Theatre Prince

Richard Wagner’s complete works are inconceivable without the support of Ludwig II. There are contradictory statements about Ludwig’s musicality. He was probably most enthusiastic about the synthesis of the arts consisting of text, music and instrumentation, as Wagner aspired to in his theoretical writings (which Ludwig had been familiar with since his youth) and operas. He seems not to have noticed the anti-monarchical elements in Wagner’s thinking, and he demonstrably countered his anti-Semitic outbursts.

Ludwig had Richard Wagner brought to Munich as one of his first official acts in 1864 – it was a last-minute rescue for the composer, who was being hounded by his creditors. A tense relationship quickly developed between him and the young king. Ludwig eagerly accepted Wagner’s suggestions; the latter, on the other hand, benefited from the king’s attention, but found it difficult to come to terms with his own wishes. The festival hall designed by Gottfried Semper on the high banks of the Isar was less in keeping with Wagner’s ideas than with Ludwig’s. Conversely, the failure of the project affected the king more than the composer.

The highlight of his time in Munich was the premiere of "Tristan und Isolde" (Tristan and Isolde) on 10 June 1865. However, Wagner and his entourage were controversial in Munich society. Word quickly spread of Wagner as "Lolus" – as the male Lola Montez (1821-1861) who had cost Ludwig’s grandfather his throne in 1848. A targeted press campaign, fuelled by Wagner himself, made him untenable in Bavaria. In December 1865 he had to leave the state.

Ludwig II remained in contact with Wagner and his second wife Cosima. The composer received financial benefits from then on. His operas "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg" (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg), "Die Walküre" (The Valkyrie) and "Das Rheingold" (The Rhinegold) were premiered in Munich – the latter against Wagner’s will. When the first Bayreuth Festival threatened to fail in 1874, Ludwig saved the company.

Friedrich Röhrer-Ertl

To chapter: Dynamics at the time of Ludwig II