Richard Wagner was born in Brühl, near Leipzig in Germany on 22 May 1813. His father died of typhus when he was only six months old and his mother subsequently remarried and they moved to Dresden. Sadly, his step-father died when he was eight years old, and they moved back to Leipzig where he received his first formal musical training. He later studied music at the University of Leipzig.  From an early age he had been hooked on theatre and he harboured a desire to follow this career path. It was probably not surprising therefore that he became an opera composer, known especially for his rich harmonies, and unusually for an opera composer, he was his own librettist. He is also credited with being the first to face the orchestra while conducting.
His best known works are The Flying Dutchman, Tannhäuser, Der Ring des Nibelungen and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. He also (with financial support from King Ludwig II) had his own opera house built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which has been a Mecca for opera lovers ever since.

In his personal life Wagner had his problems: his personality, money shortage, outspoken views on music - his political views almost cost him his life. He died on 13 February 1883, leaving the world, in musical terms, a much richer place.

Liebesverbot and Tannhäuser (Richard Wagner 1813-1883)

Liebesverbot is a comic opera in two acts based on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. It was set in Palermo in Sicily in the 16th Century, and is rarely played nowadays – indeed it had an ignominious start. Under-rehearsed, the first performance was a shambles and only a handful of people turned up for the second night.

The story line is based on the banning of promiscuity during a carnival, and Claudio is sentenced to death when his beloved Julia falls pregnant. The people later freed Claudio, but these indiscretions of youth came to haunt Wagner and he later renounced such free love.

In the opera Tannhäuser, he (Tannhäuser) has sold his soul to live in sin with the goddess of love, but his conscience is troubling him. Venus tries to talk him out of going back to the mortal side, but eventually she gives up and tells him to sling his hook. Tannhäuser is well received by his contemporaries (and especially by his first love, Elizabeth) until he lets slip where he has been. As far as their beliefs are concerned, he is doomed to the devil’s flames. Tannhäuser however holds on his own belief that eternal salvation is there for all who genuinely repent. He was on the verge of returning to the goddess and accepting eternal damnation, when Elizabeth’s prayers for his soul were answered.

Rienzi (Richard Wagner)
Rienzi Is an early opera by Wagner written between 1838-40. It was premiered in Dresden in October 1842, and was his first success.
The opera is set in Rome and is based on the life of Cola di Rienzi (1313–1354), a populist figure who succeeds in outwitting and then defeating the nobles and their followers, thus raising the power of the people. Magnanimous at first, he is forced by events to crush the nobles' rebellion against the people's power, but popular opinion changes and even the Church, which had urged him to assert himself, turns against him. In the end the populace burn the Capitol, in which Rienzi and a few adherents have made a last stand.