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At its first performance in 1868 The Mastersingers was already explicitly perceived as a German national opera by part of the press and in Wagner’s environment. This was probably the composer’s own intention, since Wagner obviously tried, through the texts which accompanied this new theatrical work, to lead the opinion in the process of the political unification of Germany. If his hopes were first directed towards Louis II of Bavaria, the much-hated Prussia was considered later, after the victory of Austria. Not only was a sense of political realism influential in that, but also, more importantly, the idea that if it aimed at a new foundation of the realm, Germany had to restructure itself in the spirit of Protestantism and not of Roman Catholicism. Lutheran hymns served as the musical emblems of this tendency, notably the reinterpreted chorale Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott, which Wagner quoted in the middle of the Kaiser March he composed in 1871 for the coronation of William I after the victory over France. The article defends the thesis that the music for The Mastersingers derives from the Protestant parish chorale which is to be heard at the beginning of the first act, and that this chorale is not only a stylistic imitation, but also melodically related to Eine feste Burg.
Richard Wagner, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Arne Stollberg
Universität Basel
Die Geburt der deutschen Nationaloper aus dem Geiste des Chorals.
Wagners Kaisermarsch und die „protestantische“ Musik der Meistersinger