The Dutchman must stand amongst Wagner’s great works. More beautiful music for the theatre had been written, but never had such energy been put into it as we find in the Dutchman’s damnation theme or the tumult of the bitter, angry sea. Any lazy man can, in time, fill up a score with sufficient notes for the trumpets, trombones and drums to produce a deafening uproar, but it took all the native force of a Wagner to fill, to inform, the thought itself with such energy that, looking at the score, the passages seem almost to leap out from the page, and, played on even a small piano, their effect is still overwhelming. When the opera was produced the effect on the audience was certainly overwhelming, almost stupefying. The Dutchman had been accepted at Berlin on Meyerbeer’s recommendation, but that recommendation Wagner probably thought of no great value, and after the success of Rienzi he determined to have it also played at Dresden, and the first performance took place at the beginning of 1843. The noise of the storm rolled far outside the theatre, and from that time forward Wagner and his music were subjects of discussion throughout Europe. His originality was not doubted; the din of his orchestra was no louder than that of Spontini’s or Marschner’s, but the harmony seemed bold to those who had never known Bach and had already forgotten Beethoven, and people were puzzled by the lack of full-stops at the end of each number. Things that seem old-fashioned to us now were then new, while Wagner’s own genuine inventions could at first hardly be grasped. However, Wagner had no reason to be dissatisfied. He had already his admirers, he was secure in an important post, and he could cheerfully set forth in search of fresh woods and pastures new, or, to use a more appropriate figure, fresh seas to cross in search of new continents.
He was now thirty, and although he had written two long works, one of them a great one, they constituted the merest prelude to the gigantic achievements of the next forty years. He was busily engaged at the opera, but set to work at once on an endless number and variety of projects. Tannhaeuser was finished by 1845, Lohengrin by 1847, and his brain was occupied with The Mastersingers of Nuremberg (Die Meistersinger) and The Nibelung’s Ring, both to be completed long afterwards. During this period he also composed the Love-feast of the Apostles, and did a bit of mending to Gluck’s Iphigenia in Aulis. But, though scheming many things, he seemed by no means sure of his road at first. With Schroeder-Devrient, the singer, and others, he discussed lengthily the question of whether he should attempt another Rienzi or go on from the Dutchman. If to realize his artistic dreams was dear to Wagner, so were immediate success, fame and money. Of the last he could