(1813 - 1883).  No other composer in history has so utterly transformed a musical genre as Wagner transformed opera.  Unlike most opera composers who utilized a collaborator's poetry, he chose to write his own.  His central achievement was a complete reform of opera through his creation of the 4-opera cycle "Der Ring des Nibelungen".  In the "Ring" he made drama, singing, the orchestra, and stagecraft as important as the music.  No existing theater could properly host such a spectacle, so he built the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth for this express purpose.

Wagner's operatic treatment of "Tristan und Isolde" is the greatest love story ever staged.  In it, his use of continuous chromatic melody without harmonic resolution signaled the break-up of a tonal gravity that dominated western classical music for nearly 200 years.  He followed Tristan with "Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg", the finest operatic comedy since Mozart.

"Lohengrin", "Tannhauser", and "The Flying Dutchman" were operas of his early maturity, and his final opera "Parsifal" intentionally blurred the lines between art and religion.
This biography was most recently edited by...
steven - 8 Feb 2010
steven - 24 Sep 2009