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A preview of our collection of performances featuring the works of Richard Wagner, one of the foremost figures of Western classical music.

About Wagner

Where does one even start tracing the impact German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor Richard Wagner (1813 - 1883) had on the Western musical canon - and beyond? His impact extends far beyond the stage, and his legacy is a thorny, albeit fascinating one, remaining a captivating subject that stimulates ongoing discussion and contemplation.

Born in Leipzig, Wagner lived through a childhood marked by instability and financial hardship. The ninth child of Carl Friedrich Wagner, a police clerk, and Johanna Rosine Wagner, his early years were disorderly, thanks to the death of his father when he was an infant, which plunged the family into misery, and his mother's following marriage to a traveling actor, which caused the family to move often. The young Wagner found comfort in music, beginning piano lessons at the age of six and starting to compose his works at the tender age of nine. His sights were set then and there.

After studying music and composition in Leipzig, Wagner worked tirelessly as a conductor and composer in various theaters across the country. Undeterred by the lackluster reception of his first opera, 1833's 'Die Feen', Wagner was relentless in his pursuits of becoming a successful composer, and, in the mid 19th century, his luck finally started to change. Operas such as 'Rienzi' and 'Der fliegende Holländer' started capturing concert-goers' attention thanks to his innovative approach to opera and storytelling.

Monumental works, the kind that fully put Wagner's gargantuan ambitions on display, such as 'Der Ring des Nibelungen', 'Tristan und Isolde', and 'Die Walküre' followed suite. Featuring sprawling storylines and grand musical and dramatic structures, These masterpieces solidified Wagner's reputation as a transformative figure in the opera genre.

Still, Wagner was not widely beloved; friend turned rival German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche famously called him 'a great corrupter of youth', expressing disappointment towards Wagner's extremely nefarious views. Wagner was infamously profoundly anti-Semitic, and the views expressed on writings of his such as 'Das Judenthum in der Music (Judaism in Music)' were used to serve the Nazi agenda decades later.

Ever the tumultuous figure, Wagner's life was characterized until the end by political exile, chaotic love affairs, poverty, repeated flight from his creditors, and, towards its latter part, amounting health problems. Still, the composer worked on his final opera, 'Parsifal', up until he died of a heart attack in 1883. The influence has far outlived the man and can be found in conducting, philosophy, literature, the visual arts, theater, and more.

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