Conference

The Trial of Richard Wagner

Nexus Conference 1997

The influence of Richard Wagner on the art, culture, and politics of this age was so great that he might be considered the godfather of the twentieth century. Both admired and vilified during his lifetime, Wagner remains a highly controversial artist. He assigned himself a single task in life: redemption. People had to be delivered from their lust for power and money in order to receive the gift of a new art and a new religion. Der Ring des Nibelungen (performed by the Dutch Opera in 1997) is the foremost expression of his ideas on art, man, and world. But what or who is redeemed? Modern society is essentially the same as society in Wagner’s time: the human predicament is largely unchanged, and the yearning for redemption has  not ceased. Where can such redemption be found? What is the current value of Wagner’s works and of his ideas on art, religion, and society? Does art not appear to be ‘folly and lies’, as Thomas Mann once wrote? What is art? What is its potential, and what is the value of art for our society?