Hitler's Opera

August Kubizek, Hitler’s roommate in Vienna, notes in his memoirs, Hitler mein Jugendfreund (1955), that Hitler worked simultaneously on several plays and novels while they lived together. One day, Kubizek mentioned that he had learned in the Conservatory that the draft for a musical drama entitled Wieland der Schmied (Wieland the Smith) had been found in Richard Wagner’s bequest. The young Hitler immediately set about researching the Wieland saga and came across the gory legend of King Nidur, who raped his daughter and killed his sons, later using their skulls as bowls.

Hitler was inspired to turn the legend of Nidur into an opera, which he would compose, while Kubizek would transcribe the composition to paper. Hitler tried to come up with a prelude to the opera and Kubizek noted down what his friend played on the piano. But Hitler did not just ‘compose’; he also recorded the action in verse, devised the set and designed the costumes. For his opera, Hitler created three Valkyries who could float through the air, which worried the more practically-minded Kubizek. Hitler also experimented with the archaic musical instruments that had existed during the time of King Nidur.

Hitler's sketch for a new concert hall in Linz, 1908

Hitler's sketch for a new concert hall in
Linz, 1908

As Kubizek recorded in his memoirs forty years later, the ‘overall impression of an event whipped forward by wild, unleashed passions’ was still fresh in his mind. Kubizek states that Hitler worked as fervently on his opera as if ‘an impatient opera director had set him a deadline that was far too tight’. Finding pen and ink too slow to work with, he used charcoal. He stayed awake through the night, ate nothing and barely drank. But whenever Kubizek reproduced what Hitler had ‘composed’, his friend was not happy with it. For many days and nights they worked on the prelude alone, but Hitler’s aspirations were simply beyond his abilities.

Even though the results were pitiful, Kubizek marvelled at his friend’s absolute commitment to ‘the beauty, the nobility, the grandeur of the art’. Kubizek could not remember what became of their work, presuming that another obsession must have consumed Hitler, and he had probably abandoned it.