Lot 39
  • 39

Wagner, Richard

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Wagner, Richard
  • Autograph manuscript of the first poetical draft of the libretto of "Tannhäuser"
  • paper
a working manuscript entitled "Der Venusberg Romantische Oper in 3 Acten", dated at the beginning ("Dresden 29 Jan.1843") and signed and dated at the end ("RichardWagner Dresden 22 März 1843"), written in dark brown ink with numerous deletions, alterations and revisions, including to the texts of some of the most famous scenes, some passages added in the margins, an additional section of sixteen lines (four deleted), marked "Gesang der älteren Pilger" written after the end of the third act, with some musical notations

20 pages, and four blanks, large folio (36 x 22cm), modern morocco-backed boards, Dresden, January-March 1843, tear to first blank leaf, repaired, some drops of red wax to first leaf;

together with: an autograph presentation leaf, bound in with the libretto, signed ("Richard Wagner"), offering the manuscript as a New Year's present for the Swiss conductor Wilhelm Baumgartner ("...Mensch, studiere Partitur, sonst gelangst Du nicht in das Himmelreich! Damit Dir Deine Wanderung leicht werde, möge Dich das Werk eines Freundes geleiten, der manch steilen Weg von Dir erklommen, und jetzt in herzlicher Liebe seine Hand Dir reicht...), 1 page, large folio (35.5 x 22cm), no place, New Year 1852; and a separate autograph letter signed ("RichardWagner"), in French, to the Milan publisher Francesco Lucca, concerning the reprinting of his Kaisermarsch, WWV 104, 2 pages, 8vo, annotated by the recipient, loose in modern wrappers, Lucerne, 22 May 1871, splitting along hinge and horizontal fold


Condition is described in the main body of the cataloguing where appropriate.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

THE MOST IMPORTANT AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT BY WAGNER TO APPEAR AT AUCTION FOR OVER A DECADE. Before its re-emergence over twenty years ago (sale in these rooms, 6 December 1996), this first poetical draft of the libretto of Tannhäuser was described "lost" in the Wagner-Werk-Verzeichnis (iii, p.266), its existence only inferred from a reference in a letter of Wagner to Samuel Lehrs dating from 7 April 1843: "...Der Text des Venusberges ist fertig..." (Sämtliche Briefe, ii, p.235).

Tannhäuser, the second of Wagner's operas to hold a regular place in the modern repertory, was begun in 1842. The first prose drafts (preserved today in Bayreuth) were completed in early July of that year. The present manuscript, the first poetical draft, dates from between 29 January and 22 March 1843. Composition of the opera, still at this time entitled "Der Venusberg", began in earnest in the summer and autumn of 1843, and continued in 1844. The work received its premiere in Dresden on 19 October 1845. An autograph fair copy of the libretto (now in Bayreuth) was prepared and used as the Stichvorlage for the first edition, published in Dresden in 1845. Later revision were made by Wagner to the libretto in 1847, and also in 1861 in connection with the Paris performances.

It seems likely that this is the composition draft of the poem for Tannhäuser. While other earlier, discarded, drafts cannot be ruled out, the manuscript has the character and flow, as well as the alterations and revisions, that one might expect of the first continuous working draft. Although much of the text is the same as, or similar to, the first printed libretto, there is much of interest here. Some of the smaller differences, such as the inversion of words, the addition or removal of prepositions and particles, could have resulted during the process of composition of the music. Perhaps most noteworthy are the two versions of the chorus of old pilgrims in Act I, which show Wagner's working towards the version of the published libretto, and which survive in two different parts of the manuscript, the earlier draft on the discarded bifolium (numbered "2" by Wagner), which now serves as the wrapper.

The libretto contains many differences from the first printed edition, not only as regards the stage directions, but also in the poetical text itself. There are major changes and alterations throughout, including to many of the famous moments, such as Tannhäuser's celebrated "Dir tone Lob!" (originally two lines shorter), the chorus of old pilgrims, the Finale to Act I, and Elisabeth's "Dich theure Halle". The chorus "Freudig begrüssen" is here "In Freude grüssen wir die Halle"; and Wolfram's famous "Wie Todesahnung...O du, mein holder Abendstern" contains many alterations and deletions, indicative of Wagner's strenuous efforts to achieve the right poetical expression. Act I alone is not divided into scenes, and the numbering of the scenes in the following act does not tally with the final version. The end of the opera is quite different to the version performed today. The final scene is - apart from the chorus of pilgrims - for Tannhäuser and Wolfram alone; Venus does not appear. This was only altered by Wagner in 1847 after the publication of the first version of the opera.

This lot is illustrated on page 41 and on the back cover of the catalogue.