Opera Lecture


AFTERNOON AT THE OPERA: Dueling Composers: Richard Wagner, Giacomo Meyerbeer and Anti-Semitism. Giacomo Meyerbeer (neé Jakob Liebmann Beer), a Jew born in Prussia, was one of the most talented and successful composers of grand opera in France from the 1830s to the 1860s. If it had not been for grand opera, Richard Wagner’s idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”) might not have come to exist. Aided artistically and financially by Meyerbeer early in his career, Wagner later came to resent Meyerbeer’s great success, and detested the wealth that Meyerbeer accumulated based on what Wagner considered his “superficial popularity” as a composer of grand opera. In addition to artistic resentment and criticism, Wagner played the anti-Semitic card in response to Meyerbeer’s success, and after Meyerbeer’s death his operas did go into a decline from which they have only sporadically recovered in the 20th and 21st centuries. Wagner may have ultimately proven to be the greater artist, but as he aged he became increasingly critical of many of the artists who had an important, early influence on him. Professor James Kolb will compare and contrast the work of Meyerbeer with that of Wagner. 3 p.m.