Magazine February 8, 2021, Issue

Wagner: Master of Masters

A statue of German composer Richard Wagner on the parking deck of Deutsche Oper in Berlin, Germany, June 9, 2020 (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)
Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music, by Alex Ross (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 784 pp., $40)

Richard Wagner (1813–1883) is among the most famous mainstays of the operatic repertoire, along with Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini, and he will remain so for as long as opera lasts. One hesitates to say that his works are as popular as those of the other three eminences. Performances of his supreme masterpieces Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, the tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen, and Parsifal are comparatively uncommon, for they demand the largest and surest orchestras, the highest production values, and nothing less than the world’s finest singers, specifically of the rare heavy-lifting breed known as dramatic voices,

This article appears as “Master of Masters” in the February 8, 2021, print edition of National Review.

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Algis ValiunasMr. Valiunas is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing editor of The New Atlantis.

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