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Famous Composers: Richard Wagner [DVD]

Notes & Reviews:

This informative program is a concise overview of the composer Richard Wagner's life and times, filmed on location in the cities and places that influenced their works. Also included in a detailed list of each composer's most significant musical compositions.

Wagner is considered one of the greatest of the late 19th century operatic composers. Using German legends and myths as a basis for his librettos, he combined impassioned, romantic music with drama to create works of stunning theatricality. He pioneered a new synthesis of music, verse, and staging - what he called a Gesamtkunstwerk.

One prolific period of his career is highlighted by Der Fliegrnde Hollander and Tannhauser which he had performed in Dresden.

This period of success ended when his participation in revolutionary political activities forced him to flee to Switzerland. His exile from Germany marked the start of a new period during which he also wrote several treatises on the nature of opera. The Ring, one of his purest theatrical dramas, took shape during this time.

Making great stylistic departures from his predecessors, Wagner was considered controversial for not maintaining what had been a slow, but consistent musical evolution. However, no one doubts his influence in retrospect, which is particularly apparent in Tristan and Isolde and Parsifal. The latter was performed in 1882 with a ceremony normally accorded to religious events.

Wagner was supported by the eccentric young Bavarian King Ludwig II who made possible the performances of all Wagner's mature works and built a theater of Wagner's own design for him.


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