Professor Michael Steinberg has curated "Richard Wagner and the Nationalization of Feeling," an exhibition that will be on display at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, Germany from April 8 through September 11, 2022. An excerpt from the DHM's press release about the exhibition follows:
Composer and theatre reformer, court music director and festival founder, revolutionary and exile, entrepreneur and capitalism critic, debtor and anti Semite: Richard Wagner made his mark in many different positions and strongly influenced the 19th century – with ramifications that still affect us today. The Deutsches Historisches Museum shows Wagner not only as witness and critic of the political and social upheavals of his time, but in particular as a controversial artist who knew how to integrate societal sensitivities strategically into his works and stage them as the essence of “Germanity”. The debates about the degree to which Wagner’s pronounced anti-Semitism shaped his works and his criticism of Modernity still go on today.
In this year the Deutsches Historisches Museum has been occupied with the history of capitalism. Two German protagonists of the 19th century are central to this discussion: Karl Marx and Richard Wagner. Like Marx, Richard Wagner was also a critic of the modern economy. At the same time, Wagner’s rise would hardly have been possible without the development of a modern capitalist art and music market. He was an extremely successful technician of feelings who was able to re position the social value of art and the artist in the increasingly commercialised world. To this end he developed marketing strategies in which emotions played an essential role. His ideas of music drama as a Gesamtkunstwerk were directly related to his criticism of Modernity and thus marked by the aspiration to change society as a whole. Starting with the strong polarisation that Wagner still triggers, the exhibition focuses on the relationship between his life and work and the movements and sentiments of his time. Four basic feelings of the 19th century form the centre of the exhibition. They were driving forces for the circumstances of the time and for Wagner’s ideas: Alienation and Belonging, Eros and Disgust. In four chapters based on these feelings, plus an epilogue on Wagner’s impact and reception, the exhibition looks into the question of how Wagner perceived these emotional conditions in society and how he reacted to them artistically.