Born in 1813 in Leipzig, Germany, Richard (Wilhelm) Wagner was destine to work in the arts. His father died while Wagner was still an infant and his mother, an actress, remarried Ludwig Geyer, an actor, singer, author, portrait painter, and an old friend of her late husband (Henderson, 1923, 3). Wagner would go on to become one of the key figures in the development of the opera. Through his reform, Wagner was largely responsible for altering the course of the opera in the Nineteenth Century. But it was not only his operas that Wagner was known for. He was also an active figure in the changing 19th century German society.
Growing up in an artistic family, it seemed only right for Wagner to take up an instrument. And that is just what he did. Through his early years Wagner was schooled in the piano. Wagner was eight when his stepfather died and was sent away to school. While attending the Kreuzschule in Dresden, Wagner showed an affinity to poetry and at the age of eleven he decided to become a poet (Henderson, 1923, 4). During this time Wagner became fascinated by mythology, translated the first twelve books of the Odyssey and a speech of Romeo into "metrical German" (Henderson, 1923, 4). However, his love for the piano was never far from his mind.
Henderson states that the best way to understand Wagner is to divide his career into four phases, "The early works, which are not heard except in one or two places, may be left out of consideration. We may then classify "Rienzi" as the production of the first period. "Der Fliegende Holländer" should stand in a period by itself, as representing the purely embryonic epoch of the true Wagner, while "Tannhäuser" and "Lohengrin" may pr...
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...; I probably could have added information about Wagner's methods of "chromatic harmony and frequent modulation." But I really don't have an idea as to what any of that means. I just know his music had changed the image of the opera and other arts and it changes the way I feel inside. Whether I know what they are saying or not.
Henderson, W. J. 1923. Richard Wagner, his life and his dramas: a biographical study of the man and an explanation of his work. 2nd ed . New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons.
Weiner, Marc A. 1995. Richard Wagner and the anti-Semitic imagination . Lincoln: University of Nebraska.
Amaral, Jose A. 2003. Richard Wagner homepage [online]. 2000. [cited 25 June 2003].
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