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Richard Wagner's Women


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Richard Wagner's music contains some of the most powerful portrayals of emotions in all opera, particularly love. Eva Rieger presents a new picture of the composer, showing how the women at his side inspired him and how closely his life and art intertwined.
We follow Wagner's restless hunt for the 'ideal woman', her appointed task being to give him shelter, warmth, inspiration, adventure and redemption, all in one. He could hardly have desired anything more contradictory, and this is reflected in the female characters of his operas. They are all in some way torn, faltering between their own desire for self-realization and the societal constraints that impel them to sacrifice themselves for their men.
Rieger bids farewell to essentialist, naturalized notions of femininity and masculinity. Her investigations are both comprehensive and convincing, for she avoids the pitfalls of imposing extraneous interpretation, instead focussing keenly on the music itself.

EVA RIEGER is Professor Emeritus in Historical Musicology at the University of Bremen and lives in the principality of Liechtenstein.


[M]ake[s] important steps in Wagner research and enable us to see how his theoretical works, libretti and music combine to present an important step forward in seeing how his female characters contribute to his overall creation of musical masterworks that still speak so powerfully to us. WAGNER QUARTERLY [WAGNER SOCIETY NSW, Australia] [T]his book provides a fascinating insight into the stimuli which made Richard Wagner what he was and led him to create what are arguably for some and definitively for many the Western world's most significant, entrancing and enduring compositions for the operatic stage. WAGNER NEWS

[T]he most comprehensive analysis of Wagner's major female characters to date [...] in an excellent English translation by Chris Walton [...] Rieger's approach offers an intriguing reading of women and gender in Wagner [...] compelling us to apply a more critical stance towards his idealisation of the feminine. THE WAGNER JOURNAL


First Published: 20 Oct 2011
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843836858
Pages: 248
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: Boydell Press
BIC Class: AV

Details updated on 24 Nov 2015


  • 1  Prelude
  • 2  '...the world as yet has no notion of it': Wagner's Musical Language
  • 3  From Rienzi to Der fliegende Holländer
  • 4  'The glitter of a high-class brothel': Tannhäuser
  • 5  'Take all that I am!': Lohengrin
  • 6  Sexual Promise and the Womanly Redeemer: Tristan und Isolde
  • 7  Mathilde, the 'dear muse': Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
  • 8  The Ring of the Nibelung: Genesis and Prelude - The Ring I
  • 9  Wotan and the Valkyrie - The Ring II
  • 10  Siegfried and Women - The Ring III
  • 11  Götterdämmerung - The Ring IV
  • 12  Between Eva and Kundry: ' woman at my side!'
  • 13  '...the suffering of love's seduction': Kundry and Parsifal
  • 14  Postlude

Richard Wagner's Zurich

Richard Wagner's Zurich

Wagner's <I>Ring</I> in 1848

Wagner's Ring in 1848

Wagner and Venice

Wagner and Venice