Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 December 2020
This chapter explores the nature of European celebrity ca. 1900 as a context for Mahler’s mission to promote himself and his works among the public at large. Figures such as Igor Stravinsky, Richard Strauss, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Charlotte Wolter, and Hans Makart found ways in their respective fields to walk the line between popular success and artistic achievement, maintaining highbrow prestige while intriguing the public to a significant degree, particularly among the educated middle class. The growth of a consumer class, and the proliferation of opportunities for that class to consume those celebrities and personalize them in the process, provided a rationale for the lower middle class to push up against the cultural capital of the educated bourgeoisie. In this environment, Mahler’s creative project, as creator and as performing artist, emerged as a recognizable, if idiosyncratic, attempt at artistic fame in the modern sense.