Last night, the full moon of November 2013, Elizabeth and I attended the “Flying Dutchman” (opera) performance at the Phoenix Symphony Hall. It was a wonderful performance. I had not seen it before nor was aware of the plot until just before we went to the opera. It was hard to believe that Richard Wagner wrote the “Flying Dutchman” at the age of 26. The opera has such depth and maturity that it could serve even today, 170 years later, as a modern dramatic movie score.
WAGNER AND LISZT
What I did know was that Wagner, the now famous opera composer, was my son-in-law when I incarnated as Franz Liszt (1811-1886). Here’s what one Cambridge University biographer wrote about their relationship (see Correspondence of Wagner and Liszt Volume 2. 1854–1861):
“Hueffer signals in his preface the importance to Wagner of the encouragement of Liszt – an established performer when Wagner was barely known and widely ridiculed, a musical mentor, an enthusiastic critic and eventually a father-in-law.”
I bought these tickets for us months ago. Now I understand why I was guided to do so. Long before they became related by marriage of Liszt’s daughter Cosima to Wagner (in 1870), the two composers were close friends. In fact, you could say that Liszt helped save Wagner’s life when the latter was involved in a revolution in Dresden in May 1849:
Richard Wagner the composer, at the time Royal Saxon Court Conductor, had been inspired by the revolutionary spirit since 1848 and was befriended with Röckel and Bakunin. He wrote passionate articles in the Volksblätter inciting people to revolt, and when fighting broke out he took a very active part in it, making hand grenades and standing as a look out at the top of the Frauenkirche.
An excerpt from “Very Dangerous Liaisons: Liszt and Carolyne:“
One of the billets relates to an incident that has become historic. Wagner had been obliged, because of his participation in the revolution, to flee from Dresden. He sought refuge with Liszt in Weimar, but, learning that the Saxon authorities were seeking his apprehension, decided to continue his flight to Switzerland. He was without means and, at the moment, Liszt, too, was out of funds. In this extremity, Liszt dispatched a few lines to the Princess (Carolyn, his muse, lover and admirer). ‘Can you send me by bearer sixty thalers? Wagner is obliged to flee, and I am unable at present to come to his aid. Bonne et heureuse nuit.’ The money was forthcoming, and Wagner owed his safety to the Princess. It was a ‘bonne et heureuse nuit’ for him. This is but one instance in which, at Liszt’s instigation, the Princess was the good fairy of poor musicians.
You can read more in “Very Dangerous Liaisons: Liszt and Carolyne” about the love story between Liszt and the Princess whom he was unable to marry even after a temporary Papal grant. This relationship fascinated Europe for 40 years, and was the inspiration for a 1960 movie “Song Without End.”
Back to Phoenix, Nov 16, 2013, just before the Wagner opera, while I was waiting for Elizabeth to check out the jewelry counters (see below), a blonde lady approached me, smiling ear-to-ear.
“I am Michelle, your FB friend from Sedona and a Steward of the Earth,” she said. “My husband and I are (opera) season ticket holders. I read and enjoy all of your stories and music.”
She also asked for Elizabeth whom I called back to join us. We spent several minutes in an animated conversation. Michelle asked someone to take pictures of the three of us so she could show it to some common friends we have in Sedona.
It was a nice personal overture before the opera overture.
Later on, during the intermission, we also met two of Elizabeth’s friends who were took part in the First Act as extras. The two ladies, who are also regular opera goers, were very excited to tell us about their backstage experience.