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Richard Wagner was born in Leipzig, Germany, on May 22, 1813. His work was done throughout the romantic period. His father died soon after his birth, and in 1814 the family moved to Dresden. In 1822 Wagner entered Dresden's Kreuzschule. In 1828 he enrolled at the Nicolaischule in Leipzig, where he began lessons in harmony with the conductor named Christian Gottlieb Müller. Over the next three years he composed several piano sonatas, overtures, and seven songs. Inspired by the works of Beethoven, Mozart, and Weber and Shakespeare, Goethe, and Schiller, he taught himself piano and composition. He entered the University of Leipzig. There he lived wildly but he seriously paid attention to composition. His 'Symphony in C' was performed in Prague in 1832 and the following year it was played in Leipzig.
The next six years he spent as a conductor at low class local theaters. In 1836 he married the actress Minna Planer, and in 1839, they left for Paris. Living with poor German artists, Wagner wrote musical journalism and did cut work. But in 1840 he completed “Rienzi”, his first major opera. It was successfully produced at Dresden in 1842 and resulted in his slot as musical director of the Saxon court. Here “The Flying Dutchman” was produced in 1843, and “Tannhäuser” was completed in 1845. These operas were much criticized, because they lacked the melodies of the popular operas.
Wagner took part in the German political revolt of 1848-1849 and was forced to leave the country. For about ten years he lived in Zürich, Switzerland. In 1864 King Ludwig II of Bavaria invited him to continue his musical work in Munich. During the years in Munich, he completed “The Ring of the Nibelung” which was a series of operas based on old German myths that he had begun in Zürich. The opera house in Munich was too small for these great operas. Wagner suggested that a theater be built from his own designs. The king approved the project, and the outcome was the famous Wagnerian Festival Theater in Bayreuth, Bavaria.
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Wagner's first wife had died in 1866, and in 1870 he married Cosima von Bülow, the daughter of Liszt. She had been the wife of Wagner's close friend and colleague, Hans von Bülow, but she deserted him for Wagner. In 1879 Wagner's health began to fail, and he spent the winters in Venice. There he died in 1883, and his body was taken to Bayreuth for burial.