Article Title

Wagner's Ring as Nineteenth-Century Artifact


Suppose that Wagner had died in 1853, exactly thirty years before his actual death. At this point he would have left behind at least three operas that count for us as major works, The Flying Dutchman, Tannhäuser, and Lohengrin. Most important for the ideas I hope to develop in this paper, he would also have left behind the libretto for another set of operas, namely the Ring. Early in 1853 he had had fifty copies of this libretto printed privately for friends. Had he died at the time it would surely have been necessary for some propagandist to enter the scene and call attention to the importance of Richard Wagner as a cultural phenomenon. After all, throughout the thirty years of which we have just deprived him, Wagner, among other activities, himself assumed the role of propagandist for his own works-and, one might add, with the most considerable success.

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