“Brilliant Gathering at Bayreuth”: Early Wagnerism as told by Toronto’s Globe (1857-1876)


  • Emilie Hurst Independent Researcher



Mots-clés :

Richard Wagner, Opera, Michel Serres, Media Theory, Toronto


In June of 1887, Torontonian were treated to the local premiere of Flying Dutchman, the first opera by Richard Wagner to be performed in full in the city. Yet while locals had had to wait decades for such an occasion, newspapers had started reporting on the composer as early as 1854. In this paper, I consider Wagner’s reception in Toronto from 1874 to 1876 by surveying mentions of Wagner in the newspaper the Globe, focusing on the years 1875 and 1876. In particular, I ask how the materiality of technology effects its transmission in the era prior to sound recording.

Drawing from the work of Michel Serres, I propose the concept of the parasite as a way of unpacking how the material realities of opera unfold. Parasite refers to a third element—“a mediate, a middle, an intermediary”(Serres 2007, 63)—between sender and receiver which sets the stage for communication to take place. Importantly, the parasite is not a neutral entity: it is transformative by default. I relate the concept of the parasite to that of the paratext, materials which surround but are not officially part of a text. Precisely because of the difficulty of accessing live opera on demand, paratext hold the potential to transform how we understand Wagner.

I explore the role of newspapers in Wagner reception but also widens to theorize how other pre-recording technologies such as sheet music and the telegraph facilitated Wagner’s migration over the Atlantic. Through these media, we can not only glimpse the prehistory of Wagner in the city but also how his music has been continually fragmented and reworked. I argue that when access to live opera is limited such paratexts are charged with the potential to not only supplement but to transform and overtake the original.

Biographie de l'auteur-e

  • Emilie Hurst, Independent Researcher

    Emilie Hurst recently attained her doctorate from York and Toronto Metropolitan Universities where she completed a SSHRC-funded dissertation on the topic of modern Toronto Wagner fans through the lens of cultural techniques. Her research interest include opera, materiality and fandom.


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Comment citer

Hurst, Emilie. 2024. « “Brilliant Gathering at Bayreuth”: Early Wagnerism As Told by Toronto’s Globe (1857-1876) ». Musiques: Recherches Interdisciplinaires 1 (1). https://doi.org/10.62410/cn0f7a55.