Wagner's Antichrist Crashes a Pagan Party

Richard Taruskin

in The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2008 | ISBN: 9780520249776
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942790 | DOI:
Wagner's Antichrist Crashes a Pagan Party

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At the War Memorial Opera House, the San Francisco Opera stir up pagan ecstasy with several complete cycles of Richard Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung. Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony celebrates the life and times of Igor Stravinsky, who loved to bill himself as Wagner's Antichrist, and for whom the Ring, with its miasmic vapors and its labyrinth of leitmotives, amounted to nothing more than a sort of vast musical city directory. Everybody feels oppressed during a Wagner performance. Against Wagner, Stravinsky offered Chabrier, Gounod, Delibes, Bizet, exactly the counterbid Chaikovsky had endorsed sixty years before, updated by a fresh pair of names: Andre Messager, a composer of operettas, and Henri Sauguet, the youngest composer in Sergey Diaghilev's stable. Like any composer's anti-Wagnerianism, Stravinsky's was not only political but also personal, and it crystallized a little albeit very little before World War I.

Keywords: Richard Wagner; antichrist; Ring of the Nibelung; Michael Tilson Thomas; San Francisco; Igor Stravinsky

Chapter.  2726 words. 

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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