B0705. FRIEDELIND WAGNER. Heritage of Fire, The Story of Richard Wagner’s Granddaughter. New York, Harper, 1945. 231pp. Index; Illus.; DJ.
“Friedelind Wagner, who bore an uncanny resemblance to her grandfather, was born in Bayreuth, Germany, the site of the annual summer Wagner festival. She was educated in Germany and England and at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Her father, Siegfried, whom she adored, died in 1930, along with her grandmother Cosima, who was Franz Liszt's daughter. It was her English-born mother, Winifred, whose fanatic admiration for Adolf Hitler (and Hitler's equally fanatic admiration for Wagner's music) made Bayreuth into a Nazi shrine in the 1930's. Friedelind Wagner, always a rebel, resisted that trend and finally fled Germany in 1940 amid a burst of publicity. ‘I was always stubborn and independent’, she said in an interview in 1944. ‘I only had to listen to Hitler rave and rant to be disgusted and horrified’.
When war broke out in September 1940, she was visiting in Switzerland. Already an outspoken opponent of Nazism, she realized that the protection she had enjoyed as a member of the Wagner family would no longer guarantee her safety. Although offered asylum in Britain, she was interned by bureaucratic accident for three months. Released at the intercession of the conductor Arturo Toscanini, another outspoken anti-Fascist, she came to the United States in 1942 after detours to Uruguay and Argentina. During the war she remained an active anti-Nazi propagandist, a particular embarassment for the Nazis, given their idolatry of Wagner.
Miss Wagner's career after 1945 was a checkered one. She wrote a lively autobiography, HERITAGE OF FIRE, but her only real ally in the Wagner family was her brother Wieland. His brilliant career as a stage director and designer and co-director of the Bayreuth Festival was cut short by his death in 1966. Until then Miss Wagner had directed the Bayreuth Festival Master Classes, a summerlong series of workshops and instruction for young singers, conductors, directors and critics. After Wieland's death, the hostility shown her by her mother and her brother Wolfgang turned her later years into a gypsylike odyssey as she fruitlessly attempted to find support for her dream of a theatrical academy.
She lived in northern England for a number of years, then attempted to relocate to Bayreuth and spent her final years in Lucerne.”
- John Rockwell, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 9 May, 1991