Sunday, May 22, 2022

May 22: Richard Wagner, German composer


Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was a German composer mainly known for his operas. Thanks to Bugs Bunny and others, when most people think of opera they think of large women with horned helmets: that's a parody of Wagner. Much of his work centers on German legends and folklore; the complexity of his music is exhibited in his Tristan und Isolde (about ill-fated lovers), sometimes considered the beginning of modern music. His other works include Tannhauser, about a knight and minstrel whose music violates the rules of courtly (Platonic) love; Lohengrin, about another knight, a mysterious one, who arrives in a boat drawn by a swan to save a damsel in distress; Parsifal, based on Wolfram von Eschenbach's 13th-century account of that knight's quest for the Holy Grail; and above all his four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelungs), a masterful blending of stories from Norse legendary sagas and the Nibelungenlied ("Song of the Nibelungs," the adventures of one Siegfried). Wagner's last years were turbulent, but his influence can be seen in many of the arts of the 20th century, including philosophy, literature, the visual arts, and theater. Wagner's most important stage works continue to be performed at a festival run by his descendants.


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