The 18-year-old Wagner, having completed six months' study of counterpoint, canon, and composition with Theodor Weinlig, cantor of the Leipzig's Thomaskirche -- the last and most intensive period of preparation before embarking upon his career -- essayed his new powers in a series of overtures through which one can trace his assimilation of a number of heterogeneous influences, for instance, Bellini and Weber, Marschner and Mendelssohn, and Spontini and Beethoven. The overture to Beethoven's Fidelio looms large in Wagner's König Enzio Ouverture, composed in the spring of 1832, and Wagner's music is the better for it, possessing an arresting thematic geste, relative concision of argument, and overall tautness that would elude him later in the wake of his discovery of the Italians in such things as the Polonia and Rule Britannia overtures. Wagner's early tastes in literature were also indiscriminately mixed. E.T.A. Hoffmann and Shakespeare rubbed shoulders with such now-forgotten authors as Lord Bulwer-Lytton, Heinrich König, and Ernst Raupach. Raupach is said to have authored some 117 plays, among them König Enzio. If Raupach's name clings to a shadowy survival it is because Carl Loewe set four of his lyrics; Spohr was inspired to write an orchestral fantasy, Die Tochter der Luft, Op. 99 (later incorporated as the first movement of his Fifth Symphony, Op. 102) by one of his effusions; and Raupach served as librettist for Spontini's Agnes von Hohenstaufen (1829) and his last unperformed operatic work Das verlorene Paradies (Paradise Lost). König Enzio tells the tale of Manfred von Hohenstaufen's half-brother, the King of Sardinia -- the Hohenstaufens seem to have been a Raupach specialty -- featuring a dramatic turn similar to Fidelio's as the king's daughter, Lucia, disguised as a man, enters the prison where Enzio is held. Wagner, however, was less moved by the drama than by the opportunity to be heard -- his sister, Rosalie, playing Lucia, prevailed upon the management of the Leipzig theater to allow his overture and incidental music to be used, though not without misgivings. The management remembered having performed Wagner's B flat Overture at Christmas in 1830, with its punctuating kettledrum stroke at every fifth bar provoking disgust and derision. For König Enzio, the composer's name was withheld until the audience demonstrated its approval. The program of the play's second performance on March 16, 1832, acknowledged "the overture and the music at the end of the fifth act have been newly composed for the occasion by Richard Wagner." It was his first printed public recognition as a composer.
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Description by Adrian Corleonis