“A rough, never-ending love scene”

No, no and again no! Today I must not rest, for 149 years ago today, perhaps the most decisive encounter in richard wagner's life took place in munich, a life which, as is well known, was by no means lacking in decisive encounters: on the afternoon of 4. May 1864 king ludwig ii received me. In the munich residence, the poet-composer, whose writings and works he had admired from an early age and whom, after he had become king of bavaria at the age of only eighteen, he had sought from a high-ranking court official, was dear to him. Wagner had just fled from vienna at that time because of his debts.

Because wagner's two-volume autobiography my life just on 3. The letter of may 1864 ends, but in his own words there are only brief comments about this legendary meeting. That same day, at the hotel bayerischer hof, he wrote to his mother's friend eliza wille, with whom he had just spent a few days in swiss safety:

"dearest friend! I would be the most ungrateful person if i did not immediately report my boundless happiness to you! You know that the young king of bavaria loves to visit me. Today I was taken to him. He is, alas, so beautiful and spiritual, soulful and glorious, that I fear that his life must be lost like a cursed goddess's dream in this common world. He loves me with the intimacy and ardor of first love: he knows and knows all of me, and understands me as my soul. He wants me to stay with him forever, to work, to rest, to carry out my works; he wants to give me everything I need for this; I am to finish the nibelungen, and he will carry them out as I wish. I am to be my absolute master, not a bandmaster, nothing but me and his friend. And he understands everything seriously and exactly, as if we both, I and she, were talking to each other. All need shall be taken from me, I shall have what I need – only with him shall I stay. What do you say? – what do you say? – it is not unheard of? – this can be other than a dream? – think how moved I am! A thousand heartfelt greetings! My luck is so rough that I am quite shattered by it. You cannot imagine the magic of his eye: if only it remains alive; it is a miracle that is too unimaginable!" And in the postscript it still says: "do not spread anything! Nothing in the newspapers! Everything is intimate and should remain so!"

The next day, he wrote to his less maternal friend mathilde maier: "see here the picture of a wonderful young man whom fate has destined to be my heir. It's the one we expected, the one that had to be there, but the one I'm already amazed to find … Our meeting yesterday was a rough, never-ending love scene. He is from the deepest understanding of my being u. My needs. He offers me everything I need to live, to create, to build up my works. Only his friend shall i be: no employment, no functions. He is the perfect ideal of my desires. (…) and thief now – now – in this blackest night of death of my existence!! I am crushed!"

The meeting was a success, as otto strobel, editor of the five-volume correspondence between king ludwig II and his wife, explains. And wagner* describes, with both of them, an indelible impression: "had you been able to be a witness"?, a few days later, the king told his base and future bride, duchess sophie charlotte in bavaria, "how his thanks shamed me when i reached out to him with the assurance that his great work on the nibelungen would not only be completed, but would also be performed according to his wishes, and that i would faithfully see to it. Then he bent low on my hand and seemed moved by what was so natural, for he remained in the position for a long time without saying a word. I had the feeling that we had swapped roles. I bent down to him and drew him to my heart with a feeling as if I were reciting for myself the oath: to remain faithfully bound to him for all time."

Even before the personal meeting, immediately after the first conversation with cabinet secretary franz seraph von pfistermeister, who had found him in the hotel marquardt in stuttgart, wagner addressed his very first letter to the "your gracious king": "i am sending you these thrones of heavenly glory to tell you that the wonders of poetry have now entered my poor, love-needy life like a divine reality! – and this life, his last poems and sounds now belong to you, my gracious young king: dispose of it as your own property! In the highest of disgust, faithful and true your subject richard wagner.

The dear king promised him after the meeting on the 5. May 1864 in writing not only a suitable apartment, but much more: "be convinced, i will do everything in my power to compensate you for past sufferings. – I will forever banish from their heads the lowly cares of everyday life, I will prepare for them the longed-for peace, so that they can unfold the powerful wings of their genius undisturbed in the pure ether of their blissful art! – unconsciously you have been the only source of my joys from my tender youth, my friend who spoke to my heart like no one else, my best teacher and educator. – i will repay you with everything i have! – oh, how I have looked forward to the time when I could do thievery! – i hardly dared to hope that i would soon be able to prove my love to you."

Even though their relationship was always clouded – and not only because wagner was to lie to the king for years about his then beloved cosima von bulow – ludwig's proofs of love are truly royal: thanks to his protection, wagner was able to premiere in munich the opera tristan und isolde and the meistersinger, which until then had been considered unperformable. Thanks to ludwig, wagner was finally able to devote himself to the completion of the ring tetralogy and his "world farewell work" without having to worry about money parsifal, it was thanks to the money from ludwig's private purse that those two world-famous wagner buildings could be erected in bayreuth, which, of all places, were built in the year of wagner's jubilee as a provisional or "temporary" building. Real building site shine – what's under the "kini which I am sure never happened. "And when we are both long gone", wrote ludwig on 4. August 1865 prophetically "our work will serve as a shining example for posterity, which will set the centuries on fire, and hearts will glow with enthusiasm for the art that originated in god, the eternal living god!"

*The brieechsel comprises around 600 documents and covers the period from 1864 to the beginning of 1883. According to volume I of the so-called konigsbriefe, wagner wrote 258 letters, 14 poems, 4 other letters and 70 telegrams to the king, ludwig II. Again addressed to wagner 183 letters (of which 3 contain poems), 2 poems and 86 dispatches (including another poem). The five-volume documentation, edited by the then wahnfriedarchivar otto strobel, first appeared between 1936 and 1939; the wittelsbacher ausgleichsfonds and winifred wagner were the publishers. While this collection of letters is, if at all, only available in antiquarian form, at least parts of it, namely from volume 16 onward, are already available in the complete edition of letters published by breitkopf & co hartelvor: richard wagner's "velvet letters are expected to comprise 34 volumes; omitting volumes 20 and 21, the edition has now reached volume 22.

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