Who Was Richard Wagner? What Is the Most Famous Work of Richard Wagner?
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was born on May 22, 1813, in Leipzig, Germany, and went on to become one of the world’s most influential—and controversial—composers. One of the most important figures in the history of Western music, his influence on opera was enormous.
In his “music dramas”, as he liked to call them, the orchestra became as important as the singers, and as a composer, he made tremendous demands on both. The subject of his operas was Germanic myth.
He is famous for both his epic operas, including the four-part, 18-hour Ring Cycle, as well as for his anti-semitic writings, which, posthumously, made him a favorite of Adolf Hitler, only making Wagner’s legacy more controversial. There is evidence that Wagner’s music was played at the Dachau concentration camp to “re-educate” the prisoners.
Richard Wagner’s major works included his most popular operas, The Flying Dutchman (1843), Tannhäuser (1845), Lohengrin (1850), Tristan und Isolde (1865), Parsifal (1882), and his great tetralogy, The Ring of the Nibelung (1869–76).
The first two operas of The Ring Cycle, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, were presented in Munich in 1869 and 1870. The Ring Cycle was finally performed in its entirely—all 18 hours—in 1876. Wagner died of a heart attack on February 13, 1883, at age 69, while vacationing in Venice, Italy for the winter. His body was shipped by gondola and train back to Bayreuth, where he was buried.