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Wagner, Siegfried (1869-1930)  
 
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When he and Siegfried Wagner set off for a trip around the world via London in 1892, Harris introduced Wagner to Wilde. Wagner then invited Wilde and Pierre Louÿs to Bayreuth, but their plans never materialized.

Three years later, Wagner returned to London in order to conduct his first concert just days after Wilde's last trial and observed the writer's public humiliation after he was convicted of "gross indecency."

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In his autobiography, published in 1923, Wagner joyfully recalls his travels with his "Clementchen" (a diminutive used as a term of endearment) and even drops erotic hints, such as their sharing a bed like "Orestes and Pylades," one of the mythological gay couples. He recounts that in Singapore, they found an edenic spot, which he describes as a paradise for bathing in the nude like "two Adams."

A passage in Wagner's privately printed travel diary, but excised in the memoirs, records their goodbye: outwardly they parted like friends, but inwardly they had come to love each other. At age twenty-six, Harris died a Byronic death fighting for Greek independence. Wagner kept a portrait of Harris on his desk for the rest of his life.

In his memoirs, Wagner also remembers particularly fondly one of his father's gay disciples: Paul von Joukowsky (alternatively Zhukovski, 1845-1912), painter and close friend of Henry James, who "entertain[ed] a most tender affection" for him. "He is much to my taste," James records, adding, "we have sworn eternal friendship."

Later Wagner became involved with the art nouveau painter Franz Stassen (1869-1949), who served as the best man at his wedding and to whom he dedicated one of his operas. Stassen illustrated Richard Wagner's works, such as "Parsifal Revealing the Holy Grail," and published homoerotic drawings that anticipate the work of Paul Cadmus. Stassen, who, like Wagner, was married, wrote recollections of his "soul mate" and publicly revealed his sexual orientation in 1941.

Wagner's homosexuality may also be subtly expressed in his work, both in his operas and in his staging of his father's work. For example, when he staged his father's Tannhäuser in 1930 soon before he died, he took up an idea from Aubrey Beardsley's The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser (1895). When Tannhäuser returns to the Venusberg, he is not only greeted by Venus and her female attendants, but--in a decidedly homoerotic touch--also by scantily clad male teenagers (Jünglinge).

Scandal

Siegfried Wagner led an active homosexual life and enjoyed all-male gatherings where he and his friends would quote Plato's Symposium in Greek. These exploits gave rise to scandals, which were usually hushed up. In 1914, however, the whistleblower Maximilian Harden threatened to expose Siegfried.

In the history of sexuality, Harden is better known for instigating another gay scandal, the Eulenburg Affair (1907-1909). Following the Morocco Crisis of 1906 and a humiliating diplomatic defeat for Germany, Harden alleged that Kaiser Wilhelm II was surrounded by a group of homosexuals led by Prince Philipp Eulenburg.

When it became obvious that Harden's exposé was true, the Emperor immediately distanced himself from several of his homosexual friends and sought the company of hyper-masculine military types who encouraged Wilhelm's chauvinism and may have contributed to his disastrous decision to go to war in 1914.

The Eulenburg Affair had crucial consequences. Several moral crusaders appeared on the scene and lamented the "decadence" of the German nation. The military cracked down on lax discipline and prostitution in the army. The police began enforcing anti-gay legislation with a new fervency.

Harden's article "Tutte le corde: Siegfried und Isolde" in the weekly Die Zukunft of June 27, 1914 was triggered by a paternity suit brought by Siegfried's sister Isolde against his father's estate. Although it was widely recognized that Richard Wagner was her father, her birth certificate listed Hans von Bülow as her father.

The suit was of some consequence because, unlike Cosima's other children, Isolde had produced a male heir: Franz Wilhelm Beidler (1901-1981). When Isolde lost the suit as a result of Cosima's refusal to affirm that Richard Wagner was her father (absent DNA testing, the birth certificate was legally binding), Harden began investigating the family's hypocrisy.

Wagner, forty-five years old and still a bachelor, was the perfect target for Harden's insinuations. The journalist never makes specific charges. Rather, he drops innuendo about "a savior of a different ilk" or "an ass of a different color" ("Heiland aus andersfarbiger Kiste") and wonders why there are so many rumors about Wagner.

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