Richard Wagner and His Affections
Richard Wagner was not only a great and productive composer, he was also
an extremely amorous man. In 1834 Wagner met Christine Wilhelmine (Minna)
Planer, an actress, and in 1836 they got married. The marriage was far
from successful. To the contrary, it was
quite "stormy" because of Minna's and Wagner's numerous love
affairs on the side. They often traveled together but Wagner just couldn't
help falling in love with someone else's wife.
Really bad times started for Minna after more than 20 years of marriage
with Richard. In 1859 she even had to return to Dresden after Wagner's
affair with Mathilde Wesendonck became too much for her to take. He composed
5 "Wesendonck-lieder" to poems by Mathilde. For
this he set aside his work on "Siegfried". Wagner had
retreated to Venice to continue work on "Tristan und Isolde".
Wagner parted with Minna for the last time on November 7, 1862 in Dresden.
Minna died in Dresden on 25 January, 1866, while Wagner, in Geneva with
Cosima von Bülow (the daughter of Franz Liszt), was searching for
a home after being expelled from Munich.
The story of Wagner's acquaintance
with Cosima is rather interesting. In August 1861 he and his friends arrived
in Bad Reichenhall. Wagner had another mistress accompany him. It was
Blandine Ollivier (nee Liszt) whose sister Cosima was taking a sour milk
cure at Bad Reichenhall. 48-year-old Wagner found 24-year-old Cosima
in such good health that he gave up Blandine, to her husband's relief,
and concentrated on Cosima. Wagner and Cosima maintained their relationship
and got married in Lucerne in 1870 while Blandine died young at St. Tropez,
France. In the summer of 1862, while Wagner was living in Biebrich,
Minna Wagner came to Bad Reichenhall to take a cure for her failing heart.
Wagner didn't help matters by suggesting a divorce that spring.
Wagner's irresistible charm didn't always help the matters. It was in
1859 in Baden-Baden, when Wagner was still in exile. He met Countess Hacke,
a lady-in-waiting to Princess Augusta of Prussia. Wagner met Augusta and
asked her to intercede before the Saxon court to allow him to return to
his homeland and Dresden, from where he had been ousted for taking part
in the revolution of 1849/49. Augusta didn't find Wagner impressive enough
and refused helping him.
Wagner had three children with Cosima: Isolde (1865), Eva (1867), and
Siegfried (1869). In July 1870 Cosima's marriage to von Bülow was
annulled; she and Wagner got married in Lucerne on August 25.
The last affair in his life Wagner had in 1883, when his wife found out
about his infatuation with Carrie Pringle, an actress participating in
"Parsifal". Cosima and Richard had a stormy scene on
February 13, and a few hours later Wagner was found dead. He died of a
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