Composers: The Mists of Ecstasy

At midafternoon almost every day this month, mannerly crowds file into the drab and muggy Festspielhaus in Bayreuth to witness an opera by Rich ard Wagner. It is nearly midnight when they file out again — hungry and exhausted, perhaps, but elevated by a sense of hard cultural accomplishment. The music, as always, has worked its mystic wonders on them, but — except for that band of initiates known as Wagnerites — the drama has left them plagued by the kind of metaphysical confusion that comes from attending services at somebody else's...

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