This month marks the hundredth year since Wagner’s death, the start of a centennial celebration that will have opera houses, concert halls, and broadcast facilities throughout the world resounding with his works. Paralleling these sonic observances will be an activity that has become an adjunct to realizing the music, to wit, the writing of words. Innumerable millions of words have already explained, attacked, and defended Wagner’s life and works for a century and a half, and the flood of utterance is sure to continue unabated this year with an abundant production of commemorative volumes, magazine articles, program books, and liner notes, to which should be added the centenary output of conferences, speeches, and seminars, all apparently welcome to a never satiated public appetite for writing on Wagner.

This verbal torrent began with Wagner himself, whose loquacity in person was well complemented by an unending...


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