image of composer Richard Wagner Image:Bayreuth and Wagner Operas
RICHARD WAGNER: Born Leipzig 22 May 1813Died Venice 13 February 1883
Richard Wagner is perhaps the most controversial composer who ever lived. And, without doubt, one of the greatest. He believed it was his destiny to create the "Work of Art of the Future". This he would achieve by uniting the most inexhaustibly expressive art with what he thought to be the most perfect: music with drama. Thus, he would be composer-poet/dramatist, and in the process create the music of the future as well.

He developed musical ideas that defied the conventions of his day. But he was no radical iconoclast either - he loved Weber, revered Mozart and Gluck, and worshipped Beethoven whom he believed brought great expressive power to orchestral music. He would take 19th century music to new heights, freeing it from the restraints of the 18th century. Thus, in dispensing with the then characteristic patterns of musical ornamentation, he introduced the extensive use of the leitmotif (or leading motive) - a musical theme associated with a character, an event, a thought, or an object. And in lieu of discrete musical parts, he developed the concept of continuous musical flow.

It was his life ambition to create a "Gesamtkunstwerk" (literally a total work of art) that unites all art forms - music, poetry, dance, painting, drama - into one great artwork.The vehicle he used was opera. But he took it a step further. Through the interweaving of dramatic poetry with leitmotifs and continuous unending melody, he transformed opera into his music-drama: long, bigger-than-life, epical, the poetry sung against a most complex orchestration that created "sound-pictures", defining the moods and colors as effectively as the sets of the story being enacted on stage. Oddly, Wagner's music of the future invariably dramatized either Christian tales of the Middle Ages or the stories of ancient mythology - the lives and loves of its gods and goddesses, its heroes and heroines, its villains. Perhaps it is because as a dramatist steeped in the traditions of Shakespeare and Greek tragedy, he saw these ancient stories which told timeless truths not as tales of fantasy but as fitting allegories of the human condition.
- © GCajipe / FanFaire

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