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Richard Wagner and Zurich (1849 – 1858)
Special exhibition in the Bärengasse Museum
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25 June to 16 November 2008

PRESS RELEASE                 June 2008                                           Embargo: 24.06.08, 11 am

Richard Wagner and Zurich (1849 – 1858)

Richard Wagner spent nine years as a political refugee in Zurich. They were among the most
productive of his life. He wrote his essay about art of the future and, with the composition of Tristan
und Isolde, introduced musical modernity 150 years ago. Wagner’s years in Zurich are the subject of a
special exhibition in the Bärengasse Museum, presented by the Swiss National Museum and the
Music Institute of Zurich University.

Having narrowly avoided being arrested after the May revolution in Dresden, the 36-year-old Royal Director of
Music of Saxony, Richard Wagner, reached Zurich in May 1849. He would spend nine years here as a
political refugee, nine years of reassessment, which, for him as an artist and a man, would be among the most
formative and productive of his whole life. Zurich proved to be a “testing ground” where existing ideas could
mature, new ones arise and be tried out. Wagner conducted, and wrote in rapid succession a number of
essays on art theory, dramatic texts and compositions. Both Der Ring des Nibelungen and Tristan und Isolde
were begun in Zurich. In May 1853 the first ever Wagner Festival took place here. The later widely-used
expression “music of the future” was derived from his epoch-making essay Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft.

Patron of the exhibition is Dr. Peter Stüber, Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in Zurich.
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The exhibition will be opened on the 24 June 2008 as part of the Zurich Festival, and will last until the 16
November. Manuscripts that have seldom been exhibited, rare printed scores, everyday things such as
Wagner’s cloth sample, his desk or his gold pen, pictures and musical instruments recall the pioneering years
of the flamboyant artist. In the Rococo Music Salon a sound installation carries the visitor back to a soirée 150
years ago. A richly illustrated accompanying booklet published by NZZ Libro gives more detailed information
about this many-faceted subject.
Books related to the subject of the exhibition
«Kunstwerk der Zukunft. Richard Wagner und Zürich (1849 – 1858», edited by Laurenz Lütteken, assisted by
Eva Martina Hanke, commissioned by the Swiss National Museum and the Bärengasse Museum Foundation,
Eva Martina Hanke: «Wagner in Zürich. Individuum und Lebenswelt»
Chris Walton: «Richard Wagner’s Zurich. The Muse of Place»

All three books are available at the Bärengasse Museum, at the Swiss National Museum and from

Radio play from the auditory experience in the Rococo Music Salon is available at the entrance of the
Museum Bärengasse (Price: CHF 5.-).

Opening hours
Tuesday: 2 pm – 8 pm, Wednesday to Sunday: 2 pm – 6 pm
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Open on Friday, 1 August (national holiday), Closed on Saturday, 9 (Street Parade)

Supporting programme
A series of presentations and discussions on the topic of the exhibition, as well as city guided tours (in
German only) following in Wagner's footsteps and guided tours for children «Wagners Koffer» complete the
exhibition arrangement.
On this website you will find further details about the exhibition and the extensive supporting programme.

All the press information and a selection of photos can be downloaded from the home page under «press»

Further information is available from:
Felix Graf, project leader, phone +41 (0)44 218 65 56, e-mail:
Dr. Eva Martina Hanke, curator of the exhibition, phone +41 (0)79 231 13 55, e-mail:
Gesa Walk, communications, phone +41 (0)44 218 66 50, e-mail:

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