Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 in Leipzig – 13 February 1883 in Venice) was a German opera composer. He was one of the most important opera composers in Germany during the Romantic period. Apart from some music that he wrote as a student he wrote ten operas which are all performed regularly in opera houses today. Most of his operas are about stories from German mythology. He always wrote the words himself.
Richard Wagner (22 de maig de 1813 a Leipzig – 13 de febrer de 1883 a Venècia) va ser un compositor d’òpera alemany. Va ser un dels compositors d’òpera més importants a Alemanya durant el període romàntic. A banda d’algunes obres que va escriure d’estudiant, va composar deu òperes que avui es representen regularment als teatres d’òpera. La majoria de les seues òperes tracten d’històries de la mitologia alemanya. Sempre va escriure els seus propis llibrets.
Wagner changed people’s ideas of what operas should be. He thought that the drama (the story that is being told) was very important, and he chose the singers for his operas himself, so that he could train them into his way of thinking. The music in his operas did not give the audience a chance to applaud after big solos as it had done in the 18th century: it continues throughout the whole act. He made his music tell the story by using what he called “leitmotifs”. These were melodies or short musical phrases which belonged to particular characters in the opera, or to particular ideas.
Wagner va canviar les idees de la gent sobre com devien ser les òperes. Pensava que el drama (la història que s’explica) era molt important, i va escollir personalment els cantants per a les seues òperes per formar-los en la seua forma de pensar. La música de les seues òperes no va donar l’oportunitat al públic d’aplaudir després de grans solos com es feia al segle XVIII sinó que era continua durant tot l’acte. Va fer que la seua música explicara la història utilitzant el que ell anomenava “leitmotifs”. Es tractava de melodies o frases musicals curtes que pertanyien a personatges de l’òpera o a idees particulars.
He had more influence on other composers than anybody else in his time, largely because of his harmonies which became more and more chromatic (using lots of sharps and flats), with many changes of key. He built an opera house to his own design in the German town of Bayreuth. Nearly all musicians in Europe tried to make a journey to Bayreuth to hear Wagner’s music. The Wagner festival still takes place every year there.
Va tenir més influència en altres compositors que cap altre en el seu temps, en gran part a causa de les seues harmonies que es van fer cada vegada més cromàtiques (utilitzant molts sostinguts i bemolls), amb continus canvis de clau. Va construir un teatre d’òpera segons el seu propi disseny a la ciutat alemanya de Bayreuth. Gairebé tots els músics d’Europa van intentar fer un viatge a Bayreuth per escoltar la música de Wagner. El festival Wagner continua tenint lloc cada any en el teatre citat.
Die Feen. Overture.
He studied at the University of Leipzig, although he was not allowed to be a full student because he did not have proper school qualifications. Although he lived a wild life he worked hard at his music. He studied the scores of Beethoven’s string quartets and symphonies and he wrote his own symphony which was performed in 1833 at the famous Leipzig Gewandhaus. He wrote his first opera, Die Feen (The Fairies) in Würzburg. He became the conductor of a travelling opera group and fell in love with one of the singers called Minna Planer and he married her in 1836. His second opera, Das Liebesverbot, based on Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure was a failure.
Minna Planer, primera dona de Wagner.
Wagner always liked spending money, and he soon found he owed money to a lot of people, so he went away to Paris where he lived for three years. He was not successful at all there, none of the French musicians showed any interest in him and he was very poor. He still managed to write an opera Rienzi in 1841, and this was soon followed by Der fliegende Holländer, (The Flying Dutchman), which still remains a favourite to opera lovers today. It was first performed in Dresden in 1843. The audience did not like it much because they were used to operas like Rienzi which were written in the old way.
A Wagner sempre li va agradar gastar diners, i aviat va adonar-se que devia diners a molta gent, així que se’n va anar a París on va viure durant tres anys. No va tenir èxit en absolut, els músics francesos no van mostrar cap interès en ell, que va ser molt pobre. Encara va aconseguir escriure una òpera Rienzi en 1841, i aviat va ser seguida per Der fliegende Holländer, (The Flying Dutchman), que encara segueix sent una de les obres favorites per als amants de l’òpera d’avui. Es va representar per primera vegada a Dresden el 1843. Al públic no li va agradar molt perquè estaven acostumats a òperes com ara Rienzi que estaven escrites de la manera antiga.
Flying Dutchman – Overture
Wagner was given the job of court opera composer in Dresden. He stayed there until 1849. During that time he worked very hard to make opera performances better, improve the orchestra and train the singers. In 1845 he wrote another great opera, Tannhäuser. People gradually started to understand the way that Wagner’s music was telling the drama of the story. After this all his operas were great successes, although there always remained some people who hated his music, e.g. the music critic Eduard Hanslick.
Wagner va ser nomenat compositor d’òpera a la cort de Dresden. Es va quedar allà fins a 1849. Durant aquest temps va treballar molt dur per millorar les interpretacions operístiques i l’orquestra, així com formar els cantants. El 1845 va escriure una altra gran òpera, Tannhäuser. La gent va començar a comprendre la manera en què la música de Wagner explicava el drama de la història. Després d’això, totes les seues òperes van ser grans èxits, tot i que sempre hi va haver algunes persones que odiaven la seua música, p. el crític de música Eduard Hanslick.
Years in exile
In 1848 he finished working on Lohengrin but it was not performed because he was supporting the Revolutions of 1848-49 in the German states, joining in the demonstrations.He did join the fighting; that’s why he was going to be arrested but Franz Liszt helped him to escape to Switzerland. He lived in Zürich until 1858. There he wrote about music, conducted, and read stories from Norse mythology. He was starting to think about writing operas about these stories. It was something that would take him over 25 years to complete.
In fernem Land. Lohengrin. P. Domingo.
El 1848 va acabar el seu treball sobre Lohengrin, però no es va representar perquè estava recolzant les Revolucions de 1848-49 als estats alemanys, incorporant-se a les manifestacions. Es va unir als combats; per això anava a ser arrestat, però Franz Liszt el va ajudar a escapar a Suïssa. Va viure a Zuric fins 1858. Allí va escriure sobre música, va dirigir i va llegir mitologia nòrdica. Estava començant a pensar en escriure òperes sobre aquestes històries. Va ser una cosa que li costaria més de 25 anys completar.
They were to become the four operas known as Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) which, together, tell one long story. The four operas which make up this famous Ring cycle are Das Rheingold (The Rhinegold), Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), Siegfried and Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods). Because of the political situation in Germany at the time, Wagner expected the rise of a socialist state. The operas in the Ring cycle were a new kind of music drama (which Wagner simply called “drama”). These operas can be seen as describing a new kind of world in which humans are free. The music used the idea of leitmotif (in English: “leading motive”), where musical ideas represent characters or emotions, and help the development and understanding of the story.
La cavalcada de les Valquíries. Walküre. Der Ring des Nibelungen. MET.
By 1857 Wagner had written the first two operas as well as Acts One and Two of Siegfried. However, the third Act of Siegfried was not written until many years later, because he could see that at that time there was no suitable opera house to have these operas performed. He fell in love with a woman called Mathilde Wesendonk, whose husband was very rich. This affair led to a separation with his wife, Minna. He wrote an opera about an unhappy love affair: Tristan und Isolde (Tristan and Isolde).
El 1857 Wagner havia composat les dues primeres òperes, així com els actes I i II de Siegfried. El tercer de Siegfried no va ser escrit fins molts anys més tard, ja que en aquell moment no podia imaginar-se un teatre d’òpera adequat per a representar les seues obres. Es va enamorar d’una dona anomenada Mathilde Wesendonk, el marit del qual era molt ric. Aquest assumpte va conduir a la separació amb la seua dona, Minna. Va escriure una òpera sobre una infelicitat amorosa: Tristan und Isolde (Tristan i Isolde).
Meanwhile he wrote another opera: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersinger of Nűrnberg). It is the only comedy Wagner wrote, Meanwhile, he wrote another opera: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersinger of Nűrnberg). It is the only comedy – ; apart from the one he composed in his youth, which was a failure, Das Liebesverbot-. It is set in medieval Germany and is about a song contest.
Mentrestant, va escriure una altra òpera: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersinger of Nűrnberg). És l’única comèdia escrita per Wagner, – si exceptuem la que va composar en la seua joventut, que va ser un fracàs, Liebesverbot-. Està ambientada a l’Alemanya medieval i tracta d’un concurs de cant.
By 1864 Wagner was in debt once more. He fled to Stuttgart to avoid being put into prison (Germany at that time was still made up of lots of small countries, each with their own laws). Then he had a big stroke of luck. The new king of Bavaria, Ludwig II, who was only 18 years old, adored the music of Wagner. He had read the poem about the Ring of the Nibelungs (Wagner had written the words, but had not finished the music). King Ludwig invited Wagner to finish the Ring cycle for performances in Munich. He gave him somewhere to live, and his new operas were performed in Munich: Tristan und Isolde in 1865, Die Meistersinger von Nűrnberg in 1868, Das Rheingold in 1869 and Die Walkűre in 1870 There were plans for a new opera house in Munich, but it was never built because a lot of people were angry with Wagner for being in debt in spite of having lots of money from the king.
Another thing people did not like was that he fell in love with the wife of the man who had conducted his operas, Hans von Bülow. Her name was Cosima. Her father was the composer Franz Liszt who had not been married to Cosima’s mother. Wagner had already left Munich in 1865, but the king still supported him, making it possible for him to live in a large house called Triebschen on Lake Lucerne. Cosima divorced von Bülow in 1870 and married Wagner in the same year.
Una altra cosa que no li agradava a la gent era que es va enamorar de la dona de l’home que havia dirigit les seues òperes, Hans von Bülow. El seu nom era Cosima. Son pare era el compositor Franz Liszt que no s’havia casat amb la mare de Cosima. Wagner ja havia abandonat Munic el 1865, però el rei encara el recolzava, cosa que li permetia viure en una gran casa anomenada Triebschen al llac de Lucerna. Cosima es va divorciar von Bülow en 1870 i es va casar amb Wagner el mateix any.
Bayreuth and Wahnfried
By now Wagner was working hard at the Ring cycle again. He had promised the king that the four operas would be performed in Munich when they were ready, but he realized that they would need a special kind of opera house. So he designed his own opera house and had it built in the town of Bayreuth. He spent a lot of time travelling and conducting in order to raise money for this huge project. The King Ludwig also gave him a lot of money, and a lovely new house in Bayreuth which Wagner called Wahnfried (the name of the house means something like: Peace from the mad world). Finally, the complete cycle of four operas was performed in August 1876 in the new opera house, the (Bayreuth Festspielhaus). The third and fourth operas of the cycle, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung were being performed for the first time.
Wagner spent the rest of his life living in Wahnfried. Sometimes he travelled. He went to London and made several trips to Italy. He wrote his last opera, Parsifal, which almost has a religious feeling to it. The story is related to the legends about King Arthur and the Holy Grail. Wagner dictated his memoirs to his wife. His autobiography is called Mein Leben (My Life). He died of a heart attack when he was staying in Venice. He was buried in the grounds of Wahnfried.
Parsifal. Els encants del Divendres Sant.
Wagner had enormous influence on the development of music. Many composers imitated his harmonies, or let themselves be influenced by them. By the early 20th century some composers like Arnold Schoenberg had gone even farther in making more and more complicated harmonies, and composers had to find new ways of composing.
Wagner made his orchestras much bigger than usual. The woodwind, for example, need four of each instrument (four flutes, four oboes etc.), and there are extra instruments like the bass clarinet and Wagner tubas. His ideas about music drama were very important. His music helps the drama to be told because it develops all the time, like the music in a symphony.
Wagner va fer les seues orquestres molt més grans de l’habitual. La fusta, per exemple, necessita quatre de cada instrument (quatre flautes, quatre oboès, etc.), i hi ha instruments addicionals com el clarinet baix i les tubes Wagner. Les seues idees sobre drama musical eren molt importants. La seua música ajuda a expressar el drama perquè es desenvolupa tot el temps, com la música en una simfonia.
Font: simple.wikipedia (English). La traducció catalana és meua.
Teatre dels festivals de Bayreuth. Festspielhaus.