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Richard Wagner


Wilhelm Richard Wagner was born on May 22, 1813, in Leipzig's Jewish quarter.1)


As a child, Wagner shown no ability or interest for music, and he was the only one of his brothers who did not get piano lessons. But, at the age of 13, he wrote a play called 'Leubald,' which he insisted be set to music, which is when he began taking music lessons.2)

Dog Lover

He and his partner Minna Planer reportedly owned a huge Newfoundland named Robber - it's uncertain if this is the one photographed with Minna.3)

Die Feen

Wagner's first complete opera was never performed in his lifetime. 'Die Feen' ('The Fairies') never really caught on in the world of German opera and didn't receive its premiere until 1888.4)


Wagner produced numerous significant works while in exile (because to the sticky problem of his rising revolutionary activism in Dresden), notably his opera Lohengrin. However, because he was unable to present the work personally, he wrote to his friend Franz Liszt with the hope that it would be realized. Liszt not only had the work staged, but he himself conducted the premiere in Weimar. 5)


The Leitmotif was one of Wagner's most significant contributions to music. Simply described, it's a musical signature intended to reflect a character or topic in an opera, and he employs it throughout his works. 6)

The Flight of the Valkyries

The Flight of the Valkyries from Die Walküre is undoubtedly one of Wagner's most famous works. But, aside from the opera, where do we get this information? That's correct, it's the scary helicopter sequence from Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now.7)


It should come as no surprise that Wagner had strong opinions on problems of artistic expression. In reality, he wrote multiple writings about his vision of a 'Gesamtkunstwerk' ('whole artwork') and his strong feelings about how it should be presented.8)

Hitler's Favorite Composer

Wagner's problematic reputation stems in large part from his involvement with Nazism. Indeed, Hitler is claimed to have declared, “Whoever wants to comprehend National Socialist Germany must know Wagner.” Controversies continue to simmer today, particularly in modern-day Israel, over performances of Wagner's work. Hitler is seen here laying the first stone at a Wagner memorial.9)


Wagner's operatic works were so well-known and adored that they required their own specialized theatre to host them. Even today, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus is utilized for the Bayreuth Festival, which commemorates Wagner's music. It has a sunken orchestral pit, which renders the musicians invisible to the audience, presumably so that viewers are not distracted from the drama on stage.10)

The Ring Cycle

It is estimated that Wagner worked on the music for Der Ring des Nibelungen from 1848 to 1874, and it did not receive its full debut until 1876 at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus.11)

Controversial Figure

After Wagner's death, his wife Cosima attempted to recall all copies of his memoirs, resorting to burning as many copies as she could lay her hands on. It's assumed she didn't want people to see the variety of flippant remarks and perhaps disrespectful or provocative things he made about his fellow songwriters.12)

In Debt

Wagner was in debt for much of his professional life. That was until 1864, when King Ludwig II ascended to the throne of Bavaria at the age of 18. The young king was such an admirer of Wagner's work that he arranged for all of his debts to be forgiven and even for someone to take dictation for Wagner's memoirs.13)

Mathilde Wesendonck

Wagner was inspired by his brief 'affair' with Mathilde Wesendonck, who was married to silk dealer Otto Wesendonck.14)


Wagner suffered from angina in his later years and died of a heart attack in February 1883 while visiting Venice. The rumor at the time was that the attack was the consequence of an altercation between Richard and his wife, Cosima, about Richard's interest in another lady.15)

richard_wagner.txt · Last modified: 2022/01/31 02:01 by eziothekilla34