Decoding Wagner: An Invitation to His World of Music Drama

Call me old fashioned, but I prefer books about Wagner to be devoid of any references to contemporary culture, like “the blogosphere” (which already dates May since this book came out in 2004), the Jerry Springer show, rock’n’roll, Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, and Yoko Ono. On the plus side, if you can choke down your bile at May’s insistence on making Wagner “relevant” to today’s hipsters, the book serves as a sort of Wagner for Dummies, providing chapters on each of his works, a crib guide to plots and music. Learned (but not sure if true because there are no footnotes for source on this) that Bavarian King Ludwig II fell in love with Wagner and footed his bills for years. May asserts that the “handsome, eccentric, gay young king developed a stormy emotional relationship with the decidedly heterosexual Wagner.” Old Wags fanned the flames with adoring letters, but was eventually chased out of Munich by courtiers. After Wags settled in Switzerland, the king snuck away and announced his desire to abdicate the throne so he could live with Wagner. “That disaster was averted, although it meant lying to Ludwig about the true nature of Wagner’s relationship with Cosima. The king was given the impression that she was an exceptionally gifted secretarial aide.”