Segments in this Video

Are Verdi and Wagner Revolutionaries? (03:58)


"Va Pensiero" was the secret anthem of the Italian liberation movement. Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi caused scandals. Claus Guth received scary letters and criticism from the "Wagneriana."

"Tannhauser" (02:58)

Police searched for Wagner in 1949; authorities created an arrest warrant. Wagner wanted to be successful and became moderate.

Wagner Was a Rebel (03:03)

Mikhail Bakunin and August Rockel influenced Wagner's compositions. The music from "Tristan und Isolde" irritated marriage enthusiasts. The composer created bold harmonies and abandoned arias, duets, and recitatives; his music was not anti-Semitic.

Verdi's Revolutionary Tactics (03:52)

Giuseppe Verdi staged several successful operas and wrote "Nabucco." Wagner was more mysterious. Verdi became a political activist, fighting for Italy's unity.

Lega Nord (03:26)

Benito Mussolini appeared at parades that played Verdi's music. Padania adopted "Va, Pensiero" as its anthem. Verdi's operas were inspired by William Shakespeare and Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller.

Anti-Semitic Opera (03:11)

The German Opera performed "Rienzi" with characters in Nazi wardrobe. Members of the orchestra protested against scheduling the premiere on Adolf Hitler's Birthday. Those who used Wagner's music for propaganda were dangerous.

Scandal at Bayreuth Festival (05:18)

A video captured a partially covered swastika tattoo on Yevgeny Nikitin, suggesting Nazi sympathies. In 2011, the main female character in "Tannhauser" did not die of a broken heart, but was gassed. Austria passed the strictest law against a potential revival of Nazism.

Credits: The Revolutionaries (00:14)

Credits: The Revolutionaries

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The Revolutionaries

Part of the Series : Wagner vs. Verdi
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $99.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $149.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $99.95



Wagner and Verdi were revolutionaries both musically and personally. Wagner was intricately involved in all aspects of his operas, from writing the texts, directing, stage design, and music. Verdi turned his back on bel canto, reforming Italian opera. In their personal lives, Wagner climed the Dresden barricades, while Verdi procured rifles for his countrymen's fight for freedom from the Austrians. Decades later, dictators including Hitler and Mussolini drew on their music to fire up the masses. Even today, their music is not without controversy: star conductors, such as Daniel Barenboim face severe push-back when they perform Wagner's music in Israel, and Verdi has often been co-opted by right-wing populist parties. The program explores these themes, examining the causes for the explosiveness of the music and political views of the two composers, and exploring what it is about their music that mobilizes and polarizes.

Length: 27 minutes

Item#: BVL192659

Copyright date: ©2012

Closed Captioned

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