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Signed book, First edition

Richard WAGNER Oper und Drama

Richard WAGNER

Oper und Drama

Verlagsbuchhandlung von J.J. Weber, Leipzig 1869, 14,5x23cm, relié.

| Inscribed copy concealing the secret truth of Wagner's (thwarted) love story |

Second edition, with parts previously unpublished, with a new preface (“An Constantin Frantz”, dated April 28, 1868, Tribschen bei Luzern).
The first edition was published by the same publisher in 1852.

Full burgundy morocco binding, spine with five raised bands, gilt date at foot, marbled endpapers and pastedowns, gilt turn-ins, original first softcover preserved, top edge gilt, gilt top edge.
Some foxing, more pronounced on some leaves, a small restoration to the upper right-hand corner on pages IX-XIV not affecting the text, pencil annotation on pages 116 and 139, skillful restorations to head and foot of the upper joint.

Exceptionally and intimately signed and inscribed by Richard Wagner to a mysterious dedicatee:

« Hierbei sollst du meiner gedenken, denn alles habe ich ernstlich gemeint. R. W. »
[At this you shall remember me, for I have meant everything seriously].

This moving autograph confession, with its highly personal tone written on the most important of his theoretical writings, radically differs from the hasty “Zur Erinnerung” written by the composer on his opera scores, or the little notes he used to hand out to patrons after concerts.
We did not find any other inscribed copies of Oper und Drama on the market or in public institutions. However, the composer's autobiography and correspondence reveal the existence of two dedications on this major work. The first was addressed to Theodor Uhlig on the original manuscript with an autograph inscription inspired by Goethe. The second and only other inscription mentioned in a letter from Wagner is said to have been made for Malwida von Meysenbug on the same edition as our copy. Although it is not impossible this could be the very same inscription, written on the “book of all books on music”, according to Richard Strauss, the style and content of the inscribed words allow for an even more prestigious attribution.
In February 1851, Wagner completed Oper und Drama. This “very solid book” – as described in a letter to Franz Liszt – sets out the revolutionary principles of Leitmotiv and Gesamtkunstwerk, political and aesthetic utopia of a musical drama acting as a synthesis of the Arts. The text is part of his Zürcher Kunstschriften, three seminal essays written during his Swiss exile, along with “Kunstwerk der Zukunft” and “Die Kunst und die Revolution”. He outlines in his treatises the shape of his future “scenic festival” – the celebrated Ring, and includes his reflections on the relationship between art and society, as well as his theories on the future of opera. In 1868, he decided to complete the composition of this monumental tetralogy, and simultaneously worked on the second edition of Oper und Drama published at the end of 1868 – mistakenly stated on the cover as 1869. In the end, it differed from the previous edition only in its new preface – the very few changes proving once more the permanence of his musical and artistic vision almost twenty years after it was first written. Wagner will tirelessly defend and promote his ideas which found their ultimate achievement during the 1876 Bayreuth festival.
This second corrected edition with a revised preface is an integral part of the artist's creative process, giving his reflections the status of a political and musical manifesto, as evidenced by the intimate and enigmatic dedication on our copy.
The importance of this work in the eyes of the composer, the absence of any explicit attribution to the inscription's recipient, the use of the familiar form of address and the content of the message confirm the importance of the dedicatee and his place within the author's inner circle.
Among the personalities around the master at the time of this inscription, several may have inspired these words.
Friedrich Nietzsche is undoubtedly the most important. He met Wagner for the first time that same year. At the very time of publication, he was staying with his mentor in Tribschen, where the two geniuses experienced intense artistic and intellectual emulation. We know Oper und Drama had a lasting influence on him and, even more so, Nietzsche himself probably possessed this second edition which he recommends to his friend Erwin Rohde in a letter dated November 25, 1868. He praised the work on several occasions in his correspondence, particularly in the months following its publication.

We might also think of composer Franz Liszt, who remained an important artistic and financial support, as well as a close friend of Wagner. The composer even settled permanently with Liszt and Marie d'Agoult's daughter Cosima in November 1868, when this edition was published.

Wagner's most important patron Ludwig II of Bavaria had read Oper und Drama's first edition with great attention from the age of thirteen, as stated in his diaries. In the year of his friend's much-appreciated second edition of Oper, Wagner sent the score of Siegfried to the music-loving sovereign Ludwig, who will eventually help achieve his artistic vision by financing the Bayreuth festival.

Originally part of the library of French writer Léon Daudet, our copy could also have been dedicated to his renowned father Alphonse Daudet. Wagner indeed had a great admiration for the latter, as reported by Hugues Le Roux in the newspaper Le Temps on May 7, 1887: “I then remembered having once heard M. de Fourcaud, say to Alphonse Daudet on his return from Bayreuth: 'You know that Wagner has your portrait on his table. And even though you're not a member of the musical fraternity, he's doing you the honor of asking for your vote. One of the last times I saw him, he asked me: “Does Daudet love me?”
Daudet, the author of Contes du lundi, had coined the term “Wagnerian”, and enthusiastically shared this admiration:
“I find the musician [Wagner] above all else. You're there, sitting in your armchair, bathed in that German fog, and all of a sudden, in the orchestra, the prodigious wave, the groundswell rises up, taking you, rolling you, carrying you wherever it wants, without any possible resistance, with a hundred thousand feet of music over your head. What phrases would you like this elemental voice to sing? I've never felt so well that music is an inarticulate language; the only words you could get this shadowy mouth to utter would be words without sequence, labels for situations or feelings, like “sea... tears... mourning... war...”
Although we failed to find any evidence to support this attribution, their immense mutual esteem explains the presence of such a copy in the Daudet library, regardless of the circumstances of its arrival in this prestigious collection.

However, these hypotheses might be contradicted by the familiar, even intimate tone of the inscribed words: in his correspondence, Wagner was not in the habit of using the first-person form of address when writing to his friends, except for Liszt, his close friend since 1849. He was indeed known for his sparing use of this kind of rhetoric intimacy – this inscription being one of a few exceptional occurrences. Wagner's choice of a familiar tone all the while failing to name the recipient is certainly intentional and may indicate the scandalous or at least secret nature of his relationship. It is thus reasonable to suppose that the inscription was intended for a mistress, lover, patron or muse – all the more so since the very content of Oper und Drama is an ode to women's musical identity.
 “Music is a woman. The nature of woman is love: but this love is the love that receives and gives itself unreservedly in conception”
The provenance of our copy opens up a first 'feminine' lead. It could have been dedicated to Pauline Viardot, who received letters in German from Wagner and sang Ysolde's part accompanied at the piano by the composer himself. Viardot could have subsequently offered her precious copy to Alphonse Daudet, during one of his regular visits to Villa Viardot in La Celle-Saint-Cloud, a known meeting place for European intelligentsia.

Other female personalities who may have received these precious words from the composer include Julie Ritter, first female patron of Wagner's Zurich years. It could also be intended for Malwida von Meysenbug, present at the premiere of The Mastersingers of Nuremberg (1868). Wagner sent her a copy of Oper und Drama's second edition as evidenced in a letter addressed to her dated January 11, 1869.

Another possible recipient would be Judith Gautier, an avid Wagnerian who met Wagner in Tribschen shortly after the publication of this edition. Finally, Mathilde van Wesendonk is also worth mentioning as she inspired his Wesendonk-Lieder for which she wrote the lyrics and received an inscribed score of The Mastersingers in 1868.

These few friends, patrons, lovers are all likely to be the prestigious recipients of this exceptional copy. However, none of them is regularly addressed by the author in the familiar form, apart from Liszt who was already perfectly familiar with this text.

One of the only people the composer addressed familiarly in these years was his thwarted love Mathilde Maier, a notary's daughter he had met at his publisher's in Mainz in 1862. Wagner had nurtured an all-consuming passion for the young woman, who categorically refused to give herself to him and ignored his empty promises of a life together, as long as his wife Minna was alive and refused divorce. The time of this inscription between 1868-1869, marks a decisive turning point in Wagner's life. Abandoned by Maier, he moved in with Liszt's daughter Cosima, following the latter's divorce from conductor Hans von Bülow. Now living in Tribschen, where he probably wrote the inscription, Wagner remained attached to Mathilde, the tragically unattainable young German beauty who inspired Eva of The Mastersingers.
He continued to exchange a somewhat heated correspondence with Maier, his “best treasure” (“besten Schatz”). Their letters show Wagner was accustomed to sending her his recently published works, and took her opinion to heart: “Now I can't wait to hear what you have to say about the Judenthum [his essay published immediately after this second edition of Oper und Drama]”, he wrote on February 27, 1869. Unfortunately, only the envelopes of the letters to Maier have survived from the time of the inscription – at the end of 1868. These letters were undoubtedly censored by Maier herself, as she was known to have deleted other indecent passages from their correspondence.
Among Wagner's intimates, Mathilde Maier is one of the only people the composer familiarly addressed in 1868. The perfect coincidence between the inscription's style and the letters to his muse, the date of the book, the importance of the confidence, the relevance of addressing this second edition to a woman too young to have read the first, are all elements that lead us to privilege Mathilde Maier among the rare potential recipient of this unique copy: Nietzsche, Liszt, Ludwig II of Bavaria, Pauline Viardot, Julie Ritter, Malwida von Meysenbug, Judith Gautier or Mathilde van Wesendonk.
Wagner, the first and most famous commentator on his own musical work, probably addressed “the most important of his theoretical writings” to his muse and inspiration for The Mastersingers of Nuremberg: Mathilde Maier. Thus, this superb autograph confession conceals the secret truth of their story of thwarted love. Beyond the tumultuous love of Wagner's life, this copy rekindles a unique and unalterable bond between two beings separated by circumstances although united by their love of music and ideas.
Provenance: Library of Léon Daudet.

30 000 €

Réf : 83415



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