Interview with Richard Wagner - world-famous composer
1. We are curious to know how life is in a wonderful place as the Amalfi Coast. Tell us, first of all, who you are, and what your job is?
Who am I? Ich bin Richard Wagner, not just any Mozart! Ich bin Richard Wagner, great composer and librettist, one of the greatest musicians of all ages, as per Wikipedia. I’m Der fliegende Holländer, The Flying Dutchman, I’m Count Telramund, Tristan devoured by desire, Parsifal in search of the Holy Grail. What the hell does “who are you” mean?? I am the oldest modern composer, the one who has set to music Schopenhauer’s and Nietzsche’s thoughts, even if the latter didn’t catch it and denied me, frustrated gods-murderer Saxon. I am Richard Wagner, the highest expression of the Dionysian spirit in the history of music, I am a passionate revolutionary. How can you ask me who I am, you blasphemous XXI century being?? I’m the protagonist of the Wagner concerts in Ravello, without me you’d had to settle for a van Beethoven deaf as a post! Even though, I must admit, it is after attending his Fidelio when I was 16, that I decided to become a musician.
2. and just to know, what do you do when you don’t work? How do you have fun with your friends?
I make the revolution, I think of music, and in the meantime I often barely scrape a living. I like reading, traveling, I like to love and be loved. I’ve had so many women who have given me love and money to devote myself to my art. Significant friends like Franz Liszt, who has always protected me from betrayed husbands and the police. I have erected barricades with Bakunin, the industrial Otto Wesendonck shared his wife Mathilde Wesendonck with me, I have often argued with my first wife Minna Planer (she didn’t understand me,) and I used to spend my time with Baudelaire and Gustave Doré drinking coffee in Rue Laffitte, in Paris. In my travels in Italy, I have seen Venice, Milan, Palermo, Naples, and the Amalfi Coast.
3. All right, now let’s get to the point , let’s speak of the Amalfi Coast. Let’s play. Close your eyes. Visualize the Costiera and answer without thinking it through: what image comes up to your mind? What colors? What sounds? What smells?
A trivial question, just as a gossip journalist of the XXI century, or operetta musician as a Rossini. I am a great musician, perhaps the best of all, and therefore of the Amalfi Coast I especially remember the sounds. But what can you know of the sound of the sea, you only rinse your ears with it. The crashing of its waves on the rocks, the growing roar followed by the back off of the undertow, that restless motion, could only remind me of the Ride of the Valkyries and Sieglinde’s escape into the forest, just as the Lattari Mountains overlooking the coast. And right over there, the sound of the sea loses its way through the leaves and becomes music, just like Sieglinde’s ecstatic song of redemption. However, I must admit, between the sounds of the sea and the wind, and the aroma of the wines of the Amalfi Coast, Aglianico and Falanghina, it’s a good match.
4. What did you miss most after you had to leave the Amalfi Coast?
I stocked up on the Amalfi paper, to write fair copies of my letters. I asked my friend, the Russian painter Paul von Joukowsky, to paint Villa Rufolo for me, and that has become, and always will be, the scenery of Klingsor’s garden in my Parsifal. Indeed, I take this opportunity to dispel a myth that I’ve see perpetuated by millions of pages on the Web: it’s not true that I got inspiration from Villa Rufolo for my Parsifal. The amazing thing is that I had already imagined Klingsor’s garden and I saw it materialized in the garden created by the Scottish philanthropist Francis Neville Reid. So in my mind there was something that later turned out to be a real place. As proof of my genius and my greatness.
5. As a great visionary, then, it shouldn’t be difficult for you to imagine the Amalfi Coast in winter, when tourism deserts these places.
I used to think of it wrapped in silence, in the smell of warm food, Scialatielli and Tomato Sauce, “married” Soup with vegetables cooked in chicken broth, pork rinds and pork offal. I used to think of it embraced by the warm winter sun, with rains washing the streets and making them slippery. And of course Limoncello, left out at room temperature, but always present at the end of any meal. I imagine people covered in their heavy clothing, which in Germany is my spring clothing, old ladies wrapped in their woolen shawls and seniors wearing their hats. The sound of the sea on stormy nights, the salty splashes reaching the houses. I see the churches full of people during the Christmas period, Nativity scenes and processions, devotion, faith and redemption. I can recall the fruits that ripen in these months and the dark forests of black and wet leaves. And the inns full of young and old people who sit in the outdoor seating in the summer and opt for hot stoves and “laced coffee” in winter instead. In short, a really different place from what I saw on my May trip to the Costiera, a few days after my sixty-seventh birthday.
6. In your opinion, what should a traveler definitely not miss out on in a trip to the Amalfi Coast?
Amalfi is a dream place, even Ravello. Together with my wife Cosima, my son Siegfried, our friend, the painter Paul von Joukowsky and his servant Peppino – who used to sing us Neapolitan songs – I have walked the path between the two towns “a dursu d’asinu” that is, on the back of a donkey. Nowadays, you spoiled twenty-first century guys only use motorized vehicles to move either on land or sea, thus missing out on all the charm of walking trails overlooking the cliffs. I would recommend travelers on the Amalfi Coast to get lost amid the cobble stone alleys that branch out from the village squares and climb up the mountains, through the woods and streams, up to the amphitheater of peaks, the wonderful views that can be admired from natural terraces.
7. The Amalfi Coast is famous for its handicrafts. In your opinion, which of these are the most representative?
My wife loved Positano’s fabric works and Vietri’s ceramics, I loved the valuable paper of Amalfi, our friend, the painter, loved the colors of nature … as he’s an artist, this is what he considers handicraft products of this land. My eleven year old son Siegfried has enjoyed the cookies and breads baked in wood-fired ovens of the local bakeries.
8. When you visited the Amalfi Coast, did you like its food? Did you have a favorite restaurant? What dishes did you order?
In 1880 I went to Naples due to health reasons, I needed bathing in the sea, so with my wife we went to Villa Angri. When we moved to visit Amalfi, we stayed at Hotel Cappuccini, the one mentioned in the famous poems by August von Platen and Wilhelm Waiblinger. Here they treated us very well, serving us the best dishes from Naples and the Costiera, fish and seafood, ricotta and mozzarella. In Ravello we stayed at Villa Episcopio. Mr. Pasquale Palumbo and his wife Elisabeth von Wartburg pampered us with puff pastry “lobster tails” and Sfogliatelle filled with lemon cream, and pizza roce, which means “sweet pizza” and consists of puff pastry filled with seasonal fruit and custard. If you go to Hotel Palumbo, yoy still can find me in the guest book.
9. Can you think of a work, a ‘famous’ quote, or a book, a song or a movie, that could “capture” the true spirit of the Divine Coast? Can you tell us why?
You’re kidding, right? Why do you ask even ask? Have you ever seen one of the millions, nay, billions, of performances of Parsifal? Have you ever seen the representation of Klingsor’s garden? Can you catch my greatness in having imagined it before seeing it? When I exclaimed: “We found Klingsor’s garden,” “Klingsors Zaubergarten ist gefunden“, what do you think I meant? That my greatness, my immense musical and poetic imagination had created that place, which otherwise would have not existed.
10. Always modest aren’t you? Anyway … What is your blog / website about? And why did you decide to carve yourself a little space on the web?
What are you talking about? Are you out of your head? Willst Du mich für dumm verkaufen? Are you kidding me? Do you really think I have time and wish for such stupid things? I don’t talk about myself, I leave it up to others. I let people bask with my Wagner concerts in Ravello and Bayreuth every year, I let my music be their redemption, I let the counterpoint, chromatics, harmonies and orchestrations be a source of knowledge to understand my music, the Gesamtkunstwerk, the wholeness of my work. If I had a blog I would set it to music. Here’s a nice idea for you. But remember to make me the copyright owner.