“… you will see a German man in a dressing gown” – Jewish Viennese journalists comment on Richard Wagner’s letters to a “milliner”
Lecture by Andrea Winklbauer, Curator
While staying in Vienna from 1861 to 1864, Richard Wagner met the Jew Bertha Goldwag, a skillful seamstress. From her he ordered household clothes, velvet berets, nightgowns, underwear, curtains, and elaborately quilted bed covers and cushions. Even after fleeing Vienna in 1864 he continued to order items from her for several years, until she retired after marrying in 1868. His letters with the orders and precise instructions on materials, colors, and style were published in the Neue Freie Presse in 1877 by the Jewish feature writer Daniel Spitzer with a mocking commentary. Spitzer, who was a strong critic of Wagner, made the most of this unheroic and intimate aspect of the musical genius with his love of bright colors, luxurious fabrics, and soft padding. Europe laughed and the Wagnerians were furious.
Bertha Goldwag, the “milliner Fräulein Bertha,” would have disappeared into oblivion if the Jewish Viennese journalist and Wagnerian Ludwig Kárpáth had not rediscovered her in 1906. The letters with Spitzer’s comments had just appeared in book form, once again annoying Wagnerians. In his “interviews” with the “milliner,” also published in 1906, there is further information not only about Bertha Goldwag-Maretschek but also about Wagner’s requests for the furnishing of the study in the villa in Penzing, where he was living at the time. Kárpáth, a passionate supporter of Wagner, wanted amongst other things to restore his idol’s reputation.
Entry free of charge