Richard Wagner

Composer, playwright and German music theorist (Leipzig, 1813 - Venice, 1883)

Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, dramatist and music theorist of the 19th century. Both the influence his work had on his contemporaries and descendants and the strong emotion - whether it was fascination or disgust - his music generated made him one of the key figure of the late Romantic movement and of the opera.

Richard Wagner’s work stands as a turning point: historic, not because of its abundance but in terms of proportions and intensity. Reformer at the lyric theater, Richard Wagner was above all an opera composer: he revolutionized the genre in its form (poetic and musical synthesis), its dramaturgy (Gesamtkunstwerk), in terms of musical writing (continuous composition, Leitmotiv, chromaticism) and orchestration (Tristan chord), thus establishing foundations for the 20th century. The Tetralogy’s 14 hours of music were the culmination of his opera creation, while the Bayreuth Festspielhaus (a theater he built for his works) is the ideal setting.

His artistic genius was coupled with a controversial personality throughout his life: revolutionary, opportunist, a compulsive liar, anti-Semite, and a womanizer. Wagner was and still is undoubtedly controversial and his work has been regularly exploited for political and ideological considerations. He still divides connoisseurs and music lovers to this day.

Six landmark dates in the life of Richard Wagner

  • 1839 Wagner in Paris, meeting with Liszt
  • 1849 Revolution in Dresden, Wagner went into exile
  • 1851 Opera and Drama"
  • 1861 Cabal in Paris following the creation of Tannhäuser
  • 1864 Ludwig II of Bavaria put him under his protection
  • 1872 Began the construction of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus

Six key works by Richard Wagner

  • 1842 The Flying Dutchman (Der Fliegende Holländer), premiered in Dresden under the Wagner’s direction
  • 1850 Lohengrin, creation in Weimar
  • 1865 Tristan and Isolde, premiered in Munich under Hans von Bülow’s direction
  • 1868 Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg ("The Master-Singers of Nuremberg"), premiered in Munich
  • 1876 The Ring of the Nibelung (Der Ring des Nibelungen), created in Bayreuth under Hans Richter’s direction
  • 1882 Parsifal, creation in Bayreuth