Richard Wagner – A Great German Composer

I as both an opera fanatic and author of the book “New York’s Opera Society” naturally am an ardent admirer of Wagner. It being this man who in the 19th century revolutionized not only opera but music through his works which included masterpieces the likes of “Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), “Tristan And Isolde”, “The Flying Dutchman”, “The Meister Singer From Nuremburg”, “Lohengrin”, “Tannh�user” and “Parsifal”. Wagner’s influence however to a large extent took opera beyond what it had been up till his time; as he expanded it from merely putting poetry in to music to creating what could be hailed as “musical dramas”.

Regarding Wagner, the composer he for the most part like his contemporary; Verdi (also born in 1813) limited himself to writing operas however Wagner unlike Verdi wrote his own librettos. This that which set him apart from many others; as Wagner was able to truly create an entire opera on his own in what he; himself dubbed “total art”.

Wagner apart from music led a very interesting life; which is the real reason for my decision to write a book about him. Wagner being one who perhaps was not a man who many would ever refer to as a saint. This given his habit of running in to debt and almost always escaping his creditors, whom he tended not to pay. It was in fact often that the sponsors of his operas would bail him out; thus preventing his going to debtors prison.

Wagner’s political views were also something which managed to get him in trouble, specifically after supporting a failed revolution in Dresden. This being what led to his fleeing to Zurich; in order to prevent himself from going to prison as was the case with R�ckel and Bakunin, who were amongst the organizers of the revolution.

Regarding Wagner’s romantic life; it for the most part was occupied by two women, both of whom he wed. The first of which being the one he would divorce after a union which would not produce much in the way of happiness. Wagner however would go on to remarry; a woman by the name of Cosima, who apart from being the daughter of Hungarian pianist Liszt would be the one to provide him with joy as well as three children.

All of which born before the couple officially married, this given the fact that both were already in relationships that included marital ties at the time. Cosima’s being with Hans von B�low, (piano virtuoso, teacher and orchestral conductor) while Wagner’s with German actress Minna Planer. Regarding their progeny it was the names of Isolde, Eva and Siegfried which were given to them.

It can be said that Wagner in many ways was “new age” as his music for its time was considered very loud (a factor mentioned in Oscar Wilde’s book “Picture Of Dorian Grey”), perhaps even more so than heavy metal was in the late 70’s yet it was also in his personal habits that he was such. This the case since he was a vegetarian, who historians believe to have influenced Hitler in following his example of the same.

Many in Wagner’s time; as they still do today regarded the maestro as a megalomaniac; them referring to his need to make everything bombastic, such as his operas, most of which extended close to if not over four hours in length along with the opera house he had constructed in the Bavarian town of Bayreuth. This being a place which in present day dedicates itself to the exclusive performance of Wagner’s operas.

As for Wagner’s influence on me, I can in earnest state that it is his music and its use of heavy brass and percussion that provides me with a lot of the passion; many have claimed to find in my work. This being more so the case in the winter months in which I require more energy; simply so I might make it through the day as well as my written works.

Wagner like most greats had his rival; one who could also create grand works to motivate him to deliver his best. In Wagner’s case this individual was undoubtedly Verdi; who even admitted after Wagner’s death how he had been influenced by the German maestro’s music.


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