Last Updated 07 Apr 2020

Master of German Opera – Richard Wagner

Category Opera
Essay type Research
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Richard Wagner is the master of German opera. He molded opera according to his own creative definition with revolutionary zeal (Richard Wagner Biography, Arizona Opera). Adolph Hitler and his Nazi party enjoyed many of Wagner's works; this negative publicity has caused people hate Wagner and his music. Today Wagner is accepted, but his music is still outlawed in Israel. The youngest of nine children, Wagner was born in Leipzig, Germany to a blue-collar family, on May 22, 1813.

His father, Friedrich Wagner, a police clerk, died when Richard was only six months old. His mother soon remarried to an actor and playwright named Ludwig Geyer and the family moved to Dresden. Some historians believe that Geyer was Richard's actual biological father; there is evidence that shows that Wagner may have believed this too. Egocentric from childhood, Wagner loved literature. He was especially fascinated by the works of Shakespeare. With his head always in the books, he tried writing tragedies but that never came to anything.

He also began piano lessons, but unlike many other well-known composers, he never became skilled on this or any other instrument. Through his teens composing attracted him. In 1829, at age sixteen, he wrote his first compositions, which were not received well by the public. Then he took six months of formal training Theodor Weinlig, cantor of the Thomasschule, in 1831. Those studies resulted in the composition of a Wagner symphony, which was well received in Leipzig and Prague. He began work on an opera, Die Hochzeit, and tossed it aside unfinished.

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After that he completed Die Feen, but it was not performed until five years after his death. At 20, he began keeping journals in hopes of writing an autobiography in the future. He got a job as the chorus master for the Wurzburg Theatre when he was only 20 years old. He also started to write operas. In 1836, he got married to the actress, Minna Planner, this marriage was to last only until 1862. He was very unhappy with Minna, and regretted this marriage almost as soon as it came to be. In 1837, he and his wife escaped creditors to Paris.

Wagner struggled to establish himself in Paris. Most of the time they were living on the verge of starvation; he was arrested and imprisoned on a few different occasions due to his debts. Producers rejected his preliminary ketches of the operas La Rienzi and Das Liebesverbot. Wagner stopped writing all together because of the embarrassment of being rejected. Then Wagner had a new idea and started work on The Flying Dutchman, even though he was impoverished and unknown he felt victorious at its completion in 1841. La Rienzi opened in Dresden in 1842 to enormous success.

A success followed the next year for The Wagner became Kapellmeister of the Dresden opera and had financial security at last. However, he continued his poor money management, accumulating impossible debts. Within the five years that followed, he had completed Tannhauser, and Lohengrin. However, Lohengrin, which he considered his greatest effort to date, was rejected by Dresden opera and, in anger, Wagner helped to start a revolution. He wrote letters to Dresden rioters who were creating a growing rebellion in the state of Saxony.

In 1849, when the revolution failed, Wagner was exiled, and forced to flee to Switzerland. In Zurich, 1851, he completed his furiously anti Semitic Jewishness in Music. During his thirteen-year exile, he concentrated on writing essays, which told his theories on musical drama. He also began work on his giant creation, a cycle of four musical dramas titled Der Ring es Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelungs). This cycle was made up of these four dramas Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried and Die Gotterdammerung .

Der Ring des Nibelungen took 22 years to complete, and stands as one of the most remarkable and extremely influential achievements in music. During the many years of Wagner's exile, Lohengrin was presented in Weimar and was received slowly just as Tannhauser had been. However, in the decade that followed, German audiences loved both operas. In fact, at the time his exile ended in 1860, Wagner was one of the few Germans who had never seen a performance of Lohengrin. During the long period of work on The Ring of the Nibelungs, Wagner's life went through some major changes.

He wrote, maybe, his most popular opera, Tristan und Isolde in 1859, and another major work, Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg in 1867. In 1864, the King of Bavaria, Ludwig II, brought Richard to Munich to provide financial support. There Wagner fell deeply in love with a daughter of Franz Liszt, Cosima von Bulow, who was married at the time to one of Wagner's associates. Eventually they got married. They began a project that would prove Wagner's biggest legacy to future generations (Richard Wagner, classicalmus. m), the building of an opera house that was devoted to only Wagner's works.

Set in the Bavarian town Bayreuth, the Festspielhaus was the location for the first complete performance of the Ring cycle, in 1876. This was probably Wagner's biggest achievement, to have his greatest work performed in his own opera house. I don't personally listen to classic music; I don't enjoy a whole lot. I did, though, like Wagner's music. I didn't think that I would but I did. My favorite song was Lohengrin because it moves from very calm and quiet to very exciting and loud throughout the whole piece.

Wagner has been classified politically as an anarchist and socialist, and simultaneously, a fascist, nationalist, and anti-Semite. His name has been connected to almost all the major trends in German history of the 19th and 20th centuries (Richard Wagner, Bena. com). Some people don't like him or his music just because some of the ideas that has been associated with his name. People need to look past the controversy and just listen to his music, and until people can do this, his wonderful music will never be fully enjoyed.

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