cover image Acts


Wolfgang Wagner. George Weidenfeld & Nicholson, $40 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-297-81349-1

He is indeed his grandfather's progeny--imperious, supremely self-regarding--and his criticism of the Wagner family for its ``tendency to provoke complications'' applies to him as well. He seems disinclined to pull in his claws, making his self-described ``caesura'' a taxing read. Despite the author's protestations that he disdains conflict, that a ``sewage farm'' would be required to contain the ``abuse and abject filth'' he and his second wife have been subjected to, his autobiography is a sustained bleat, a payback. In primary disfavor is his sister Friedelind, and although he's more discreet about his highly regarded brother Wieland, he points out that Wieland, unlike himself, joined the Nazi Party. Also flogged is the younger Wagner generation, including his son and daughter by his first wife. Those observations made, there is nonetheless much of interest here, as the author, who was born in 1919, the third of the four children of Cosima and Richard Wagner's son Sigfried and his wife, Winifred, recalls--and attempts to rationalize--his mother's friendship with Hitler, then the postwar denazification of the Bayreuth Festival under his and Wieland's joint stewardship. Since his brother's death in 1966, the controversial author has continued as Bayreuth's overseer. Photos. (July)