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Wagner: Making a National Hero

Stephen Johnson explores the worlds of Wagner's heroes, from Norse myths to his own Tannhauser, Siegfried and Parsifal. He charts how Wagner himself became a national hero.

Wagner 200
Stephen Johnson explores the worlds of Wagner's heroes and how his Tannhauser, Lohengrin, Siegfried and Parsifal were created from a particularly Wagnerian concoction of ancient Norse legends, medieval German myths and current political thinking at the dawn of Bismark's Germany. He finds out how Wagner himself became a different sort of national hero through the efforts of Cosima, his zealously loyal widow, and then through misinterpretations of his writings about nationalism by the Third Reich.

Stephen talks to conductor Donald Runnicles, Wagner experts Barry Millington and Barbara Eichner, writer and opera director Adrian Mourby, Ring expert Edward Haymes, and Cosima's biographer Oliver Hilmes.

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45 minutes

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