Learning the Craft

A Chronology of Richard Wagner's Life
1813 - 1838

1813 Wilhelm Richard Wagner born in Leipzig, May 22. Father (?) Carl Friedrich Wagner, dies Nov. 23.
1814 Mother, Johanna Pätz Wagner, marries Ludwig Geyer, actor-painter, Aug. 28.
1820 Sister Rosalie's debut as an actress with Dresden Court Theater.
1821 Lugwig Geyer dies, Sept. 30. Sister Luise acting at Breslau theater.
1822 Commences three years of schooling in Dresden, studies Greek tragedies, piano.
1824 Sister Klara makes debut with Dresden Opera.
1826 Family moves to Prague. Wagner remains in Dresden where he begins Shakespearean tragedy, Leubald und Adelaïde.
1827 Family returns to Leipzig where Wagner joins them. Enters St. Nicholas School Jan. 28.
1828 First hears Beethoven symphonies.
1829 Studies violin and theory. Hears Schröder-Devrient in Fidelio.
1830 Active in Leipzig revolt. Piano arrangement of Beethoven's Ninth. His B-Flat Major Overture performed Dec. 25 at Leipzig Theater.
1831 Enters Leipzig University. Studies harmony, music and counterpoint with Weinlig. Composes D Minor Overture, piano sonata in B-flat major and other works.
1832 Composes C Major Symphony in six weeks. Visits Vienna and Prague. Makes sketches for first opera, Die Hochzeit (unfinished). Drafts libretto of second opera, Die Feen.
1833 C Major Symphony performed at Leipzig Gewandhaus. Appointed chorus master for one year, Würzburg. Working on Die Feen.
1834 Travels through Bohemia, Prague, with Theodor Apel, May. Begins text of Das Liebesverbot. Begins five years as a conductor in provinces; with Magdeburg Company, meets Minna Planer.
1835 Columbus Overture performed in Magdeburg. Tour to find singers. Proposes to Minna. Finishes Das Liebesverbot.
1836 Magdeburg première of Das Liebesverbot, March 29. Company fails. Marries Minna in Tragheim in Köingsberg, Nov. 24. Composes Polonia Overture.
1837 Rule Britannia Overture performed at Köingsberg. Leaves for Dresden where he conceives Rienzi. To Riga for post as conductor, Aug. Rosalie dies in childbirth, Nov.
1838 Works on Rienzi; gains experience as an opera and concert conductor at Riga.

The Populist Composer

A Chronology of Richard Wagner's Life
1839 - 1864

1839 Loses Riga post. Furtive flight to Paris to escape creditors, July-Aug. Idea for Flying Dutchman occurs to him on trip. Begins two and a half years residence in Paris, Sept.
1840 First version of Faust Overture, Jan. Offers plot of Flying Dutchman to Paris Opèra. Meets Liszt. Finishes Rienzi, imprisoned for debts, Nov.
1841 Receives 500 francs for libretto, Le Vaisseau Fantôme, which is set to music by Pierre Dietsch. Wagner expands and finishes it as his Flying Dutchman, Aug.-Sept.
1842 Leaves Paris for Dresden. Première of Rienzi in Dresden, Oct. 20, beginning of his fame.
1843 Première of Flying Dutchman, Dresden, Jan. 2. Appointed Royal Kapellmeister at Dresden, Feb. Finishes Tannhäuser poem, May, and begins composition, July.
1844 Niece Johanna engaged by Dresden Theater, July. He composes and performs a musical greeting to the King of Saxony, Aug. Conducts funeral oration for reburial of Carl Maria von Weber's remains in Saxon soil, Dec.
1845 Completes score of Tannhäuser, April. Summer at Marienbad where he sketches Meistersinger. Conceives Parsifal. Première of Tannhäuser in Dresden, Oct. 19. Writes Lohengrin poem, Nov.
1846 Meets Hans von Bülow and begins Lohengrin music.
1847 Finishes Lohengrin, Aug.
1848 His mother dies Jan. Finishes scoring Lohengrin, March. Writes "Organization of a National Theater for Saxony"; joins the radical Vaterlandsverein, May. Writes long essay "The Nibelungen: World-History as revealed in Saga," summer. Finishes poem Siegfrieds Tod, Nov. Meets Jessie Laussot and Karl Ritter. Writes 11-page essay, "The Nibelungen-Myth, as Sketches for a Drama," Oct.
1849 May revolution in Dresden fails. He flees Weimar, Paris, Zurich, where Minna joins him, Aug.-Sept. Writes essays "Art and revolution", June, and "The Art-Work of the Future," Nov.-Dec.
1850 Working in Paris, Jan.; brief affair with Jessie Laussot in Bordeaux, March. Returns to Minna in Zurich, July. Writes article "Judaism in Music," published under pseudonym, Aug. Abandons libretto for opera Wieland der Schmied. His journalism and Liszt's production of Lohengrin in Weimar, Aug., contribue to his growing reputation. Writes 330-page opus, Opera and Drama, Oct.-Feb. 1851; published Nov. 1851.
1851 Completes Young Seigfried poem, Jun. Walking tour with Uhlig, July. Writes "A Communication to My Friends," Aug. published Dec. Conceives Nibelungen saga as three dramas and prologue, Nov. Sketching Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, Nov.
1852 Meets Mathilde Wesendonck. Finishes Die Walküre and Das Rheingold poems, July, Nov. Recasts two Siegfrieds, Nov.-Dec.
1853 Writes piano sonata for Mathilde June. Takes cure in St. Moritz and goes mountain climbing, July-Aug. Trip to Italy (La Spezia), Aug.-Sept. On trip to Paris with Liszt, meets 15-year-old Cosima, Oct. Begins Das Rheingold music, Nov.
1854 Finishes composition of Das Rheingold, Jan., and full score, Sept. Begins music for Die Walküre, June-Dec. Conceives Tristan inspired by Mathilde and Schopenhauer, Dec. Writes second version of Faust Overture and conducts it in Zurich, Dec.-Jan.
1855 Conducts eight concerts in London, March-June. Meets Berlioz there. After almost four months interruption resumes scoring Walküre and brooding on Tristan.
1856 Completes Walküre, March, sketches unfinished opera Die Sieger, May. Begins composing Siegfried, Sept.
1857 Moves to the Asyl, a house on the Wesendonck property, April. Working on first two acts of Siegfried, July-Aug., when Wesendoncks move into Green Hill. Drops Siegfried (and the Ring) for work on Tristan poem, Aug. Sets five of Mathilde's poems to music, winter . Visit from Cosima and von Bülow on their honeymoon, Aug. 29.
1858 Year of work and travel takes him to Paris, Zurich, Geneva, Venice. Minna, jealous of Mathilde, returns to Germany. Working on Tristan.
1859 Finishes Tristan Act II in Venice; Act III, Lucerne. To Paris in Sept. where he is reunited with Minna, Nov.
1860 Paris concerts a financial failure. Revises Venusberg scene for performance of Tannhäuser at Opera. Granted political amnesty to Germany (except Saxony), July. Visits Taunus, Baden-Baden, Rhine, Aug. Rehearsing Paris Tannhäuser from Sept. 1860 to March 1861.
1861 Paris Tannhäuser, March, withdrawn by Wagner after three performances. Travels to Karlsruhe, Vienna, Venice. Finally returns to Paris where he begins Die Meistersinger poem.
1862 Finishes Die Meistersinger libretto. Settles in Biebrich, near Maniz, to work on music. Romantic involvment with Friederike Meyer and Mathilde Maier. Last meeting with Minna, in Dresden, Nov.
1863 As an itenerant conductor for one year, tours Germany, Austria, Russia. Visits with Cosima and von Bülow in Berlin, Nov.
1864 Flight from creditors, Vienna to Switzerland. Ludwig, King of Bavaria, summons him to Munich and offer him royal patronage, May. Cosima and two children arrive June. Affair with Cosima begins, July. Scoring Acts I, II of Siegfried. Ludwig resolves to build festival theater for him, Nov.

Epic Master

A Chronology of Richard Wagner's Life
1865 - 1883

1865 Isolde, his daughter by Cosima, born April 10. Première of Tristan in Munich under von Bülow, June 10. Death of first Tristan, Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld, July 21. Begins dictating "Mein Leben" to Cosima, July 17. Completes Parsifal poem, Aug. Exiled from Bavaria for political and financial reasons, Dec. 10.
1866 Minna dies, Jan. 25. Joined by Cosima and her three children he settles at Triebschen, near Lucerne; secret visit from Ludwig, May. Resumes work on Die Meistersinger.
1867 Daughter Eva born Feb. 17 at Triebschen. Cosima visits von Bülow in Munich where he produces Lohengrin, June, and Tannhäuser, Aug. Finishes , Oct. Writes articles on "German Art and German Politics," Aug.-Dec. (published in book from Italy 1868).
1868 Première of Die Meistersinger in Munich, June 21. Holidays in Italy with Cosima, Sept.-Oct. During Leipzig visit meets Friedrich Nietzsche, Nov.
1869 Son Siegfried born, June 6, as Siegfried music sketches are finished. Nietzsche visits often. Judith Gautier and husband visit for nine days, July. Von Bülow resigns and Richter assumes productions of Rheingold due for Aug. Richter intrigues fail and Rheingold première held in Munich, Sept. 22, under Franz Wüllner. Working on music for Götterdämmerung, Oct.
1870 Cosima divorced from von Bülow, July 18; marries Wagner, Aug. 25. Plans for Bayreuth Festival theater take shape. Munich première of Walküre, June 26, under Wüllner. Writes Siegfried Idyll for Cosima's 33rd birthday, Dec.
1871 Completes scoring Siegfried, Feb. Composes Kaisermarsch in honor of the coronation of Wilhelm I as Emperor of Germany. Visits Berlin to deliver his paper on "The Destiny of Opera" to the Berlin Royal Academy of Arts and to discuss Bayreuth plans with Bismarck, May. Town of Bayreuth accepts his proposal, Nov. Working on Götterdämmerung, June-Oct.
1872 Bayreuth cornerstone laid, May. Visits Liszt in Weimar, Sept. Completes sketches for Götterdämmerung, July.
1873 Concert tour, Jan.-Feb. Begins building Wahnfried, his house in Bayreuth, May. Scoring Götterdämmerung.
1874 New loan for festival building from Ludwig, Feb. Moves into Wahnfried, April. Begins plans for projected Ring festival, March. Ring finished with completion of scoring Götterdämmerung, Nov.
1875 Concert tours, Feb., March, April, to raise funds and search for singers. Begins rehearsing Ring. In Munich and Vienna, Oct.-Dec.
1876 Received $5,000 from U.S. Independence celebration committee for Centennial March, finished Feb. in Vienna, Berlin, March. First Bayreuth Festival and Ring première, a financial failure, Aug. 13-17. Judith Gautier attends. Holiday in Italy, Sept.-Dec.; in Sorrento sees Nietzsche for last time.
1877 Gives concert series in London, May. Holiday at Ems, June. Completes Parsifal poem and begins composition.
1878 Begins Bayreuther Blätter, Jan. Brief affair with Judith Gautier ends, Feb. Works on composition and orchestration of Parsifal. Breach with Nietzsche.
1879 Finished Parsifal sketches, April. In ill health leaves for Italy, Dec.
1880 Travels to Posilipo, Naples, Siena, Venice. Article "Religion and Art" published in Bayreuther Blätter, Oct. Returns to Munich and bids farewell to Ludwig, Oct. 30. In Bayreuth resumes scoring Parsifal, Nov.
1881 Suffers heart attack (?) at Berlin Ring performance, May 29. Preparing Parsifal for performance, summer. His essay on "Herodom and Christianity" published in Bayreuther Blätter, Sept. Travels to Palermo, where he works on Act III of Parsifal, Nov.
1882 Completes Parsifal score in Palermo, Jan. To Messina, Venice, March-April. Returns to Bayreuth for rehearsals of Parsifal, May. Opera has successful première July 26 and on the 16th performance he conducts for the last time. Leaves for Venice, Sept.
1883 Dies in Venice, Feb. 13.



 Complete Stage Works

  Composed First
Die Feen 1834 Munich 1888
Das Liebesverbot 1835 Magdeburg 1836
Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes 1840 Dresden 1842
Der fliegende Holländer 1841 Dresden 1843
Tannhäuser 1843-45 Dresdan 1845
Lohengrin 1847-48 Weimar 1850
Das Rheingold 1853-54 Munich 1869
Die Walküre 1854-56 Munich 1870
Siegfried 1856-71 Bayreuth 1876
Tristan und Isolde 1857-59 Munich 1865
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg 1862-67 Munich 1868
Götterdämmerung 1869-74 Bayreuth 1876
Parsifal 1877-82 Bayreuth 1882