It is one of those famous meetings in history, and it starts on a note of farce. It all began on November 9, 1868. Returning to his digs after having delivered a lecture for Leipzig University’s Classical Society, the twenty-four-year-old student Friedrich Nietzsche finds a note waiting for him: “If you want to meet Richard Wagner, come at 3:45 p.m. to the Café Théâtre,” signed Windisch, a fellow student.

Locating his friend to ask him what this was all about, Nietzsche learns that Wagner has slipped secretly into town and has been told that Nietzsche already knows Walther’s prize-winning song from Wagner’s brand-new opera Die Meistersinger, the score for which was just out. Nietzsche relays: “Joy and amazement on Wagner’s part! Announces his supreme will, to meet me incognito; I am to be invited for Sunday...


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