The American premiere of one of Wagner's most influential music dramas, Tristan und Isolde, took place in New York at the Metropolitan Opera during 1886.
Its staging in New York is significant. From the mid 19th century onwards there had been a massive influx of German immigrants to New York and other American cities. Many of these immigrants were from a well-educated, relatively well-resourced professional class: writers, doctors, lawyers, artists and musicians, etc.
It was within and through this welcoming, informed and supportive immigrant population that Wagner's music was first introduced to the USA, firmly taking root there before steadily growing out into the wider musical life of America and its cities.
These well-educated professionals could not only advocate effectively for Wagner's works but also arrange and commission good quality performances of them, both within the German immigrant community and outside of it. They could also afford to go to the opera, becoming significant and increasingly influential members of the audience.
And importantly, they did all this with passion; Wagner was their hero and his music their gift to America if not the world!
It was only a matter of time, and insistent support and advocacy, before Wagner's music dramas made it into the previously Italian opera dominated opera houses of America. The New York Metropolitan Opera produced six seasons of exclusively German language operas between 1884/85 and 1890/91, which included the 1886 Tristan und Isolde premiere mentioned above.
Seeking out communities which are not only welcoming and supportive of an innovation but also well-resourced, informed and passionate enough to advocate for it effectively can make the difference between an innovation that successfully premieres upon the world stage and one which does not.
(To read more posts in this series go to the July, August and September 2016 Blog Archive.)