Wilhelm Richard Wagner : biography
Mysticism and ideological anti-Semitism as important features of Wagner’s creativity gave much influence on German nationalism in 20th century and later on National Socialism that would make a cult of his creations. After Second World War that fact caused anti-wagner reaction in some countries, especially in Israel.
Wagner was born in family of an official, Carl Fridrich Wagner (1770-1813). Under the influence of his stepfather, actor Ludwig Geyer, he took musical lessons while studying at Saint Thomas Leipzig school, that was in 1828. His musical teacher was Theodor Wailing, a cantor from Saint Thomas church. In 1831 Wagner continued his musical education at Leipzig University. Since 1833 till 1842 his life was restless, from time to time he became hard up. He lived in Wurzburg where he worked as a chorus leader in a theatre, later he moved to Magdeburg, Konigsberg and then to Riga where he worked as a bandmaster in musical theatres. Later he moved for Norway, London and Paris where he wrote his overture “Faust” and opera “Flying Dutchman”. In 1842 his opera “Rienzi, the last tribune” was received with triumph and made a start for his popularity. In a year he became a court bandmaster at Saxon royal court. In 1843 his stepsister’s Cicilia son was born, Richard by name, he would be known as philosopher Richard Avenarius. Wagner became his godfather. In 1849 Wagner took part in Drezden May uprising where he got acquainted with Bakunin, later as the uprising sustained a defeat he escaped to Zurich where he wrote libretto for cycle “The Ring of the Nibelung” and music for its previous two parts (“The Valkyrie” and “Rhine gold”) and then opera “Tristan and Isolde”. In 1858 Wagner visited Venice, Luzerne, Vienna, Paris and Berlin but for quiet a short time.
In 1864 he managed to earn Ludwig II’s favour, the Bavarian king who paid for his debts and supported him, with his help Wagner moved to Munich where he wrote a comic opera “ The Mastersingers of Nuremberg” and two finishing parts for “The Ring of the Nibelung”: “Zigfrid” and “The death of Gods”. In 1872 in Bayreuth was started laying the bed plate for the building of the Festival House which would open in 1876. That would be that very place where the premiere of tetrology “The Ring of the Nibelung” take place, on 13-17th of August in 1876. In 1882 in Bayreuth Wagner’s mystery opera “Parsifal” was put on the stage. In that very year Wagner left for Venice because of his health troubles. He died there in 1883 because of the heart attack.
Wagner supposed his creativity as a synthesis and means of expressing a certain philosophic conception much more than other European composers of XIX century. The essence of conception is expressed in one of Wagner’s aphorism from the article “Artistic production of the future“: “Just the same as a human being will not be free until he accepts happily the bonds connecting with Nature, Art will not become free until it loses the grounds of its shame to be connected with life.”. There are two basic ideas springing from that conception: art must be created by community of people and belong to that community; the greatest form of art is a musical drama as an organic mixture of word and sound. The realization of the first idea became Bayreuth where the opera theatre was firstly called a temple of art instead of a house of entertainment. The realization of the second idea became the new musical form created by Wagner – musical drama. It was that form that became the aim of Wagner’s creativity. The separate elements of the form were firstly put into practice in composer’s early operas of forties: “The flying Dutchman”, “Tangeiser” and “Loengrin”. The fullest explanation for the musical form was given in Wagner’s articles of Swiss period: “Opera and drama”, “Art and revolution”, “Music and drama” and “Art production of the future”). And the fullest practical realization was shown in operas: “Tristan and Isolde”, circle “The Ring of the Nibelung” and mystery “Parsifal”.
As Wagner supposed that, the musical drama was a piece of art fulfilling the idea of synthesis of arts (music and drama), an expression of programming in opera. In order to fulfill the idea Wagner refused to use traditional forms of opera especially the French and Italian ones. The fist one he criticized for excessiveness and the latter for luxuriance. He pounced with violent criticism upon the greatest composers of classical operas (Rossini, Meyerbeer, Verdi and Ober) calling their music “sugar boredom”.