(b Le Puy, 16 Jan 1914; d Dijon, 17 Sept 1992). American choral conductor of French birth. He was taken in 1921 to Los Angeles, where he first began studies for the priesthood at a Santa Barbara seminary. After further education at Montmorency, France, from 1932, he studied the organ with Marcel Dupré, served in the French army (1934–6), and returned to Los Angeles in 1937 as organist and choirmaster at St Joseph’s. In the 1940s he studied conducting with Bruno Walter and composition with Lucien Caillet; he took American citizenship during this period. In 1946 he formed the Roger Wagner Chorale (which became the source of the Los Angeles Master Chorale), which undertook many tours and gained a wide reputation for virtuosity and versatility in performance and on many gramophone records. His ensembles sustained exceptional degrees of tonal opulence, flexibility and precision, and he was specially adept at early music and the French repertory. A specialist in the music of Josquin Des Prez (for research into whose works he obtained the PhD degree from Montreal University), he gave choral courses as head of the music department at Marymount College, Los Angeles, 1951–66, and at the University of California from 1959, and published many choral arrangements. He reluctantly gave up leadership of the Master Chorale in 1986, assuming the title of conductor laureate. He received a papal knighthood from Paul VI in 1966.
(b Szász-Régen, Transylvania [now Reghin, Romania], 28 Aug 1903; d Berlin, 18 Sept 1969). German composer and keyboard player. Born Rudolf Wagner, he adopted the name Wagner-Régeny after his birthplace. Although his family was of German descent, the boy spoke no word of the language until he began his schooling. In 1919 he was sent to Leipzig to study the piano with Robert Teichmüller. From there he gained admission to the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, where his main studies were conducting with Rudolf Krasselt and counterpoint with Friedrich Ernst Koch. Koch was admired and held in awe by his composition pupils, including the select handful from Schreker's masterclass (to which Wagner-Régeny had not aspired, contrary to the impression left by his first post-1945 autobiographical sketch).
On leaving the Hochschule, Wagner-Régeny married a Franco-Austrian artist, moved to her studio flat in Berlin-Charlottenburg, and allowed his Romanian citizenship to lapse. For the next seven years he pursued a desultory freelance career as a conductor and accompanist, while indulging his private and lifelong passion for early keyboard instruments. Influenced by Boris Blacher, whom he had met while continuing his studies with Koch privately, Wagner-Régeny sought work in the worlds of film and modern dance. The former he found uncongenial in itself, but helpful with regard to his amicable and long-lasting working relationship with Guido Bagier, the pioneer of the German sound film.
As yet there seems to have been no strong commitment to composition. It was modern dance, and an immediate rapport with the Hungarian-born Rudolf von Laban, that afforded Wagner-Régeny his longest and most stable professional engagement during the 1920s. As conductor and occasional arranger-composer for Laban's touring ensemble, he gained access to many of the smaller theatres and opera houses in Germany and central Europe. Meanwhile Bagier had introduced him to Hindemith's modern-music festival in Baden-Baden, where his work attracted the attention of Benno Balan, an eccentric music publisher from Berlin now specializing in the new market for short chamber operas. With Balan's help and encouragement, Wagner-Régeny obtained his first opera commission, fulfilled it promptly, and emerged in Gera in 1928 as composer of the comic opera Moschopulos, coupled the following year with Sganarelle (after Molière), an unpretentious postgraduate piece from 1923.
Further one-acters were to follow, but to no great avail. By 1931, when Germany was in the grip of economic and political crisis, the golden years of operatic experiment were over and modern dance had already been attacked as a particularly offensive form of cultural bolshevism. Balan's business affairs were in chaos, and Wagner-Régeny was reduced to eking out a living in Berlin as a bar-room and beer-cellar pianist.
His rescuer was Caspar Neher, the outstanding German stage designer of the younger generation, a friend and associate of Brecht's since their schooldays, and Weill's most recent recruit to the art and craft of libretto writing. His first professional encounter with Wagner-Régeny had been in connection with the Essen Opera's production of Sganarelle and Moschopulos in 1929. Subsequent meetings, notably in connection with Pabst's film of Die Dreigroschenoper (1931), had consolidated their relationship. Towards the end of 1932, and allegedly with Weill's blessing, Neher furnished Wagner-Régeny with a draft libretto for a three-act opera, Der Günstling, and helped secure for him an agreement and retainer from Universal Edition in Vienna (the Balan enterprise being by then bankrupt).
Shortly before or very soon after the Nazi seizure of power in March 1933 (and not in 1930, as Stuckenschmidt suggested) Wagner-Régeny acquired German citizenship. After Weill's flight from Germany that same month, the future of Der Günstling became almost as important to Universal Edition as to its composer. In due course approaches were made to the Dresden Opera and its new music director, Karl Böhm, who had been released from his contract in Hamburg on the orders of Hitler himself. The Dresden première of Der Günstling on 20 February 1935, cleverly promoted beforehand by Alfred Rosenberg's National Socialist ‘Kulturgemeinde’, was the first unequivocal operatic success for which the Hitler regime could claim credit. Although it was equalled if not surpassed later that year by the success of Egk's Der Zaubergeige, nothing – other than a change in the political climate – could remove from Der Günstling and its composer the double accolade of having inaugurated a ‘new’ operatic era on behalf of a ‘new’ generation. In that same spirit, the Kulturgemeinde offered to commission ‘new’ incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream from young composers as well as senior ones. Strauss and Pfitzner declined the offer; Wagner-Régeny did not.
Three years of fame and apparent good fortune culminated in the January 1939 première at the Berlin Staatsoper, under Karajan, of a second Wagner-Régeny–Neher opera, Die Bürger von Calais. After the outbreak of World War II Wagner-Régeny was for some while protected from the threat of military service by Heinz Hilpert, the Intendant of the Deutsches Theater, a notable adept in the art of manipulating the party apparatus in the interests of preserving his own artistic independence and that of his associates. While working on a third Neher opera, Johanna Balk, Wagner-Régeny wrote a series of scores for Hilpert's classic drama productions – work of ‘national importance’ that exempted him from military service. The era of Goebbels's ‘total war’ was yet to come.
Early in 1941, Wagner-Régeny, Neher and Hilpert moved from Berlin to Vienna, which was becoming a refuge for many prominent artists and intellectuals (much to the fury of Goebbels). Under the personal protection of the Gauleiter of Vienna, Johanna Balk had its controversial première at the Vienna Staatsoper on 4 April 1941. Reports of a first-night ‘scandal’ reached neutral countries, including the USA, but were already exaggerated and for obvious reasons were made much of by the composer after the Allied victory.
With a stipendium from the cultural authorities in Vienna, Wagner-Régeny settled in nearby Klosterneuburg and continued working on a fourth Neher collaboration, an ‘opera for actors’, instigated by Hilpert. Its progress was fitful, for reasons implicit in the curiously fragmented and secretive keyboard pieces of the same period.
The 40-year-old composer was no longer in favour with the Berlin authorities, and in February 1943 he was conscripted into the army. After service in occupied Paris and as a firewatcher in Berlin he was transferred to Mecklenburg, where a sanatorium was found for his wife, who was undergoing treatment for the cancer from which she died in 1947.
Thanks in the first place to the understanding and concern shown to him by Russian authorities when the Soviet forces reached Mecklenburg, Wagner-Régeny survived the war and his own severe illnesses, spiritual as well as physical. He remained in the Soviet zone and, after the formal division of Germany in 1949, was appointed professor of composition at the Musikhochschule in (East) Berlin. Der Günstling and to a lesser extent Die Bürger von Calais had already won official approval in the German Democratic Republic, and, after Brecht had firmly identified himself with the aims of the new regime, his renewed collaboration with Neher at the Berliner Ensemble was wholly to Wagner-Régeny's advantage. It was thanks to Brecht's personal and literary intervention that Persische Episode, the ‘opera for actors’ left incomplete after Wagner-Régeny's conscription in 1943, was completed in 1951. First published under its original title, Der Darmwäscher, it had little success in the East and none in the West.
For Wagner-Régeny as for Hanns Eisler, non-aligned Austria offered a small bridge to the West. It was at the Salzburg Festival that his last opera, Das Bergwerk zu Falun, was staged in the summer of 1961, only a few days before the erection of the Berlin Wall. Immured in the DDR for his remaining eight years, but held in high affection by his many composition pupils at the Musikhochschule – among them Siegfried Matthus, Friedrich Goldman and Paul-Heinz Dittrich – Wagner-Régeny avoided the party limelight to the best of his ability, and continued to add to a body of work which since Der Günstling had developed consistently if at times slowly and painfully. Even in the three operas of the Nazi era, the calculated and characteristic equivocations of Neher's librettos are circumvented by a music that preserves, and at times bravely proclaims, its ‘un-German’ roots – in the English virginalists, in Musorgsky, Satie and Milhaud, in the simplest Hindemith (notably Wir bauen eine Stadt) and, not least, in his own surreal transplantation of Weill. The same roots are as apparent in the Piano Concerto of 1935 as they are in the ballet Der zerbrochene Krug, based on the story by Kleist rather than on Nazi misappropriations of that great figure. It is their manifest and unacknowledged presence in the Midsummer Night's Dream score that might serve as the composer's strongest excuse for that deplorable venture – stronger, certainly, than his wife's (allegedly) half-Jewish origin.
So fleeting are the signs of an individual voice in the works of the 1920s, and so amateurish their technique and composition, that the quality and memorability of Der Günstling and its immediate successors would be astonishing but for the inaudible and unseen presence of Neher and his pervasive influence. Simple and often crude though the craftsmanship still is in Der Günstling, it becomes progressively more assured from work to work, until the processes of self-tuition came to an abrupt end after Johanna Balk. Completed and refurbished though it was in the aftermath of war and under the wing of Brecht, Der Darmwäscher seems almost desperate in its regressions to the famed spirit of the 1920s, as indeed do many of the postwar Brecht settings, with the notable exception of the incidental music for Pauken und Trompeten, a miniature masterpiece ‘in the old style’.
The search for a new style that was already beginning in the desolate two-part inventions of Hexameron and other piano pieces of the Viennese war years is resumed in the tonally orientated serial music of 1948–60. Of particular significance on account of their religious texts and what flows from them are the Cantica Davidi regis and the cantata Genesis. Their promise is fulfilled in the luminous harmony of An die Sonne (Bachmann) and above all in the final atonements and valedictions of the Hermann Hesse-Gesänge.
excluding lost works; for detailed list see KdG
Sganarelle, oder Der Schein trügt (graziöse Oper, 1, Wagner-Régeny, after Molière), 1923; Essen, Städtische Bühnen, 12 April 1929
Moritat (theatralische Sinfonie [ballet], Wagner-Régeny), 1928, Essen, March 1929
Moschopulos (kleine Oper, 3, Wagner-Régeny, after F. Pocci), 1928, Gera, 1 Dec 1928
Der nackte König (kleine Oper, 3, V. Braun, after H.C. Andersen), 1928, Gera, 1 Dec 1928
Esau und Jacob (biblische Szene), 4 solo vv, spkr, str orch, 1929, Gera, 24 May 1930
La sainte courtisane (musikalische Szene, Wagner-Régeny, after O. Wilde), 4 spkr, chbr orch, 1930, Dessau, 24 Oct 1930
Die Fabel vom seligen Schlächtermeister (Stück für die Musikbühne, 3 scenes, H. von Savigny), 1931–2, Radebeul, nr Dresden, 23 May 1964
Der Günstling, oder Die letzten Tage des grossen Herrn Fabiano (op, 3, C. Neher, after V. Hugo: Marie Tudor), 1932–4, Dresden, Staatsoper, 20 Feb 1935
Die Bürger von Calais (op, 3, Neher, after J. Froissart: Chronicles), 1936–8, Berlin, Staatsoper, 28 Jan 1939
Der zerbrochene Krug (ballet, 2 pts, L. Maudrik, after H. von Kleist), 1937, Berlin, Staatsoper, 1937
Johanna Balk (op, 3, Neher, after Transylvanian chronicles), 1938–40, Vienna, Staatsoper, 4 April 1941
Persische Episode (Der Darmwäscher) (komische Oper, 4, Neher and B. Brecht, after The Thousand and One Nights), 1940–51, Rostock, 27 March 1963
Prometheus (szenisches Oratorium, 5 scenes, Wagner-Régeny and K. Holl, after Aeschylus), 1957–8, Kassel, Staatstheater, 12 Sept 1959
Das Bergwerk zu Falun (op, 8 scenes, Wagner-Régeny, after H. von Hofmannsthal), 1958–60, Salzburg, Festspielhaus, 16 Aug 1961
Incid music: A Midsummer Night's Dream (W. Shakespeare), 1935; Pauken und Trompeten (B. Brecht, after G. Farquhar), 1955; Moritz Tassow (P. Hacks), 1965
Choral: Der neue Plan (W.W. Aschenbach), unison chorus, pf, 1950; Cantica Davidi regis (Psalms), boys'/women's chorus 3vv, B chorus, chbr orch, 1954; Genesis, A, chorus 4vv, small orch, 1955–6; Jüdische Chronik, A, Bar, chbr chorus, 2 spkr, small orch, 1960 (collab. Blacher, Dessau, Hartmann, Henze); Schir haschirim (Song of Songs), A, Bar, female chorus, small orch, 1964; An die Sonne (cant., I. Bachmann), A, orch, 1967–8
Songs (1v, pf, unless otherwise stated):  Lieder der Frühe, 1919–25; Liederbüchlein, 8 songs, 1920–34; 8 Zigeunerlieder aus der Tatra, 1935; A Crust of Bread (P.L. Dunbar), unacc., 1945; Die  Lieder des Anglers, 1946; Ich will mein kindlich Herz behalten (H. Kükelhaus), 1947;  Lieder, 1948–67; 2 Beispiele, 1949; Hausmusik I (Klabund, Brecht), 1949; 2 Lieder (A. Glassbrenner), 1949; Lied im Herbst (Klabund), 1949; Zuspruch (Klabund), 1949; 10 Lieder (Brecht), 1949–50; Soll das heissen, dass wir uns bescheiden (Brecht), 1949–50; Lied der deutschen Einheit (M. Remané), 1952; 2 Rilke-Lieder, 1952; Dahinter wird Stille, 5 songs, 1952–65; Lied von der Einheit (M. Zimmering), 1966; Die Erinnerung (S. Hermlin), 1968; Hermann Hesse-Lieder, 1968; Hermann Hesse-Gesänge (Gesänge des Abschieds), 1968–9, arr. with small orch, 1969; Glück (E. Stadler), 1969; 2 Leierkasten Gesänge (F. Wedekind), perc, db, ad lib, 1969; 3 Fontane-Lieder, 1969
Orch: Orchestermusik mit Klavier (Pf Conc.), 1935; Mythologische Figurinen, 3 pieces, 1951; 3 Orchestersätze, 1952; Einleitung und Ode, 1967; 8 Kommentare zu einer Weise des Guillaume Machauts, chbr orch, 1968
Chbr and solo inst: Kleine Gemeinschaftsmusik, 6 insts, 1929; Spinettmusik, 1934; 10 Melodien, rec, 1937; Str Qt, 1948; Liebeslied, a sax, pf, 1950; Gitarrenstücke, 1951; Introduction et communication à mon ange gardien, str trio, 1951; 5 Miniatures, gui, 1951; 2 Sätze, 2 gui, 1951; Trio, 2 gui, db, 1951; Divertimento, 3 wind, perc, 1954; Sonatina, gui, 1961; Etüde, accdn, 1969; Kindertrio, guis, pf/other insts, 1969; Moderato, gui, 1969
Pf: Klavierbuchlein, 1940; 2 Sonatas, 1943; Hexameron, 1943; Sonatina, c1945; Largo, after 1945; 2 Klavierstücke, 1949; 2 kleine Klavierstücke, 1949; 2 Sonatinas, 1949; Dreistimmige Fuge für das Lehrbuch, 1950; 2 Klavierskizzen in ein Album für Gerty Herzog, 1950; 2 Klavierstücke (Studien in variablen Metren), 1950; 2 Klavierstücke für Helmut Roloff, 1950; Sonatina, 1950; 2 Tänze für Palucca, 1950; Cocktail für Gottfried von Einem, 1951; L'ivresse tranquille, 1951;  Klavierstücke für Gertie, 1951; 3 parfums, 2 hommages à la cuisine (5 französische Klavierstücke), 1951; 7 Klavierfugen, 1953; Klavierstück für Kikusch, 1954; Variationen über ein kindliches Thema, 1954
Principal publishers: Bote & Bock, Peters (Leipzig), Universal
GroveO (T. Medek)
KdG (M. Becker)
A.Burgartz: Rudolf Wagner-Régeny (Dresden, 1935)
D.Härtwig: Rudolf Wagner-Régeny, der Opernkomponist (Berlin, 1965)
T.Medek: Rudolf Wagner-Régeny: Begegnungen (Berlin, 1968) [autobiographical sketches, diaries and correspondence with C. Neher]
M.Becker, ed.: Rudolf Wagner-Régeny: an den Ufern der Zeit (Leipzig, 1989) [writings, letters and diaries]