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8.223895-96 - WAGNER, S.: Banadietrich

Siegfried Wagner (1869 -1930)

Siegfried Wagner (1869 - 1930)




Siegfried Wagner was born in 1869 at Tribschen near Lucerne, the son of Richard Wagner and Liszt's daughter Cosima, former wife of Hans von Bulow and later to be Wagner's second wife. He was educated privately at home until his father's death in 1883, later studying music with Engelbert Humperdinck in Frankfurt. He turned from music to architecture after 1890, at first at the Berlin Polytechnic and then in Karlsruhe. It was here that he came under the influence of the Wagner conductor Felix Mottl. A voyage to India and China in 1892 finally decided him and he returned home to spend four years as an assistant at Bayreuth under his mother, Hans Richter and Julius Kniese, a preparation for his future role as producer, director and conductor at the Festival. In 1896 he conducted The Ring and in 1901 he staged The Flying Dutchman, taking charge of the Festival from 1906 until his death in 1930.

The twelve completed operas of Siegfried Wagner are very different from those of his father, although he followed the latter's example in writing his own libretti. The subjects chosen reflect, perhaps, the interests of Humperdinck, often based on fairy-tales or magic in a world that reflects the stories collected by the Brothers Grimm. The sixth of the operas, Banadietrich, was completed in 1909 and first staged at the Hoftheater in Karlsruhe on 23rd January 1910.

Banadietrich is derived from one of the earliest German poems, the ninth century Hildebrandlied, which deals with events of the sixth century, the time of the migration of peoples and of wars and conquests, great deeds and suffering. It tells of Hildebrand, comrade in arms of Dietrich of Bern and father of Hadubrand. With him, who belonged to the army of Odoaker, he must fight in single combat and Hadubrand spoke to him as follows:

Our people tell me this,

old and wise, who lived before,

that Hildebrand was the name of my father,

my name is Hadubrand.

Formerly he went towards the East,

he flew before the hatred of Odoaker with Dietrich

with many of his warriors.

He left living in the country his family,

his young wife at home, the child still ungrown,

without inheritance: he rode away towards the East.

Then began for Dietrich the privations

of my father: he was a man without friends.

He was angry beyond measure with Odoaker,

the dearest of the warriors with Dietrich.

He was always at the head of the war horde,

battle was always dear to him.


Hadubrand's speech serves as a prologue to Siegfried Wagner's opera. Hildebrand is a follower of Dietrich, who, allied with King Etzel (Attila), fights against the King of the Goths, Ermenrich (Ermanarich). The substitution of Odaker for Ermenrich is one of the saga variants. Dietrich of Bern, however, is historically known as King Theodoric the Great, who conquered the North of Italy in the sixth century. Saga tradition has created from Theodoric the hero Dietrich of Bern, with whom a number of other traditions have come to be associated. Bern itself has been variously identified as Verona, Berne or Bonn, as the saga moved north, bringing association with Siegfried and the Nibelungen, and its contradictory Christian interpretations.



Siegfried Wagner's Dietrich, heathen in origin, as in the relationship with the nature-creature Schwanweiß (Swan-White), is tempted by Satan, the Anti-Christ. There are some historical elements, such as the mention of the Rabenschlacht, Theodoric's battle with Odoaker at Ravenna, or the figure of the King of the Huns, Etzel, with whom, certainly, Theodoric was never directly allied, and of Ermenrich. From the sagas and fairy-tales come mentions of the King of the Dwarves, Laurin, and his rose-garden, the rocks of the Dolomites, of Wieland the Smith, of sin and excommunication and the resulting motif of the Wild Huntsman or Siegfried Wagner's introduction of a love-story of Dietrich and the Water Maiden, Swan-White. The swan-motif, familiar from Wieland der Schmied, Lohengrin and Parsifal and the preoccupations of Ludwig II of Bavaria, found a later place in Siegfried Wagner's Schwarzschwanenreich (The Kingdom of the Black Swan).

The hero Banadietrich (banned from the Church) is found in traditional folk-legend throughout German-speaking countries. In Orlagau, in the very heart of Germany, the Wild Huntsman is known as Berndietrich, while in Slav areas and in Bohemia he is known as Pan Dietrich or Banadietrich. It seems that Siegfried Wagner drew on North Bohemian versions of the story, using the traditional figure to show a man psychologically out of tune with his time, a reflection of his own disillusion.

The saga of Banadietrich tells of a knight of that name, pious and virtuous, to whom an angel brought food and for whom the wind or the rays of the sun brought a coat. The Devil tempted him, but in vain. In the end he resorted to trickery. There was a great holiday and Banadietrich was praying in church. The Evil One took the guise of an ugly old man and sat at the church door, with a goatskin in his hands; the holiness of the place kept him from going into the church. At the Consecration, when everything was quiet, the Devil bit into his goatskin, dragged on it, let it go and banged with his head on the church door. There was great alarm and Banadietrich turned round in indignation to see who was disturbing the ceremony in such a way. Then he saw the old man, who was tearing at the goatskin in his mouth again and banging with his head on the church door. At this sight Banadietrich lost all his seriousness, and could not help laughing. His laughter gave offence, since the prayers of the whole congregation were disrupted. The Devil had won.

Banadietrich prayed no more and visited no church, gave no alms and abandoned his virtuous course of life. Instead of going to Mass, he lived in the woods and desert places, and soon found such pleasure in hunting that he was often away from his castle for the whole day. One Sunday, when the bells of the village church were calling the people, he rode out on his horse to a deserted place, like a storm-wind. There a great voice from Heaven called him: "Banadietrich, Banadietrich! How long will you go on hunting?". The knight trembled and called out: As long as God will!" "Then you shall hunt till the last day!", replied the voice. The Wild Huntsman still hunts through the woods, when the moon is new, and the sound of his hounds and of the beat of his horse's hooves can be heard, with the hunting-horn and the huntsman's halloos, although he is never seen.





CD l

[1] Prelude


Act I

[2] Scene 1

Battle rages and Dietrich questions Raunerath how matters stand (Wie steht der Kampf?), for the situation is now desperate. He asks where Dietleib is, while Wittich has deserted, now in league with the hated Ermenrich. The cunning of Laurin helped there, but what use his ailing strength: he should have died. Turning to Swan-White, who has come out, he tells her to go back into her room, but she wants to share his suffering (Dein Leid zu teilen, willst Du mir whren?). He tells her to go, for if he falls, she will fall prey to his enemies. He asks Raunerath if he can see Hildebrand, but Raunerath cannot, and then asks if the sons of Etzel are safe; they have followed their father, who did not restrain them, giving way to their pleading. A cry of victory is heard, voices hailing Ermenrich (Heil! Ermenrich, Heil!):now Dietrich's star has waned. Dietrich seeks help from Raunerath, some trick, some means of triumph, for God seems to have deserted him, taking his sword from his hand, or was it the power of Satan? Raunerath suggests one means (Es gibt ein Mittel), and asks Dietrich what he holds most dear. There can be but one answer, swan-White. Raunerath assures him of victory, if he leaves her, since she brings bad luck: everyone knows this, since she is a water-maiden and must go as she came, sent by wicked fairies. Dietrich tells Raunerath that swan-White saved him, when, with his booty, he sank in the marsh (Gerettet hat sie mich): she would have escaped, but he held her and promised her his love. Raunerath recognises the trick, an old one (Die Scherzchen kenn ich!), but Dietrich should think of Etzel’s promise of his own daughter and the inheritance of his kingdom. Swan-White calls out to the king, for there is bad news.

Dietleib announces danger, for Hildebrand has fallen and with him the sons of Etzel. That, adds Raunerath, will cost Etzel's favour. Dietrich praises the fallen Hildebrand, whose strength has now joined the sea of death: nothing now is left, but defiance. Raunerath tells the women to fly (Flieht! Frauen! Tod oder Schmach!), for it is either death or shame: new armies are coming from the North to join Ermenrich, to murder and to burn. Dietrich longs for his sword, but now the huts are aflame and the enemy is attacking the castle. In desperation Dietrich calls on the powers of Hell and offers to them the dearest thing to him on earth (Euch Hollenmachten weih'ich mich). There is a cry that Wittich is taken prisoner, as the battle turns. Now Raunerath can hail Dietrich as the victor, so soon has the poison worked, quicker than he ever imagined.


[3] Scene 2

Dietleib salutes Dietrich, bringing his sword, that he took from the enemy. He could have killed his enemy, Wittich, now a prisoner, but thought otherwise, since alliance of the two heroes, hate set aside, would be better. Dietleib's word should stand (SolI uns Dietleib's Wort nicht gelten?) and Dietrich bids Wittich look up, true-false friend, the past forgotten and the shame of triumph lost: he sets him free and welcomes him as friend and helper again, giving his pledge and hand. Dietleib and his men praise the day that Wittich became reconciled (Heil dem Tage, der Wittich uns versohnte!) and salute Dietrich, joined by the women. The men swear loyalty , as comrades in arms, and Dietrich bids them carry the bodies of the dead heroes into the minster, where their death can be mourned better than the death of a king.


[4] Scene 3

Raunerath now rails at the house of ill-fortune, the castle that harbours disaster (O Ungluckshaus! Unheilbergende Burg!), for Dietrich has broken his heart to achieve glory, sacrificing his own wife (O weh! Sein eig'nes Weib opfert er hin!). Turning to Wittich, he sees Swan-White coming and tells him

to comfort her.


[5] Scene 4

Swan-White, mistaking Wittich for her husband, offers him her praise (Dietrich! War ich die Letzte, Dich zu preisenl). Wittich reveals himself, now tied by the bonds of friendship and reconciled. In pity he reveals to her the source of Dietrich's victory, not his courage, not his sword, but a sacrifice of the thing dearest to him, his wife. He tells her to make her escape, since she has been betrayed: he offers himself to her (So opfre ich mich Dir! Dein ist mein Leben! Dein mein Mut!) and will be her protector.


[6] Scene 5

Raunerath now shows Dietrich the loving couple (Sieh welch'verliebtes Parchen!) and Dietrich challenges Wittich with his treachery (Wittich und Schwanweiß! Verrater, bist Du So mir treu?), but Wittich claims his greater loyalty, wiping out Dietrich's shame. Swan-White tells Wittich to let her go, but he asks now where is the justice of Heaven, for evil triumphs, calling on her to take heart; now is the time for vengeance (Diese Wunde schwort Dir Rachel). Dietrich calls on swan-White to defend herself, since he has witnessed her treachery (Nun So sprich: Wir lauschen Dir!). She answers that she would speak to Dietrich, but he is no longer Dietrich, but a stranger (Du bist nicht Dietrich: ein Fremdes spricht aus Dir!). As Raunerath would go, she turns on him, abusing him as a serpent (Schlange!): his advice is the cause of her trouble, and she would speak to Dietrich. Raunerath suggests that she would cast a spell on him (Da seht lhr's! Sie will ihn behexen!), since she is a water-maiden. Dietrich remains silent, as Raunerath warns him again to beware. Swan-White inveighs against Dietrich, now so changed: if he ever comes to his senses two figures will come to him, one bringing news of her loyalty, the other gnawing at his heart, called remorse: she bids him be happy in his triumph.


[7] The sound of religious chant is heard, voices singing Audi nos Christe: Hear us, Christ, creator of the world! Hail blessed cross! Through you death is conquered! Holy cross, symbol of our life! You will summon friends and enemies of the cross, Jesu! Son of God! Be mindful of me! Hear us, Christ! Hear us, Lord!


Scene 6

Now everything has gone according to Raunerath's plan (Bis hierher war'alles recht niedlich gegluckt). The choir continues, while Raunerath rejoices in his success: once Dietrich was a good Christian, chosen by God, it seemed, fed by an angel, a model of piety (So frommlich war einst Dieser Dietrich!): but now all his piety is for nothing, since the Devil sees through him, his praying, kneeling and fasting a burden: he will prove it, with a goat-skin at hand now for the dance.


[8] Scene 7

Dietrich bursts into laughter, to the anger of the priest, who asks him the reason (Konigl Wie? Du lachst? Grauen erfullt uns!) for this desecration of the solemn ceremony. Dietrich asks if he did not see the creature hopping (Sahst Vu es nicht, wie's lustig hupfte?). The priest is angry at this apparent contempt, for Dietrich here is a servant (Venn Knecht bist Vu, wie Alle hier!), a servant of God and through Him of the priest: he must expiate his sin. Dietrich, however, will not obey and is now excommunicated, banished from the society of the faithful.


[9] Scene 8

Dietleib calls for help for Dietrich, against an attack of the hordes from the North (Haßhungrig scheuchen die Horden Vein Volk von Norden!), with Etzel eager for vengeance for the death of his sons. Dietrich tells Dietleib to make his own escape, for he can offer him no protection (Geh, Guter! Keines Schutzes bedarf ich!): he is no longer Dietrich, but is cursed, a companion of Satan.


[10] Scene 9

Raunerath hurries to him, bidding him wrap himself in his cloak, to make his escape invisible. Etzel bids him stand, murderer of his children (Steh! Morder meiner Kinder!), but can see no-one, when Dietrich addresses him, taunting and challenging him, telling Etzel that when he can see him, then he can take him prisoner. He mounts on the back of a dragon, letting his cloak fall, and again challenging Etzel to catch him (Jetzt faßt mich!)


Act II

[11] Scene 1

The scene is one of pastoral serenity. Ute thanks a shepherd for his playing and tells him that the young woman staying in her house has been very pleased by the sound of his flocks.


[12] Scene 2

A boy and a girl tell Ute that Dietleib has come, her son. They greet each other and she asks him what has happened in the war (Wie war's im Krieg?): is there no greeting from Dietrich? He tells her that all is lost, the castle destroyed, the land laid waste (Die Burg zerstort, das Land verheert), with the enemy seeking plunder: Dietrich lives in the forest, constantly at the hunt, shunned by all and known now as Banadietrich: his hunting-horn is heard now here, now there, and woe on any that come in his way. The boy and girl seem to have heard something of the kind even now, but Ute re-assures them. In reply to his questioning, she tells him that she has in the house a sick man and with him his dear wife: they had come to her seeking shelter and healing, but would give no name: the woman, with her flowing dress and silvery voice reminds her of a water-spirit. Dietleib wants to see them, guessing their identity.


[13] Scene 3

Now Dietleib meets the woman, swan-White, as he had supposed. She asks him if he is seeking Wittich (Dietleib! Du hier? Suchst Du Wittich?) and if now he is angry with her. He wishes he could lie or that her heart were as her words and that she were not as guilty as she now appears, and as any fool can see. She tells him that she has nursed Wittich who will recover only when he abjures revenge against Dietrich. Dietleib considers that they are guilty and revenge should be for Dietrich to exact, but swan- White tells him of the wrong Dietrich has done, and yet he is not bad (Unrecht! Bitterstes Unrecht! Und doch: Dietrich ist nicht schlecht!) and she cannot hate him. Wittich, she goes on, loves her, but she cannot love him: he, however, still has that symbol of vengeance, Balmung, Dietrich's sword. She wishes someone would secretly take the sword from him and take it to Dietrich.

This Dietleib will do.


[14] Scene 4

Ute now welcomes Flederwisch and he, Magister Flederwisch, returns her greeting (Gruß Gott, guten Tag, Du braves Weib) and suggests they should sit down and have a chat. She tells him it a long time since he came to her house and asks if his foot is still giving trouble, but he has not come for that, rather to find out about the couple staying in her house, of whom he has suspicions: he knows that the couple are Wittich, whom Dietrich's wife captivated, and Swan-White, both of them banished in disgrace: he will show Ute what kind of people she has in her house, and he knocks at the door.


[15] Scene 5

Flederwisch, doctor doctissimus, introduces himself to Swan-White, who asks him at once if he knows Raunerath. Unfortunately not, he tells her, for Raunerath is a wise man, just like him. Just like him, Swan-White rejoins (Ganz wie Vu!), a little bent, limping. Flederwisch has come to offer help to Wittich, bringing with him a wonderful healing mixture. He offers the bottle to Swan-White and from it a snake suddenly darts: he hands her another, and from it spurts a flame. Ironically she thanks him for his kindness and bids him tell his cousin Raunerath to put his magic to better use, since Swan-White is well aware of Voland's jokes: was it not enough to destroy her happiness? Ute interrupts and recognises Voland as the name of the Devil.



[1] Scene 6

Wittich calls on the sun to shine on him and free him from suffering (Sonne! Heiliger Himmelsglanz!): without the sun all would be darkness and eternal night. He sees Swan-White as the light that takes away the pain of his wounds, yet perhaps this is all an illusion: she is kind and good and yet cold. He calls on Swan-White to hear him and pity his suffering. She reminds him of her wish, but he asks if he then is to forego vengeance and not protect her innocence. She wants Dietrich to believe her innocent, and now he does not, but Wittich tells her that she was sacrificed on a cowardly pretext, simply to win victory .She does not want to listen, but he insists that this is a matter for vengeance and pleads further with her.


They are interrupted, as Ute asks Dietleib, who has burst in, what he wants, but he seizes the sword from Wittich and hurries away. Ute tells Wittich that Dietleib has taken his sword, but Wittich still promises vengeance for swan-White, and follows after Dietleib, leaving swan-White to lament his broken oath, for now his wounds must bleed again.


[2] Scene 7

Ute asks swan-White to whom the sword belongs (Sonderbar! Wem gehorte nun eigentlich das Schwert?), and is told it is swan-White's husband's. Ute now asks whether swan-White has another husband, since she must know the truth: she had promised her dying husband to keep the honour of their house and she would not keep an unmarried couple in her house.


Swan-White tells Ute to go and comfort her husband in the grave: let his house be pure, as before. If her father had not given way to her pleading, her fate would have been different, but now, in return for brief happiness she has only pain and grief. Now she bids farewell to flowers and trees, since her sweet dream is at an end. Ute was good to her and has her blessing and a golden reward.


Gold, exclaims Ute, but the boy and girl tell her to go into the house, as thunder is heard. Ute calls for help, the young people ask if that is gold, and she tells them it is nothing but gold. The boy tells her it is only leaves, and the laughter of the Devil is heard, as Ute curses her own foolishness.



[3] Prelude: The Wild Hunt


[4] Scene 1

In the forest a fairy calls for help from Banadietrich, who now claims one as his own. The spirit calls shame on him, for he has a most beautiful wife at home. Dietrich threatens to make the fairy pay for insolence.


[5] Scene 2

Dietleib greets Dietrich, who tells this ghost to be gone, before recognising Dietleib, who calls on him to take his sword and save his people. Dietrich asks if they have forgotten the curse, but Dietleib tells him that his foolish laughter can be forgiven. Dietrich, however, thinks there can be no forgiveness for the betrayal of a loving heart: this only Swan-White can forgive: if Swan-White were ten times untrue, his guilt was the worse. Dietleib tells him that Swan-White has forgiven him and it is now not too late: he can find her again and banish the Devil: reign again as king of his people. Dietrich bids him be quiet, with his own inner anger against his own thirst for glory: should he then bow the knee to Dietleib, repent: does he know so little of Dietrich? His sword may be Dietleib's and when he uses it he may think of Dietrich, for perhaps it will bring luck.


[6] Scene 3

Wittich now appears, cursing the thief and seeking the sword (Verfluchter Dieb! Bin ich Dir auf der Spur). Dietrich reproaches his villainous ardour: surely it is Dietrich who should seek vengeance against the one who had treated his wife so lasciviously. Wittich replies claiming rather love and pity for Swan-White than any such attempt against her honour. Dietrich, though, tells him there is only one before whom he must beg forgiveness, and she has already forgiven him. Wittich challenges him, but then asks who it is that stands with him, the horseman behind him, with his head under his arm: his horse with three hoofs. Dietrich calls on Wittich to stand (Wittich! Nie flohst Du je! Halt ein!), as the latter rushes headlong to the water, sinking, as Dietrich sees the deep open and an arm raised to hold him, and the neck, white like a swan's. He imagines another trick, but can it be that Wittich now has his reward, while Dietrich must remain?


[7] Scene 4

The Devil calls on Dietrich to stop, introducing himself as a good friend, now come to claim Dietrich for his base ingratitude: who helped him against Etzel or against Ermenrich, or what of the dragon that rescued him? Dietrich reminds the Devil of what he himself lost. The sound of Death is heard and the Devil tells him that Death is hoarse and can only croak and bleat, but he intends to take Dietrich, who asks if this is now the evening of life, yet he has seen death in battle, a death that he loves: on the stormy sea a ship is tossed, while the helmsman hears sounds of delight like the beating of swans' wings: this is the death of Dietrich, not the wretched skeleton, with hour-glass and scythe. He tells Death to be off and strikes him. The Devil fears for his own safety before such a human being, addressing him now as a bastardly mocker, scorner of Death, with no fear of the last judgement or the trump of doom. Dietrich only laughs, asking what the greatest sin is: once he was happy and honoured, before the Devil came and now he is cursed and will enjoy this, without repenting. The Devil asks him if he is not afraid, but Dietrich has no dread, either of the Devil or of Death, seeking an answer to his question. The Devil asks him if he sees there a beautiful little flower (Siehst Du dart das Blumelein, lieblich und fein?), opening in the morning dew: to crush it under foot would be the greatest sin.


[8] Scene 5
Dietrich sees the Devil limp away, but he is right (Er hinkt bad und hat recht). Now he wonders that he has for so long not seen the flowers, sensed the sweet scent: he hears the cry of a flower that he has killed, and so another flower once looked at him, eyes red with weeping: the flower should laugh if he tramples on it, brief pain instead of long suffering. The flower cries in anguish and the voice of the Lord is heard, asking Dietrich if he is sorry for his deed. No, cries Dietrich, and again the voice asks its question. Dietrich remains obdurate and is condemned to eternal pain, in the wild hunt (So sei

verdammt zur ew’ gen Pein). Swan-White calls on Bandadietrich to repent, and he answers her: what neither man nor Satan nor God could accomplish a wife’s prayer has brought about. Swan-White and the Water-Maidens welcome him into their company, away from air and earth among the waves and in peace, awakening him to a new life.

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