Born in Leipzig, Germany on May 22, 1813, Richard Wagner went on to become one of the world’s most influential—and controversial—composers.
Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. His compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex textures, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs.
His compositions include: Die Feen, Das Liebesverbot, Rienzi; Der fliegende Holländer; Tannhäuser, Lohengrin; The Ring of the Nibelung (Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegried, Götterdämmerung); Tristan und Isolde; Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Parsifal.
He had his own opera house built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which embodied many novel design features. It was here that the Ring of the Nibelung and Parsifal received their premieres and where his most important stage works continue to be performed in an annual festival run by his descendants.
Until his final years, Wagner’s life was characterised by political exile, turbulent love affairs, poverty and repeated flight from his creditors. His controversial writings on music, drama and politics have attracted extensive comment in recent decades, especially where they express antisemitic sentiments. The effect of his ideas can be traced in many of the arts throughout the 20th century; their influence spread beyond composition into conducting, philosophy, literature, the visual arts and theatre
He died of a heart attack in Venice on February 13, 1883.