Wagner's lost opera script goes for a song

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CA recently discovered manuscript of the first poetical draft of Richard Wagner's romantic opera Tannhauser was bought by a German dealer for pounds 84,000 at an auction at Sotheby's in London yesterday.

The 150 -year-old autographed manuscript has never before been available to experts, and came to light after an eastern European vendor notified the auction house's book department.

It was last on record as being given by the19th-century composer to the Swiss conductor Wilhelm Baumgartner as a new year's present in 1852. The only previous reference to it is in a letter written by Wagner in 1843.

The final prose draft of Tannhauser was finished early in 1842 and is the second of Richard Wagner's operas in the modern repertory. A working of the 13th-century myth based on the knightly minstrel by the same name, it charts the protagonist's search for absolution after living with the Goddess of Love, Venus.

Although much of the text is the same as the first printed libretto, there are many differences such as the inversion of words and the addition or removal of prepositions and participles which Wagner may have altered during the composition of the music. The finale of the opera and many of the stage directions are also noticeably different from the modern version performed today.

The manuscript was bought by Hans Schneider, a leading German music dealer based in Tutzing and had been expected to fetch nearer to pounds 100,000.

Stephen Roe, head of Sotheby's book department and a specialist in musical manuscripts, said it was an important find for scholars of the composer. "It is going to be of immense interest to experts on Wagner and is in very good condition - very much as Wagner had laid down the pen," he said.