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Richard Wagner and the Nationalization of Feeling

Richard Wagner experienced and influenced the 19th century in many different ways – as a composer and court musician, as revolutionary and an exile, as a bankrupt and a protégé of wealthy patrons and of a king. The Deutsches Historisches Museum presents Wagner not only as a witness and as a critic of the political and social upheavals of his time, but in particular as a controversial artist and entrepreneur who knew how to strategically integrate society’s sensitivities into his work.

Richard Wagner was among the critics of the spread of industrialisation and capitalism. On the other hand, his artistic ascent would not have been possible without a modern market for art and music. The exhibition presents Wagner as a technician of feelings who, in the increasingly commercialised world, positioned the social signifificance of art and the artist in a new light. To this end, he developed marketing strategies in which emotions played an essential role.

The presentation focuses on four feelings that acted as driving forces for the circumstances of the time and for Wagner’s ideas: Alienation and Belonging, Eros and Loathing. These four chapters examine how Wagner perceived the emotional conditions of society and reacted to them artistically. Wagner’s pronounced anti-Semitism and his nationalism were closely related. Among others, the exhibition adresses it with the installation Schwarzalbenreich, created by director Barrie Kosky especially for the exhibition. A sound collage, which is presented in the darkness of a “black box”, mixes historical recordings with anti-Semitic Wagner quotations translated into Yiddish.

Eine Hand hält ein Smartphone, dass die Website des Formats More Story zur Ausstellung Richard Wagner und das deutsche Gefühl zeigt

Richard Wagner and the Nationalization of Feeling

More Story

The digital format More Story provides background information and insight into our exhibition.

Accompanying Programme

The event series “Marx, Wagner and ...!” runs parallel to the two exhibitions “Karl Marx and Capitalism” and “Richard Wagner and the Nationalization of Feeling” and shows interconnections between them. The exclamation mark in the title of the series stands for the respective third person whose impact is examined in the light of the works of Marx and Wagner: Victoria, Princess Royal and German Empress, Mahatma Gandhi and Rosa Luxemburg, seen in connection with Marx and Wagner, are each the topic on one of the three evenings. The event series will take place in May and June 2022.


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