Uncle Adolf’s table talk, 6

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Night of the 22nd-23rd July 1941
 
Steps towards a durable understanding between Germany and Britain—Dearth of philosophic and artistic sense of the British.
 
 
I believe that the end of this war will mark the beginning of a durable friendship with England. But first we must give her the k.o.—for only so can we live at peace with her, and the Englishman can only respect someone who has first knocked him out. The memory of 1918 must be obliterated.

D. asked the Fuehrer whether Germany was fortified against the dangers of over-easy living, which were threatening to be the ruin of England.

Yes, and that’s why I pay attention to the arts. Amongst the English, culture, like sport, is a privilege of good society. Just imagine, in no country is Shakespeare so badly acted as in England. They love music, but their love is not returned! Besides, they have no thinker of genius. What does the National Gallery mean there, to the mass of the people? It’s like their social reform. It wasn’t called for, like German reform, by the needs of conscience, but solely by reasons of State.

At Bayreuth one meets more Frenchmen than Englishmen. Quote me the example of a single theatre in England where work is done that compares with the work we do in hundreds of theatres.

But I’ve met a lot of Englishmen and Englishwomen whom I respect. Let’s not think too much about those whom we know, with whom we’ve had those deceptive official dealings—they’re not men. Despite everything, it’s only with the people that we can associate.

Published in: on November 1, 2015 at 9:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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Uncle Adolf’s table talk, 72

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Night of 24th-25th January 1942

Origin of Tristan and Isolda—Cosima Wagner—Wahnfried—The Makart style—Bayreuth—On the Nuremberg Congress.
 
 
Whatever one says, Tristan is Wagner’s masterpiece, and we owe Tristan to the love Mathilde Wesendonck inspired in him. She was a gentle, loving woman, but far from having the qualities of Cosima. Nobody like Wagner has had the luck to be entirely understood by a woman. Those are things that life does not owe a man, but it’s magnificent when it happens.

Neither Mozart nor Beethoven, neither Schiller nor Goethe, have had a share of such happiness. In addition to all Wagner’s gifts, Cosima was femininity personified, and her charm had its effect on all who visited Wahnfried. After Wagner’s death, the atmosphere at Wahnfried remained what it had been during his lifetime. Cosima was inconsolable, and never ceased to wear mourning. She had wanted her own ashes to be scattered over her husband’s tomb, but she was refused this satisfaction.

Nevertheless, her ashes were collected in an urn, and this urn was placed on the tomb. Thus death has not separated these two beings, whom destiny had wished to live side by side! Wagner’s lifetime was also that of a man like Meyerbeer! Wagner is responsible for the fact that the art of opera is what it is to-day. The great singers who’ve left names behind became celebrated as interpreters of Wagner. Moreover, it’s since him that there have been great orchestra-leaders. Wagner was typically a prince. His house, Wahnfried, for example! It’s been said that the interior, in Makart style, was over-loaded.

But should a house be mistaken for a gallery of works of art? Isn’t it, above all, a dwelling, the framework for a private life, with its extensions and its radiance? If I possess a gallery of ancestors, should I discard it on the pretext that not all the pictures in it are masterpieces?

At the beginning of this century there were people called Wagnerians. Other people had no special name. What joy each of Wagner’s works has given me! And I remember my emotion the first time I entered Wahnfried. To say I was moved is an understatement! At my worst moments, they’ve never ceased to sustain me, even Siegfried Wagner. (Houston Stewart Chamberlain wrote to me so nicely when I was in prison.) I was on Christian-name terms with them. I love them all, and I also love Wahnfried.

So I felt it to be a special happiness to have been able to keep Bayreuth going at the moment of its discomfiture. The war gave me the opportunity to fulfil a desire dear to Wagner’s heart: that men chosen amongst the people—workers and soldiers—should be able to attend his Festival free of charge. The ten days of the Bayreuth season were always one of the blessed seasons of my existence.

Festspielhaus_Bayreuth_Innen

And I already rejoice at the idea that one day I shall be able to resume the pilgrimage! The tradition of the Olympic Games endured for nearly a thousand years. That results, it seems to me, from a mystery similar to that which lies at the origin of Bayreuth. The human being feels the need to relax, to get out of himself, to take communion in an idea that transcends him. The Party Congress answers the same need, and that’s why for hundreds of years men will come from the whole world over to steep themselves anew, once a year, in the marvellous atmosphere of Nuremberg. They’ll come, and they’ll see side by side the proofs we shall have left of our greatness, and at the same time the memories of old Nuremberg.

On the day following the end of the Bayreuth Festival, and on the Tuesday that marks the end of the Nuremberg Congress, I’m gripped by a great sadness—as when one strips the Christmas tree of its ornaments.

Uncle Adolf’s table talk, 98

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Night of 28th February-1st March 1942

The Bayreuth Festival 1925—Bayreuth and National Socialism—Rôle of Frau Wagner—Siegfried Wagner.

In 1925, the Bechsteins had invited me to stay with them in Bayreuth. They lived in a villa in the Liszt Strasse (I think this was the name of the street), within a few yards of Wahnfried. I had hesitated to go there, for I was afraid of thus increasing the difficulties of Siegfried Wagner, who was somewhat in the hands of the Jews.

I arrived in Bayreuth towards eleven o’clock in the evening. Lotte Bechstein was still up, but her relatives were in bed. Next morning, Frau Wagner came and brought me some flowers.

What a bustle there was in Bayreuth for the Festival! There exist a few photographs of that period, in which I figure, taken by Lotte Bechstein. I used to spend the day in leather shorts. In the evening, I would put on a dinner-jacket or tails to go to the opera. We made excursions by car into the Fichtelgebirge and into Franconian mountains.

Dietrich Eckart, who had been a critic in Bayreuth, had always told me of the extraordinary atmosphere prevailing there. At the first performance of Parsifal that I attended at Bayreuth, Cleving was still singing. What a stature, and what a magnificent voice! I’d already been present at performances of Parsifal in Munich. That same year, I was also present at the Ring and the Meistersinger. The fact that the Jew Schorr was allowed to sing the rôle of Wotan had the effect of a profanation on me. Why couldn’t they have got Rode from Munich? But there was Braun, an artiste of exceptional quality.

For years I was unable to attend the Festival, and I’d been very distressed about it. Frau Wagner also lamented my absence. She often urged me to come, by letter or by telephone. But I never passed through Bayreuth without paying her a visit.

It’s Frau Wagner’s merit to have created the link between Bayreuth and National Socialism. Siegfried was a personal friend of mine, but he was a political neutral. He couldn’t have been anything else, or the Jews would have ruined him.

Published in: on September 1, 2015 at 1:40 pm  Comments (4)  
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Uncle Adolf’s table talk, 126

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Berghof, 1st May 1942, midday

Architectural problems—Our architects must plan on a grand scale—Bayreuth, Weimar and Dresden—Development of cultural life.

I am very grateful to Professor Giesler for having so successfully transformed the Schloss Kiessheim, which is to be our Guest House for distinguished visitors and which was opened in its new rôle by a visit from the Duce. The general lay-out, which corresponds so closely to my own ideas of spaciousness, pleases me particularly.

Giesler has planned on a grand scale. He has succeeded in leaving vast spaces between the portals and the staircase, and between the staircase and the entrance to the reception halls.

A sense of spaciousness is important, and I am delighted to see our architects planning on broad and spacious lines. Only thus shall we avoid the springing up of more towns in which the houses are cluttered up almost on top of each other, as one sees in Zwickau, Gelsenkirchen and so on.

If I were banished to a town of this kind, devoid of all beauty, I should lose heart and happiness just as surely as if I had been banished from my fatherland. I am therefore determined that some measure of culture and beauty shall penetrate even into the humblest of our towns, and that, step by step, the amenities of all our towns will reach a higher level. There is a lot of truth in the assertion that the culture of a town is dependent upon its traditions. Bayreuth, Weimar and Dresden afford classic examples.

It is not sufficient that a town should have a museum which the students occasionally visit; our representative must see to it that the men of the Labour Service and the Wehrmacht find it worthy of visit, and that gradually in this way the interest in, and the appreciation of, art will be aroused throughout the masses of the nation. The eye of the children must be weaned from the niggardly and trained on the grandiose, for only thus will they learn to appreciate both the ensemble and the finer points of any work of art.

Published in: on July 30, 2015 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Uncle Adolf’s table talk, 127

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3rd May 1942, at dinner

Berlin must not monopolise the resources of the Reich—Berlin is not an artistic city—The choice of Nuremberg.
 
When I think of Bayreuth, I am invariably worried by the thought that one day we may have to appeal to the State for financial aid for the maintenance of its cultural institutions and surrender the administrative control of the city into the hands of the ministerial bureaucrats. This is one of the reasons why I am so interested in the two sons of Frau Winifred Wagner. I hope very much that they will prove capable of carrying on the great work of their parents. As long as I live, I shall always do everything in my power to maintain the prestige of Richard Wagner’s city. I see no better method of safeguarding cultural centres than to confide them to the safe-keeping of the cities which contain them.

Brilliant city though Berlin undoubtedly is, I doubt whether we can make of it a metropolis of the Arts. As a metropolis of political and military power, it is ideal, as I realised on the occasion of the procession organised for my last birthday. But the atmosphere of Berlin is not the atmosphere of an artistic city.

We have no reason for allowing any other town to attain the stature of Berlin. The Reich can be well content with one town of five million inhabitants, Berlin, two towns—Vienna and Hamburg—of a couple of millions, and quite a number which approach the million mark. It would be extremely stupid further to enlarge our great cities and to canalise all cultural activity towards them. I said one day to Christian Weber that it would be ridiculous to incorporate Starnberg into Munich. To preserve its own character, Munich must remain as it now is.

Had I so wished I could have arranged for the Party Congress to take place in Munich. But as I wished as many towns as possible—big, medium and little—to participate and to become centres of German cultural life, I suggested to the Party Committee that we should chose Nuremberg for our Rallies, and our annual gathering there must, I think, give the city for ten days the atmosphere of the Olympic Games Festivals of ancient days.

Published in: on July 29, 2015 at 2:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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