and the erotic, his monumental works mirror his personal conflicts and experiences with women. An inveterate womanizer and consummate cad, Wagner consoled his humiliated first wife by assuring her that “your suffering will be rewarded by my fame.”



Richard Wagner (18l3-1883) -- Pioneer German composer principally known for his monumental four-opera cycle Der Ring der Nibelungen


Women are the music of life; they take up everything with opener mind and less reserve, to beautify it through their love of others.
-- Letter, December 1849

Only the ladies, those who have stayed entirely what they are at birth, can teach us; and were it not for them, we men should go irreclaimably to ground.
-- Letter, March 1850

A political man is repellent, but a political woman is a thing of horror.
-- Letter, January 30, 1852

In history there are no more cruel phenomena than political women.
-- Letter, January 30, 1852

A woman, with her strong natural desire to love, must love something.
-- Letter, January 30, 1852

The dear Lord might have done better to exclude women from his creation; they are awfully seldom of any use; but mostly, as a rule, they harm us, and in the end derive no profit for themselves.
-- Letter, May 22, 1860

My suffering . . . tells me that man’s love is deeper than woman.
-- Letter, August 31 , 1865

This, the enigmatic effect of a woman’s eyes with the peace of ignorance in them, a cooling gentleness, the certainty of narrow mindedness; this, suddenly confronting the unbridled imagination of his contentiously-craving man’s heart, has a shaming, confusing, subduing effect.
-- Diary, August 9, 1868