Living in the Lohengrinhaus
I'd planned to post a daily video diary of my stay in this house but alas uploading videos on a slow internet connection has proved impossible so stills will have to do for now. The Lohengrinhaus is in Graupa, 15 kms from Dresden at the edge of that strangely named Saxon Switzerland, a surreal region of Dolomite-esque rock formations, great looming boulders that surge up out of the forest floor. Mountain streams thread through narrow gorges and dense forest. Yes, it's hilly and rocky but it looks nothing like Switzerland - at least not to 21st century eyes.
When I visited the museum in February, I was offered a 'stipend' of two weeks in order to work on my feature film script, "Winter Music" about a great operatic bass-baritone who wants to sing Wotan. And I am also hoping to post a regular blog on my stay.
These days it takes about 20 minutes to get here from central Dresden. Wagner himself noted that he travelled an hour from the city. He was writing up his memoirs for Cosima, years after the fact. He recorded outings to Borsberg, Liebethalter and Pirna to take the waters. He notes, doubtless with some pleasure, that while in Pirna he heard an unseen visitor to the baths whistling the Pilgrims' Chorus from "Tannhäuser". But it was "Lohengrin" that he worked on while here.
Oh, and though these memories come down through Cosima, Wagner was here with that often-forgotten first wife of 22 years, the long-suffering Minna. He was working as Kapellmeister at the Dresden court. If the Tony Palmer epic biopic "Wagner" is accurate, he even wore the uniform of wig, frock-coat and breeches of a fast-fading era. According to that memoir that he wrote for Cosima, he was relieved to escape 'winterly music-making' and breathe the fresh country air.
He and Minna rented two rooms on the first (or second to N. Americans) floor of this house from May-July in 1846. My bedroom is on the 2nd floor. Every night as I go to sleep, I am amazed and thrilled to think that Wagner and Minna used to climb into bed just a few feet below my room. Even weirder and more wonderful is the moment when I return in the evening, the museum staff have gone and I open the main gate and enter this empty house, to be greeted by a bust of Wagner in the entrance.
Cosima could not resist a little sneer at her husband's earlier life before he met her, marvelling that such a work as "Lohengrin" could be born from such "tightness" in his surroundings.
There are 2 parts to this little Wagner enclave in the Saxon countryside. This "Lohengrinhaus" with a small museum consisting of the 2 rooms where the Wagners stayed, and a little Jagdschloss (hunting lodge/castle) across the street that boasts a more comprehensive and wonderfully interactive museum and concert hall. I'll write more about both tomorrow.