Siegfried Wagner is 150

Siegfried Wagner is 150


norman lebrecht

June 05, 2019

There are birthday events today in Bayreuth and Berlin.

He was an utterly mediocre composer, a gay pathbreaker and a moderately resourceful festival manager.

Any more questions?



  • Nick2 says:

    I’m curious! Although we know he was clearly homosexual, in what way can he be considered a gay pathbreaker?

    • S. Wagner says:

      well, ‘clearly homosexual’ with 4 children – is a bit special at least .

      • Nick2 says:

        He was very definitely homosexual. He was pushed into marriage by Cosima who selected his very young wife for him at a time when there was a major public scandal involving a number of celebrities who were also homosexual. Even after his marriage, it is well known that he continued his dalliances with other men.

      • Eric B says:

        ah, ah, ah, he wouldn’t be the first, nor the last, to get married and have children. At least 3 of my ex-s were…. 😉

  • Wagner Fan says:

    Siegfried was in no way a gay pathbreaker. He even submitted to a marriage to Winifred Williams who, as Siegfried’s widow, undertook an odious friendship with Hitler – who was not exactly a friend of gay people.

    Despite his marriage, Siegfried hooked up with men from time to time – often anonymously. That makes him more akin to US ex-Senator Larry Craig than Oscar Wilde.

    • Ted Haggard says:

      This is very unfair. Siegfried didn’t repeatedly voted against gay rights protection in the U.S. Senate and flaunted “family values” while cruising for anonymous sex in public toilets. Yes, Craig is a GOP Republican.

      From what I’ve read, Siegfried Wagner came off as a very good man and loved by many who knew him, including Toscanini.

    • John Rook says:

      Siegfried didn’t approve of Hitler, who was suspicious of his friend’s effeminate husband. Winifred Williams was 18 when she became infatuated with her future husband and the nascent dynasty needed Nachwuchs. One of SW’s friends built a house just behind the Festspielhaus to be nearer and, er, facilitate meetings. It’s a semi; a (deceased) friend’s grandfather financed and built the other one.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      “Hitler – who was not exactly a friend of gay people”

      Actually, it is not clear Hitler particularly cared one-way-or-the-other. During the early years in Munich the Nazi party used to hold their meetings in gay bars. Their paramilitary organisation, the SA (or brownshirts) were notoriously homosexual (even known as “the beefcakes”). Hitler certainly new about the sexual proclivities of the SA leadership, including Rohm. Of course, once in power, Hitler quickly eliminated Rohm and the brownshirts; mainly since they were the socialist part of the National Socialist party, and moreover their political violence had now become politically embarrassing. Later, of course, homosexuals were among those targeted for being “degenerate”.

  • Siegfried Wagner says:

    he was an absolutely interesting composer on a very high level, indeed !

    • Novagerio says:

      At least he didn’t try to imitate his father, although his own music has (inevitably) similarities to his teacher Humperdinck…

      As a festival administrator he was very much in the pockets of his mother Cosima, in fact, both died the same year. His life was unfortunately too brief, compared to his mother’s.
      The known anti-fascist Toscanini had the greatest respect and appreciation for Siegfried the man, mostly because Siegfried spoke fluent italian.

  • We privatize your value says:

    “Any more questions?” Yes: did he dislike Jews?

  • Von Schneider says:

    Yes, here’s a question Norman: Why do you constantly have to be dismissive and disrespectful to not only Richard Wagner, but also the extended Wagner family? This is a blog devoted to music and you would do us all a great favour if you could focus on the Wagner’s artistic output rather than harp on about the Holocaust or anti-Semitism in conjunction with every Wagner-related blog post.

    • Tiredofitall says:


    • Music goes beyond entertainment and listening pleasure….music makes a statement about life.

      • humanity and justice says:

        infact ! and the music of Wagner is a very strong affirmation of humanity and mankind, one of the strongest and richest ever written. so that s part of why we music lovers and intellectuals wonder why Wagner is always made responsible for things he couldn’t even imagine. there must be other interests .

  • Esther Cavett says:

    >>my forthcoming book

    As below, looks interesting :

    • V says:

      Love to read this when it comes out. However, Groucho Marx needs to be on the cover. He deserves to be in the book as much as the other less humorous Marx.

    • John Borstlap says:

      “What do these visionaries have in common? They all have Jewish origins. They all have a gift for thinking outside the box and all of them think fast. In 1847 the Jewish people made up less than 0.25% of the world’s population, and yet they saw what others could not.”

      One does not need to have Jewish roots to be able to think out of the box. Most of these admirable people – scientists, artists, philosophers, etc. of Jewish origin – and presumably all of them, had rejected orthodox Judaism and spread their wings in relative freedom, and became fully Europeanized. Untill Jews got civil rights, at the beginning of the 19th century, they almost literally lived in a box – the ghetto. So, when they could escape it, the creative energy formerly being locked-up could explode. (And this has nothing to do with race or religiously being chosen as a special people.)

      • Novagerio says:

        Mr.Slap: You should read more about the 18th century Emancipation thanks to Joseph II of Austria and Napoleon, and then read some Moses Mendelssohn…

        • John Borstlap says:

          As far as I know, it were Napoleonic laws which conveyed civil rights to the Jews. In Josephine Austria there were no equal rights, in spite of top-down reforms. In France, feudal differences had been abolished during the revolution.

      • I suggest you check out Mendelssohn and the Haskalah and German (not Eastern European, especially Polish) Jewry.

  • I’ve always liked his overture to “Der Schmied von Marienburg”.

    I’d curious to find out more about “Das Fluchlein”

    “…This unorthodox opera was Siegfried Wagner’s last major work. Set in the 1920s, it treated a number of controversial topics such as unemployment and the rise of fascism in Europe. It contained a rather unsavory character called “Wolf”, which was the Wagner family’s nickname for Adolf Hitler. Overall, in this opera Siegfried Wagner portrayed fascism in a very unflattering light, and for this reason, the Wagner family immediately suppressed its performance and publication.”

  • S. Wagner says:

    actually politcally quite a brave man. he wrote an anti hitler opera and he felt ashamed of antisemitism in his family. also he did continue to engage jewish musicians . he definitely tried to walk out of the paths of his stubborn mother, but he died before he really could do what he wanted to do.

  • John Borstlap says:

    It must have been terrifying to be the child of Richard and Cosima Wagner. They must have been projecting like mad their own wishes into the innocent boy, and it seems that his only possibility to escape such tyranny was in escapades which were totally out of the ordinary at the time. When you see the photographs of the Wagner family with poor little Siegfried as a thin, pulverized being from another planet, you can understand his mixed-up character.

  • Just fer laffs!

  • Sean says:

    His violin concerto is rather lovely.