Wagner, Richard (1813–1883)
H. James Birx
On May 22, 1813, Wilhelm Richard Wagner was born in Leipzig, Germany. He was destined to become both a supreme composer and accomplished conductor, as well as one of the towering geniuses of all time. As a child, he was especially interested in writing and the theater. Later, however, three memorable productions permanently determined his interest in music: Weber's romantic opera Der Freischütz , Beethoven's only opera Fidelio , and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (particularly the choral fourth movement). Wagner's artistic creativity was greatly influenced by Shakespeare and Beethoven. He admired Shakespeare's dramatic tragedies with their psychological orientation, and recognized Beethoven as both the master of the symphony and the founder of romantic music. Thus, by the age of 17, those elements that were to pervade his own works had already become established in his mind: music, poetry, drama, and romanticism with its emphasis on love and freedom. While advocating political ...