Inside Wagner's Head
I recommend Simon Callow's 90 minute one man performance at the Linbury Theatre about the life and thoughts of Richard Wagner. It's a fascinating to hear about Wagner's striving to redefine German culture and the extreme highs and lows of his life. When he was young, he was an avid gambler and lost all his money. Convinced that he would win at some point, he asked his mother for her savings and he won big time, repaying her with interest and able to fund musical training for himself. His other lucky break was in 1864 when he was 51. King Ludwig II (who built the castle) ascended to the throne of Bavaria, aged 18. He was a huge fan of Wagner's and sent a messenger to find him with a diamond ring to prove the King's identity (Wagner thought it was some kind of joke). The King settled his debts, gave him a house and supported his composing. It was not a smooth ride but in the end Wagner achieved his dream: a new opera house at Bayreuth for his new kind of music. The first production there, the premiere of Das Rheingold had a hitch as well: some of the scenery,which had been made in Wandsworth, had been shipped to Beirut my mistake.