Winifred Wagner : A Life at the Heart of Hitler's Bayreuth
Winifred Wagner's story is extraordinary. Born in England, orphaned at an early age, she became Richard Wagner's daughter-in-law, head of the Bayreuth Festival, and one of Adolf Hitler's closest friends.Winifred Williams was born in 1897, lost both parents two years later, and was adopted at age nine by distant relatives, an elderly couple who were musicians, friends of the Wagner family, and, later, Nazi sympathizers. In 1915, to ensure the continuance of the Wagner dynasty and the Bayreuth Festival, Winifred was married off to Wagner's son, Siegfried, thirty years her senior and a confirmed bachelor. She bore him four children. After Siegfried's death, this handsome, capable, and determined Englishwoman displaced her formidable mother-in-law, Cosima, as head of the family and the Festspiel.In 1923, shortly before the Munich Putsch, Adolf Hitler made a pilgrimage to Wagner's grave in Bayreuth and he and Winifred became friends and allies. In the 1930s, Bayreuth at Festival time was the center of German cultural and political life; Winifred, its director, was often referred to as the "First Lady of the Reich" and, after World War II, as the "last Nazi" for her obstinate loyalty to Hitler's memory. Remarkably, in the years that followed, although officially banned from Bayreuth, she managed to keep the Wagner family together and the Festival functioning, in spite of the close association of both with the Fuhrer. She died in 1980, unrepentant, at the age of eighty-two.Drawing on previously unavailable sources, Brigitte Hamann has produced a meticulously researched and elegantly written biography of this powerful, misguided woman, as well as a history of the Bayreuth Festival in its most infamous years.
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- Hardback | 582 pages
- 149.9 x 226.1 x 35.6mm | 839.16g
- 04 Dec 2006
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
- HOUGHTON MIFFLIN
- United States
- English, German
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