Two contrary and paramount composers
Verdi and/or Wagner: Two Men, Two Worlds, Two Centuries
by Peter Conrad
Thames & Hudson, $49.95 hb, 384 pp, 9780500515938
Great Wagner Conductors: A Listener’s Companion
by Jonathan Brown
Parrot Press, $55 hb, 820 pp, 9780987155603
Two households. Two household names. Verdi and Wagner. To the north of the Alps, Haus Wahnfried, the Wagner compound in the otherwise unremarkable Bavarian town of Bayreuth. To the south of the Alps, Sant’Agata, the Verdi farmhouse outside Busseto, a marshy and little-visited corner of Emilia-Romagna. The respective residences reveal something of their owners’ personalities and priorities. For Giuseppe Verdi, Sant’Agata was a retreat; a place where he could escape from the hubbub of Milan, plant trees, grow vegetables, go fishing, tend livestock, and oversee his tenant farmers. For Richard Wagner, Wahnfried was headquarters of the greater Wagnerian project; a place to compose, write pamphlets, receive visitors, tend to his personality cult, and oversee his band of disciples.