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Richard Wagner first love was to a Jewish girl named Leah David, the daughter of a wealthy Hebrew family, and a friend of Wagner's sister Louise. [1]

Throughout his life, and notably in a number of far echoing pamphlets, Wagner vented his animosity against the Jews, notwithstanding that his orchestra leader at Bayreuth and a number of his friends were in fact Jews. Nevertheless Wagner's first love was Jewish. When Leah David made a round of calls, she often left her dog, a handsome Dane, at her friend's house. Throughout his life, Wagner was extremely fond of dogs. He soon became strongly attached to the handsome animal that served the young girl as companion and protector. But it was not long before he had formed a far warmer attachment for the young Polish Jewess herself, a dazzling and ardent oriental beauty, who was just his own age, namely between 15 and 16 years old. Leah David made a speedy conquest of Wagner:

Never before had I encountered a young girl so richly attired and so beautiful. Never before had I been spoken to with such oriental profusion of caressing politeness. Surprised and dazzled, I experienced for the first time the indescribable emotions of first love.[1]

Mr. David, Leah's father, was a rich man, whose delight it was to entertain the artists. Leah was his only daughter; she had early lost her mother, and her slightest wish was anticipated by her fond father. When the relations between Leah and Wagner became affectionate, the latter had been invited to Mr. David's evening parties.[2]In fact, it was there that Richard made many acquaintances which subsequently proved useful to him.[3]

Wagner did not declare his passion, but contented himself with the sympathetic welcome that was extended to him. He was treated by the David family more as a young boy than as a suitor. If Leah was not at home when he called, he would sit down at the piano, or else amuse himself playing with the dog. His calls became more frequent and his attachment assumed a tone of intimacy.[3]

At such a house, with a daughter fond of music, soirees musicales were constantly occurring.[3] The number of musical evenings attended by Wagner multiplied rapidly. At one of them a young Dutchman was present, a nephew of Mr. David. He was a pianist, and had precisely that technical dexterity which Wagner lacked. Flattering applause greeted his performance. Wagner, being jealous, allowed himself to make an indiscreet remark. He claimed that the pianist lacked feeling. Whereupon he was begged to play in his turn. But his playing was so defective that it called forth ironical comments from the Dutchman and a general laugh from the rest of the company. Wagner then lost all control of himself. Wounded in his most intimate emotions in the presence of the young Jewess whom he loved so madly, he gave rein to the full impetuosity of his temperament and replied in such rude and violent language that a death-like silence followed on the part of Leah's guests. Then he flung himself brusquely out of the room, took up his hat, said farewell to the dog, and swore to avenge himself. He waited for two days; then, not having received any communication, he returned to the scene of the quarrel. To his great indignation, the door was shut in his face. The following morning, he received a letter bearing Leah's hand-writing. He opened it feverishly, and felt that he had received a mortal blow. Fräulein David announced her forthcoming marriage to the hated Dutchman, Mr. Meyers. Richard Wagner and Leah David never met again. [1]

Wagner remembered Leah David as his "first disappointment in love", he said he would never forget Leah, but in the end he added: "After all, I believe that I regretted the dog more than I did the young Jewess."[1]

Leah was not the only Jewish girl in Wagner's life. After she broke with him, he met another Jewish girl Marie Löw, but once again his love went unanswered.[4]

ReferencesEdit

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