Richard Wagner

Silk & Satin

"Wagner's sybaritism is one of the less repellent features of his personality. He could not bear to have any coarse material against his skin, perhaps as the result of a medical condition, and for many years dressed in silk or satin underwear. During his later years, including the period during which he was working on the score of Parsifal, Wagner's working environment too was draped in silks and satins, in his favourite colours, and soaked in perfume. It was [ironically] in these surroundings of extravagant sensuousness that the music of Parsifal, a work that apparently celebrates renunciation and chastity, was brought into the world."

O, Master!

Such was Anton Bruckner's admiration for Wagner that, on one occasion when Wagner offered him his hand, Bruckner bent down on one knee, pressed the hand to his lips, and declared: "O Master, I worship you!"

Husband of my wife

After a long affair with Hans von Bulow's wife Cosima (Liszt's daughter by the Countesse d'Agoult), Richard Wagner finally married her himself. Some time later, Von Bulow was asked whether he was acquainted with Wagner. "Oh yes, Madame," he politely replied, "he is the husband of my wife."

Wagner and Cosima did little to hide their affair. Indeed, Cosima gave birth to an illegitimate daughter just two months before the premiere of Tristan und Isolde in 1865 (conducted by von Bulow). Her name? Isolde! (She later bore Wagner an illegitimate son - named Siegfried.) "Had it been anyone but Wagner," Von Bulow later remarked, "I would have shot him."

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