Coloratura Christian

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. (Psalm 34:4-5)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Those Crazy Composers

I found out a few days ago that I passed my ARCT voice exam, so now I'm cramming to complete the history and theory components (I'm scheduled to write them on August 11 & 12.)

As I study the life and music of Romantic and 20th century composers, I am getting a little depressed because it seems that many of the genius composers are either somewhat crazy, totally crazy or even evil crazy.

Take for instance Richard Wagner (1813-1883). I LOVE his music, but the man was an arrogant jerk.

It seems he was always getting into trouble and having to flee the country. In 1839 he was forced to flee Riga, Russia to escape his creditors. Apparently, he and his actress wife liked to spend exorbitant amounts of money. He later had to flee Germany because there was a warrant out for his arrest (because of his involvement in a revolt in 1849.)

He had affairs with two different married women. The first one was the wife of a very generous patron, and when she wouldn't leave her husband, Wagner was supposedly inspired to write Tristan and Isolde, a story about a knight in love with married lady Isolde.

Fortunately for Wagner, the king of Bavaria, Ludwig II, was an admirer. He settled Wagner's debts and assisted him in getting his opera produced in Munich. The crazy man then had an affair with Cosima, Franz Liszt's illegitimate daughter whose husband was a great Wagner admirer and actually conducted the premiere of Tristan and Isolde. The indiscretion of his second affair caused him to fall out of favor with the court, and again he was forced to flee the country for Switzerland.

The worst offence was that he called himself a Christian, but it sounds like he believed a sort of Gnostic, Buddhist, Aryanist "Christianity", obviously some invention of his own, an amalgamation of the beliefs of his day.

Although his name is often connected with Adolf Hitler, it is impossible that they could have met because Wagner died before Hitler was born. I have read that Hitler was a fan of Wagner's music, but I have also read that Wagner's last opera, Parsifal, was banned in Nazi Germany because it was too pacifist.

Even though Wagner was an evil genius, he was a genius. Apparently he was mostly self taught, and had only about six months of formal training in theory. Even those who hate Wagner (and he did have many enemies even in his own day) have to admit that his music is incredible and powerful.

After researching his life, it somewhat ruined my enjoyment of his music. Although, it does console me to think that he is not benefiting from record sales.


  • At July 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    That was a hilarious post. I don't think I've ever read such an entertaining synopsis of Wagner's life.

    Go, go, go (re: the last written exams)!

    Love, Mel

  • At July 29, 2006, Blogger Ian Hugh Clary said…

    What's even more intriguing about Wagner was that he was Nietzche's hero. They were friends and Nietzche found the highest level of human achievement was in Greek culture and Wagner's music.
    I had read through chunks of Stephen Williams' recent biography of Nietzche and he has a lot to say about Wagner.

  • At July 29, 2006, Blogger Ben TK Wong said…

    Hurrahs all around!
    I remember when I studied music history I was fascinated by the lives these people lived. Then again, it was easier for me to separate their actions from their music, so my respect for them wasn't tarnished.
    I DID however have a newfound respect for them after I studied music theory (shudder!)

    - Ben

  • At August 05, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Congratulations on passing your ARCT, Christel. That's a big milestone.

    It occurred to me after we met with you folks that there was so much more that you and Marlene and I could have talked about! Many common interests - we'll have to do it again.


  • At August 08, 2006, Blogger Christel Humfrey said…

    Thanks for the encouragement you guys.

    Ian, that's interesting about Nietzche. I can't say that I've read anything on him, but I know that Wagner was heavy into philosophy and had many of the "forward" thinkers in his inner circle.

    Hi Jaunita,
    I totally agree. We'll have to do that again. It was so nice to meet you and your family.

  • At August 19, 2006, Blogger The Armchair Geek said…

    Awesome...I'm seeing that you're learning a valuable lesson about artists;

    the better the art, the crazier the artist.

    There's something about being a fantastic artist that drives one off the edge of 'normal'...not saying that such is a necessity though. Almost every 'world class' artist I've ever met (Ben Heppner, Thomas Yu, Stephanie Chow, etc.) was somewhere between a frosted flake and a fruit loop.

    BUT, not everyone is crazy. Dave Mustaine became a Christian several years ago. Things are looking up! LOL! (I wanna see your face when you see who that is...ha!)

  • At May 25, 2010, Blogger OzgurDunyam said…

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