Today, May 22th, is the 201 anniversary of the birth of Richard Wagner!
Richard Wagner is a giant of the opera he was the most important figure of the history of music in the XIX century.
He was a musicla genius, his operas (music dramas) are one of a kind.
His greatest masterpiece is of course… “The Ring Cycle”.
Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”), by which he sought to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama, and which was announced in a series of essays between 1849 and 1852.
Wagner had a big influence in literature and philosophy.
Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Verlaine and Rainer Maria Rilke worshipped Wagner.
In the 20th century, W. H. Auden once called Wagner “perhaps the greatest genius that ever lived”, while Thomas Mann and Marcel Proust were heavily influenced by him and discussed Wagner in their novels.
He is also discussed in some of the works of James Joyce.
Wagnerian themes inhabit T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, which contains lines from Tristan und Isolde and Götterdämmerung and Verlaine’s poem on Parsifal.
Wagner inspired great devotion. For a long period, many composers were inclined to align themselves with or against Wagner’s music.
Anton Bruckner and Hugo Wolf were greatly indebted to him, as were César Franck, Henri Duparc, Ernest Chausson, Jules Massenet, Richard Strauss, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Hans Pfitzner and numerous others.
Gustav Mahler was devoted to Wagner and his music; aged 15, he sought him out on his 1875 visit to Vienna, became a renowned Wagner conductor, and his compositions are seen by Richard Taruskin as extending Wagner’s “maximalization” of “the temporal and the sonorous” in music to the world of the symphony.
The harmonic revolutions of Claude Debussy and Arnold Schoenberg (both of whose oeuvres contain examples of tonal and atonal modernism) have often been traced back to Tristan and Parsifal.
The Italian form of operatic realism known as verismo owed much to the Wagnerian concept of musical form.
Wagner made a major contribution to the principles and practice of conducting.
His essay “About Conducting” (1869) advanced Hector Berlioz’s technique of conducting and claimed that conducting was a means by which a musical work could be re-interpreted, rather than simply a mechanism for achieving orchestral unison. He exemplified this approach in his own conducting, which was significantly more flexible than the disciplined approach of Mendelssohn; in his view this also justified practices that would today be frowned upon, such as the rewriting of scores.
Wilhelm Furtwängler felt that Wagner and Bülow, through their interpretative approach, inspired a whole new generation of conductors (including Furtwängler himself).