BBC Music Magazine
‘The boredom is dreadful’
Clara Schumann on Wagner’s music
Liszt wasn’t the only composer to incur Clara’s wrath. She didn’t mince her words when it came to Wagner either. She went twice to both Das Rheingold and Die Walküre and gave credit where it was due – when possible. Of Das Rheingold she wrote: ‘I felt as if I were wading in a swamp the whole evening. The one good thing about the opera is that one is not deafened by the brass as one is in his other operas… The boredom that one must endure, however, is dreadful. In every scene the actors on stage are in a cataleptic trance in which they remain fixed for such a long time that one cannot look at them any more. The women have just a few measures to sing in the entire opera and just stand around forever; in general they are all nothing but tattered, villainous gods.’
In 1875 she saw Tristan und Isolde in Munich. ‘To be forced to see and listen to such sexual frenzy the whole evening, in which every feeling of decency is violated… that is the saddest thing I have experienced in my entire artistic life,’ she wrote. ‘I endured it to the end since I wanted to hear the whole thing,’ she added.