It often seems that the lives of the Wagner clan are even more fascinating – and, many might contend, more entertaining – than the operas of the Master himself. They certainly seem to generate an endless supply of books, and these two (one non-fiction but one, unusually, fiction) come at an interesting time in the fortunes of Bayreuth’s first family. Old Wolfgang Wagner, grandson of the Master, eighty-seven years old and in charge of the Festival since the death of his brother Wieland in 1966, is on the way out. Various women – his daughter Eva by his first marriage and his niece Nike, both in their sixties, and his preposterously glamorous daughter from his second marriage, Katharina – are fighting like rabbits in a sack to succeed him. One is tempted to observe that the family needs collective psychiatric help rather than a world-famous cultural event to run: and these two books, in their different ways, help us to see why.
Jonathan Carr, in The Wagner Clan, understands both the political and the social currents of Germany as well as its music. His book is well written, entertaining and well informed. However, I am not sure that it adds very much to what we know already about Wagner himself, his tortuous