The German Romantic composer felt that for the proper performance of his music, a specially designed theatre would need to be constructed and for the location of his Festspielhaus, chose the Bavarian town of Bayreuth. To fund the project, Wagner Societies were created in which members would purchase seats for future performances in the new theatre. By 1873, the project was behind schedule and funds were lacking. In an effort to inspire passion for the project, Wagner issued this circular inviting patrons to visit Bayreuth.
This particular exemplar, titled "An die Patrone der Bühnenfestspiele zu Bayreuth" and signed by Wagner at the conclusion, was sent to Mr. Gemahlin, chairman of the Hamburg Wagner Society, and includes an autograph letter to Gemahlin signed additionally from the composer providing instructions for its distribution. It reads, in full and in translation: "Sir and friend! For the Wagner Society in Hamburg, I let the proper quantity for copies of this communication remain final. For the members of the Wagner Society, I ask that you leave your worthy address (Fontenay 1) and now take the necessary orders for the distribution of the same. I cannot help, as well. With my expressed concerns, I ask you to amicably remember that, in October, we certainly expect to fulfill their promises so encouragingly. With respectful greetings to you and your dear wife. [signed] Richard Wagner."
In the end, the funds for the subscription service were not enough. The project was saved, however, by a generous donation from an admirer of Wagner's, King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The Festspielhaus was opened in 1876 with complete performances of Wagner's epic Ring cycle.
This document was originally in the collection of the Dutch pianist and composer, Dr. Paul van Katwijk (1885-1974), once a student of Carl Oberstadt, Robert and Clara Schumann, and Leopold Godowsky, who immigrated to the United States in 1912 and settled in Dallas as the head of the piano department at Southern Methodist University. He later served as the conductor of the De Moines Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Municipal Orchestra, and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. (Inventory #: 12397)