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Happy Birthday Richard Wagner!

Richard Wagner was born on this day in 1813

Happy Birthday Wagner!

Today is the birthday of one of opera’s heavyweights, the German composer Richard Wagner.

Wagner was born on 22nd May 1813 in Leipzig. He was the youngest of 9 children. His father died of typhus just 6 months after Wagner’s birth, and his mother went on to live with an actor named Ludwig Geyer.

Until the age of 14, Wagner was actually known as Wilhelm Richard Geyer – he almost certainly thought that Geyer was his biological father. It was due to Geyer that Wagner first developed a love of theatre. At around age 7 he began piano lessons but struggled to play a scale, and preferred, instead, to play overtures by ear. In January 1828 he first heard Beethoven’s 7th and 9th Symphonies.

Beethoven became a major inspiration for the young Wagner. Over the next few years he held positions as Musical Director of various opera houses throughout Germany. His life was plagued by debt, and he moved first to London and then Paris to try and start afresh.

After 1849 Wagner spent a considerable time in exile from his native Germany after being involved in some political uprisings. His exile was lifted in 1862 and he returned home. He struck up an illicit relationship with the daughter of fellow composer Franz Liszt, Cosima. The affair scandalised Germany’s high society, but the couple later married in 1870 after Cosima was granted a divorce from her estranged husband.

Wagner died on 13th February 1883 in Venice. His body was taken to Germany where he was buried. He is credited as having composed a total of 113 works throughout his lifetime. His most famous piece of music is probably “Ride of the Valkyries” which was composed in 1851 and taken from the opera “The Valkyrie”.

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