Wagner lived from 1813 – 1883 and wasborn in Leipzig, Germany.
Wagner was differentfrom most othermusicians of his time dueto his talents as acomposer, a conductor, amusic theorist, and anessayist.
A life changing moment: “I only remember that oneevening I heard a symphony ofBeethoven’s for the first time,and it set me in a fever, and on my recovery, I had become a musician.”
Wagner became involved in politics when anationalist movement was gaining force in theindependent German States, calling forconstitutional freedoms and the unification of theweak princely states into a single nation. Wagnerplayed an enthusiastic role in this movement,receiving guests at his house that included theeditor of the radical left-wing paper and a Russiananarchist. Widespread discontent against the Saxongovernment came to a head in April 1849, whenKing Frederick Augustus II of Saxony dissolvedParliament and rejected a new constitution pressedupon him by the people. The May Uprising brokeout, and the revolution was quickly crushed.
Warrants were issued for the arrest ofthe revolutionaries. Wagner had to flee,first to Paris and then to Zürich.Wagner spent the next twelve years inexile. He had completed Lohengrinbefore the Dresden uprising, and nowwrote desperately to his friend FranzLiszt to have it staged in his absence.Liszt, who proved to be a friend in need,eventually conducted the premiere inWeimar in August 1850.
The "Bridal Chorus" from the operaLohengrin, by Wagner, is the standardmarch played for the brides entrance atmost formal weddings in the US and atmany weddings throughout the Westernworld. In English-speaking countries it isgenerally known as the "Wedding March"(though actually "wedding march" refers toany song accompanying the entrance orexit of the bride, most often FelixMendelssohns "Wedding March") or "HereComes the Bride".
Der Ring des Nibelungen: The cycle is modeled afterancient Greek dramas thatwere presented as threetragedies and one satyr play.
The plot revolves around amagic ring that grants thepower to rule the world,forged by the Nibelungdwarf, Alberich from goldstolen from the river Rhine.Several mythic figuresstruggle for possession ofthe Ring
Der Ring des Nibelungen: Both the libretto and the music were written by Richard Wagner over the course of twenty-six years.
Wagner was inspired by the poet-writer MathildeWesendonck, the wife of the silk merchant Otto vonWesendonck. Wagner met the Wesendoncks inZürich in 1852. Otto, a fan of Wagners music, placeda cottage on his estate at Wagners disposal. By1857, Wagner had become infatuated with Mathilde.Though Mathilde seems to have returned some of hisaffections, she had no intention of jeopardising hermarriage, and kept her husband informed of hercontacts with Wagner. Nevertheless, the affairinspired Wagner to put aside his work on the Ringcycle (which would not be resumed for the nexttwelve years) and begin work on Tristan und Isolde,based on the Arthurian love story of the knightTristan and the (already-married) Lady Isolde.
Wagners fortunes took a dramatic upturn in1864, when King Ludwig II assumed thethrone of Bavaria at the age of 18. The youngking, an ardent admirer of Wagners operassince childhood, had the composer broughtto Munich. He settled Wagners considerabledebts, and made plans to have his new operaproduced. After grave difficulties inrehearsal, Tristan und Isolde premiered toenormous success at the National Theatre inMunich in 1865.
In the meantime, Wagner became embroiled inanother affair, this time with Cosima von Bülow, thewife of the conductor Hans von,, one of Wagners mostardent supporters and the conductor of the Tristanpremiere. Cosima was the illegitimate daughter ofFranz Liszt and 24 years younger than Wagner. Lisztdisapproved of his daughter seeing Wagner, thoughthe two men were friends. In April 1865, she gavebirth to Wagners illegitimate daughter, who wasnamed Isolde. Their indiscreet affair scandalizedMunich, and to make matters worse, Wagner fell intodisfavor amongst members of the court, who weresuspicious of his influence on the king. In December1865, Ludwig was finally forced to ask the composer toleave Munich. He apparently also toyed with the ideaof abdicating in order to follow his hero into exile, butWagner quickly dissuaded him.
Ludwig installed Wagner at a villa besideSwitzerlands Lake Lucerne. Die Meistersingerwas completed at Tribschen in 1867, andpremiered in Munich the following year. InOctober, Cosima finally convinced Hans vonBülow to grant her a divorce. Richard andCosima were married in 1870. (Liszt would notspeak to his new son-in-law for years to come.)On Christmas Day of that year, Wagnerpresented the Siegfried Idyll for Cosimasbirthday. The marriage to Cosima lasted to theend of Wagners life. They had anotherdaughter, named Eva, and a son namedSiegfried.
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg(The Mastersingers ofNuremberg) is an opera in threeacts, written and composed byRichard Wagner. It is one of themost popular operas in therepertory, and the longest stillcommonly performed today,usually taking around five hours.
The story takes place in Nurembergduring the middle of the 16th century.The story revolves around the real-lifeguild of Meistersinger (Master Singers),an association of amateur poets andmusicians, mostly from the middle classand often master craftsmen in their mainprofessions. The Meistersingersdeveloped a craftsman like approach tomusic-making, with an intricate systemof rules for composing and performingsongs.
The Flying Dutchman (German title: Der fliegende Holländer), is anopera, with music and libretto by Richard Wagner. Wagner originallywrote it to be performed without intermission — an example of hisefforts to break with tradition — and, while todays opera housessometimes still follow this directive, it is most often performed in threeacts. The central theme is redemption through love, which Wagnerreturns to in most of his subsequent operas.This work marks the first major shift in Wagners work away fromconventional opera and towards music drama. That is, rather thanrelying on a series of individual songs with clear boundaries, he createdan uninterrupted melody filled with leitmotifs (literally, "leading motifs")associated with the characters and themes. The leitmotifs are allintroduced in the overture, which begins with a well-known ocean orstorm motif before moving into the Dutchman motifs.The story comes from the legend of the Flying Dutchman, about a shipcaptain condemned to sail until Judgement Day. Wagner claimed in MeinLeben that the inspiration was partly autobiographical, arising during hisstormy sea crossing in July and August 1839, but a more likely source isHeinrich Heines retelling in his Aus den Memoiren des Herren vonSchnabelewopski.
Parsifal is Wagner’s final opera. It is looselybased on Eschenbach’s Parzival, themedieval (13th century) epic poem of theArthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and hisquest for The Holy Grail. In Wagners operathe hero Parsifal recovers the spear used topierce Christ during his crucifixion. Wagnerfirst conceived the work in 1857, but it wasnot completed until twenty-five years later.Wagner preferred to describe Parsifal not asan opera, but as "ein Bühnenweihfestspiel" -"A Festival Play for the Consecration of theStage".