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Richard Wagner and Buddhism [Paperback]

Urs App
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

24 Jun 2011
It is little known that Richard Wagner was among the very first Westerners to appreciate Buddhism and that he was the first major European artist to be inspired by this religion. In 1856, in the prime of his creativity, the 33-year-old artist read his first book about Buddhism. Madly in love with Mathilde Wesendonck, a beautiful but happily married woman, he conceived two deeply connected opera projects: Tristan und Isolde which he went on to compose and stage, and Die Sieger (The Victors), an opera scenario based on an Indian Buddha legend translated from Sanskrit. These two projects mirrored Wagner's burning desire for the consummation of his love and the necessity of renunciation. This Buddhist opera project occupied Wagner's mind for decades until his death in 1883. Indeed, the composer's last words were about the Buddha figure of his scenario and his relationship with women. Urs App, the author of The Birth of Orientalism (University of Pennsylvania Press) and the world's foremost authority on the early Western reception of Buddhism, tells the story of Richard Wagner's creative encounter with Buddhism and explains the composer's last words.

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Richard Wagner and Buddhism + Richard Wagner: The Sorcerer of Bayreuth + Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung: A Companion
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Product details

  • Paperback: 104 pages
  • Publisher: UniversityMedia (24 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3906000001
  • ISBN-13: 978-3906000008
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 12.5 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 506,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 11 July 2014
This was new information for me, have beed interested in Wagner's musiv for many years.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Ultrarunner TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a book of 102 pages,which has a lot of wisdom in it,and does help those who are interested in Wagners belief in Reincarnation and Buddhism. Wagner came to that belief after reading Schopenhauer. If he could have been the Philosopher,he would have been.But what is so interesting, is that this book by Urs App,goes into the draft he wrote about his Buddhist opera,the Victors. Wagner had been carrying it in his head for 20 years. He was going to write this opera and Parsival around the same time. What stopped him, was the staging,how to produce lotus flowers and palms. However, the main female character Prakriti ends up as Kundry. So we would have had a pure Indian opera,then Parsival. I must make it clear Wagner was never a Christian,Cosima was. This book goes into Buddhism and the fact that he was one of the very first Westerners to take up Buddhism.And the first major European artist to be inspired by this belief system,a philosophy. In fact the composers last words, were about the Buddha figure of his proposed opera and his relationship with women. A book not to be missed by Wagner lovers.

Note in the Brown book,May 1968.

Truth= Nirvana= Night
Music= Brama = Twilight
Poetry= Sansara=day written on the first page of the book.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4.0 out of 5 stars A brief but excellent account 8 Feb 2014
By Mr. R. Lee - Published on Amazon.com
In 1849 Wagner was given a booklet by Ludwig Feuerbach titled: Thoughts on Death and Immortality. Having dedicated Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft (The Art form of the Future) to Feuerbach Wagner met the poet Georg Herwegh who was a friend of the philosopher. In 1854 Herwegh introduced Wagner to Schopenhauer’s main work: The World as Will and Representation. Wagner wrote that it was Schopenhauer who had clarified his Ring poem to him so that he concluded it with “salvation through the most severe renunciation.” Schopenhauer hailed Buddhism as “the best of all religions” and his view influenced that of Richard Wagner for the rest of his life.
In just 49 pages (plus another 40 of notes) Urs App writes of Wagner as an avid reader of Schopenhauer with the result that the pairing of enlightened wisdom (prajna) with compassion (karuna) became the centrepiece of his Buddhist-inspired opera project: Die Sieger (The Victors) which occupied him for two and a half decades and later also of Parsifal’s key phrase: enlightened knowledge via compassion. This concept, according to App, also forms the vanishing point of a revised ending of the Ring poem.
Reading his first book about the subject in 1856 when he was in the prime of his creativity, Wagner became one of the first westerners to gain a sound understanding of a number of the essential doctrines of Buddhism. These included the view of existence as suffering, craving as the root of suffering, egoism as a basic form of ignorance and of the ethical dimensions of Buddhism. In Urs App’s view he thus became the first major European artist to be inspired by this religion.
In Tristan und Isolde Schopenhauer’s “desire that is continually reborn” found its expression in music: the medium which, according to Schopenhauer, embodies cosmic will in a much less mediated way than all other arts. “The Leitmotif of longing – the famous tension-filled ‘Tristan chord’ – expresses the wound from which Tristan suffers and in Parsifal that very wound will torment Amfortas. The world of tormented transmigration in an endless cycle of life-and-death (samsara) turns the voluptuous woman’s world upside down and leads straight to monastic vows. Life-and-death had already been at the heart of the curse in The Flying Dutchman and it haunts Kundry in Parsifal.”
Urs App points out that the theme of the transmigration of souls which was to be so prominent in The Victors was perfectly suited to musical expression in the form of Wagner’s Leitmotif technique where recognisable musical themes are constantly reborn with subtle changes and in different modes. In Mein Leben Wagner wrote of the legend of Ananda and Prakriti on which he was to base his scenario for The Victors: “The story gained its significance through the fact that the past life of the suffering protagonists is weaved into the actual life as something that is totally present. I recognised right away that this could be brought home emotionally through the musical reminiscence of the former life that continuously resonates in the actual one. This made me look forward with particular fondness to the task of creating this work.”
App concludes: “Renunciation asserted itself as the vanishing point of his works of art. In Parsifal with its Indian motifs and its story line which so much resembles that of The Victors, this tendency was to reach its apex.”

Roger Lee
Wagner News
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