Wilhelm Richard Wagner

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (/ˈvɑːɡnər/; German: <ˈʁiçaʁt ˈvaːɡnɐ>; 22 might 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is primarily well-known for his operas (or, as some of his later on works were later on known, “music dramas”). Unlike many opera composers, Wagner created both the libretto and also the music because that each that his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation together a composer of functions in the romantic vein that Weber and also Meyerbeer, Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work-related of art”), whereby he sought come synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and also dramatic arts, through music subsidiary come drama, and which to be announced in a series of essays between 1849 and 1852. Wagner realised these concepts most completely in the first half the the four-opera bicycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).

You are watching: Wagner pushed major-minor tonality to extreme limits with his style of chromatic harmony.

His compositions, particularly those the his later period, are significant for their complicated textures, well-off harmonies and also orchestration, and the intricate use of leitmotifs—musical phrases linked with separation, personal, instance characters, places, principles or plot elements. His breakthroughs in musical language, together as extreme chromaticism and also quickly changing tonal centres, considerably influenced the breakthrough of classical music. His Tristan und Isolde is sometimes defined as noting the begin of modern music.

Wagner had actually his own opera residence built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, i beg your pardon embodied countless novel style features. That was here that the Ring and also Parsifal received their premieres and where his most important stage works proceed to be performed in an annual festival run by his descendants. His thoughts on the relative contributions the music and drama in opera were to readjust again, and also he reintroduced some traditional forms right into his last few stage works, consisting of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg).

Until his last years, Wagner’s life was characterised by political exile, unstable love affairs, poverty and also repeated trip from his creditors. His controversial works on music, drama and also politics have actually attracted substantial comment in current decades, specifically where they express antisemitic sentiments. The impact of his ideas can be traced in countless of the arts transparent the 20th century; their influence spread beyond composition into conducting, philosophy, literature, the intuitive arts and theatre.

Wilhelmine “Minna” Planer (1835), by Alexander von Otterstedt 

In 1833, Wagner’s brother Albert regulated to achieve for the a position as choir master at the theatre in Würzburg.  In the very same year, in ~ the age of 20, Wagner composed his very first complete opera, dice Feen (The Fairies). This work, i beg your pardon imitated the format of Weber, walk unproduced until fifty percent a century later, when it to be premiered in Munich soon after the composer’s fatality in 1883.

Having went back to Leipzig in 1834, Wagner organized a brief appointment as musical director in ~ the opera house in Magdeburg during i m sorry he wrote Das Liebesverbot (The ban on Love), based on Shakespeare’s measure for Measure. This to be staged in ~ Magdeburg in 1836 but closed prior to the second performance; this, along with the financial please of the theatre agency employing him, left the composer with severe money problems. Wagner had fallen for among the leading women at Magdeburg, the actress Christine Wilhelmine “Minna” Planer. After the disaster of Das Liebesverbot he complied with her come Königsberg where she aided him to obtain an engagement in ~ the theatre.  The 2 married in Tragheim Church on 24 November 1836.  In might 1837, Minna left Wagner for another man; this was but the first débâcle of a troubled marriage. In June 1837, Wagner relocated to Riga (then in the Russian Empire), whereby he became music manager of the neighborhood opera; having in this capacity engaged Minna’s sister Amalie (also a singer) for the theatre, the presently resumed relationships with Minna throughout 1838.

By 1839, the couple had amassed such huge debts the they fled Riga to protect against their creditors; debt would pester Wagner for many of his life.  Initially they take it a stormy sea passage to London, from which Wagner drew the catalyst for Der fliegende Holländer (The flying Dutchman), through a plot based upon a sketch by Heinrich Heine.  The Wagners arrived in Paris in September 1839 and remained there till 1842. Richard made a scant living composing articles and also arranging operas by other composers, greatly on instead of of the Schlesinger publishing house. He additionally completed throughout this remain his third and 4th operas Rienzi and Der fliegende Holländer.

Dresden (1842–49)

Warrant for the arrest of Richard Wagner, approve on 16 may 1849 

Wagner to be to invest the next twelve years in exile native Germany. He had completed Lohengrin, the critical of his middle-period operas, before the Dresden uprising, and also now wrote desperately to his friend Franz Liszt to have actually it staged in his absence. Liszt performed the premiere in Weimar in august 1850.

Nevertheless, Wagner was in grim an individual straits, isolated indigenous the German musical world and also without any type of regular income. In 1850, Julie, the mam of his friend knife Ritter, began to pay him a little pension i m sorry she kept until 1859. With help from her girlfriend Jessie Laussot this was to have actually been augmented come an yearly sum of 3000 Thalers every year; but this plan was abandoned as soon as Wagner started an affair v Mme. Laussot. Wagner also planned one elopement through her in 1852, which she husband prevented. Meanwhile, Wagner’s wife Minna, who had disliked the operas he had actually written after ~ Rienzi, to be falling right into a deepening depression. Wagner dropped victim come ill-health, follow to Ernest Newman “largely a matter of overwrought nerves”, which make it difficult for that to proceed writing.

Wagner’s main published output throughout his very first years in Zürich to be a collection of essays. In “The Artwork that the Future” (1849), he explained a vision the opera together Gesamtkunstwerk (“total job-related of art”), in which the various arts such together music, song, dance, poetry, visual arts and also stagecraft to be unified. “Judaism in Music” (1850) was the very first of Wagner’s works to attribute antisemitic views. In this polemic Wagner argued, typically using timeless antisemitic abuse, the Jews had actually no link to the German spirit, and were thus only capable of developing shallow and artificial music. Follow to him, they created music to achieve popularity and, thereby, gaue won success, as opposed to creating genuine works of art.

In “Opera and also Drama” (1851), Wagner defined the aesthetics the drama that he was using to create the Ring operas. Before leaving Dresden, Wagner had drafted a scenario that eventually ended up being the four-opera bike Der Ring des Nibelungen. He initially wrote the libretto because that a single opera, Siegfrieds Tod (Siegfried’s Death), in 1848. After arriving in Zürich he broadened the story through the opera Der junge Siegfried (Young Siegfried), which explored the hero’s background. He completed the text of the bike by writing the libretti for dice Walküre (The Valkyrie) and Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold) and also revising the other libretti come agree v his brand-new concept, completing them in 1852. The concept of opera to express in “Opera and also Drama” and also in other essays successfully renounced the operas he had previously written, up to and also including Lohengrin. Partly in an attempt to explain his change of views, Wagner released in 1851 the autobiographical “A communication to my Friends”. This included his very first public announcement of what was to become the Ring cycle:

I shall never write one Opera more. Together I have no great to create an arbitrarily title because that my works, i will speak to them Dramas …

I suggest to create my legend in three finish dramas, preceded by a lengthy Prelude (Vorspiel). …

At a specially-appointed Festival, ns propose, some future time, to develop those three Dramas v their Prelude, in the course of 3 days and a fore-evening .

Wagner began composing the music for Das Rheingold between November 1853 and also September 1854, complying with it automatically with dice Walküre (written in between June 1854 and March 1856). He began work on the third Ring opera, which he now called simply Siegfried, most likely in September 1856, yet by June 1857 he had completed just the very first two acts prior to deciding to placed the work aside to concentration on a new idea: Tristan und Isolde, based ~ above the Arthurian love story Tristan and Iseult.

Portrait that Ludwig II the Bavaria around the time once he an initial met Wagner, by Ferdinand von Piloty, 1865 

In Biebrich, Wagner in ~ last started work on dice Meistersinger von Nürnberg, his only mature comedy. Wagner wrote a very first draft of the libretto in 1845, and he had resolved to build it throughout a visit he had actually made come Venice with the Wesendoncks in 1860, wherein he was inspired by Titian’s paint The assumption of the Virgin.  Throughout this duration (1861–64) Wagner search to have actually Tristan und Isolde created in Vienna. Despite countless rehearsals, the opera stayed unperformed, and gained a reputation together being “impossible” come sing, which included to Wagner’s financial problems.

Wagner’s fortunes take it a dramatic upturn in 1864, once King Ludwig II thrived to the throne the Bavaria in ~ the period of 18. The young king, an ardent admirer that Wagner’s operas, had actually the composer brought to Munich.  The King, who was homosexual, to express in his post a passionate personal adoration because that the composer, and Wagner in his responses had actually no scruples about counterfeiting a comparable atmosphere. Ludwig worked out Wagner’s substantial debts, and proposed to stage Tristan, dice Meistersinger, the Ring, and the other operas Wagner planned. Wagner additionally began to dictate his autobiography, Mein Leben, in ~ the King’s request. Wagner detailed that his rescue by Ludwig corresponded with news that the fatality of his earlier mentor (but later supposed enemy) Giacomo Meyerbeer, and also regretted that “this operatic master, who had done me so lot harm, have to not have lived to view this day.”

After grave obstacles in rehearsal, Tristan und Isolde premiered at the national Theatre Munich top top 10 June 1865, the an initial Wagner opera premiere in practically 15 years. (The premiere had actually been scheduled for 15 May, yet was delay by bailiffs exhilaration for Wagner’s creditors, and likewise because the Isolde, Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld, was hoarse and also needed time come recover.) The conductor of this premiere to be Hans von Bülow, who wife, Cosima, had offered birth in April that year come a daughter, named Isolde, a son not that Bülow however of Wagner.

Cosima to be 24 years younger than Wagner and also was herself illegitimate, the daughter of the Countess Marie d’Agoult, who had actually left she husband because that Franz Liszt. Liszt originally disapproved of his daughter’s involvement v Wagner, though however the two guys were friends.  The indiscreet to work scandalised Munich, and Wagner likewise fell into disfavour with many leading members the the court, who were suspicious of his influence on the King. In December 1865, Ludwig was finally forced come ask the composer to leave Munich.  He apparently additionally toyed with the idea the abdicating to monitor his hero into exile, but Wagner easily dissuaded him.

Ludwig mounted Wagner in ~ the Villa Tribschen, next to Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne. Die Meistersinger was completed at Tribschen in 1867, and premiered in Munich on 21 June the adhering to year. At Ludwig’s insistence, “special previews” that the very first two works of the Ring, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, to be performed in ~ Munich in 1869 and 1870, but Wagner kept his dream, first expressed in “A interaction to mine Friends”, to current the an initial complete cycle in ~ a distinct festival v a new, dedicated, opera house.

Minna had died of a heart strike on 25 January 1866 in Dresden. Wagner did not attend the funeral. Complying with Minna’s death Cosima created to Hans von Bülow top top a number of occasions questioning him to approve her a divorce, yet Bülow refused to concede this. He just consented after ~ she had actually two an ext children v Wagner; another daughter, named Eva, after ~ the heroine the Meistersinger, and a kid Siegfried, called for the hero of the Ring. The divorce was ultimately sanctioned, after delays in the legal process, by a Berlin court ~ above 18 July 1870.  Richard and Cosima’s wedding took ar on 25 august 1870.  On Christmas work of the year, Wagner arranged a surprised performance (its premiere) of the Siegfried Idyll because that Cosima’s birthday.  The marital relationship to Cosima lasted come the end of Wagner’s life.

Wagner, cleared up into his new-found domesticity, turned his energies in the direction of completing the Ring cycle. He had not abandoned polemics: he republished his 1850 pamphlet “Judaism in Music”, originally issued under a pseudonym, under his very own name in 1869. He extended the introduction, and also wrote a prolonged additional final section. The publication led to several publicly protests at beforehand performances of die Meistersinger in Vienna and Mannheim.

Bayreuth (1871–76)

In 1871, Wagner chose to relocate to Bayreuth, which to be to be the place of his new opera house.  The town council donated a big plot of land—the “Green Hill”—as a site for the theatre. The Wagners relocated to the city the following year, and also the foundation stone because that the Bayreuth Festspielhaus (“Festival Theatre”) was laid. Wagner initially announced the an initial Bayreuth Festival, in ~ which because that the first time the Ring cycle would be presented complete, for 1873, but since Ludwig had declined to finance the project, the start of structure was delayed and the proposed date for the festival to be deferred. Come raise funds for the construction, “Wagner societies” were developed in numerous cities, and Wagner began touring Germany conducting concerts.  By the feather of 1873, only a third of the required funds had been raised; further pleas come Ludwig were originally ignored, yet early in 1874, with the project on the verge of collapse, the King relented and detailed a loan.  The full building programme included the family home, “Wahnfried”, right into which Wagner, with Cosima and the children, moved from their short-term accommodation on 18 April 1874. The theatre was completed in 1875, and the festival reserved for the following year. Commenting ~ above the struggle to end up the building, Wagner remarked to Cosima: “Each stone is red with my blood and yours”.

For the architecture of the Festspielhaus, Wagner appropriated some of the ideas of his former colleague, Gottfried Semper, i beg your pardon he had actually previously solicited because that a proposed brand-new opera residence at Munich. Wagner was responsible for several theatrical developments at Bayreuth; these incorporate darkening the auditorium during performances, and also placing the orchestra in a pit the end of see of the audience.

The Festspielhaus ultimately opened top top 13 respectable 1876 v Das Rheingold, in ~ last taking its ar as the very first evening that the complete Ring cycle; the 1876 Bayreuth Festival because of this saw the premiere of the complete cycle, performed as a sequence together the composer had intended. The 1876 Festival consisted of three complete Ring cycles (under the baton of Hans Richter).  At the end, an essential reactions ranged in between that the the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, who assumed the job-related “divinely composed”, and also that of the French newspaper Le Figaro, which referred to as the music “the dream of a lunatic”.  Amongst the disillusioned to be Wagner’s friend and disciple Friedrich Nietzsche, who, having published his eulogistic essay “Richard Wagner in Bayreuth” before the festival as component of his Untimely Meditations, to be bitterly disappointed by what he saw as Wagner’s pandering to increasingly exclusivist German nationalism; his breach with Wagner began at this time. The festival firmly established Wagner together an artist the European, and indeed world, importance: attendees consisted of Kaiser Wilhelm I, the Emperor Pedro II of Brazil, Anton Bruckner, Camille Saint-Saëns and also Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Wagner was far from satisfied through the Festival; Cosima videotaped that months later, his perspective towards the productions to be “Never again, never again!” Moreover, the festival finished with a deficit of about 150,000 marks. The costs of Bayreuth and also of Wahnfried expected that Wagner still sought additional sources of earnings by conducting or taking on rose such together the Centennial March for America, for which he received $5000.

Last years (1876–83)

Following the first Bayreuth Festival, Wagner began work on Parsifal, his last opera. The ingredient took 4 years, much of i m sorry Wagner spent in Italy for wellness reasons.  From 1876 to 1878 Wagner also embarked top top the critical of his documented emotional liaisons, this time through Judith Gautier, whom he had met in ~ the 1876 Festival.  Wagner was also much troubled by problems of financing Parsifal, and by the prospect of the work being perform by other theatres than Bayreuth. That was when again assisted by the liberality of King Ludwig, however was still compelled by his personal financial instance in 1877 to sell the legal rights of numerous of his unpublished functions (including the Siegfried Idyll) to the publisher Schott.

Franz Betz, who created the role of Hans Sachs in dice Meistersinger, and sang Wotan in the first complete Ring cycle 

Tristan is regularly granted a special place in musical history; numerous see it together the beginning of the move away from typical harmony and also tonality and also consider the it lays the groundwork for the direction of timeless music in the 20th century.Wagner felt the his musico-dramatical theories were many perfectly realised in this occupational with its use of “the arts of transition” in between dramatic elements and the balance accomplished between vocal and orchestral lines. Completed in 1859, the occupational was provided its very first performance in Munich, conducted by Bülow, in June 1865.

Die Meistersinger was originally conceived by Wagner in 1845 as a sort of comic pendant come Tannhäuser. Like Tristan, it to be premiered in Munich under the baton the Bülow, on 21 June 1868, and became an instant success. Barry Millington explains Meistersinger as “a rich, perceptive music drama widely admired because that its heat humanity”; but since of its strong German nationalist overtones, the is likewise cited by some as an example of Wagner’s reactionary politics and antisemitism.

Completing the Ring

When Wagner went back to writing the music for the critical act of Siegfried and for Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods), as the final component of the Ring, his style had readjusted once more to something much more recognisable as “operatic” than the aural human being of Rheingold and Walküre, though it to be still extensively stamped v his very own originality together a composer and suffused through leitmotifs. This was in part because the libretti that the 4 Ring operas had been composed in turning back order, so that the publication for Götterdämmerung was conceived more “traditionally” than that of Rheingold;  still, the self-imposed strictures that the Gesamtkunstwerk had end up being relaxed. The distinctions also an outcome from Wagner’s breakthrough as a composer during the duration in which he composed Tristan, Meistersinger and the Paris variation of Tannhäuser. From plot 3 that Siegfried onwards, the Ring becomes an ext chromatic melodically, more facility harmonically and much more developmental in its treatment of leitmotifs.

Wagner take it 26 years from writing the an initial draft the a libretto in 1848 till he completed Götterdämmerung in 1874. The Ring takes around 15 hours to perform and is the just undertaking the such dimension to be regularly presented top top the world’s stages.


Wagner’s final opera, Parsifal (1882), which was his only job-related written especially for his Bayreuth Festspielhaus and also which is explained in the score as a “Bühnenweihfestspiel” (“festival play because that the consecration of the stage”), has actually a storyline argued by aspects of the legend of the holy Grail. It additionally carries aspects of buddhist renunciation said by Wagner’s readings that Schopenhauer. Wagner explained it come Cosima together his “last card”.  It stays controversial due to the fact that of its treatment of Christianity, its eroticism, and its expression, as perceived by part commentators, the German nationalism and antisemitism. In spite of the composer’s own description of the opera come King Ludwig together “this many Christian of works”, Ulrike Kienzle has actually commented that “Wagner’s turn to Christian mythology, upon which the imagery and also spiritual components of Parsifal rest, is idiosyncratic and also contradicts Christian dogma in many ways.”Musically the opera has actually been hosted to stand for a continuing breakthrough of the composer’s style, and Barry Millington describes it as “a diaphanous score the unearthly beauty and also refinement”.

Non-operatic music

André Gill suggesting that Wagner’s music was ear-splitting. Sheathe of L’Éclipse 18 April 1869 

Apart indigenous his operas, Wagner created relatively couple of pieces the music. These encompass a symphony in C major (written in ~ the period of 19), the Faust Overture (the just completed part of an intended symphony ~ above the subject), part overtures, and also choral and piano pieces. His most frequently performed work that is no an extract from an opera is the Siegfried Idyll because that chamber orchestra, which has several motifs in common with the Ring cycle.  The Wesendonck Lieder are also often performed, either in the initial piano version, or through orchestral accompaniment. Much more rarely performed space the American Centennial march (1876), and Das Liebesmahl der Apostel (The Love Feast that the Apostles), a item for masculine choruses and orchestra written in 1843 because that the city the Dresden.

After perfect Parsifal, Wagner express his intention to revolve to the writing of symphonies, and number of sketches dating from the so late 1870s and also early 1880s have actually been determined as occupational towards this end.  The overtures and specific orchestral i from Wagner’s middle and also late-stage operas are generally played as concert pieces. For most of these, Wagner composed or rewrote brief passages to ensure musical coherence. The “Bridal Chorus” indigenous Lohengrin is commonly played together the bride’s processional wedding march in English-speaking countries.

Prose writings

Wagner was an extremely prolific writer, authoring numerous books, poems, and also articles, as well as voluminous correspondence. His writings extended a wide variety of topics, including autobiography, politics, philosophy, and also detailed analyses the his very own operas.

Wagner planned for a built up edition that his publications as beforehand as 1865; he believed that such an execution would aid the world understand his intellectual development and artistic aims. The an initial such edition was published in between 1871 and 1883, but was doctored to suppress or alter posts that to be an embarrassment to him (e.g. Those praising Meyerbeer), or by altering dates on some posts to reinforce Wagner’s own account the his progress. Wagner’s autobiography Mein Leben was initially published for close friends only in a very small edition (15–18 duplicates per volume) in 4 volumes between 1870 and 1880. The very first public edition (with many passages suppressed through Cosima) showed up in 1911; the an initial attempt at a complete edition (in German) appeared in 1963.

There have actually been contemporary complete or partial version of Wagner’s writings, including a centennial execution in German edited through Dieter Borchmeyer (which, however, skipping the essay “Das Judenthum in der Musik” and also Mein Leben). The English translations the Wagner’s prose in eight quantities by W. Ashton Ellis (1892–99) room still in print and commonly used, despite their deficiencies. A finish edition the Wagner’s correspondence, approximated to amount to in between 10,000 and 12,000 items, is still under method under the supervision that the Institute because that Music research at the college of Würzburg. Together of November 2014, 21 volumes have actually appeared, extending the period to 1870.

Influence and Legacy

Influence on music

Wagner’s later on musical layout introduced brand-new ideas in harmony, melodic process (leitmotif) and operatic structure. Significantly from Tristan und Isolde onwards, he explored the limits of the timeless tonal system, which offered keys and chords your identity, pointing the way to atonality in the 20th century. Some music historians day the beginning of modern-day classical music to the an initial notes that Tristan, which encompass the so-called Tristan chord.

Wagner inspired an excellent devotion. Because that a lengthy period, countless composers to be inclined come align themselves with or against Wagner’s music. Anton Bruckner and also Hugo wolf were substantially indebted to him, as were César Franck, Henri Duparc, Ernest Chausson, Jules Massenet, Richard Strauss, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Hans Pfitzner and also numerous others. Gustav Mahler was devoted to Wagner and his music; age 15, the sought him out on his 1875 visit come Vienna, became a renowned Wagner conductor, and his compositions space seen through Richard Taruskin as extending Wagner’s “maximalization” the “the temporal and the sonorous” in music come the human being of the symphony. The harmonic changes of Claude Debussy and Arnold Schoenberg (both of whose oeuvres contain examples of tonal and atonal modernism) have frequently been traced earlier to Tristan and Parsifal. The Italian type of operatic realism recognized as verismo owed lot to the Wagnerian ide of music form.

Wagner make a major contribution to the principles and practice of conducting. His essay “About Conducting” (1869) advanced Hector Berlioz’s technique of conducting and claimed the conducting to be a way by which a music work could be re-interpreted, fairly than just a system for achieving orchestral unison. The exemplified this strategy in his own conducting, which to be significantly much more flexible 보다 the disciplined technique of Mendelssohn; in his see this additionally justified practices that would this particular day be frowned upon, such as the rewriting of scores. Wilhelm Furtwängler felt that Wagner and also Bülow, with their interpretative approach, motivated a whole brand-new generation the conductors (including Furtwängler himself).

Amongst those claiming catalyst from Wagner’s music are the German band Rammstein, and the electronic composer Klaus Schulze, whose 1975 album Timewind is composed of 2 30-minute tracks, Bayreuth Return and Wahnfried 1883. Joey DeMaio the the band Manowar has explained Wagner together “The dad of heavy metal”. The Slovenian team Laibach produced the 2009 suite VolksWagner, using material from Wagner’s operas. Phil Spector’s wall of Sound recording an approach was, it has actually been claimed, greatly influenced by Wagner.

Influence on Literature, Philosophy and the intuitive Arts

Wagner’s influence on literature and philosophy is significant. Millington has actually commented:

protean abundance expected that he could inspire the use of literature motif in countless a novel employing inner monologue; … the Symbolists saw him as a mystic hierophant; the Decadents found numerous a frisson in his work.

Friedrich Nietzsche was a member that Wagner’s inner circle during the at an early stage 1870s, and his an initial published work, The birth of Tragedy, suggest Wagner’s music together the Dionysian “rebirth” that European culture in opposition come Apollonian rationalist “decadence”. Nietzsche broke with Wagner complying with the first Bayreuth Festival, believing the Wagner’s final phase represented a pandering come Christian pieties and also a surrender to the brand-new German Reich. Nietzsche expressed his displeasure v the later on Wagner in “The instance of Wagner” and also “Nietzsche contra Wagner”.

Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine venerated Wagner.Édouard Dujardin, whose significant novel Les Lauriers sont coupés is in the kind of an internal monologue motivated by Wagnerian music, started a journal specialized to Wagner, La Revue Wagnérienne, come which J. K. Huysmans and Téodor de Wyzewa contributed.  In a list of major social figures influenced by Wagner, Bryan Magee contains D. H. Lawrence, Aubrey Beardsley, Romain Rolland, Gérard de Nerval, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Rainer Maria Rilke and numerous others.

In the 20th century, W. H. Auden once called Wagner “perhaps the biggest genius that ever before lived”, while thomas Mann and Marcel Proust were heavily influenced by him and discussed Wagner in your novels. The is likewise discussed in several of the works of James Joyce.  Wagnerian themes inhabit T. S. Eliot’s The waste Land, which consists of lines native Tristan und Isolde and Götterdämmerung and also Verlaine’s city on Parsifal.

Many the Wagner’s concepts, consisting of his speculation about dreams, predated their examination by Sigmund Freud. Wagner had actually publicly analysed the Oedipus myth before Freud to be born in regards to its psychological significance, insisting the incestuous desires are natural and also normal, and perceptively exhibiting the relationship between sexuality and also anxiety. Georg Groddeck taken into consideration the Ring as the an initial manual that psychoanalysis.

Influence top top Cinema

Wagner’s concept of the use of leitmotifs and also the incorporated musical expression which castle can enable has influenced many 20th and 21st century film scores. The doubter Theodor Adorno has listed that the Wagnerian leitmotif “leads directly to cinema music wherein the sole function of the leitmotif is to announce heroes or situations so as to allow the audience to orient itself more easily”. Amongst film scores citing Wagnerian themes room Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, which functions a version of the ride of the Valkyries, Trevor Jones’s soundtrack to john Boorman’s film Excalibur, and the 2011 movies A Dangerous an approach (dir. David Cronenberg) and Melancholia (dir. Lars von Trier). Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s 1977 film Hitler: A movie from Germany’s visual layout and collection design are strongly inspired by Der Ring des Nibelungen, musical excerpts indigenous which are frequently used in the film’s soundtrack.

Opponents and also supporters

Not every reaction come Wagner to be positive. For a time, German musical life split into two factions, supporters of Wagner and supporters of johannes Brahms; the latter, v the support of the an effective critic Eduard Hanslick (of who Beckmesser in Meistersinger is in part a caricature) championed timeless forms and led the conservative front against Wagnerian innovations. They were sustained by the conservative leanings of some German music schools, including the conservatories in ~ Leipzig under Ignaz Moscheles and at Cologne under the direction the Ferdinand Hiller. An additional Wagner detractor was the French composer Charles-Valentin Alkan, who wrote come Hiller ~ attending Wagner’s Paris concert top top 25 January 1860 at which Wagner carried out the overtures come Der fliegende Holländer and also Tannhäuser, the preludes to Lohengrin and also Tristan und Isolde, and six various other extracts native Tannhäuser and Lohengrin: “I had imagined that i was going to accomplish music of an innovative kind however was astonished to uncover a pale imitation the Berlioz… I carry out not favor all the music the Berlioz when appreciating his marvellous understanding of certain instrumental effects… but right here he was imitated and also caricatured… Wagner is not a musician, that is a disease.”

Even those who, prefer Debussy, opposed Wagner (“this old poisoner”) could no deny his influence. Indeed, Debussy to be one of numerous composers, including Tchaikovsky, that felt the need to break with Wagner precisely because his affect was so unmistakable and overwhelming. “Golliwogg’s Cakewalk” native Debussy’s Children’s edge piano suite consists of a on purpose tongue-in-cheek quotation from the opened bars of Tristan. Others who verified resistant to Wagner’s operas consisted of Gioachino Rossini, who said “Wagner has actually wonderful moments, and dreadful quarters of one hour.”  In the 20th century Wagner’s music was parodied through Paul Hindemith and Hanns Eisler, amongst others.

Wagner’s followers (known together Wagnerians or Wagnerites) have formed numerous societies specialized to Wagner’s life and also work.

Film and Stage Portrayals

Jonathan Harvey’s opera Wagner Dream (2007) intertwines the occasions surrounding Wagner’s fatality with the story the Wagner’s uncompleted opera overview Die Sieger (The Victors).

Bayreuth Festival

Since Wagner’s death, the Bayreuth Festival, which has become an yearly event, has been successively directed by his widow, his child Siegfried, the latter’s widow Winifred Wagner, their two sons Wieland and Wolfgang Wagner, and, presently, 2 of the composer’s great-granddaughters, Eva Wagner-Pasquier and Katharina Wagner. Because 1973, the festival has actually been overseen by the Richard-Wagner-Stiftung (Richard Wagner Foundation), the members of which include a number of Wagner’s descendants.


Wagner’s operas, writings, politics, beliefs and also unorthodox lifestyle made that a controversial figure throughout his lifetime.  Following his death, debate around his ideas and also their interpretation, specifically in Germany during the 20th century, has actually continued.

Racism and also Antisemitism

Wagner’s works on the Jews corresponded to part existing fads of believed in Germany throughout the 19th century; however, regardless of his really public views on these themes, transparent his life Wagner had Jewish friends, colleagues and supporters. There have been regular suggestions that antisemitic stereotypes are stood for in Wagner’s operas. The personalities of Mime in the Ring, Sixtus Beckmesser in die Meistersinger, and also Klingsor in Parsifal are sometimes claimed as Jewish representations, despite they room not identified as such in the librettos of this operas. The topic of Wagner and also the Jews is further facility by allegations, which may have been attributed by Wagner, that he self was of Jewish ancestry, via his an alleged father Geyer.

Some biographers have asserted the Wagner in his final years came to believe in the racialist philosophy of Arthur de Gobineau, notably Gobineau’s id that Western society was doomed due to the fact that of miscegenation between “superior” and also “inferior” races. Follow to Robert Gutman, this design template is reflected in the opera Parsifal. Various other biographers (such as Lucy Beckett) believe that this is not true, together the initial drafts of the story date ago to 1857 and Wagner had completed the libretto because that Parsifal through 1877; yet he shown no far-reaching interest in Gobineau until 1880.

Other Interpretations

Wagner’s concepts are amenable come socialist interpretations; many of his concepts on art were being formulated at the moment of his revolutionary inclinations in the 1840s. Thus, for example, George bernard Shaw wrote in The Perfect Wagnerite (1883):

snapshot of Niblunghome under the regime of Alberic is a poetic vision that unregulated industrial capitalism as it was made known in Germany in the center of the 19th century through Engels’s book “The problem of the Working class in England”.

Left-wing interpretations the Wagner additionally inform the writings of Theodor Adorno among other Wagner critics. Walter Benjamin offered Wagner as an example of “bourgeois false consciousness”, alienating arts from its society context.

The writer Robert Donington has created a detailed, if controversial, Jungian interpretation of the Ring cycle, explained as “an approach to Wagner by way of his symbols”, which, because that example, sees the personality of the goddess Fricka as component of she husband Wotan’s “inner femininity”. Millington notes that Jean-Jacques Nattiez has also applied psychoanalytical approaches in an testimonial of Wagner’s life and works.

Nazi Appropriation

Adolf Hitler to be an admirer of Wagner’s music and also saw in his operas an embodiment of his own vision of the German nation; in a 1922 speech he claimed that Wagner’s functions glorified “the heroic Teutonic nature … Greatness lies in the heroic.” Hitler saw Bayreuth typically from 1923 onwards and also attended the productions in ~ the theatre.  There continues to be debate about the degree to i beg your pardon Wagner’s views can have influenced Nazi thinking. Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855–1927), that married Wagner’s daughter Eva in 1908 yet never met Wagner, was the author of the racist publication The foundations of the Nineteenth Century, authorized by the Nazi movement. That met Hitler on a number of occasions in between 1923 and also 1927 in Bayreuth, but cannot credibly be regarded as a conduit of Wagner’s own views.  The Nazis offered those parts of Wagner’s thought that were advantageous for propaganda and also ignored or suppressed the rest.

While Bayreuth presented a beneficial front because that Nazi culture, and also Wagner’s music was used at numerous Nazi events, the Nazi pecking order as a entirety did not share Hitler’s enthusiasm because that Wagner’s operas and also resented attending these an extensive epics in ~ Hitler’s insistence.

Guido Fackler has researched evidence that indicates that it is feasible that Wagner’s music was provided at the Dachau concentration camp in 1933–34 come “reeducate” political prisoners by exposure to “national music”. There seems to be no proof to assistance claims, periodically made, that his music was played at Nazi fatality camps during the second World War.

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


Prose functions by Wagner






NameWagner, Richard
Alternative namesWilhelm Richard Wagner
Short descriptionGerman composer, conductor, and also essayist
Date that birth22 may 1813
Place of birthLeipzig, Germany
Date the death13 February 1883
Place the deathVenice