Richard Wagner
Overview
Wilhelm Richard Wagner (icon; ˈʁiçaʁt ˈvaːɡnɐ; 22 May 1813 13 February 1883) was a German
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 composer
Composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

, conductor
Conducting
Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures. The primary duties of the conductor are to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats, and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble...

, theatre director, philosopher
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, music theorist
Music theory
Music theory is the study of how music works. It examines the language and notation of music. It seeks to identify patterns and structures in composers' techniques across or within genres, styles, or historical periods...

, poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

, essayist and writer
Writer
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....

 primarily known for his opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

s (or "music dramas", as they were later called). Wagner's compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex texture
Texture (music)
In music, texture is the way the melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic materials are combined in a composition , thus determining the overall quality of sound of a piece...

, rich harmonies
Harmony
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

 and orchestration
Orchestration
Orchestration is the study or practice of writing music for an orchestra or of adapting for orchestra music composed for another medium...

, and the elaborate use of leitmotif
Leitmotif
A leitmotif , sometimes written leit-motif, is a musical term , referring to a recurring theme, associated with a particular person, place, or idea. It is closely related to the musical idea of idée fixe...

s: musical themes associated with individual characters, places, ideas or plot elements.
Quotations

Music has taken a bad turn; these young people have no idea how to write a melody, they just give us shavings, which they dress up to look like a lion's mane and shake at us... It's as if they avoid melodies, for fear of having perhaps stolen them from someone else.

Cosima Wagner's Diaries: An Abridgment (Geoffrey Skelton), June 21, 1880

It should not be presumed that these people (the Jews), who are so separated from us by their religion, have any right to make our laws. But why blame the Jews? It is we who lack all feeling for our own identity, all sense of honour.

Cosima Wagner's Diaries: An Abridgment (Geoffrey Skelton), November 14, 1878

I am writing Parsifal only for my wife -- if I had to depend on the German spirit, I should have nothing more to say.

Cosima Wagner's Diaries: An Abridgment (Geoffrey Skelton), December 2, 1877

Oh, I hate the thought of all those costumes and grease paint! When I think that characters like Kundry will now have to be dressed up, those dreadful artists' balls immediately spring into my mind. Having created the invisible orchestra, I now feel like inventing the invisible theatre!

Cosima Wagner's Diaries: An Abridgment (Geoffrey Skelton), September 23, 1878

Certain things in Mozart will and can never be excelled.

Cosima Wagner's Diaries: An Abridgment (Geoffrey Skelton), February 26, 1878

This is Alberich's dream come true -- Nibelheim, world dominion, activity, work, everywhere the oppressive feeling of steam and fog.

Cosima Wagner's Diaries: An Abridgment (Geoffrey Skelton), May 25, 1877, Richard's description of London

It is necessary for us to explain the involuntary repugnance we possess for the nature and personality of the Jews....

The Jews have never produced a true poet. Heinrich Heine reached the point where he duped himself into a poet, and was rewarded by his versified lies being set to music by our own composers. He was the conscience of Judaism, just as Judaism is the evil conscience of our modern civilization.

"Judaism in Music" (1850)

I believe in God, Mozart, and Beethoven.

"The Life's End of a German Musician in Paris", a short story written for the Gazette Musicale

I hate this fast growing tendency to chain men to machines in big factories and deprive them of all joy in their efforts - the plan will lead to cheap men and cheap products.

"Art and Revolution (1849)

Encyclopedia
Wilhelm Richard Wagner (icon; ˈʁiçaʁt ˈvaːɡnɐ; 22 May 1813 13 February 1883) was a German
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 composer
Composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

, conductor
Conducting
Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures. The primary duties of the conductor are to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats, and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble...

, theatre director, philosopher
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, music theorist
Music theory
Music theory is the study of how music works. It examines the language and notation of music. It seeks to identify patterns and structures in composers' techniques across or within genres, styles, or historical periods...

, poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

, essayist and writer
Writer
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....

 primarily known for his opera
Opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

s (or "music dramas", as they were later called). Wagner's compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex texture
Texture (music)
In music, texture is the way the melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic materials are combined in a composition , thus determining the overall quality of sound of a piece...

, rich harmonies
Harmony
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

 and orchestration
Orchestration
Orchestration is the study or practice of writing music for an orchestra or of adapting for orchestra music composed for another medium...

, and the elaborate use of leitmotif
Leitmotif
A leitmotif , sometimes written leit-motif, is a musical term , referring to a recurring theme, associated with a particular person, place, or idea. It is closely related to the musical idea of idée fixe...

s: musical themes associated with individual characters, places, ideas or plot elements. Unlike most other opera composers, Wagner wrote both the music and libretto
Libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

 for every one of his stage works. Perhaps the two most well-known extracts from his works are the Ride of the Valkyries
Ride of the Valkyries
The Ride of the Valkyries is the popular term for the beginning of Act III of Die Walküre, the second of the four operas by Richard Wagner that comprise Der Ring des Nibelungen. The main theme of the Ride, the leitmotif labelled Walkürenritt, was first written down by the composer on 23 July 1851...

 from the opera Die Walküre
Die Walküre
Die Walküre , WWV 86B, is the second of the four operas that form the cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen , by Richard Wagner...

, and the Wedding March (Bridal Chorus)
Bridal Chorus
The "Bridal Chorus" "Treulich geführt", from the 1850 opera Lohengrin, by German composer Richard Wagner, is a march played for the bride's entrance at many formal weddings throughout the Western world...

 from the opera Lohengrin
Lohengrin
Lohengrin is a character in German Arthurian literature. The son of Parzival , he is a knight of the Holy Grail sent in a boat pulled by swans to rescue a maiden who can never ask his identity. His story, which first appears in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, is a version of the Knight of the...

.

Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works such as The Flying Dutchman
The Flying Dutchman (opera)
Der fliegende Holländer is an opera, with music and libretto by Richard Wagner.Wagner claimed in his 1870 autobiography Mein Leben that he had been inspired to write "The Flying Dutchman" following a stormy sea crossing he made from Riga to London in July and August 1839, but in his 1843...

 and Tannhäuser
Tannhäuser (opera)
Tannhäuser is an opera in three acts, music and text by Richard Wagner, based on the two German legends of Tannhäuser and the song contest at Wartburg...

 which were in the romantic
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 traditions of Weber
Carl Maria von Weber
Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school....

 and Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer was a noted German opera composer, and the first great exponent of "grand opera." At his peak in the 1830s and 1840s, he was the most famous and successful composer of opera in Europe, yet he is rarely performed today.-Early years:He was born to a Jewish family in Tasdorf , near...

, Wagner transformed operatic thought through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk
Gesamtkunstwerk
A Gesamtkunstwerk is a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms or strives to do so...

 ("total work of art"). This would achieve the synthesis of all the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, and was announced in a series of essays between 1849 and 1852. Wagner realised this concept most fully in the first half of the monumental four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen is a cycle of four epic operas by the German composer Richard Wagner . The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied...

. However, his thoughts on the relative importance of music and drama were to change again and he reintroduced some traditional operatic forms into his last few stage works including Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is an opera in three acts, written and composed by Richard Wagner. It is among the longest operas still commonly performed today, usually taking around four and a half hours. It was first performed at the Königliches Hof- und National-Theater in Munich, on June 21,...

.

Wagner pioneered advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism
Chromaticism
Chromaticism is a compositional technique interspersing the primary diatonic pitches and chords with other pitches of the chromatic scale. Chromaticism is in contrast or addition to tonality or diatonicism...

 and quickly shifting tonal centres, which greatly influenced the development of European classical music. His Tristan und Isolde
Tristan und Isolde
Tristan und Isolde is an opera, or music drama, in three acts by Richard Wagner to a German libretto by the composer, based largely on the romance by Gottfried von Straßburg. It was composed between 1857 and 1859 and premiered in Munich on 10 June 1865 with Hans von Bülow conducting...

 is sometimes described as marking the start of modern music. Wagner's influence spread beyond music into philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

, the visual arts
Visual arts
The visual arts are art forms that create works which are primarily visual in nature, such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, and often modern visual arts and architecture...

 and theatre
Theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

. He had his own opera house built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus
Bayreuth Festspielhaus
The or Bayreuth Festival Theatre is an opera house north of Bayreuth, Germany, dedicated solely to the performance of operas by the 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner...

, which contained many novel design features. It was here that the Ring and Parsifal
Parsifal
Parsifal is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner. It is loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, the 13th century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival and his quest for the Holy Grail, and on Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail.Wagner first conceived the work...

 received their premieres and where his most important stage works
Bayreuth canon
The Bayreuth canon consists of those operas by the German composer Richard Wagner which have been performed at the Bayreuth Festival. The festival, which is dedicated to the staging of these works, was founded by Wagner in 1876 in the Bavarian town of Bayreuth, and has continued under the...

 continue to be performed today in an annual festival run by his descendants
Bayreuth Festival
The Bayreuth Festival is a music festival held annually in Bayreuth, Germany, at which performances of operas by the 19th century German composer Richard Wagner are presented...

. Wagner's views on conducting
Conducting
Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures. The primary duties of the conductor are to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats, and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble...

 were also highly influential. His extensive writings on music, drama and politics have all attracted extensive comment in recent decades, especially where they have antisemitic content.

Wagner achieved all of this despite a life characterised, until his last decades, by political exile, turbulent love affairs, poverty and repeated flight from his creditors. His pugnacious personality and often outspoken views on music, politics and society made him a controversial figure during his life, which he remains to this day. The impact of his ideas can be traced in many of the arts throughout the twentieth century.

Early years

Richard Wagner was born at No. 3 ('The House of the Red and White Lions'), the Brühl
Brühl (Leipzig)
The Brühl is a street in Leipzig, Germany, just within the limits of the former city wall.-History:On the corner of the Brühl and Katharinestrasse stands the Romanus house, built for the mayor of Leipzig between 1701 and 1704, and one of the finest baroque buildings remaining in the town.In the...

, in the Jewish quarter
Jewish quarter (diaspora)
In the Jewish Diaspora, a Jewish quarter is the area of a city traditionally inhabited by Jews. Jewish quarters, like the Jewish ghettos in Europe, were often the outgrowths of segregated ghettos instituted by the surrounding Christian authorities. A Yiddish term for a Jewish quarter or...

 of Leipzig
Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

, the ninth child of Carl Friedrich Wagner, who was a clerk in the Leipzig police service, and his wife Johanna Rosine (née Paetz), the daughter of a baker. Wagner's father died of typhus
Typhus
Epidemic typhus is a form of typhus so named because the disease often causes epidemics following wars and natural disasters...

 six months after Richard's birth, following which Wagner's mother began living with the actor and playwright Ludwig Geyer
Ludwig Geyer
Ludwig Geyer was a German actor, playwright and painter.Born in Eisleben, he was the stepfather of composer Richard Wagner, whose biological father had died some six months after his birth...

, who had been a friend of Richard's father. In August 1814 Johanna married Geyer, and moved with her family to his residence in Dresden
Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

. Until he was fourteen, Wagner was known as Wilhelm Richard Geyer. He almost certainly suspected that Geyer was his natural father.

Geyer's love of the theatre was shared by his stepson, and Wagner took part in his performances. In his autobiography, Wagner recalled once playing the part of an angel. The boy Wagner was also hugely impressed by the Gothic elements of Weber's
Carl Maria von Weber
Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school....

 Der Freischütz
Der Freischütz
Der Freischütz is an opera in three acts by Carl Maria von Weber with a libretto by Friedrich Kind. It premiered on 18 June 1821 at the Schauspielhaus Berlin...

. In late 1820, Wagner was enrolled at Pastor Wetzel's school at Possendorf, near Dresden, where he received some piano instruction from his Latin teacher. He could not manage a proper scale but preferred playing theatre overtures by ear. Geyer died in 1821, when Richard was eight. Subsequently, Wagner was sent to the Kreuz Grammar School in Dresden, paid for by Geyer's brother. The young Wagner entertained ambitions as a playwright, his first creative effort (listed as 'WWV
WWV (Wagner)
The Wagner-Werk-Verzeichnis , usually shortened to WWV, is an index and musicological guide to the 113 musical compositions of Richard Wagner compiled by John Deathridge, Martin Geck, and Egon Voss....

 1') being a tragedy, Leubald
Leubald
Leubald was an attempt by the youthful Richard Wagner to write a tragic drama in the Shakespearean genre. It occupied him during the years 1827-28 while he was at school, first in Dresden and later in Leipzig. The play combines elements of Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth and Richard III, with...

, begun at school in 1826, which was strongly influenced by Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 and Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

. Wagner was determined to set it to music; he persuaded his family to allow him music lessons.

By 1827, the family had moved back to Leipzig. Wagner's first lessons in harmony
Harmony
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

 were taken in 1828–1831 with Christian Gottlieb Müller. In January 1828 he first heard Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

's 7th Symphony
Symphony No. 7 (Beethoven)
Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92, in 1811, was the seventh of his nine symphonies. He worked on it while staying in the Bohemian spa town of Teplice in the hope of improving his health. It was completed in 1812, and was dedicated to Count Moritz von Fries.At its debut,...

 and then, in March, Beethoven's 9th Symphony
Symphony No. 9 (Beethoven)
The Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, is the final complete symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven. Completed in 1824, the symphony is one of the best known works of the Western classical repertoire, and has been adapted for use as the European Anthem...

 performed in the Gewandhaus
Gewandhaus
Gewandhaus is a concert hall in Leipzig, Germany. Today's hall is the third to bear this name; like the second, it is noted for its fine acoustics. The first Gewandhaus was built in 1781 by architect Johann Carl Friedrich Dauthe. The second opened on 11 December 1884, and was destroyed in the...

. Beethoven became his inspiration, and Wagner wrote a piano transcription of the 9th Symphony. He was also greatly impressed by a performance of Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

's Requiem
Requiem (Mozart)
The Requiem Mass in D minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was composed in Vienna in 1791 and left unfinished at the composer's death. A completion by Franz Xaver Süssmayr was delivered to Count Franz von Walsegg, who had anonymously commissioned the piece for a requiem Mass to commemorate the...

. From this period date Wagner's early piano sonata
Piano sonata
A piano sonata is a sonata written for a solo piano. Piano sonatas are usually written in three or four movements, although some piano sonatas have been written with a single movement , two movements , five or even more movements...

s and his first attempts at orchestral overtures.

In 1829 he saw the dramatic soprano Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient
Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient
Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, born Wilhelmine Schröder , was a German operatic soprano. As a singer she combined a rare quality of tone with dramatic intensity of expression, which was as remarkable on the concert platform as in opera.- Biography :Schröder was born in Hamburg, the daughter of the...

 on stage, and she became his ideal of the fusion of drama and music in opera. In his autobiography, Wagner wrote, "If I look back on my life as a whole, I can find no event that produced so profound an impression upon me." Wagner claimed to have seen Schröder-Devrient in the title role of Fidelio
Fidelio
Fidelio is a German opera in two acts by Ludwig van Beethoven. It is Beethoven's only opera. The German libretto is by Joseph Sonnleithner from the French of Jean-Nicolas Bouilly which had been used for the 1798 opera Léonore, ou L’amour conjugal by Pierre Gaveaux, and for the 1804 opera Leonora...

; however, it seems more likely that he saw her performance as Romeo in Bellini
Vincenzo Bellini
Vincenzo Salvatore Carmelo Francesco Bellini was an Italian opera composer. His greatest works are I Capuleti ed i Montecchi , La sonnambula , Norma , Beatrice di Tenda , and I puritani...

's I Capuleti e i Montecchi
I Capuleti e i Montecchi
I Capuleti e i Montecchi is an Italian opera in two acts by Vincenzo Bellini.The libretto by Felice Romani was a reworking of the story of Romeo and Juliet for an opera by Nicola Vaccai called Giulietta e Romeo. This was based on Italian sources rather than taken directly from Shakespeare...

.

He enrolled at the University of Leipzig
University of Leipzig
The University of Leipzig , located in Leipzig in the Free State of Saxony, Germany, is one of the oldest universities in the world and the second-oldest university in Germany...

 in 1831 where he became a member of the Studentenverbindung
Studentenverbindung
A Studentenverbindung is a student corporation in a German-speaking country somewhat comparable to fraternities in the US or Canada, but mostly older and going back to other kinds of...

 Corps Saxonia Leipzig. He also took composition lessons with the cantor
Cantor
Cantor is surname of:* Andrés Cantor , Spanish-language soccer announcer* Anthony Cantor , British diplomat* Arthur Cantor , American theatrical producer* Aviva Cantor , American journalist, lecturer and author...

 of Saint Thomas Church, Christian Theodor Weinlig
Christian Theodor Weinlig
Christian Theodor Weinlig was a German music teacher, composer, and choir conductor in Dresden and Leipzig....

. Weinlig was so impressed with Wagner's musical ability that he refused any payment for his lessons, and arranged for Wagner's Piano Sonata in B flat (which was consequently dedicated to him) to be published as the composer's Op. 1. A year later, Wagner composed his Symphony in C major
Symphony in C major (Wagner)
Symphony in C major, WWV29, is one of two symphonies Richard Wagner wrote. The other being the incomplete, two movement Symphony in E major WWV35.- Form :The Symphony in C major is in four movements:* I. Sostenuto e maestoso - Allegro con brio...

, a Beethovenesque work performed in Prague in 1832 and at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 1833. He then began to work on an opera, Die Hochzeit
Die Hochzeit
Die Hochzeit is an unfinished opera by Richard Wagner which predates all his completed works in the genre. Wagner completed the libretto, then started composing the music in the second half of 1832 when he was just nineteen...

 (The Wedding), which he never completed.

In 1833, Wagner's older brother Karl Albert managed to obtain Richard a position as choir
Choir
A choir, chorale or chorus is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform.A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus...

 master in Würzburg
Würzburg
Würzburg is a city in the region of Franconia which lies in the northern tip of Bavaria, Germany. Located at the Main River, it is the capital of the Regierungsbezirk Lower Franconia. The regional dialect is Franconian....

. In the same year, at the age of 20, Wagner composed his first complete opera, Die Feen
Die Feen
Die Feen is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner. The German libretto was written by the composer after Carlo Gozzi's La donna serpente.Die Feen was Wagner's first completed opera, but remained unperformed in his lifetime...

 (The Fairies). This opera, which clearly imitated the style of Carl Maria von Weber
Carl Maria von Weber
Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school....

, would go unproduced until half a century later, when it was premiered in Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

 shortly after the composer's death in 1883.

Meanwhile, Wagner held a brief appointment as musical director at the opera house in Magdeburg
Magdeburg
Magdeburg , is the largest city and the capital city of the Bundesland of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Magdeburg is situated on the Elbe River and was one of the most important medieval cities of Europe....

 during which he wrote Das Liebesverbot
Das Liebesverbot
Das Liebesverbot is an early opera in two acts by Richard Wagner, with the libretto written by the composer after Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. Described as a grosse komische Oper, it was composed in 1834, and Wagner conducted the premiere in 1836 at Magdeburg...

 (The Ban on Love), based on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure
Measure for Measure
Measure for Measure is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1603 or 1604. It was classified as comedy, but its mood defies those expectations. As a result and for a variety of reasons, some critics have labelled it as one of Shakespeare's problem plays...

. This was staged at Magdeburg in 1836, but closed before the second performance, leaving the composer (not for the last time) in serious financial difficulties. In 1834 Wagner had fallen for the actress Christine Wilhelmine "Minna" Planer
Minna Planer
Christine Wilhelmine "Minna" Planer was a German actress and the first wife of composer Richard Wagner to whom she was married for 30 years, although for the last 10 years they often lived apart. Seduced at an early age by an Army officer, she had an illegitimate daughter, who was brought up as...

. After the disaster of Das Liebesverbot he followed her to Königsberg
Königsberg
Königsberg was the capital of East Prussia from the Late Middle Ages until 1945 as well as the northernmost and easternmost German city with 286,666 inhabitants . Due to the multicultural society in and around the city, there are several local names for it...

 where she helped him to get an engagement at the theatre. The two married in Königsberg on 24 November 1836. In June 1837 Wagner moved to the city of Riga
Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

, then in the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

, where he became music director of the local opera. Minna had recently left Wagner for another man but Richard took her back; this was but the first débâcle of a troubled marriage that would end in misery three decades later.

By 1839, the couple had amassed such large debts that they fled Riga to escape from creditors; debt would plague Wagner for most of his life. During their flight, they and their Newfoundland dog
Newfoundland (dog)
The Newfoundland is a breed of large dog. Newfoundlands can be black, brown, gray, or black and white. They were originally bred and used as a working dog for fishermen in the Dominion of Newfoundland, now part of Canada. They are known for their giant size, tremendous strength, calm dispositions,...

, Robber, took a stormy sea passage to London, from which Wagner drew the inspiration for The Flying Dutchman
The Flying Dutchman (opera)
Der fliegende Holländer is an opera, with music and libretto by Richard Wagner.Wagner claimed in his 1870 autobiography Mein Leben that he had been inspired to write "The Flying Dutchman" following a stormy sea crossing he made from Riga to London in July and August 1839, but in his 1843...

 (with a story based on a sketch by Heinrich Heine
Heinrich Heine
Christian Johann Heinrich Heine was one of the most significant German poets of the 19th century. He was also a journalist, essayist, and literary critic. He is best known outside Germany for his early lyric poetry, which was set to music in the form of Lieder by composers such as Robert Schumann...

). The Wagners spent 1839 to 1842 in Paris, where Richard made a scant living writing articles and arranging operas by other composers, largely on behalf of the Schlesinger
Maurice Schlesinger
Moritz Adolf Schlesinger , generally known during his French career as Maurice Schlesinger, was a German music editor. He is perhaps best remembered for inspiring the character of M...

 publishing house. However, he also completed his third and fourth operas Rienzi
Rienzi
Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen is an early opera by Richard Wagner in five acts, with the libretto written by the composer after Bulwer-Lytton's novel of the same name . The title is commonly shortened to Rienzi...

 and The Flying Dutchman during this stay. His relief on leaving Paris for Dresden was recorded in his "Autobiographic Sketch
Autobiographic Sketch (Wagner)
Richard Wagner's Autobiographic Sketch was written in 1842. It is the composer's earliest autobiographical account.-Background:...

" of 1842 "For the first time I saw the Rhine  with hot tears in my eyes, I, poor artist, swore eternal fidelity to my German fatherland."

Dresden

Wagner had completed writing Rienzi
Rienzi
Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen is an early opera by Richard Wagner in five acts, with the libretto written by the composer after Bulwer-Lytton's novel of the same name . The title is commonly shortened to Rienzi...

 in 1840. Largely through the strong support of Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer was a noted German opera composer, and the first great exponent of "grand opera." At his peak in the 1830s and 1840s, he was the most famous and successful composer of opera in Europe, yet he is rarely performed today.-Early years:He was born to a Jewish family in Tasdorf , near...

, it was accepted for performance by the Dresden
Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

 Court Theatre (Hofoper) in the German state of Saxony
Kingdom of Saxony
The Kingdom of Saxony , lasting between 1806 and 1918, was an independent member of a number of historical confederacies in Napoleonic through post-Napoleonic Germany. From 1871 it was part of the German Empire. It became a Free state in the era of Weimar Republic in 1918 after the end of World War...

. In 1842, Wagner moved to Dresden, where Rienzi was staged to considerable acclaim on 20 October. Wagner lived in Dresden for the next six years, eventually being appointed the Royal Saxon Court Conductor. During this period, he staged there The Flying Dutchman
The Flying Dutchman (opera)
Der fliegende Holländer is an opera, with music and libretto by Richard Wagner.Wagner claimed in his 1870 autobiography Mein Leben that he had been inspired to write "The Flying Dutchman" following a stormy sea crossing he made from Riga to London in July and August 1839, but in his 1843...

 (2 January 1843) and Tannhäuser
Tannhäuser (opera)
Tannhäuser is an opera in three acts, music and text by Richard Wagner, based on the two German legends of Tannhäuser and the song contest at Wartburg...

 (19 October 1845), the first two of his three middle-period operas. Wagner also mixed with artistic circles in Dresden, including the composer Ferdinand Hiller
Ferdinand Hiller
Ferdinand Hiller was a German composer, conductor, writer and music-director.-Biography:Ferdinand Hiller was born to a wealthy Jewish family in Frankfurt am Main, where his father Justus was a merchant in English textiles – a business eventually continued by Ferdinand’s brother Joseph...

 and the architect Gottfried Semper
Gottfried Semper
Gottfried Semper was a German architect, art critic, and professor of architecture, who designed and built the Semper Opera House in Dresden between 1838 and 1841. In 1849 he took part in the May Uprising in Dresden and was put on the government's wanted list. Semper fled first to Zürich and later...

.

The Wagners' stay at Dresden was brought to an end by Richard's involvement in leftist
Left-wing politics
In politics, Left, left-wing and leftist generally refer to support for social change to create a more egalitarian society...

 politics
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

. A nationalist
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 movement was gaining force in the states of the German Confederation
German Confederation
The German Confederation was the loose association of Central European states created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to coordinate the economies of separate German-speaking countries. It acted as a buffer between the powerful states of Austria and Prussia...

, calling for constitutional freedoms and the unification of Germany as one nation state. Richard Wagner played an enthusiastic role in the socialist wing of this movement, regularly receiving guests who included the radical editor August Röckel, and the Russian anarchist
Anarchism
Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority in the conduct of human relations...

 Mikhail Bakunin
Mikhail Bakunin
Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin was a well-known Russian revolutionary and theorist of collectivist anarchism. He has also often been called the father of anarchist theory in general. Bakunin grew up near Moscow, where he moved to study philosophy and began to read the French Encyclopedists,...

. He was also influenced by the ideas of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was a French politician, mutualist philosopher and socialist. He was a member of the French Parliament, and he was the first person to call himself an "anarchist". He is considered among the most influential theorists and organisers of anarchism...

. Widespread discontent in Dresden came to a head in April 1849, when King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony
Frederick Augustus II of Saxony
Frederick Augustus II |Tyrol]], 9 August 1854) was King of Saxony and a member of the House of Wettin.He was the eldest son of Maximilian, Prince of Saxony --younger son of the Elector Frederick Christian of Saxony—by his...

  rejected a new constitution. The May Uprising
May Uprising in Dresden
The May Uprising took place in Dresden, Germany in 1849; it was one of the last of the series of events known as the Revolutions of 1848.-Events leading to the May Uprising:...

 broke out, in which Wagner played a minor supporting role. The incipient revolution
Revolution
A revolution is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.Aristotle described two types of political revolution:...

 was quickly crushed by an allied force of Saxon and Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n troops, and warrants were issued for the arrest of the revolutionaries. Wagner had to flee, first visiting Paris and then settling in Zurich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

.

Exile, Schopenhauer and Mathilde Wesendonck

Wagner spent the next twelve years in exile. He had completed Lohengrin
Lohengrin (opera)
Lohengrin is a romantic opera in three acts composed and written by Richard Wagner, first performed in 1850. The story of the eponymous character is taken from medieval German romance, notably the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach and its sequel, Lohengrin, written by a different author, itself...

, the last of his middle-period operas before the Dresden uprising, and now wrote desperately to his friend Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt ; ), was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.Liszt became renowned in Europe during the nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age...

 to have it staged in his absence. Liszt, who proved to be a true friend, eventually conducted the premiere in Weimar
Weimar
Weimar is a city in Germany famous for its cultural heritage. It is located in the federal state of Thuringia , north of the Thüringer Wald, east of Erfurt, and southwest of Halle and Leipzig. Its current population is approximately 65,000. The oldest record of the city dates from the year 899...

 in August 1850.

Nevertheless, Wagner found himself in grim personal straits, isolated from the German musical world and without any income to speak of. Before leaving Dresden, he had drafted a scenario that would eventually become the four opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen is a cycle of four epic operas by the German composer Richard Wagner . The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied...

. He initially wrote the libretto for a single opera, Siegfrieds Tod (Siegfried's Death) in 1848. After arriving in Zurich he expanded the story to include an opera Der junge Siegfried (Young Siegfried) exploring the hero's
Sigurd
Sigurd is a legendary hero of Norse mythology, as well as the central character in the Völsunga saga. The earliest extant representations for his legend come in pictorial form from seven runestones in Sweden and most notably the Ramsund carving Sigurd (Old Norse: Sigurðr) is a legendary hero of...

 background. He completed the text of the cycle by writing the libretti for Die Walküre
Die Walküre
Die Walküre , WWV 86B, is the second of the four operas that form the cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen , by Richard Wagner...

 and Das Rheingold
Das Rheingold
is the first of the four operas that constitute Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen . It was originally written as an introduction to the tripartite Ring, but the cycle is now generally regarded as consisting of four individual operas.Das Rheingold received its premiere at the National Theatre...

 and revising the other libretti to agree with his new concept, completing them in 1852. Meanwhile, his wife Minna, who had disliked the operas he had written after Rienzi, was falling into a deepening depression and then Wagner himself fell victim to ill-health, according to Ernest Newman
Ernest Newman
Ernest Newman was an English music critic and musicologist. Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians describes him as "the most celebrated British music critic in the first half of the 20th century." His style of criticism, aiming at intellectual objectivity in contrast to the more subjective...

 "largely a matter of overwrought nerves", which made it difficult for him to continue writing.

Wagner's primary published output during his first years in Zurich was a set of notable essays: "The Art-Work of the Future" (1849), in which he described a vision of opera as Gesamtkunstwerk
Gesamtkunstwerk
A Gesamtkunstwerk is a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms or strives to do so...

, or "total work of art", in which the various arts such as music, song, dance, poetry, visual arts, and stagecraft were unified; "Judaism in Music" (1850), a tract directed against Jewish composers; and "Opera and Drama
Opera and Drama
"Opera and Drama" is a long essay written by Richard Wagner in 1851 setting out his ideas on the ideal characteristics of opera as an art form...

" (1851), which described the aesthetics
Aesthetics
Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. It is more scientifically defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste...

 of drama which he was using to create the Ring operas.

Wagner began composing Das Rheingold in November 1853, following it immediately with Die Walküre in 1854. He then began work on the third opera, now called Siegfried
Siegfried (opera)
Siegfried is the third of the four operas that constitute Der Ring des Nibelungen , by Richard Wagner. It received its premiere at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus on 16 August 1876, as part of the first complete performance of The Ring...

, in 1856 but finished only the first two acts before deciding to put the work aside to concentrate on a new idea: Tristan und Isolde
Tristan und Isolde
Tristan und Isolde is an opera, or music drama, in three acts by Richard Wagner to a German libretto by the composer, based largely on the romance by Gottfried von Straßburg. It was composed between 1857 and 1859 and premiered in Munich on 10 June 1865 with Hans von Bülow conducting...

.

Wagner had two independent sources of inspiration for Tristan und Isolde. The first came to him in 1854, when his poet friend Georg Herwegh
Georg Herwegh
Georg Friedrich Rudolph Theodor Herwegh was a German revolutionary poet.-Biography:He was born in Stuttgart on 31 May 1817, the son of an innkeeper...

 introduced him to the works of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

. Wagner would later call this the most important event of his life. His personal circumstances certainly made him an easy convert to what he understood to be Schopenhauer's philosophy, a deeply pessimistic view of the human condition. He would remain an adherent of Schopenhauer for the rest of his life, even after his fortunes improved.

One of Schopenhauer's doctrines was that music held a supreme role amongst the arts. He claimed that music is the direct expression of the world's essence, which is blind, impulsive will. Wagner quickly embraced this claim, which must have resonated strongly despite its contradiction of his previous view, expressed in "Opera and Drama", that the music in opera had to be subservient to the drama. Wagner scholars have since argued that this Schopenhauerian influence caused Wagner to assign a more commanding role to music in his later operas, including the latter half of the Ring cycle, which he had yet to compose. Many aspects of Schopenhauerian doctrine undoubtedly found their way into Wagner's subsequent libretti. For example, the self-renouncing cobbler-poet Hans Sachs
Hans Sachs
Hans Sachs was a German meistersinger , poet, playwright and shoemaker.-Biography:Hans Sachs was born in Nuremberg . His father was a tailor. He attended Latin school in Nuremberg...

 in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is an opera in three acts, written and composed by Richard Wagner. It is among the longest operas still commonly performed today, usually taking around four and a half hours. It was first performed at the Königliches Hof- und National-Theater in Munich, on June 21,...

, generally considered Wagner's most sympathetic character, although based loosely on a historical person, is a quintessentially Schopenhauerian creation.

Wagner's second source of inspiration was the poet-writer Mathilde Wesendonck
Mathilde Wesendonck
Mathilde Wesendonck was a German poet and author. She is best known as the friend and possibly mistress of Richard Wagner, who set five songs to her words, called the Wesendonck Lieder.-Biography:...

, the wife of the silk merchant Otto Wesendonck. Wagner met the Wesendoncks in Zurich in 1852. Otto, a fan of Wagner's music, placed a cottage on his estate at Wagner's disposal. During the course of the next five years, the composer was eventually to become infatuated with his patron's wife. Though Mathilde seems to have returned some of his affections, she had no intention of jeopardizing her marriage. Nevertheless, the affair inspired Wagner to put aside his work on the Ring cycle (which would not be resumed for the next twelve years) and began work on Tristan, based on the Arthurian
Matter of Britain
The Matter of Britain is a name given collectively to the body of literature and legendary material associated with Great Britain and its legendary kings, particularly King Arthur...

 love story Tristan and Iseult
Tristan and Iseult
The legend of Tristan and Iseult is an influential romance and tragedy, retold in numerous sources with as many variations. The tragic story is of the adulterous love between the Cornish knight Tristan and the Irish princess Iseult...

. While planning the opera, Wagner composed the Wesendonck Lieder
Wesendonck Lieder
The Wesendonck Lieder is a song cycle composed by Richard Wagner while he was working on Die Walküre. This, and the Siegfried Idyll, are his only two non-operatic works that are still regularly performed....

, five songs for voice and piano setting poems by Mathilde. Two of these settings are explicitly subtitled by Wagner as 'studies for Tristan und Isolde '.

The uneasy affair collapsed in 1858, when Minna intercepted a letter from Wagner to Mathilde. However, Wagner continued his correspondence with Mathilde and his friendship with (and support by) her husband Otto. After the resulting confrontation, Wagner left Zurich alone, bound for Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

, where he sojourned in the Palazzo Giustinian
Palazzo Giustinian
The Palazzo Giustinian is a palace in Venice, northern Italy, situated in the Dorsoduro district and overlooking the Grand Canal next to Ca' Foscari. It is among the best examples of the late Venetian Gothic. The home was the final residence of Princess Louise Marie Thérèse of France.The edifice...

. The following year, he once again moved to Paris to oversee production of a new revision of Tannhäuser
Tannhäuser (opera)
Tannhäuser is an opera in three acts, music and text by Richard Wagner, based on the two German legends of Tannhäuser and the song contest at Wartburg...

, staged thanks to the efforts of Princess Pauline von Metternich. The premiere of the Paris Tannhäuser in 1861 was an utter fiasco, due to disturbances caused by members of the Jockey Club
Jockey-Club de Paris
The Jockey Club de Paris is best remembered as a gathering of the elite of nineteenth-century French society. The club still exists at 2 rue Rabelais, and hosts the International Federation of Racing Authorities...

. Further performances were cancelled, and Wagner hurriedly left the city.

The political ban which had been placed on Wagner in Germany after he had fled Dresden was lifted in 1861. The composer settled in Biebrich
Wiesbaden-Biebrich
Biebrich is a borough of the city of Wiesbaden, Hesse, Germany. With over 36,000 inhabitants, it is the most-populated of Wiesbaden's boroughs. It is located south of the city center on the Rhine River, opposite the Mainz borough of Mombach...

 in Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

, where he began work on Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, the idea for which had come during a visit he had made to Venice with the Wesendoncks. Despite the failure of Tannhäuser in Paris, the possibility that Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen is a cycle of four epic operas by the German composer Richard Wagner . The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied...

 would never be finished, and Wagner's unhappy personal life at the time of writing it, this opera is his only mature comedy.

Between 1861 and 1864 Wagner tried to have Tristan und Isolde produced in Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

. Despite numerous rehearsals, the opera remained unperformed, and gained a reputation as being "impossible", which further added to Wagner's financial woes.

In 1862, Wagner finally parted from Minna, though he (or at least his creditors) continued to support her financially until her death in 1866. He claimed to be unable to travel to her funeral due to an "inflamed finger".

Patronage of King Ludwig II

Wagner's fortunes took a dramatic upturn in 1864, when King Ludwig II
Ludwig II of Bavaria
Ludwig II was King of Bavaria from 1864 until shortly before his death. He is sometimes called the Swan King and der Märchenkönig, the Fairy tale King...

 succeeded to the throne of Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

 at the age of 18. The young king, an ardent admirer of Wagner's operas since childhood, had the composer brought to Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

. He settled Wagner's considerable debts, and proposed to stage Tristan, Die Meistersinger, the Ring, and the other operas Wagner planned. Wagner also began to dictate his autobiography
Autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

, Mein Leben
Mein Leben (Wagner)
Mein Leben is the title given by the composer Richard Wagner to his autobiography, covering the years from his birth in 1813 to 1864.-Origins:Wagner began dictating Mein Leben to his wife Cosima on 17 July 1865 in Munich...

, at the King's request.
To Wagner, it seemed significant that his rescue by Ludwig coincided with his learning the news of the death of his supposed enemy Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer was a noted German opera composer, and the first great exponent of "grand opera." At his peak in the 1830s and 1840s, he was the most famous and successful composer of opera in Europe, yet he is rarely performed today.-Early years:He was born to a Jewish family in Tasdorf , near...

, noting ungratefully that "this operatic master, who had done me so much harm, should not have lived to see this day".

After grave difficulties in rehearsal, Tristan und Isolde premiered at the National Theatre
National Theatre (Munich)
The National Theatre Munich is an opera house in Max-Joseph-Platz, in Munich, Germany. It is the home of the Bavarian State Opera, and the Bavarian State Ballet ....

 in Munich on 10 June 1865, the first Wagner premiere in almost 15 years. (The premiere had been scheduled for 15 May, but had been delayed by bailiffs acting for Wagner's creditors; and also because the Isolde, Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld
Malvina Garrigues
Malvina Garrigues, later Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld was a Danish-born German operatic soprano. She and her husband Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld created the title roles in Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde in 1865...

, was hoarse and needed time to recover). The conductor of this premiere was Hans von Bülow
Hans von Bülow
Hans Guido Freiherr von Bülow was a German conductor, virtuoso pianist, and composer of the Romantic era. He was one of the most famous conductors of the 19th century, and his activity was critical for establishing the successes of several major composers of the time, including Richard...

, whose wife Cosima
Cosima Wagner
Cosima Francesca Gaetana Wagner, née de Flavigny, from 1844 known as Cosima Liszt; was the daughter of Hungarian composer Franz Liszt...

 had given birth in April that year to a daughter, named Isolde, the child not of von Bülow but of Wagner.

Cosima was 24 years younger than Wagner and was herself illegitimate, the daughter of the Countess Marie d'Agoult
Marie d'Agoult
Marie Catherine Sophie de Flavigny, Vicomtesse de Flavigny , was a French author, known also by her married name and title, Marie, Comtesse d'Agoult, and by her pen name, Daniel Stern....

, who had left her husband for Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt ; ), was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.Liszt became renowned in Europe during the nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age...

. Liszt disapproved of his daughter seeing Wagner, though the two men were friends. The indiscreet affair scandalized Munich, and to make matters worse, Wagner fell into disfavour among members of the court, who were suspicious of his influence on the king. In December 1865, Ludwig was finally forced to ask the composer to leave Munich. He apparently also toyed with the idea of abdicating in order to follow his hero into exile, but Wagner quickly dissuaded him.

Ludwig installed Wagner at the Villa Tribschen
Tribschen
Tribschen is a suburb of Lucerne, in the Canton of Lucerne in central Switzerland.Tribschen is best known today as the home of the German composer Richard Wagner from 30 March 1866 to 22 April 1872. When Wagner was obliged to leave Munich in March 1866, he moved to a spacious villa in Tribschen on...

, beside Switzerland's Lake Lucerne
Lake Lucerne
Lake Lucerne is a lake in central Switzerland and the fourth largest in the country.The lake has a complicated shape, with bends and arms reaching from the city of Lucerne into the mountains. It has a total area of 114 km² , an elevation of 434 m , and a maximum depth of 214 m . Its volume is 11.8...

. Die Meistersinger was completed at Tribschen in 1867, and premièred in Munich on 21 June the following year. In October, Cosima finally convinced Hans von Bülow to grant her a divorce, but this did not materialize until after she had two more children with Wagner; another daughter, named Eva, after the heroine of Meistersinger, and a son Siegfried
Siegfried Wagner
Siegfried Wagner was a German composer and conductor, the son of Richard Wagner. He was an opera composer and the artistic director of the Bayreuth Festival from 1908 to 1930.-Life:...

, named for the hero of the Ring. Minna Wagner had died the previous year and so Richard and Cosima were now able to marry. The wedding took place on 25 August 1870. On Christmas Day of that year, Wagner arranged a surprise performance of the Siegfried Idyll
Siegfried Idyll
The Siegfried Idyll by Richard Wagner is a symphonic poem for chamber orchestra, lasting approximately twenty minutes.-Background:Wagner composed the Siegfried Idyll as a birthday present to his second wife, Cosima, after the birth of their son Siegfried in 1869...

 for Cosima's birthday. The marriage to Cosima lasted to the end of Wagner's life.

Bayreuth

Wagner, settled into his newfound domesticity, turned his energies toward completing the Ring cycle. At Ludwig's insistence, "special previews" of the first two works of the cycle, Das Rheingold
Das Rheingold
is the first of the four operas that constitute Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen . It was originally written as an introduction to the tripartite Ring, but the cycle is now generally regarded as consisting of four individual operas.Das Rheingold received its premiere at the National Theatre...

 and Die Walküre
Die Walküre
Die Walküre , WWV 86B, is the second of the four operas that form the cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen , by Richard Wagner...

, were performed at Munich in 1869 and 1870, but Wagner wanted the complete cycle to be performed in a new, specially designed opera house
Opera house
An opera house is a theatre building used for opera performances that consists of a stage, an orchestra pit, audience seating, and backstage facilities for costumes and set building...

.

In 1871, he decided on the small town of Bayreuth as the location of his new opera house. The Wagners moved there the following year, and the foundation stone for the Bayreuth Festspielhaus
Bayreuth Festspielhaus
The or Bayreuth Festival Theatre is an opera house north of Bayreuth, Germany, dedicated solely to the performance of operas by the 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner...

 ("Festival Theatre") was laid. In order to raise funds for the construction, "Wagner Societies
Wagner Societies
The International Association of Wagner Societies is an affiliation of groups worldwide that promotes interest and research into the works of Richard Wagner, raises funds for scholarships for young music students, singers, and instrumentalists, and supports the annual Bayreuth Festival...

" were formed in several cities, and Wagner himself began touring Germany conducting concerts. However, sufficient funds were raised only after King Ludwig stepped in with another large grant in 1874. Later that year, the Wagners moved into their permanent home at Bayreuth, a villa that Richard dubbed Wahnfried
Wahnfried
Wahnfried may refer to:*Wahnfried, Richard Wagner's villa in Bayreuth*Richard Wahnfried , the long-time alias for German composer and musician Klaus Schulze...

 ("Peace/freedom from delusion/madness", in German). The expenses of Bayreuth and of Wahnfried, however, meant that Wagner still sought other sources of income by conducting or taking on commissions like the Centennial March for America.

The Festspielhaus finally opened on 13 August 1876 with Das Rheingold, now taking its place as the first evening of the premiere of the complete Ring cycle, and has continued to be the site of the Bayreuth Festival
Bayreuth Festival
The Bayreuth Festival is a music festival held annually in Bayreuth, Germany, at which performances of operas by the 19th century German composer Richard Wagner are presented...

 ever since; the Festival has been overseen since 1973 by the Richard-Wagner-Stiftung
Richard Wagner Foundation
The Richard Wagner Foundation was formed in 1973, when, faced with overwhelming criticism and Wagner family infighting, the Bayreuth Festival and its assets were transferred to the newly created Foundation...

 (Richard Wagner Foundation), the members of which include a number of Wagner's descendants.

Last years

Following the first Bayreuth Festival, Wagner began work on Parsifal
Parsifal
Parsifal is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner. It is loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, the 13th century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival and his quest for the Holy Grail, and on Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail.Wagner first conceived the work...

, his final opera. The composition took four years, much of which Wagner spent in Italy for health reasons. During this period he also wrote a series of essays, including some reactionary
Reactionary
The term reactionary refers to viewpoints that seek to return to a previous state in a society. The term is meant to describe one end of a political spectrum whose opposite pole is "radical". While it has not been generally considered a term of praise it has been adopted as a self-description by...

 writings on religion and art which recanted his earlier views. Many of these—including "Religion and Art" (1880) and "Hero-dom and Christendom" (1881)—appeared in the journal Bayreuther Blätter
Bayreuther Blätter
Bayreuther Blätter was a monthly newsletter founded in 1878 by its editor Hans von Wolzogen, with the encouragement of Richard Wagner, for visitors to the Bayreuth Festival in Bavaria, which celebrates Wagner's operas...

, founded in 1880 by Wagner and Hans von Wolzogen
Hans von Wolzogen
Baron Hans Paul von Wolzogen , was a German man of letters, editor and publisher. He is best known for his connection with Richard Wagner.-Childhood:...

 for Wagnerite visitors to Bayreuth.

Wagner completed Parsifal in January 1882, and a second Bayreuth Festival was held for the new opera, which was premiered on 26 May. Wagner was by this time extremely ill, having suffered through a series of increasingly severe angina attacks. During the sixteenth and final performance of Parsifal on 29 August, he secretly entered the pit during Act III, took the baton from conductor Hermann Levi
Hermann Levi
Hermann Levi was a German Jewish orchestral conductor.Levi was born in Gießen, Germany, the son of a rabbi. He was educated at Gießen and Mannheim, and came to Vinzenz Lachner's notice...

, and led the performance to its conclusion.

After the Festival, the Wagner family journeyed to Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 for the winter. Wagner died of a heart attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

 at the age of 69 on 13 February 1883 at Ca' Vendramin Calergi
Ca' Vendramin Calergi
Ca' Vendramin Calergi is a palace on the Grand Canal in the sestiere of Cannaregio in Venice, northern Italy. Other names by which it is known include: Palazzo Vendramin Calergi, Palazzo Loredan Vendramin Calergi, and Palazzo Loredan Griman Calergi Vendramin. The architecturally distinguished...

, a 16th century palazzo
Palazzo
Palazzo, an Italian word meaning a large building , may refer to:-Buildings:*Palazzo, an Italian type of building**Palazzo style architecture, imitative of Italian palazzi...

 on the Grand Canal
Grand Canal of Venice
The Grand Canal is a canal in Venice, Italy. It forms one of the major water-traffic corridors in the city...

. Franz Liszt's two pieces for piano solo entitled La lugubre gondola evoke the passing of a black-shrouded funerary gondola
Gondola
The gondola is a traditional, flat-bottomed Venetian rowing boat, well suited to the conditions of the Venetian Lagoon. For centuries gondolas were the chief means of transportation and most common watercraft within Venice. In modern times the iconic boats still have a role in public transport in...

 bearing Richard Wagner's remains over the Grand Canal. Wagner was buried in the garden of the Villa Wahnfried in Bayreuth.

Opera

Wagner's operatic works are his primary artistic legacy.

Unlike other opera composers, who generally left the task of writing the libretto
Libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

 (the text and lyrics) to others, Wagner wrote his own libretti, which he referred to as "poems". Further, Wagner developed a compositional style in which the orchestra's role is equal to that of the singers. The orchestra's dramatic role, in the later operas, includes the use of leitmotivs, musical themes that can be interpreted as announcing specific characters, locales, and plot elements; their complex interweaving and evolution illuminates the progression of the drama. Ultimately he urged a new concept of opera often referred to as "music drama", (although he did not use or sanction this term himself)
in which all musical poetic and drama
Drama
Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" , which is derived from "to do","to act" . The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a...

tic elements were to be fused together—the Gesamtkunstwerk
Gesamtkunstwerk
A Gesamtkunstwerk is a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms or strives to do so...

.

Wagner's operas are typically characterized as belonging to three chronological periods.

Early stage (to 1842)

Wagner's first attempt at an opera, at the age of 17, was Die Laune des Verliebten
Die Laune des Verliebten
Die Laune des Verliebten was Richard Wagner's first attempt at an opera project. Written in about 1830, when Wagner was 17, the libretto was based on a play of the same name by Johann Wolfgang Goethe. Wagner wrote a scene for three female voices and a tenor aria before abandoning the project...

. This was abandoned at an early stage of composition, as was Die Hochzeit
Die Hochzeit
Die Hochzeit is an unfinished opera by Richard Wagner which predates all his completed works in the genre. Wagner completed the libretto, then started composing the music in the second half of 1832 when he was just nineteen...

 (The Wedding), on which Wagner worked in 1832. Wagner then completed Die Feen
Die Feen
Die Feen is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner. The German libretto was written by the composer after Carlo Gozzi's La donna serpente.Die Feen was Wagner's first completed opera, but remained unperformed in his lifetime...

 (The Fairies, 1833, unperformed in the composer's lifetime) and Das Liebesverbot
Das Liebesverbot
Das Liebesverbot is an early opera in two acts by Richard Wagner, with the libretto written by the composer after Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. Described as a grosse komische Oper, it was composed in 1834, and Wagner conducted the premiere in 1836 at Magdeburg...

 (The Ban on Love, 1836, taken off after its first performance), before working on the aborted singspiel
Singspiel
A Singspiel is a form of German-language music drama, now regarded as a genre of opera...

 Männerlist grösser als Frauenlist
Männerlist grösser als Frauenlist
Männerlist grösser als Frauenlist oder Die glückliche Bärenfamilie is an unfinished Singspiel by Richard Wagner, , written between 1837 and 1838....

 (Men's cunning greater than women's). This was followed by Rienzi
Rienzi
Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen is an early opera by Richard Wagner in five acts, with the libretto written by the composer after Bulwer-Lytton's novel of the same name . The title is commonly shortened to Rienzi...

 (1842), Wagner's first opera to be successfully staged. The compositional style of these early works was conventional—the relatively more sophisticated Rienzi showing the clear influence of Meyerbeerean Grand Opera
Grand Opera
Grand opera is a genre of 19th-century opera generally in four or five acts, characterised by large-scale casts and orchestras, and lavish and spectacular design and stage effects, normally with plots based on or around dramatic historic events...

—and did not exhibit the innovations that would mark Wagner's place in musical history. Later in life, Wagner said that he did not consider these immature works to be part of his oeuvre, and none of them have ever been performed at the Wagnerian Bayreuth Festival
Bayreuth Festival
The Bayreuth Festival is a music festival held annually in Bayreuth, Germany, at which performances of operas by the 19th century German composer Richard Wagner are presented...

. These works have been only rarely revived in the last hundred years, although the overture to Rienzi is an occasional concert piece.

Middle stage (184351)

Wagner's middle stage output begins to show the deepening of his powers as a dramatist and composer. This period began with Der fliegende Holländer
The Flying Dutchman (opera)
Der fliegende Holländer is an opera, with music and libretto by Richard Wagner.Wagner claimed in his 1870 autobiography Mein Leben that he had been inspired to write "The Flying Dutchman" following a stormy sea crossing he made from Riga to London in July and August 1839, but in his 1843...

 (1843) (The Flying Dutchman), followed by Tannhäuser
Tannhäuser (opera)
Tannhäuser is an opera in three acts, music and text by Richard Wagner, based on the two German legends of Tannhäuser and the song contest at Wartburg...

 (1845) and Lohengrin
Lohengrin (opera)
Lohengrin is a romantic opera in three acts composed and written by Richard Wagner, first performed in 1850. The story of the eponymous character is taken from medieval German romance, notably the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach and its sequel, Lohengrin, written by a different author, itself...

 (1850). These three operas reinforced the reputation among the public in Germany and beyond that Wagner had begun to establish for himself with Rienzi. However, during his exile following the 1849 May Uprising in Dresden
May Uprising in Dresden
The May Uprising took place in Dresden, Germany in 1849; it was one of the last of the series of events known as the Revolutions of 1848.-Events leading to the May Uprising:...

 he began to reconsider his entire concept of opera and eventually decided, as explained during a series of essays between 1849 and 1852, that these operas did not represent what he hoped to achieve. In his essay A Communication to My Friends
A Communication to My Friends
"Eine Mittheilung an meiner Freunde", usually referred to in English by its translated title of "A Communication to My Friends", is an extensive autobiographical work by Richard Wagner, published in 1851, in which he sought to justify his innovative concepts on the future of opera in general, and...

 (1851), intended as a preface to the printed libretti of the Dutchman, Tannhäuser and Lohengrin, Wagner (to the confusion of many of his friends, since at that time Lohengrin had not even been staged) effectively disowned these operas and declared his intention to strike out in new directions.

I shall never write an Opera more. As I have no wish to invent an arbitrary title for my works, I will call them Dramas [...]

I propose to produce my myth in three complete dramas, preceded by a lengthy Prelude (Vorspiel). [...]

At a specially-appointed Festival, I propose, some future time, to produce those three Dramas with their Prelude, in the course of three days and a fore-evening. The object of this production I shall consider thoroughly attained, if I and my artistic comrades, the actual performers, shall within these four evenings succeed in artistically conveying my purpose to the true Emotional (not the Critical) Understanding of spectators who shall have gathered together expressly to learn it. [...]


Wagner later reconciled himself to the works of this period, though he reworked both Dutchman and Tannhäuser on several occasions. The three operas are the earliest works included into the Bayreuth canon
Bayreuth canon
The Bayreuth canon consists of those operas by the German composer Richard Wagner which have been performed at the Bayreuth Festival. The festival, which is dedicated to the staging of these works, was founded by Wagner in 1876 in the Bavarian town of Bayreuth, and has continued under the...

, the list of mature operas which Cosima put on at the Bayreuth Festival after Wagner's death in accordance with his wishes. They continue to be regularly performed today and have been frequently recorded. They show increasing mastery in stagecraft, orchestration and atmosphere.
Starting the Ring

Main articles: Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen is a cycle of four epic operas by the German composer Richard Wagner . The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied...

, Der Ring des Nibelungen: Composition of the music
Der Ring des Nibelungen: Composition of the music
The composition of the operatic tetralogy The Ring of the Nibelung occupied Richard Wagner for more than a quarter of a century. Conceived around 1848, the work was not finished until 1874, fewer than two years before the entire cycle was given its premiere at Bayreuth...

 and Der Ring des Nibelungen: Composition of the poem
Wagner's late dramas are considered his masterpieces. Der Ring des Nibelungen, commonly referred to as the Ring cycle, is a set of four operas based loosely on figures and elements of Germanic mythology
Germanic mythology
Germanic mythology is a comprehensive term for myths associated with historical Germanic paganism, including Norse mythology, Anglo-Saxon mythology, Continental Germanic mythology, and other versions of the mythologies of the Germanic peoples...

—particularly from the later Norse mythology
Norse mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...

—notably the Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 Poetic Edda
Poetic Edda
The Poetic Edda is a collection of Old Norse poems primarily preserved in the Icelandic mediaeval manuscript Codex Regius. Along with Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda is the most important extant source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends, and from the early 19th century...

 and Volsunga Saga
Volsunga saga
The Völsungasaga is a legendary saga, a late 13th century Icelandic prose rendition of the origin and decline of the Völsung clan . It is largely based on epic poetry...

, and the Middle High German
Middle High German
Middle High German , abbreviated MHG , is the term used for the period in the history of the German language between 1050 and 1350. It is preceded by Old High German and followed by Early New High German...

 Nibelungenlied
Nibelungenlied
The Nibelungenlied, translated as The Song of the Nibelungs, is an epic poem in Middle High German. The story tells of dragon-slayer Siegfried at the court of the Burgundians, how he was murdered, and of his wife Kriemhild's revenge....

. They were also influenced by Wagner's concepts of ancient Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 drama, in which tetralogies
Tetralogy
A tetralogy is a compound work that is made up of four distinct works, just as a trilogy is made up of three works....

 were a component of Athenian festivals
Athenian festivals
The festival calendar of city-state of classical Athens involved the staging of a large number of festivals each year. These Athenian festivals included:-Athena:...

, and which he had amply discussed in his essay "Oper und Drama"

The first two components of the Ring cycle were Das Rheingold
Das Rheingold
is the first of the four operas that constitute Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen . It was originally written as an introduction to the tripartite Ring, but the cycle is now generally regarded as consisting of four individual operas.Das Rheingold received its premiere at the National Theatre...

 (The Rhinegold) (completed 1854) and Die Walküre
Die Walküre
Die Walküre , WWV 86B, is the second of the four operas that form the cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen , by Richard Wagner...

 (The Valkyrie
Valkyrie
In Norse mythology, a valkyrie is one of a host of female figures who decides who dies in battle. Selecting among half of those who die in battle , the valkyries bring their chosen to the afterlife hall of the slain, Valhalla, ruled over by the god Odin...

) (completed 1856). In Das Rheingold, with its "relentlessly talky "realism" [and] the absence of lyrical "numbers" ", Wagner came very close to the pure musical ideals of his 184951 essays. Die Walküre, with Siegmund's almost full-blown aria
Aria
An aria in music was originally any expressive melody, usually, but not always, performed by a singer. The term is now used almost exclusively to describe a self-contained piece for one voice usually with orchestral accompaniment...

 (Winterstürme) in the first act, and the quasi-choral appearance of the Valkyries themselves, shows more 'operatic' traits, but has been assessed as "the music drama that most satisfactorily embodies the theoretical principles of "Oper und Drama". A thoroughgoing synthesis of poetry and music is achieved without any notable sacrifice in musical expression".
Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger

While still composing the Ring, (leaving the third Ring opera Siegfried
Siegfried (opera)
Siegfried is the third of the four operas that constitute Der Ring des Nibelungen , by Richard Wagner. It received its premiere at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus on 16 August 1876, as part of the first complete performance of The Ring...

 uncompleted for the while), Wagner paused between 1857 and 1864 to compose the tragic love story Tristan und Isolde
Tristan und Isolde
Tristan und Isolde is an opera, or music drama, in three acts by Richard Wagner to a German libretto by the composer, based largely on the romance by Gottfried von Straßburg. It was composed between 1857 and 1859 and premiered in Munich on 10 June 1865 with Hans von Bülow conducting...

 and his only mature comedy Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg is an opera in three acts, written and composed by Richard Wagner. It is among the longest operas still commonly performed today, usually taking around four and a half hours. It was first performed at the Königliches Hof- und National-Theater in Munich, on June 21,...

 (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg), two works which are also part of the regular operatic canon.

Tristan und Isolde uses a story line deriving from the poem Tristan und Isolt by the 13th century poet Gottfried von Strassburg
Gottfried von Strassburg
Gottfried von Strassburg is the author of the Middle High German courtly romance Tristan and Isolt, an adaptation of the 12th-century Tristan and Iseult legend. Gottfried's work is regarded, alongside Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival and the Nibelungenlied, as one of the great narrative...

. Wagner noted that "its all-pervading tragedy […] impressed me so deeply that I felt convinced it should stand out in bold relief, regardless of minor details." This impact, together with his discovery of the philosophy of Schopenhauer in October 1854, led Wagner to find himself in a "serious mood created by Schopenhauer, which was trying to find ecstatic expression. It was some such mood that inspired the conception of a Tristan und Isolde." Wagner half-parodied the powerful erotic atmosphere of the opera in a letter to Mathilde Wesendonck:
Child! This Tristan is turning into something terrible. This final act!!! I fear the opera will be banned […] only mediocre performances can save me! Perfectly good ones will be bound to drive people mad.
The work was first performed in Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

 on 10 June 1865, conducted by Hans von Bülow
Hans von Bülow
Hans Guido Freiherr von Bülow was a German conductor, virtuoso pianist, and composer of the Romantic era. He was one of the most famous conductors of the 19th century, and his activity was critical for establishing the successes of several major composers of the time, including Richard...

.

Tristan is often granted a special place in musical history. It has been described as "fifty years ahead of its time" because of its chromaticism
Chromaticism
Chromaticism is a compositional technique interspersing the primary diatonic pitches and chords with other pitches of the chromatic scale. Chromaticism is in contrast or addition to tonality or diatonicism...

, long-held discords, unusual orchestral colouring and harmony
Harmony
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

, and use of polyphony
Polyphony
In music, polyphony is a texture consisting of two or more independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords ....

. Wagner himself felt that his musico-dramatical theories were most perfectly realised in this work with its use of "the art of transition" between dramatic elements and the balance achieved between vocal and orchestral lines.

Die Meistersinger was originally conceived by Wagner in 1845 as a sort of comic pendant to Tannhäuser. It was first performed in Munich, again under the baton of Bülow, on 21 June 1868, its accessibility making it an immediate success. It is "a rich, perceptive music drama widely admired for its warm humanity"; but because of its strong German nationalist
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 overtones, it is also held up by some as an example of Wagner's reactionary politics and antisemitism.
Completing the Ring

When Wagner returned, with the added experience of composing Tristan and Die Meistersinger, to write the music for the last act of Siegfried and for Götterdämmerung
Götterdämmerung
is the last in Richard Wagner's cycle of four operas titled Der Ring des Nibelungen...

 (Twilight of the Gods), as the final part of the Ring was eventually called, his style had changed once again to one more recognisable as 'operatic' (though thoroughly stamped with his own originality as a composer, and suffused with leitmotivs) than the aural world of Rheingold and Walküre. This was in part because the libretti of the four 'Ring' operas had been written in reverse order, so that the book for Götterdämmerung was conceived more 'traditionally' than that of Rheingold; still, the self-imposed strictures of the Gesamtkunstwerk had become relaxed. As George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

 sardonically (and slightly unfairly) noted,
And now, O Nibelungen Spectator, pluck up; for all allegories come to an end somewhere[...] The rest of what you are going to see is opera, and nothing but opera. Before many bars have been played, Siegfried and the wakened Brynhild, newly become tenor and soprano, will sing a concerted cadenza
Cadenza
In music, a cadenza is, generically, an improvised or written-out ornamental passage played or sung by a soloist or soloists, usually in a "free" rhythmic style, and often allowing for virtuosic display....

; plunge on from that to a magnificent love duet[...]The work which follows, entitled Night Falls On The Gods [Shaw's translation of Götterdämmerung], is a thorough grand opera.


However, the differences are also because of Wagner's development as a composer during the period in which he composed Tristan, Meistersinger and also the Paris version of Tannhäuser. From Act III of Siegfried onwards, the Ring becomes chromatic, and both harmonically more complex and more developmental in its treatment of leitmotifs.




Having taken 26 years from the first draft of a libretto in 1848 until the completion of Götterdämmerung in 1874, the Ring represents in all about 15 hours of performance, the only undertaking of such size to be regularly represented on the world's stages.
Parsifal

Wagner's final opera, Parsifal
Parsifal
Parsifal is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner. It is loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, the 13th century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival and his quest for the Holy Grail, and on Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail.Wagner first conceived the work...

 (1882), which was his only work written especially for his Festspielhaus
Bayreuth Festspielhaus
The or Bayreuth Festival Theatre is an opera house north of Bayreuth, Germany, dedicated solely to the performance of operas by the 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner...

 in Bayreuth and which is described in the score as a "Bühnenweihfestspiel" (festival play for the consecration of the stage), has a storyline suggested by elements of the legend of the Holy Grail
Holy Grail
The Holy Grail is a sacred object figuring in literature and certain Christian traditions, most often identified with the dish, plate, or cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper and said to possess miraculous powers...

. It also however carries elements of Buddhist renunciation suggested by Wagner's readings of Schopenhauer. Wagner described it to Cosima as his "last card". The composer's treatment of Christianity in the opera, its eroticism, and its supposed relationship to ideas of German nationalism (and of antisemitism) have continued to render it controversial for non-musical reasons. However, musically it has been held to represent a continuing development of the composer's style, with "a diaphanous score of unearthly beauty and refinement".

Non-operatic music

Apart from his operas, Wagner composed relatively few pieces of music. These include a single symphony
Symphony
A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, scored almost always for orchestra. A symphony usually contains at least one movement or episode composed according to the sonata principle...

 (written at the age of 19), a Faust Overture
Faust Overture
The Faust Overture is a concert overture composed by German composer Richard Wagner. Wagner originally composed it from 1839-40, intending it to be the first movement of a Faust Symphony based on the play Faust by German playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe...

 (the only completed part of an intended symphony on the subject), and some overtures, choral and piano pieces. His most commonly performed work not drawn from an opera is the Siegfried Idyll
Siegfried Idyll
The Siegfried Idyll by Richard Wagner is a symphonic poem for chamber orchestra, lasting approximately twenty minutes.-Background:Wagner composed the Siegfried Idyll as a birthday present to his second wife, Cosima, after the birth of their son Siegfried in 1869...

, a piece for chamber orchestra written for the birthday of his second wife, Cosima
Cosima Wagner
Cosima Francesca Gaetana Wagner, née de Flavigny, from 1844 known as Cosima Liszt; was the daughter of Hungarian composer Franz Liszt...

. The Idyll draws on several motifs from the Ring cycle, though it is not part of the Ring. Also performed are the Wesendonck Lieder
Wesendonck Lieder
The Wesendonck Lieder is a song cycle composed by Richard Wagner while he was working on Die Walküre. This, and the Siegfried Idyll, are his only two non-operatic works that are still regularly performed....

 for voice and piano, properly known as Five Songs for a Female Voice, which were composed for Mathilde Wesendonck
Mathilde Wesendonck
Mathilde Wesendonck was a German poet and author. She is best known as the friend and possibly mistress of Richard Wagner, who set five songs to her words, called the Wesendonck Lieder.-Biography:...

 while Wagner was working on Tristan. An oddity is the American Centennial March of 1876, commissioned by the city of Philadelphia (on the recommendation of conductor Theodore Thomas, who was subsequently very disappointed with the work when it arrived) for the opening of the Centennial Exposition
Centennial Exposition
The Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, the first official World's Fair in the United States, was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from May 10 to November 10, 1876, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. It was officially...

, for which Wagner was paid $5,000.

The rarely performed Das Liebesmahl der Apostel
Das Liebesmahl der Apostel
Das Liebesmahl der Apostel WWV 69 is a vocal and instrumental piece written by Richard Wagner in 1843, which is not often performed and somewhat forgotten; it is a piece for male choruses and orchestra...

 (The Love Feast of the Apostles) is a piece for male choruses and orchestra, composed in 1843. Wagner, who had been elected at the beginning of the year to the committee of a cultural association in the city of Dresden, received a commission to evoke the theme of Pentecost. The premiere took place at the Dresdner Frauenkirche on 6 July 1843, and was performed by around a hundred musicians and almost 1,200 singers. The concert was very well received.

After completing Parsifal
Parsifal
Parsifal is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner. It is loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, the 13th century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival and his quest for the Holy Grail, and on Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail.Wagner first conceived the work...

, Wagner expressed an intention to turn to the writing of symphonies. However, no sketches for such works have survived, if indeed they were undertaken.

The overture
Overture
Overture in music is the term originally applied to the instrumental introduction to an opera...

s and orchestral passages from Wagner's middle and late-stage operas are commonly played as concert pieces. For most of these, Wagner wrote short passages to conclude the excerpt so that it does not end abruptly. Another familiar extract is the "Bridal Chorus
Bridal Chorus
The "Bridal Chorus" "Treulich geführt", from the 1850 opera Lohengrin, by German composer Richard Wagner, is a march played for the bride's entrance at many formal weddings throughout the Western world...

" from Lohengrin
Lohengrin (opera)
Lohengrin is a romantic opera in three acts composed and written by Richard Wagner, first performed in 1850. The story of the eponymous character is taken from medieval German romance, notably the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach and its sequel, Lohengrin, written by a different author, itself...

, frequently played as the bride's processional wedding march in English-speaking countries.

Writings

Wagner was an extremely prolific writer, authoring hundreds of books, poems, and articles, as well as voluminous correspondence, throughout his life. His writings covered a wide range of topics, including politics
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

, philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, and detailed analyses of his own operas. Essays of note include "Art and Revolution
Art and Revolution
"Art and Revolution" is a long essay by the composer Richard Wagner, originally published in 1849...

" (1849), "Opera and Drama
Opera and Drama
"Opera and Drama" is a long essay written by Richard Wagner in 1851 setting out his ideas on the ideal characteristics of opera as an art form...

" (1851), an essay on the theory of opera, and "Das Judenthum in der Musik
Das Judenthum in der Musik
Das Judenthum in der Musik is an essay by Richard Wagner, attacking Jews in general and the composers Giacomo Meyerbeer and Felix Mendelssohn in particular, which was published under a pseudonym in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik of Leipzig in...

" ("Jewishness in Music", 1850), a polemic directed against Jewish composers in general, and Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer was a noted German opera composer, and the first great exponent of "grand opera." At his peak in the 1830s and 1840s, he was the most famous and successful composer of opera in Europe, yet he is rarely performed today.-Early years:He was born to a Jewish family in Tasdorf , near...

 in particular. He also wrote various autobiographical works, including "My Life
Mein Leben (Wagner)
Mein Leben is the title given by the composer Richard Wagner to his autobiography, covering the years from his birth in 1813 to 1864.-Origins:Wagner began dictating Mein Leben to his wife Cosima on 17 July 1865 in Munich...

" (1880).
In his later years Wagner became a vociferous opponent of experimentation on animals and in 1879 he published an open letter, "Against Vivisection
Vivisection
Vivisection is defined as surgery conducted for experimental purposes on a living organism, typically animals with a central nervous system, to view living internal structure...

", in support of the animal rights activist Ernst von Weber.

There have been several editions of Wagner's writings, including a centennial edition in German edited by Dieter Borchmeyer
Dieter Borchmeyer
Dieter Borchmeyer is a German literary critic.Borchmeyer is Professor Emeritus of Modern German Literature and Dramatic Theory at the University of Heidelberg, where he is currently Seniorprofessor. Borchmeyer is President of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts...

 (which however omitted the essay "Das Judenthum in der Musik") The English translations of Wagner's prose in 8 volumes by W. Ashton Ellis, (189299), are still in print and commonly used, despite their deficiencies. A complete edition of Wagner's correspondence, (estimated to amount to between 10,000 and 12,000 surviving items), of which the first volume appeared in 1967, is still under way.

Influence and legacy

Influence on music

Wagner's later musical style, with its unprecedented exploration of emotional expression, introduced new ideas in harmony
Harmony
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

, melodic process (leitmotiv) and operatic structure. Notably from Tristan und Isolde
Tristan und Isolde
Tristan und Isolde is an opera, or music drama, in three acts by Richard Wagner to a German libretto by the composer, based largely on the romance by Gottfried von Straßburg. It was composed between 1857 and 1859 and premiered in Munich on 10 June 1865 with Hans von Bülow conducting...

 onwards, he explored the limits of the traditional tonal system
Key signature
In musical notation, a key signature is a series of sharp or flat symbols placed on the staff, designating notes that are to be consistently played one semitone higher or lower than the equivalent natural notes unless otherwise altered with an accidental...

 that gave keys and chords their identity, pointing the way to atonality
Atonality
Atonality in its broadest sense describes music that lacks a tonal center, or key. Atonality in this sense usually describes compositions written from about 1908 to the present day where a hierarchy of pitches focusing on a single, central tone is not used, and the notes of the chromatic scale...

 in the 20th century. Some music historians date the beginning of modern classical music to the first notes of Tristan, the so-called Tristan chord
Tristan chord
The Tristan chord is a chord made up of the notes F, B, D and G. More generally, it can be any chord that consists of these same intervals: augmented fourth, augmented sixth, and augmented ninth above a root...

.

In his lifetime, and for some years after, Wagner inspired fanatical devotion. For a long period, many composers were inclined to align themselves with or against Wagner's music. Anton Bruckner
Anton Bruckner
Anton Bruckner was an Austrian composer known for his symphonies, masses, and motets. The first are considered emblematic of the final stage of Austro-German Romanticism because of their rich harmonic language, complex polyphony, and considerable length...

 and Hugo Wolf
Hugo Wolf
Hugo Wolf was an Austrian composer of Slovene origin, particularly noted for his art songs, or lieder. He brought to this form a concentrated expressive intensity which was unique in late Romantic music, somewhat related to that of the Second Viennese School in concision but utterly unrelated in...

 were indebted to him especially, as were César Franck
César Franck
César-Auguste-Jean-Guillaume-Hubert Franck was a composer, pianist, organist, and music teacher who worked in Paris during his adult life....

, Henri Duparc, Ernest Chausson
Ernest Chausson
Amédée-Ernest Chausson was a French romantic composer who died just as his career was beginning to flourish.-Life:Ernest Chausson was born in Paris into a prosperous bourgeois family...

, Jules Massenet
Jules Massenet
Jules Émile Frédéric Massenet was a French composer best known for his operas. His compositions were very popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and he ranks as one of the greatest melodists of his era. Soon after his death, Massenet's style went out of fashion, and many of his operas...

, Alexander von Zemlinsky
Alexander von Zemlinsky
Alexander Zemlinsky or Alexander von Zemlinsky was an Austrian composer, conductor, and teacher.-Early life:...

, Hans Pfitzner
Hans Pfitzner
Hans Erich Pfitzner was a German composer and self-described anti-modernist. His best known work is the post-Romantic opera Palestrina, loosely based on the life of the great sixteenth-century composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.-Biography:Pfitzner was born in Moscow, Russia, where his...

 and dozens of others. Gustav Mahler
Gustav Mahler
Gustav Mahler was a late-Romantic Austrian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. He was born in the village of Kalischt, Bohemia, in what was then Austria-Hungary, now Kaliště in the Czech Republic...

 said, "There was only Beethoven and Richard [Wagner] and after them, nobody". The twentieth century harmonic revolutions of Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy
Claude-Achille Debussy was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his compositions...

 and Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

 (tonal and atonal modernism, respectively) have often been traced back to Tristan and Parsifal. The Italian form of operatic realism known as verismo
Verismo
Verismo was an Italian literary movement which peaked between approximately 1875 and the early 1900s....

 owed much to Wagnerian reconstruction of musical form.

Wagner made a major contribution to the principles and practice of conducting
Conducting
Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures. The primary duties of the conductor are to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats, and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble...

. His essay "About Conducting" (1869) advanced the earlier work of Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts . Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works; as a...

 and proposed that conducting was a means by which a musical work could be re-interpreted, rather than simply a mechanism for achieving orchestral unison. He exemplified this approach in his own conducting, which was significantly more flexible than the disciplined approach of Mendelssohn; in his view this also justified practices which would today be frowned upon, such as the rewriting of scores. Wilhelm Furtwängler
Wilhelm Furtwängler
Wilhelm Furtwängler was a German conductor and composer. He is widely considered to have been one of the greatest symphonic and operatic conductors of the 20th century. By the 1930s he had built a reputation as one of the leading conductors in Europe, and he was the leading conductor who remained...

 felt that Wagner and von Bülow, through their interpretative approach, inspired a whole new generation of conductors (including Furtwängler himself).

Influence on literature, philosophy and the visual arts

Wagner's influence on literature and philosophy is significant.
[Wagner's] protean abundance meant that he could inspire the use of literary motif in many a novel
Novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 employing interior monologue
Monologue
In theatre, a monologue is a speech presented by a single character, most often to express their thoughts aloud, though sometimes also to directly address another character or the audience. Monologues are common across the range of dramatic media...

; [...] the Symbolists
Symbolism (arts)
Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts. In literature, the style had its beginnings with the publication Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire...

 saw him as a mystic hierophant; the Decadents
Decadent movement
The Decadent movement was a late 19th century artistic and literary movement of Western Europe. It flourished in France, but also had devotees in England and throughout Europe, as well as in the United States.-Overview:...

 found many a frisson in his work.
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

 was part of Wagner's inner circle during the early 1870s, and his first published work The Birth of Tragedy
The Birth of Tragedy
The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music is a 19th-century work of dramatic theory by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. It was reissued in 1886 as The Birth of Tragedy, Or: Hellenism and Pessimism ...

 proposed Wagner's music as the Dionysian rebirth of European culture in opposition to Apollonian
Apollonian and Dionysian
The Apollonian and Dionysian is a philosophical and literary concept, or dichotomy, based on certain features of ancient Greek mythology. Several Western philosophical and literary figures have invoked this dichotomy in critical and creative works....

 rationalist decadence. Nietzsche broke with Wagner following the first Bayreuth Festival
Bayreuth Festival
The Bayreuth Festival is a music festival held annually in Bayreuth, Germany, at which performances of operas by the 19th century German composer Richard Wagner are presented...

, believing that Wagner's final phase represented a pandering to Christian pieties and a surrender to the new German Reich
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

. Nietzsche expressed his displeasure with the later Wagner in "The Case of Wagner
The Case of Wagner
The Case of Wagner is a German book by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, originally published in 1888. Subtitled "A Musician's Problem", it has also been known as "The Wagner Case" in English.-Contents:...

" and "Nietzsche contra Wagner
Nietzsche contra Wagner
"Nietzsche contra Wagner" is a critical essay by Friedrich Nietzsche, composed of recycled passages from his past works, written in his last year of lucidity . It was not published until 1895, six years after Nietzsche's mental collapse. In it Nietzsche describes why he parted ways with his...

".

Charles Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire was a French poet who produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe. His most famous work, Les Fleurs du mal expresses the changing nature of beauty in modern, industrializing Paris during the nineteenth century...

, Stéphane Mallarmé
Stéphane Mallarmé
Stéphane Mallarmé , whose real name was Étienne Mallarmé, was a French poet and critic. He was a major French symbolist poet, and his work anticipated and inspired several revolutionary artistic schools of the early 20th century, such as Dadaism, Surrealism, and Futurism.-Biography:Stéphane...

 and Paul Verlaine
Paul Verlaine
Paul-Marie Verlaine was a French poet associated with the Symbolist movement. He is considered one of the greatest representatives of the fin de siècle in international and French poetry.-Early life:...

 worshipped Wagner.
Edouard Dujardin
Édouard Dujardin
Édouard Dujardin was a French writer, one of the early users of the stream of consciousness literary technique, exemplified by his 1888 novel Les Lauriers sont coupés.-Biography:...

, whose influential novel Les lauriers sont coupés is in the form of an interior monologue inspired by Wagnerian music, founded a journal dedicated to Wagner, La Revue Wagnérienne, to which J. K. Huysmans and Téodor de Wyzewa
Téodor de Wyzewa
Téodor de Wyzewa born as Teodor Wyżewski , of Polish origin, was a leading exponent of the Symbolist movement in France.With Édouard Dujardin he created La Revue wagnérienne in 1885...

 contributed.

In the twentieth century, W. H. Auden
W. H. Auden
Wystan Hugh Auden , who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet,The first definition of "Anglo-American" in the OED is: "Of, belonging to, or involving both England and America." See also the definition "English in origin or birth, American by settlement or citizenship" in See also...

 once called Wagner "perhaps the greatest genius that ever lived", while Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual...

 and Marcel Proust
Marcel Proust
Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental À la recherche du temps perdu...

 were heavily influenced by him and discussed Wagner in their novels. He is discussed in some of the works of James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

. Wagnerian themes inhabit T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

's The Waste Land
The Waste Land
The Waste Land[A] is a 434-line[B] modernist poem by T. S. Eliot published in 1922. It has been called "one of the most important poems of the 20th century." Despite the poem's obscurity—its shifts between satire and prophecy, its abrupt and unannounced changes of speaker, location and time, its...

, which contains lines from Tristan und Isolde and Götterdämmerung and Verlaine's poem on Parsifal. Many of the Wagner's concepts, including his speculation about dreams, predated their investigation by Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

. In a long list of other major cultural figures influenced by Wagner, Bryan Magee
Bryan Magee
Bryan Edgar Magee is a noted British broadcasting personality, politician, poet, and author, best known as a popularizer of philosophy.-Early life:...

 includes D. H. Lawrence
D. H. Lawrence
David Herbert Richards Lawrence was an English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter who published as D. H. Lawrence. His collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation...

, Aubrey Beardsley
Aubrey Beardsley
Aubrey Vincent Beardsley was an English illustrator and author. His drawings, done in black ink and influenced by the style of Japanese woodcuts, emphasized the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic. He was a leading figure in the Aesthetic movement which also included Oscar Wilde and James A....

, Romain Rolland
Romain Rolland
Romain Rolland was a French dramatist, novelist, essayist, art historian and mystic who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915.-Biography:...

, Gérard de Nerval
Gérard de Nerval
Gérard de Nerval was the nom-de-plume of the French poet, essayist and translator Gérard Labrunie, one of the most essentially Romantic French poets.- Biography :...

, Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a French artist who was a leading painter in the development of the Impressionist style. As a celebrator of beauty, and especially feminine sensuality, it has been said that "Renoir is the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to...

, Rainer Maria Rilke
Rainer Maria Rilke
René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke , better known as Rainer Maria Rilke, was a Bohemian–Austrian poet. He is considered one of the most significant poets in the German language...

 and numerous others.

Opponents and supporters

Not all reaction to Wagner was positive. For a time, German musical life divided into two factions, Wagner's supporters and those of Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms
Johannes Brahms was a German composer and pianist, and one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, where he was a leader of the musical scene...

; the latter, with the support of the powerful critic Eduard Hanslick
Eduard Hanslick
Eduard Hanslick was a Bohemian-Austrian music critic.-Biography:Hanslick was born in Prague, the son of Joseph Adolph Hanslick, a bibliographer and music teacher from a German-speaking family, and one of his piano pupils, the daughter of a Jewish merchant from Vienna...

 (of whom Beckmesser in Meistersinger is in part a caricature) championed traditional forms and led the conservative front against Wagnerian innovations. They were supported by the conservative leanings of some German music schools, including the Conservatory at Leipzig
Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

 under Ignaz Moscheles
Ignaz Moscheles
Ignaz Moscheles was a Bohemian composer and piano virtuoso, whose career after his early years was based initially in London, and later at Leipzig, where he succeeded his friend and sometime pupil Felix Mendelssohn as head of the Conservatoire.-Sources:Much of what we know about Moscheles's life...

 and that at Cologne
KOLN
KOLN, digital channel 10, is the CBS affiliate in Lincoln, Nebraska. It operates a satellite station, KGIN, on digital channel 11 in Grand Island. KGIN repeats all KOLN programming, but airs separate commercials...

 under the direction of Ferdinand Hiller
Ferdinand Hiller
Ferdinand Hiller was a German composer, conductor, writer and music-director.-Biography:Ferdinand Hiller was born to a wealthy Jewish family in Frankfurt am Main, where his father Justus was a merchant in English textiles – a business eventually continued by Ferdinand’s brother Joseph...

. Even those who, like Debussy, opposed him ("that old poisoner") could not deny Wagner's influence. Indeed, Debussy was one of many composers, including Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian: Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский ; often "Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky" in English. His names are also transliterated "Piotr" or "Petr"; "Ilitsch", "Il'ich" or "Illyich"; and "Tschaikowski", "Tschaikowsky", "Chajkovskij"...

, who felt the need to break with Wagner precisely because his influence was so unmistakable and overwhelming. 'Golliwogg's Cakewalk' from Debussy's Children's Corner
Children's Corner
Children's Corner is a six-movement suite for solo piano by Claude Debussy. It was published by Durand in 1908, and was given its world première in Paris by Harold Bauer on December 18 of that year...

 piano suite contains a deliberately tongue-in-cheek quotation from the opening bars of Tristan. Others who resisted Wagner's attraction included Gioachino Rossini ("Wagner has wonderful moments, and dreadful quarters of an hour").
In the 20th century Wagner's music was parodied by, amongst others Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith was a German composer, violist, violinist, teacher, music theorist and conductor.- Biography :Born in Hanau, near Frankfurt, Hindemith was taught the violin as a child...

 and Hans Eisler.

Wagner's followers (known as Wagnerians or Wagnerites) have formed many Societies
Wagner Societies
The International Association of Wagner Societies is an affiliation of groups worldwide that promotes interest and research into the works of Richard Wagner, raises funds for scholarships for young music students, singers, and instrumentalists, and supports the annual Bayreuth Festival...

 dedicated to the life, works, and operas of Wagner. Societies include: The Toronto Wagner Society, the Wagner Society of New York, the Wagner Society of the United Kingdom, The Wagner Society of New Zealand, The Wagner Society of Northern California, etc.

Theatre design and practice

Wagner was responsible for several theatrical
Theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

 innovations developed at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus
Bayreuth Festspielhaus
The or Bayreuth Festival Theatre is an opera house north of Bayreuth, Germany, dedicated solely to the performance of operas by the 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner...

 (for the design of which he appropriated some of the ideas of his former colleague, Gottfried Semper
Gottfried Semper
Gottfried Semper was a German architect, art critic, and professor of architecture, who designed and built the Semper Opera House in Dresden between 1838 and 1841. In 1849 he took part in the May Uprising in Dresden and was put on the government's wanted list. Semper fled first to Zürich and later...

, which he had solicited for a proposed new opera house at Munich). These innovations include darkening the auditorium during performances, and placing the orchestra in a pit out of view of the audience.

Influence on film

Wagner's concept of the use of leitmotif
Leitmotif
A leitmotif , sometimes written leit-motif, is a musical term , referring to a recurring theme, associated with a particular person, place, or idea. It is closely related to the musical idea of idée fixe...

s and integrated musical expression has been an influence on many 20th and 21st century film score
Film score
A film score is original music written specifically to accompany a film, forming part of the film's soundtrack, which also usually includes dialogue and sound effects...

s. The critic Theodor Adorno has noted that the Wagnerian leitmotiv "leads directly to cinema music where the sole function of the leitmotiv is to announce heroes or situations so as to allow the audience to orient itself more easily". Some film scores have used Wagnerian themes (e.g. Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. He is widely acclaimed as one of Hollywood's most innovative and influential film directors...

's Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now is a 1979 American war film set during the Vietnam War, produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The central character is US Army special operations officer Captain Benjamin L. Willard , of MACV-SOG, an assassin sent to kill the renegade and presumed insane Special Forces...

 which features a version of the Ride of the Valkyrie). Most of Trevor Jones's
Trevor Jones (composer)
Trevor Alfred Charles Jones is a South African orchestral film score composer. Although not especially well known outside the film world, he has composed for numerous films and his music has been critically acclaimed for both its depth and emotion.-Career:At the age of five, Jones already had...

 soundtrack to John Boorman
John Boorman
John Boorman is a British filmmaker who is a long time resident of Ireland and is best known for his feature films such as Point Blank, Deliverance, Zardoz, Excalibur, The Emerald Forest, Hope and Glory, The General and The Tailor of Panama.-Early life:Boorman was born in Shepperton, Surrey,...

's Arthurian film Excalibur
Excalibur (film)
Excalibur is a 1981 dramatic fantasy film directed, produced and co-written by John Boorman that retells the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. Adapted from the 15th century Arthurian romance, Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory, Excalibur features the music of Richard Wagner...

 is from Wagner's operas.

Wagner has also been the subject of many biographical film
Biographical film
A biographical film, or biopic , is a film that dramatizes the life of an actual person or people. They differ from films “based on a true story” or “historical films” in that they attempt to comprehensively tell a person’s life story or at least the most historically important years of their...

s. (See article List of films about Richard Wagner).

Influence on popular music

The rock composer Jim Steinman
Jim Steinman
James Richard "Jim" Steinman is an American composer, lyricist, and Grammy Award-winning record producer responsible for several hit songs. He has also worked as an arranger, pianist, and singer...

 created what he called Wagnerian Rock
Wagnerian rock
Wagnerian rock is a musical term which likely originated with Jim Steinman, who is quoted as using the phrase in the liner notes of the Meat Loaf album, Rock 'N Roll Hero. The phrase is assumed to be inspired by Steinman's love for the music of Richard Wagner and Phil Spector...

. Heavy metal music
Heavy metal music
Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, largely in the Midlands of the United Kingdom and the United States...

 is also said by some to show the influence of Wagner (as well as other classical composers). In Germany Rammstein
Rammstein
Rammstein is a German Neue Deutsche Härte band from Berlin, formed in 1994. The band consists of members Till Lindemann , Richard Z. Kruspe , Paul H. Landers , Oliver "Ollie" Riedel , Christoph "Doom" Schneider and Christian "Flake" Lorenz...

 and Joachim Witt
Joachim Witt
Joachim Witt is a German musician and actor.- Life and work :Joachim Witt became a major star of the German pop scene during the eighties with huge hits such as "Der Goldene Reiter"...

 who has named three of his albums Bayreuth, claim inspiration from Wagner's music. German electronic composer Klaus Schulze
Klaus Schulze
Klaus Schulze is a German electronic music composer and musician. He also used the alias Richard Wahnfried. He was briefly a member of the electronic bands Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel before launching a solo career consisting of more than 60 albums released across five decades.-1970s:In...

 dedicated his 1975 album Timewind to Wagner's death (two 30-min tracks, "Bayreuth Return" and "Wahnfried 1883"). He also used the alias Richard Wahnfried for a part of his discography. Slovenia
Slovenia
Slovenia , officially the Republic of Slovenia , is a country in Central and Southeastern Europe touching the Alps and bordering the Mediterranean. Slovenia borders Italy to the west, Croatia to the south and east, Hungary to the northeast, and Austria to the north, and also has a small portion of...

n avant-garde group Laibach
Laibach (band)
Laibach is a Slovenian avant-garde music group associated with industrial, martial, and neo-classical musical styles. Laibach formed June 1, 1980 in Trbovlje, Slovenia . Laibach represents the music wing of the Neue Slowenische Kunst art collective, of which it was a founding member in 1984...

 created the sonic suite VolksWagner in 2009 in collaboration with the Slovenian Radio Symphony Orchestra and composer-conductor Izidor Leitinger, using material from Tannhäuser, the Siegfried Idyll and The Ride of the Valkyries. Phil Spector's wall of sound
Wall of Sound
The Wall of Sound is a music production technique for pop and rock music recordings developed by record producer Phil Spector at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, California, during the early 1960s...

 recording technique was heavily influenced by Wagner.

Film portrayals

There have been a number of film portrayals of Richard Wagner, including:
  • Alan Badel
    Alan Badel
    Alan Fernand Badel was a distinguished English stage actor who also appeared frequently in the cinema, radio and television and was noted for his richly textured voice which was once described as "the sound of tears".-Early life:...

     in Magic Fire
    Magic Fire
    Magic Fire is a biographical film about the life of composer Richard Wagner, released in the United States on March 29, 1956 by Republic Pictures. It had been released in the United Kingdom on July 15, 1955...

     (1955)
  • Lyndon Brook
    Lyndon Brook
    Lyndon Brook was a British actor, on film and television.Born in York, Brook came from an established acting family. His father, Clive Brook, had been a star of the silent movies and had moved to Hollywood to play quintessential Englishmen in a host of films...

     in Song Without End
    Song Without End
    Song Without End, subtitled The Story of Franz Liszt is a biographical film romance made by Columbia Pictures. It was directed by Charles Vidor, who died during the shooting of the picture and was replaced by George Cukor. It was produced by William Goetz from a screenplay by Oscar Millard,...

     (1960)
  • Trevor Howard
    Trevor Howard
    Trevor Howard , born Trevor Wallace Howard-Smith, was an English film, stage and television actor.-Early life:...

     in Ludwig
    Ludwig (film)
    Ludwig is a 1972 film directed by Italian director Luchino Visconti about the life and death of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Visconti's muse, Helmut Berger, stars as Ludwig, while Romy Schneider reprises her role as Empress Elisabeth of Austria in a very different portrayal compared to her role in...

     (1972)
  • Paul Nicholas
    Paul Nicholas
    Paul Nicholas is an English actor and singer who has had considerable success on stage, screen and in the pop charts.-Biography:Nicholas was born as Paul Oscar Beuselinck in Peterborough, England...

     in Lisztomania (1975)
  • Richard Burton
    Richard Burton
    Richard Burton, CBE was a Welsh actor. He was nominated seven times for an Academy Award, six of which were for Best Actor in a Leading Role , and was a recipient of BAFTA, Golden Globe and Tony Awards for Best Actor. Although never trained as an actor, Burton was, at one time, the highest-paid...

     in Wagner (1983)

Controversies

Wagner's operas, writings, his politics, beliefs and unorthodox lifestyle made him a controversial figure during his lifetime. Following Wagner's death, the debate about his ideas and their interpretation, particularly in Germany during the 20th century, continued to make him politically and socially controversial in a way that other great composers are not. Much heat is generated by Wagner's comments on Jews, which continue to influence the way that his works are regarded, and by the essays he wrote on the nature of race from 1850 onwards, and their putative influence on the antisemitism of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

.

Racism and antisemitism

Wagner's writings on race and his antisemitism reflected some trends of thought in Germany during the 19th century.

Under a pseudonym
Pseudonym
A pseudonym is a name that a person assumes for a particular purpose and that differs from his or her original orthonym...

 in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik
Neue Zeitschrift für Musik
Die Neue Zeitschrift für Musik was a music magazine published in Leipzig, co-founded by Robert Schumann, his teacher and future father-in law Friedrich Wieck, and his close friend Ludwig Schuncke...

, Wagner published the essay "Das Judenthum in der Musik
Das Judenthum in der Musik
Das Judenthum in der Musik is an essay by Richard Wagner, attacking Jews in general and the composers Giacomo Meyerbeer and Felix Mendelssohn in particular, which was published under a pseudonym in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik of Leipzig in...

" in 1850 (originally translated as "Judaism in Music", by which name it is still known, but better rendered as "Jewishness in Music.") The essay attacked Jewish contemporaries (and rivals) Felix Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

 and Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer was a noted German opera composer, and the first great exponent of "grand opera." At his peak in the 1830s and 1840s, he was the most famous and successful composer of opera in Europe, yet he is rarely performed today.-Early years:He was born to a Jewish family in Tasdorf , near...

, and accused Jews of being a harmful and alien element in German culture. Wagner stated the German people were repelled by Jews' alien appearance and behaviour: "with all our speaking and writing in favour of the Jews' emancipation, we always felt instinctively repelled by any actual, operative contact with them." He argued that because Jews had no connection to the German spirit, Jewish musicians were only capable of producing shallow and artificial music. They therefore composed music to achieve popularity and, thereby, financial success, as opposed to creating genuine works of art. Wagner republished the pamphlet under his own name in 1869, with an extended introduction, leading to several public protests at the first performances of Die Meistersinger. He repeated similar views in later articles, such as "What is German?" (1878, but based on a draft written in the 1860s).

Some biographers have suggested that antisemitic stereotype
Stereotype
A stereotype is a popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. The concepts of "stereotype" and "prejudice" are often confused with many other different meanings...

s are also represented in Wagner's operas. The characters of Mime in the Ring, Sixtus Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger, and Klingsor in Parsifal are sometimes claimed as Jewish representations, though they are not explicitly identified as such in the libretto
Libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

. Moreover, in all of Wagner's many writings about his works, there is no mention of an intention to caricature
Caricature
A caricature is a portrait that exaggerates or distorts the essence of a person or thing to create an easily identifiable visual likeness. In literature, a caricature is a description of a person using exaggeration of some characteristics and oversimplification of others.Caricatures can be...

 Jews in his operas; nor does any such notion appear in the diaries written by Cosima Wagner, which record his views on a daily basis over a period of eight years.

Despite his very public views on Jews, throughout his life Wagner had Jewish friends, colleagues and supporters. In his autobiography, Mein Leben, Wagner mentions many friendships with Jews, referring to that with Samuel Lehrs in Paris as "one of the most beautiful friendships of my life."

The topic of Wagner and the Jews is further complicated by allegations, which may have been credited by Wagner himself, that he himself was of Jewish ancestry, via his supposed father Geyer. In reality, Geyer was not of Jewish descent, nor were either of Wagner's official parents. References to Wagner's supposed 'Jewishness' were made frequently in cartoons of the composer in the 1870s and 1880s, and more explicitly by Friedrich Nietzsche in his essay "The Wagner Case", where he wrote "a Geyer (vulture) is almost an Adler (eagle)". (Both 'Geyer' and 'Adler' were common Jewish surnames.)

Some biographers have asserted that Wagner in his final years came to believe in the racialist
Racialism
Racialism is an emphasis on race or racial considerations. Currently, racialism entails a belief in the existence and significance of racial categories, but not necessarily that any absolute hierarchy between the races has been demonstrated by a rigorous and comprehensive scientific process...

 philosophy of Arthur de Gobineau
Arthur de Gobineau
Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau was a French aristocrat, novelist and man of letters who became famous for developing the theory of the Aryan master race in his book An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races...

, and according to Robert Gutman, this is reflected in the opera Parsifal
Parsifal
Parsifal is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner. It is loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, the 13th century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival and his quest for the Holy Grail, and on Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail.Wagner first conceived the work...

. Other biographers such as Lucy Beckett believe that this is not true. Wagner showed no significant interest in Gobineau until 1880, when he read Gobineau's "An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races
An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races
Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines by Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau was intended as a work of philosophical enquiry into decline and degeneration...

". Wagner had completed the libretto for Parsifal
Parsifal
Parsifal is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner. It is loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, the 13th century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival and his quest for the Holy Grail, and on Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail.Wagner first conceived the work...

 by 1877, and the original drafts of the story date back to 1857. Wagner's writings of his last years indicate some interest in Gobineau's idea that Western society was doomed because of miscegenation
Miscegenation
Miscegenation is the mixing of different racial groups through marriage, cohabitation, sexual relations, and procreation....

 between "superior" and "inferior" races.

Other interpretations

Wagner's ideas were amenable to socialist
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 interpretations, which is not surprising given the composer's revolutionary inclinations in the 1840s, when many of his ideas on art were being formulated. Thus for example, George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

 wrote in The Perfect Wagnerite (1883):
[Wagner's] picture of Niblunghome [Shaw's anglicization of Nibelheim, the empire of Alberich in the Ring Cycle] under the reign of Alberic is a poetic vision of unregulated industrial capitalism as it was made known in Germany in the middle of the nineteenth century by Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

's Condition of the Laboring Classes in England
The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844
The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 is one of the best-known works of Friedrich Engels.Originally written in German as Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England, it is a study of the working class in Victorian England. It was also Engels' first book, written during his stay in...

 


Left-wing interpretations of Wagner also inform the writings of Theodor Adorno amongst other Wagner critics. Walter Benjamin
Walter Benjamin
Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin was a German-Jewish intellectual, who functioned variously as a literary critic, philosopher, sociologist, translator, radio broadcaster and essayist...

 gave Wagner as an example of "bourgeois false consciousness", alienating art from its social context.

The writer Robert Donington has produced a detailed, if controversial, Jungian interpretation of the Ring cycle. Others have also applied psychoanalytical
Psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

 techniques to Wagner's life and works.

Others have sought to place Wagner's work in a more generalised sociohistoric framework. For example, Ehrhard Bahr comments 'Wagner provided the middle class
Middle class
The middle class is any class of people in the middle of a societal hierarchy. In Weberian socio-economic terms, the middle class is the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the working class and upper class....

 with a medium to transfer its familial and political conflicts into a myth of supposedly common Germanic past
Germanic mythology
Germanic mythology is a comprehensive term for myths associated with historical Germanic paganism, including Norse mythology, Anglo-Saxon mythology, Continental Germanic mythology, and other versions of the mythologies of the Germanic peoples...

'.

Nazi appropriation

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 was an admirer of Wagner's music and saw in his operas an embodiment of his own vision of the German nation. There continues to be debate about the extent to which Wagner's views might have influenced Nazi thinking. The Nazis used those parts of Wagner's thought that were useful for propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 and ignored or suppressed the rest. Although Hitler himself was an ardent fan of "the Master", many in the Nazi hierarchy were not and, according to the historian Richard Carr, resented attending these lengthy epics at Hitler's insistence.

There is evidence that music of Wagner was used at the Dachau concentration camp in 1933/4 to 'reeducate' political prisoner
Political prisoner
According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, a political prisoner is ‘someone who is in prison because they have opposed or criticized the government of their own country’....

s by exposure to 'national music'. However there seems to be no evidence to support claims, sometimes made, that his music was played at Nazi death camps during the Second World War.

Because of the associations of Wagner with antisemitism and Nazism, the performance of his music in the State of Israel has been a source of controversy.

Prose works by Wagner

  • Wagner, Richard, (ed. Dieter Borchmeyer) (1983) Richard Wagner Dichtungen und Schriften, 10 vols. Frankfurt am Main.
  • Wagner, Richard (ed. and trans. Stewart Spencer and Barry Millington) (1987) Selected Letters of Richard Wagner, Dent. ISBN 0460046438; W. W. Norton and Company ISBN 978-0393025002.
  • Wagner, Richard (trans. Andrew Gray) (1992) My Life
    Mein Leben (Wagner)
    Mein Leben is the title given by the composer Richard Wagner to his autobiography, covering the years from his birth in 1813 to 1864.-Origins:Wagner began dictating Mein Leben to his wife Cosima on 17 July 1865 in Munich...

    , Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0306804816 Wagner's sometimes unreliable autobiography, covering his life to 1864, written between 1865 and 1880 and first published privately in German in a small edition between 1870 and 1880. The first (edited) public edition appeared in 1911. Gray's translation is the most comprehensive available.
  • Wagner, Richard: Collected Prose Works. tr. W. Ashton Ellis
Wagner, Richard (1994c) Vol. 1 The Artwork of the Future
The Artwork of the Future
"The Artwork of the Future" is a long essay written by Richard Wagner, first published in 1849 in Leipzig, in which he sets out some of his ideals on the topics of art in general and music drama in particular....

 and Other Works, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London. ISBN 9780803297524
Wagner, Richard (1995d) Vol. 2 Opera and Drama
Opera and Drama
"Opera and Drama" is a long essay written by Richard Wagner in 1851 setting out his ideas on the ideal characteristics of opera as an art form...

, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London. 1995. ISBN 0803297653
Wagner, Richard (1995c) Vol. 3 Judaism in Music and Other Essays, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London. ISBN 9780803297661
Wagner, Richard (1995a) Vol. 4 Art and Politics, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London. ISBN 9780803297746
Wagner, Richard (1995b) Vol. 5 Actors and Singers, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London. ISBN 9780803297739
Wagner, Richard (1994a) Vol. 6 Religion and Art , University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London. ISBN 9780803297645
Wagner, Richard (1994b) Vol. 7 Pilgrimage to Beethoven and Other Essays, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London. ISBN 9780803297630
Wagner, Richard (1995c) Vol. 8 Jesus of Nazareth and Other Writings, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London. ISBN 9780803297807

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    Theodor W. Adorno
    Theodor W. Adorno was a German sociologist, philosopher, and musicologist known for his critical theory of society....

     (trans. Rodney Livingstone) (2009) In Search of Wagner Verso Books, London. ISBN 9781844673445
  • Ashman, Mike (1982) "Tannhäuser – an obsession" in: John, Nicholas (Series Editor) English National Opera/The Royal Opera House Opera Guide 12: Der Fliegende Holländer/The Flying Dutchman, London, John Calder, ISBN 0714539201. pp. 7–15.
  • Beckett, Lucy (1981) Richard Wagner: Parsifal, Cambridge University Press.
  • Borchmeyer, Dieter
    Dieter Borchmeyer
    Dieter Borchmeyer is a German literary critic.Borchmeyer is Professor Emeritus of Modern German Literature and Dramatic Theory at the University of Heidelberg, where he is currently Seniorprofessor. Borchmeyer is President of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts...

     (2003) "Drama and the World of Richard Wagner", Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691114972
  • Bruen, Hanan (1993) Wagner in Israel: A conflict among Aesthetic, Historical, Psychological and Social Considerations, Journal of Aesthetic Education, vol. 27 no. 1 (Spring 1993), pp. 99–103
  • Burbidge, Peter and Sutton, Richard (eds.) (1979) "The Wagner Companion", Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521296571
  • Dahlhaus, Carl
    Carl Dahlhaus
    Carl Dahlhaus , a musicologist from Berlin, was one of the major contributors to the development of musicology as a scholarly discipline during the post-war era....

     (trans. Mary Whittall) (1979) Richard Wagner's Music Dramas, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521223973
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  • Deathridge, John
    John Deathridge
    John Deathridge is a British musicologist. He was educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham, and at Lincoln College, Oxford culminating with a dissertation on Wagner's sketches for Rienzi, and is currently Professor of Music at King's College London...

     (1982) "An Introduction to The Flying Dutchman" in John, Nicholas (Series Editor) English National Opera/The Royal Opera House Opera Guide 12: Der Fliegende Holländer/The Flying Dutchman, London, John Calder, ISBN 0714539201 pp. 13–26.
  • Deathridge, John (2008) Wagner Beyond Good and Evil, Berkeley ISBN 9780520254534
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  • Grant, John
    John Grant (author)
    John Grant is a Scottish writer and editor of science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction. Born as Paul le Page Barnett, Grant has sometimes written under his own name "Paul Barnett" or as "Eve Devereux"...

     (1999) "Excalibur: US movie" in John Clute
    John Clute
    John Frederick Clute is a Canadian born author and critic who has lived in Britain since 1969. He has been described as "an integral part of science fiction's history."...

     & John Grant (Eds.) The Encyclopedia of Fantasy
    The Encyclopedia of Fantasy
    The Encyclopedia of Fantasy is a 1997 reference work on fantasy, edited by John Clute and John Grant. Other contributors include Mike Ashley, Neil Gaiman, Diana Wynne Jones, David Langford, Sam J. Lundwall, Michael Scott Rohan, Brian Stableford and Lisa Tuttle.The book was well-received upon...

    , Orbit p. 324. ISBN 1-85723-893-1
  • Gregor-Dellin, Martin (1983) Richard Wagner – His Life, His Work, His Century, Harcourt. ISBN 978-0151771516
  • Grey, Thomas S. (ed.) (2008) The Cambridge Companion to Wagner, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521644396
  • Gutman, Robert W. (1990) Wagner – The Man, His Mind and His Music, Harvest Books. ISBN 978-0156776158
  • Higgins, Charlotte (2007) How the Nazis took flight from Valkyries and Rhinemaidens, The Guardian
    The Guardian
    The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

    , 3 July 2007, accessed 28 December 2008.
  • Horton, Paul C. (1999) Review of Psychoanalytic Explorations in Music: Second Series ed. Stuart Feder, American Journal of Psychiatry vol. 156 pp. 1109–1110, July 1999, consulted 8 July 2010
  • John, Eckhardt (2004) La musique dans la système concentrationnaire nazi, in Le troisième Reich et al. Musique, ed. Pascal Huynh, Paris ISBN 2213621357
  • Katz, Jacob
    Jacob Katz
    Jacob Katz was a Jewish historian and educator. He established the history curriculum used in Israel's High Schools....

     (1986) The Darker Side of Genius: Richard Wagner's Anti-Semitism, Hanover and London. ISBN 0874513685
  • Kennedy, Michael
    Michael Kennedy (music critic)
    Dr. George Michael Sinclair Kennedy CBE is an English biographer, journalist and writer on classical music. He joined the Daily Telegraph at the age of 15 in 1941, and began writing music criticism for it in 1948...

     (1980) The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music, Oxford ISBN 9780193113206
  • Kershaw, Ian
    Ian Kershaw
    Sir Ian Kershaw is a British historian of 20th-century Germany whose work has chiefly focused on the period of the Third Reich...

     (1999) Hitler 18891936: Hubris, Penguin. ISBN 0140288988
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  • Lee, M. Owen
    M. Owen Lee
    M. Owen Lee, also known as Father Owen Lee , is an American classics and music scholar.Father Lee has been a member of the Basilian Fathers since 1947...

     (1998) Wagner: The Terrible Man and His Truthful Art, University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0802047212
  • Magee, Bryan
    Bryan Magee
    Bryan Edgar Magee is a noted British broadcasting personality, politician, poet, and author, best known as a popularizer of philosophy.-Early life:...

     (2001) The Tristan Chord: Wagner and Philosophy, Metropolitan Books. ISBN 978-0805071894
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  • Newman, Ernest
    Ernest Newman
    Ernest Newman was an English music critic and musicologist. Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians describes him as "the most celebrated British music critic in the first half of the 20th century." His style of criticism, aiming at intellectual objectivity in contrast to the more subjective...

     (1933) The Life of Richard Wagner, 4 vols. ISBN 978-0685148242 (the classic biography, superseded by newer research but still full of many valuable insights)
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  • Nietzsche, Friedrich
    Friedrich Nietzsche
    Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

     (trans. Walter Kaufmann) (1967) The Case of Wagner
    The Case of Wagner
    The Case of Wagner is a German book by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, originally published in 1888. Subtitled "A Musician's Problem", it has also been known as "The Wagner Case" in English.-Contents:...

     in Nietsche (trans. Kaufmann) The Birth of Tragedy
    The Birth of Tragedy
    The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music is a 19th-century work of dramatic theory by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. It was reissued in 1886 as The Birth of Tragedy, Or: Hellenism and Pessimism ...

     and The Case of Wagner, Random House. ISBN 394 70369-3.
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    Paul Lawrence Rose
    Paul Lawrence Rose is the Professor of European History and Mitrani Professor of Jewish Studies at Pennsylvania State University.Rose specializes in the study of anti-Semitism, Germany history, European intellectual history, and Jewish history. -Notes:...

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    Alex Ross
    Nelson Alexander "Alex" Ross is an American comic book painter, illustrator, and plotter. He is praised for his realistic, human depictions of classic comic book characters. Since the 1990s he has done work for Marvel Comics and DC Comics Nelson Alexander "Alex" Ross (born January 22, 1970) is an...

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    The New Yorker
    The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

    , 10 August 1998. Copy on author's website used. Link accessed 10 July 2010.
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    Project Gutenberg
    Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to "encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks". Founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart, it is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books...

     edition. here http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/14441.
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    Roger Scruton
    Roger Vernon Scruton is a conservative English philosopher and writer. He is the author of over 30 books, including Art and Imagination , Sexual Desire , The Aesthetics of Music , and A Political Philosophy: Arguments For Conservatism...

     (2003) Death-Devoted Heart: Sex and the Sacred in Wagner's 'Tristan and Isolde, Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195166910
  • Shaw, George Bernard
    George Bernard Shaw
    George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

     (1898) The Perfect Wagnerite. Online version at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1487/1487-h/1487-h.htm#2H_4_0011 accessed 20 July 2010.
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    Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
    The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians is an encyclopedic dictionary of music and musicians. Along with the German-language Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, it is the largest single reference work on Western music. The dictionary has gone through several editions since the 19th century...

    , ed. S. Sadie, London 1980
  • Wagner, Cosima
    Cosima Wagner
    Cosima Francesca Gaetana Wagner, née de Flavigny, from 1844 known as Cosima Liszt; was the daughter of Hungarian composer Franz Liszt...

     (trans. Geoffrey Skelton) (1978) Diaries, 2 vols. ISBN 978-0151226351
  • Walker, Alan (1996) Franz Liszt: The Final Years, New York. ISBN 9780394525426
  • Walsh, Michael (1992) The Case of Wagner Again, Time, 13 January 1992, consulted online 17 July 2010
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  • Westrup, Jack (1980) Conducting, in vol. 4 of Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
    Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
    The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians is an encyclopedic dictionary of music and musicians. Along with the German-language Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, it is the largest single reference work on Western music. The dictionary has gone through several editions since the 19th century...

    , ed. S. Sadie, London 1980
  • Žižek, Slavoj (2009) "Foreword: Why is Wagner Worth Saving" in Adorno (2009) viiixxvii.

External links

Operas

Writings
  • The Wagner Library. English translations of Wagner's prose works, including some of Wagner's more notable essays.


Pictures

Scores

Other
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