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Hybrid Hybrid Event
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“Long Live America!”: Wagner and the New World

February 28 @ 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Hybrid Hybrid Event
Free – $15.00

Scholar Hans Vaget returns to offer thoughts on Wagner’s relationship with America. This lecture offers a condensed English version of Prof. Vaget’s recent book, Richard Wagners Amerika. Eine Ausgrabung (2022). Examining Wagner’s repeatedly stated intention to emigrate to America, and drawing on the privately printed Reminiscences of his American dentist, N.S. Jenkins, we can now reassess the role of America in Wagner’s imagination. Dr. Jenkins was a much sought-after cutting edge dentist who treated Wagner and became a friend. Prof. Vaget highlights the lasting, though largely obscured attachment of the creator of The Ring to the revolutionary heritage of the United States. He shines a light on the prominent role of American dentistry in Europe, and illuminates a little-known but surprisingly revealing aspect of German American cultural relations in the Nineteenth Century.

Hans Vaget leans forward on a podium addressing the Wagner Society of New York
"The creator of The Ring was driven to deception by the well-founded fear that the legacy he wished to bequeath to the German nation - the annual festival at Bayreuth - was far from being secured. ... [King Ludwig's] generosity regularly needed to be reanimated; if all else should fail, by threats of immigration."
Hans Vaget gestures with his right hand open while standing at a lectern addressing the Wagner Society of New York.
"Even after the idea of immigration had shed its semblance of seriousness, Richard Wagner and Cosima kept talking about America as a dream destination. In the Summer of 1880, still in Naples, Cosima noted on July 12 'America constantly in our conversations.' Two days later: 'and again and again America'. Wagner in an almost giddy mood, fantasizing about a voyage to America 'in order to make his fortune, visions of us all arriving in California in a royal carriage'. This is why Cosima's diary is so delicious: because you get lots of details like that."
Hans Vaget facing two guests and speaking during the post-lecture reception.
Hans Vaget on Wagner & America, February 2024

In-person, followed by a social hour with refreshments, and livestreamed (viewable up to 36 hours after the start of the event). WSNY Members receive livestream link automatically by e-mail; no need to pre-register.

About the speaker: Hans Rudolf Vaget, a native of Marienbad (Czechoslovakia), received his academic training at the universities of Munich, Tuebingen, Cardiff (Wales), and Columbia University, New York, where he earned a PhD in German literature. From 1967 to 2004 he taught German Studies and Comparative Literature at Smith College. He is the author of books on Goethe, Thomas Mann, and Wagner; most recently (2022): Richard Wagners Amerika. Eine Ausgrabung (Excavating Wagner’s America). Associated with the WSNY since the 1980s, he served, from 2005 to 2013, as co-editor of wagnerspectrum, the first independent journal of Wagner Studies; he also contributes regularly to The Wagner Journal and Wagner Notes. He first visited the Bayreuth Festival in 1959 and returned frequently.


February 28
6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Free – $15.00
Event Category:


Wagner Society of New York
(800) 573-6148
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National Opera Center
330 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10001 United States
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