Wagner Quick Facts:
- Wrote the worlds longest opera,The Ring Cycle, which lasts over 18 hours.
- Wagner has been described as a ruthless, racist, selfish, arrogant, frightening, and amoral man. To say the least, a bad egg.
- Besides himself, Wagner was passionate about Beethoven and his music.
- Wagner could barely play the piano, let alone any instrument, and was an "indifferent score reader".
Wagner's Family Background:
Wagner's real father is somewhat a mystery. Some believe that his real father was a police actuary named Carl Friedrich Wagner. Six months after Wagner was born, his legal father died. Later his mother, Johanna, married actor Ludwig Geyer, who also may have been his biological father.
Wagner's parents moved to Dresden, where Ludwig could begin work at the Hoftheater. On December 22, 1822 Wagner began schooling at the Kreuzschule. In 1828, Wagner moved back to Leipzig with his family and attended Nicolaischule. His interest in music was made evident by the low grades in his other studies. He studied harmony with a local musician, and in 1831 he studied music at Leipzig University. That October, he briefly studied with the Kantor of the Thomaskirche, Christian Theodor Weinlig.
Many of Wagner's talents were self-taught. At the age of 15 he decided to become a composer. Wagner's passion for Beethoven was made clear in his first compositions. Between 1830 and 1831, he transcribed Beethoven's 9th Symphony for the piano. Afterwards, he wrote keyboard and orchestral works in a Beethovenian style. Before turing 20, Wagner started to write Die Hochziet, but never finished it.
Early Adult Years:
In 1834, Wagner became a musical director in a company in Magdeburg. There he met actress, Minna Planer, and in November of 1836, they married. During his time in Magdeburg, Wagner built up great debts. He relied on his opera Das Liebesverbot to bring him huge success and a large paycheck. The opera was a failure. Wagner and Minna moved to Königsberg. Wagner, again, built up his debts, and in a similar pattern, they moved to Riga, and then Paris to escape their creditors.
Mid Adult Years:
While in Paris, Wagner gave Meyerbeer his opera, Rienzi. One year later in 1840, Wagner recieved the good news that his opera was accepted by the Dresden Opera. On October 20, 1842, his opera was performed. It was a huge success. Wagner had skyrocketed into musical fame. The Dresden Opera secured the rights to his other opera Der fliegende Holländer, which wasn't as successful. However, they appointed Wagner as second Kapellmeister. He was very musically active while in Dresden until 1849.
Late Adult Years:
Finally in 1854, Wagner reconciled his debts (10,000F). Wagner's later years house the creations of such masterful works such as the Ring Cycle and Tristan und Isolde. His musicality blossomed along with his fame and a steady cash flow (although he never managed to stay out of debt). In 1883, Wagner died of a heart attack in Venice. A private burial was held in the grounds of Wahnfrie in the city of Bayreuth.
Selected Works by Wagner:
- Rienzi - 1838-40
- Der fliegende Holländer - 1841
- Tannhäuser - 1845
- Lohengrin - 1848
- Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring Cycle) - 1854-78
- Das Rheingold - 1854
- Die Walküre - 1856
- Siegfried - 1869
- Götterdämmerung - 1878
- Tristan und Isolde - 1859
- Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg - 1868
- Parsifal - 1882