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11.12.2012

 

Museum Rietberg Zurich and the beautiful and sad story of Tristan, Richard, Mathilde and Isolde...

Museum Rietberg and its three villas from the 19th century are located in the centre of Rieterpark, one of the most beautiful parks in Zurich. The stunning building was constructed in 1857, commissioned by Otto and Mathilde Wesendonck.

Otto Wesendonck ran an international silk trade company and his wife Mathilde ran the hospitable estate, which attracted a number of artists, intellectuals and scientists. Composer Richard Wagner, who came to Zurich in 1849, was a special family friend.

They offered him and his wife Minna a house in close proximity to their new villa in 1857 (today known as Villa Schönberg), which Wagner called his ‘sanctuary on the green hill’. The composer and young Mathilde Wesendonck developed a very… intimate friendship. If you believe the passionate letters and declarations of love that he wrote during his sixteen month stay on the ‘green hill’, Wagner was completely enchanted by Mathilde. In his inspired state he finished the autography of ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and finished the first act of his opera.

Mathilde was also inspired by the conversations, concerts and readings she experienced with her lover. She began writing poems, five of which Wagner set to music. Today these are known as the ‘Wesendonck songs’.

The very private correspondence between Mathilde and Richard and Wagner’s wife Minna’s jealous reaction to it, meant that things finally came to a head. Wagner subsequently broke up with his wife and Mathilde. Suddenly the hill seemed a lot less green and he moved to Venice in 1858. The Wesendonck family sold their estate on the ‘green hill’ in 1971 and migrated to Germany.

Adolf Rieter Rothpletz (1817 – 1893) bought Villa Schönberg off them and his son Fritz Rieter-Bodmer constructed the house as a residence for his mother and mother in law in 1889. German emperor Friedrich Wilhelm II. was a guest of Bertha Rieter-Bodmer and resided at the Villa Wesendonck for a few days in September 1912. The town of Zurich finally bought the 67,000 sqm Rieterpark and Villa Wesendonck in 1945.

Today you can find masterpieces from around the world here – as well as a very pleasant café. Museum Rietberg Zurich is the only art museum for non-European cultures in Switzerland and hosts an internationally renowned collection of work from Asia, Africa, America and Oceania. Have a look at the highlights of the collection here.

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MUSEUM RIETBERG ZURICH / Villa Schönberg

MUSEUM RIETBERG ZURICH / Villa Schönberg

MUSEUM RIETBERG ZURICH / Villa Schönberg

MUSEUM RIETBERG ZURICH / Villa Schönberg