The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 transformed Wagner's reputation -- no longer a notorious composer whose sybaritic thirst for luxury threatened to bankrupt the Bavarian state treasury, but the incarnation of German spirit, one of the immortals, whose works exemplified German artistic superiority even as the Prussian army had demonstrated military superiority. But Ludwig II, King of Bavaria, who had given Wagner enormous sums to further the composer's exponentially expanding ambitions and continued to make him a generous allowance, was unhappy. Soon after rescuing Wagner in May 1864 from debts that threatened to send him to prison, Ludwig found it necessary to have a contract drawn giving him ownership of the Ring operas -- whose composition had stalled near the end of Act Two of Siegfried -- with the expectation that they would be performed in Munich, the Bavarian capital, in a theater to be built especially to accommodate them. Rights to the Ring had been sold twice before -- first to the publisher Schott, then to Otto Wesendonck. Ludwig fared no better as Wagner held back Siegfried, finished in full score in February 1871, while attempting to prevent Munich productions of Das Rheingold and Die Walküre. The notion of building his own theater at Bayreuth took possession of him from the spring of 1870. Wagner married his mistress, Cosima von Bülow -- daughter of Liszt and Countess Marie d'Agoult -- in Lucerne on August 25, 1870. A week later the French were defeated at Sedan, and as winter came on Paris was besieged. The new German Empire was proclaimed in Versailles' Hall of Mirrors in January, with Ludwig's uncle, Wilhelm of Prussia, declared emperor. In such jingoistic productions as "To the German Army before Paris" -- a poem hailing the creation of the German Empire -- and the empty pomp of the Kaisermarsch he put himself forward as the spiritual avatar of the Reich. Wherever he went he was celebrated by gaping crowds and fêted by civic forums. When he and Cosima arrived at the Hotel de Prusse in Leipzig, en route to visit Bismarck, they were given the royal suite. This so gratified Wagner that he wrote the hotel manager, one Louis Kraft, a small encomium of three stanzas that he set unaccompanied, playing on the hotelier's name (German for strength or power) -- "Of him who received me so sympathetically let my song of praise resound: for royalty and artistry, long live Kraft." Dedicated "To his friendly host Louis Kraft," the manuscript is dated April 22, 1871.
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Description by Adrian Corleonis