Stephen Fry is one of the funniest men on earth, a man possessed of great acting talent. Think of the hysterical TV series A Bit of Fry and Laurie, 26 episodes co-starring Hugh Laurie revered as great comic genius to his awarding-winning portrayal of Oscar Wilde, his talent is enormous and somewhat audacious.
Richard Wagner was an incredibly abstruse German composer, author of many operas and especially well known for his series of creations collectively called Te Ring, four operas based of Germany's most popular myths. Wagner was Adolph Hitler's favorite composer. Fry is Jewish, and just old enough to recall the results of the Second World War.
So, why in the name of heaven would he do a motion picture entitled Wagner & Me (First Run Features)? Wagner was Adolph Hitler's very favorite composer, representing to him both the best of the Master Race and a faux history and prophecy of the Third Reich. How could an Englishman, who is Jewish, possibly reconcile Wagner's music with history and reality?
Fry explores the beauty and complexities of the opera Parsifal and the four pieces composing the ring: Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried and Gotterdammerung. Visually stunning, Fry traces Wagner's life, both personal and creative. The audience is treated to a tour of Europe and the composer's search for fame, fortune, recognition, and, frequently, his next meal, in 18h century Europe. Late in life, a gay flirtation with the mad King Ludwig, with Wagner counterfeiting similar feelings, led to final financial stability and the building of a special theatre in Bayreuth just for Wagner's mammoth productions. The four operas of The Ring are sumptuously performed there yearly, and for decades it has literally been the hottest ticket in the world, impossibly expensive even if you're lucky enough to be offered one. The waiting list for subscriptions, said to be a highly guarded secret, is reportedly enormous. Drawing untold thousands of fans every year, there is a demand for over a half a million tickets for a supply of on 58, 000. The waiting list is between five and ten years, at least, with somewhat Draconian rules and regs just for the applications.
Fry was able to obtain tickets to all four operas. But how to reconcile the obvious and complex problem here? With humor, charm, pain, soul-searching, and an infinity of questions, Fry attains the obvious answer. Hitler is arguably the most evil man of the last century, the destruction, pain and suffering he caused can never be understood. Fry, with a great deal of help, realizes that we must not let this monster's action stain the beauty of the composer's genius. It is impossible to deny Der Fuhrer's affection for the music, and it is impossible to overlook the composer's anti-Semitism. Yet one must force oneself, however difficult, to have the strength to look beyond the hatred and see, and most of all, feel, the beauty of the music. Fry suggests that while any sort of forgiveness may be out of the question, one must be able to step beyond the sordid history and appreciate the genius that created this beauty. This DVD follows Fry's search for a reconciliation, and is instructive, inspiring, and quite simply an incredible journey.