A huge panorama of Wagner's life and work, from before the 1848 Revolution, through his exile in Switzerland, his rescue by the besotted King Ludwig II of Bavaria to the final triumph at ...
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A huge panorama of Wagner's life and work, from before the 1848 Revolution, through his exile in Switzerland, his rescue by the besotted King Ludwig II of Bavaria to the final triumph at Bayreuth. Wagner's radical musical and political ideas, his German nationalism and even his anti-Semitism are set in the context of his life and times.Written by
Adrian Thorpe <email@example.com>
The composer William Walton has a cameo as King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony. Walton was about 80 at the time and plays the king as a doddering old fool. The real Frederick Augustus was only about 50 at the time of the action. See more »
When Ludwig is wading into the water to drown himself, automobiles are seen driving on a highway on the far shore. See more »
The only thing that would have made Richard Wagner's life complete is for his friend and patron King Ludwig of Bavaria to have become the Kaiser of a united Germany rather than that Hohenzollern bunch from Prussia. He'd have had it made if that was the case.
Wagner was a genius not only in the composition of music, but in the production end as well. He might well be regarded as the Cecil B. DeMille of grand opera, the themes he wrote about were epic in nature requiring productions that were also epic. Wagner was constantly in need of money to support his grand style of living that he felt a genius ought to indulge in, but also for his productions. He searched for years before lighting on the King of Bavaria who had grand ideas about high living and felt it an honor to be the grand patron of the foremost German composer of his time.
Richard Burton in this long mini-series has plenty of time and plenty of dialog to capture the character of Wagner in all its aspects. Good thing the man was a genius because no one else would have put up with his bad behavior. Friends were there to serve him, even giving up their wives for his occasional passion and in one case for his great love, second wife Cosima played by Vanessa Redgrave.
The three classical acting knights, Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, and John Gielgud are all ministers to King Ludwig played by Hungarian actor Laszlo Galffi. They turn in fine performances of men driven to their wit's end serving a king who bungles into a war with Prussia that he loses and at the same time bankrupts his country both in creating grand palaces as his ancestors lived and in bankrolling the genius of Wagner.
Richard Wagner's ideas of German superiority of raving anti-Semitism and of the unshakable belief in his own genius for good or ill reflected a lot of the bad in German culture. He was the Nazi's favorite composer and knowledge of that puts many off from his work today. Still his music does transcend the man and the one thing the mini-series Wagner has in abundance is his music. That and the multi-layered performance of Richard Burton is enough reason to watch Wagner even though it does bog down occasionally.
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