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Richard Wagner versus Personal Life Paper

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Research Paper Outline/Rough Draft
Topic: Richard Wagner versus Personal Life
Introduction
It is often said that one cannot separate the art from the artist, or in this case, separate the
personal life of Richard Wagner from his music. His legacy as a musician and composer
proves that very statement to run true. Due to much of Richard Wagner’s music being
inspired by his personality and personal life, it is evident that one cannot separate art
from the artist, since the art created comes from and within the artist itself.
Wagner’s Background
Wagner was a German composer born in Leipzig on May 22 in the year 1813. He was
born into a family of eight siblings, and he seemed to be the only one showcasing little
talent or interests in hobbies other than poetry. It is uncertain whether his father was
Friedrich Wagner, whom passed away after Richard was born, or whom he called his
stepfather, Ludwig Geyer. He was introduced to art by his stepfather and grew a great
deal of love for the theatre. His piano lessons began once enrolling into school in 1820
and thus at an early age he discovered his ability to play music pieces by ear. As his love
for music grew, so did his list of influences; among them the greatest being Mozart and
Beethoven. He admired Beethoven so much that he even wrote a piano transcription for
his 9th Symphony.
Becoming the Composer
Wagner has made his name well-known by presenting many inventions that
revolutionized Opera and music forever. He also did so by serving as music director in
many theaters. At the age of eighteen, he was studying music under German composer
and teacher, Theodore Weinlig in his hometown of Leipzig. By 1833, Wagner had
officially began his career as choral director and composer in Würzburg. It was then that
he also began composing his early works in imitation of German Romantic compositions.
In 1836, he married singer and actress Minna Planer (but ultimately remarried Franz
Liszt’s daughter Cosima in his later years). Additionally, he was the first director at
Russia’s Riga theatre. Soon, he would leave his mark on the nineteenth century that
would last to this day.
Wagner’s Famous Works
In terms of Wagner’s famous works, his early Operas included Die Feen (The
Fairies/1834) and Das Liebesverbot (The Ban on Love/1836), in which he composed and
wrote the libretto, calling this concept a Gesamtunkstwerk or “total work of art”. This
was a method he used a lot of combining German myths with the themes of love and
redemption.
Exile Years
Unfortunately, Wagner had fled Germany shortly after arriving in Dresden due to the
Revolution of 1848, the uprising on Germany’s monarchy. He left for Switzerland and
spent his time away for more than a decade. During this time, Wagner completed his fifth

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opera “Lohengrin”, which he wrote to Franz Liszt asking him to stage it in his absence
due to being exiled; and he did so in 1850. Wagner also worked on the Ring of the
Nibelung (the four-part and German language 18-hour cycle ‘music dramas’ as Wagner
preferred to call them due to his love for the theatre). This took 25 years to put together
and during this time Wagner also wrote his essay The Jew in Music, which negatively
singled out Jewish musicians within German society, sparking much controversy. It was
Wagner’s anti-semitic essay criticizing Jews and Jewish composers among German
society. Some viewed it as him being invested in German nationalism, while others
viewed it as a clear message regarding his personal opinions. There have since been
allegations that several of his operas included negative Jewish stereotypes, despite no
evidence of the characters being Jewish and how Wagner did have a number of Jewish
friends.
Last Years
Despite all of this, Wagner’s later years resulted in him gaining a profound interest in
Christianity. Unfortunately, he died during a visit to Venice, Italy of a heart attack on
February 13, 1883, passing away at 69 years old.
Even after his death, however, Wagner still received mixed feedback. This grew to the
extent of Wagner receiving Adolf Hitler and his family’s admiration from beyond the
grave for his compositions and Nationalistic messages in opera. It is known that Hitler
would play Wagner’s music at concentration camps in attempt to steer prisoners into a
Nationalistic support-view. However, although argued often by historians, there was no
special relationship between he and the Nazi Regime.
Influence After Death
Going back to Wagner’s Ring Cycle, its’ compilation of four separate operas were tied
together by leitmotifs (recurring musical themes that linked plot elements). It was ahead
of its time in the sense that it combined music, literature and visuals in such a way that it
anticipated the future of film. This is seen also in how many composers have since been
inspired by Wagner’s use of leitmotifs, like John Williams and modern film-scores from
Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter film series.
Conclusion
Richard Wagner had a particular mindset and way of presenting that in his art. Adolf
Hitler’s strive for Nationalism and love for Wagner’s music only brought more
controversy to his legacy. Although the thought of sharing the same taste in music as
Hitler in this regard, it also serves as a point to how indisputably impacting Wagner’s
works have been and still are. It is worth noting that unlike most other opera composers,
Wagner wrote both the music and libretto for every one of his stage works; introducing
principles and changing the course of music/other arts. It is also clear that although he
lived a conflicting life, he was a deep thinker and reflected that into his works the way
any true artist does with their art. In 2005, New York Times writer Anthony Tommasini
wrote of Wagner, “How did such sublime music come from such a warped man? Maybe
art really does have the power to ferret out the best in us.”

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Research Paper Outline/Rough Draft Topic: Richard Wagner versus Personal Life Introduction It is often said that one cannot separate the art from the artist, or in this case, separate the personal life of Richard Wagner from his music. His legacy as a musician and composer proves that very statement to run true. Due to much of Richard Wagner’s music being inspired by his personality and personal life, it is evident that one cannot separate art from the artist, since the art created comes from and within the artist itself. Wagner’s Background Wagner was a German composer born in Leipzig on May 22 in the year 1813. He was born into a family of eight siblings, and he seemed to be the only one showcasing little talent or interests in hobbies other than poetry. It is uncertain whether his father was Friedrich Wagner, whom passed away after Richard was born, or whom he called his stepfath ...
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