Wagner: Germany's Top Romantic

Understanding Wagner

Born in 1813, Richard Wagner has become modern Germany’s most iconic composer. His music, which is best understood in its simple message of national glory and destiny, contributed greatly to the feeling of pan-Germanism that united Germany under the Prussian crown in 1871. However, his overtly nationalistic themes and blatant anti-Semitism also makes his music a bit controversial as it's also connected to the Nazi movement and Adolf Hitler; Hitler adored Wagner and saw him as the embodiment of his own vision for the German people. Wagner’s focus on the cult of the leader and the glories of victory are prevalent in his works Lohengrin and Parsifal. Some of his most famous compositions are the four-opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung (aka Ring Cycle), Parsifal, and Lohengrin.

Wagner Today

In 1871 Wagner moved to the city of Bayreuth and began construction of the Festspielhaus, an opera house that would only perform Wagner's operas. The performance space opened its doors in 1876 with a production of Das Rheingold and the first full performance of the four-part Ring Cycle. The Festspielhaus continues to showcase Wagner's works during the annual Bayreuther Festspiel, a pilgrimage site for die-hard Wagner fans. The waiting list for tickets is years long; it's almost impossible for mere mortals to gain entrance to the holy temple. However, almost all German opera and symphony companies perform Wagner's works throughout the year. The best places to see Wagner's longer works are at Berlin's State Opera; the National Theater in Weimar; the Gewandhaus Orchestra and Opera in Leipzig; and Munich's Bavarian State Opera.

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