On this house by the Quellenpark (Spring Park) in Bad Soden there are two different plaques, both with the momentous information that the opera composer Richard Wagner slept here on the night of August 12-13, 1860, which was his “first night on German soil” after “eleven years of exile from the Fatherland”.
To us prosaic twenty-first century folks this might sound like a trivial occurrence, but for an ardent and self-important nineteenth century German nationalist like Wagner it was no doubt a matter of profound significance that he was back in his ‘Fatherland’ again. He would probably feel insulted if he knew there were only two plaques on the house, but neither a bust nor a statue.
The second plaque contains the additional information that his first wife Minna, née Planer, was taking the waters in Bad Soden at the time. (He was presumably not overjoyed to see her, since they had already been estranged for a decade, but the plaque doesn’t say that.)
Another piece of momentous information on the second plaque is that on September 1, 1967, the house was bought by Jakob Müller and his wife and completely rebuilt. (So the house must have looked a lot different when Wagner stayed there.)
As I have already mentioned in various places, Wagner had to go into exile because he was facing prosecution in Germany for his part in trying to organize the short-lived revolution of 1848. When he and his wife got to Zürich they were taken in and befriended by a wealthy couple named Otto and Mathilde Wesendonck, who fed and housed them and gave Wagner the leisure he needed to go on composing.
Wagner, always one to bite the hand that fed him, promptly fell in love with Mathilde Wesendonck, for whom he wrote his Wesendonck Songs and even his opera Tristan and Isolde. In a letter to her when he finished the opera, he said that he thought it would be banned, and that a good performance of it would drive people crazy.
Well, I’ve seen several good performances of it in recent years (mainly in Frankfurt but also in once in Copenhagen), and I don’t think it has driven me crazy — no crazier than I was before, in any case — but I must admit that the music keeps going around in my head at odd times, such as when I am cycling home at night after seeing some other opera entirely.
My photos in this post are from 2013. I revised the text in 2022.