Name at birth: Wilhelm Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner is the 19th century German composer and poet famous for taking opera to new dramatic heights in such works as Der Fliegende Holländer (1841) and Der Ring des Nibelungen (1876). Richard Wagner began his career as a music director, and by the 1840s was gaining recognition for his musical compositions and operas. During the 1850s he lived in exile in Zürich, unwelcome in Germany because of his associations with revolutionaries in Dresden. Although he was composing what would become some of the most famous pieces in music history, Wagner struggled financially until the 1860s, when Ludwig II of Bavaria began supporting him. In 1871 Wagner settled in Bayreuth, Germany and founded a theater. A critical success, he was nonetheless forced to travel as a guest conductor and raise funds for his theater. A key figure in classical music, Richard Wagner is known for his powerful dramatic operas based on medieval legends and for his influential writings on music and drama. He is also a controversial figure because of his hostile, anti-semitic writings and because some of his music and dramatic themes were appropriated by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis during World War II. His musical works include Tristan and Isolde (1857-59), Siegfried Idyll (1870) and Parsifal (1878-82).
Richard Wagner’s second wife, Cosima, was the daughter of Hungarian composer Franz Liszt… Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Nibelung’s Ring) is a fifteen-hour cycle made up of Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold), Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), Siegfried and Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods).