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Richard Wagner

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Richard Wagner was born on May 22, 1813 in Leipzig. He was the youngest of nine children born to Carl Friedrich and Johanna Wagner. (Ernest Newman Pg. 13)While there is no question of who his mother is, there are still questions about who was his biological father. Richard Wagner's father of record was police actuary Carl Friedrich Wagner, however his step father Ludwig Geyer may have possibly been his father. (Barry Millington) His mother Johanna was already the mistress of Geyer when Carl Friedrich died in November of 1813. Wagner himself believed in the possibility of Geyer being his father. (Ernest Newman pg.5) Shortly after Carl Friedrich died, Johanna was married to Ludwig Geyer.

After Johanna was married to Geyer the family moved to Dresden.Where Richard's formal education would begin on December 2, 1822, at the Kreuzschule.(Barry Millington) This is where his love of music was first kindled.(John Warrack) In 1831 at the age of seventeen Wagner enrolled at Leipzig University to study music. While he was at Leipzig, he was far more interested in the night life than his studies, a pattern that would continue on throughout his life.

Wagner's first professional appointment was as chorus master at the theatre in Wurzburg in 1833. In 1834 he accepted a post as a musical director to the traveling theatre company run my Heinrich Bethmann. While in the employment of Bethmann he fell in love with one of the leading ladies, Christine Wilhelmine "Minna" Planer.(Barry Millington) Richard and Minna's marriage could be described as stormy and erratic, it lasted until Minna's death in 1866.

Wagner was the conductor in Riga from 1837 to 1839, during this time he extended his range of activities to include symphony concerts and with the first of many articles outlining his ideas. He also conducted operas by Mozart and Mehul. However Richard and Minna were forced to flee Riga in 1839 to escape his creditors.(John Warrack) Because Richard and Minna were heavily in debt their passports had been impounded. They were forced to flee Riga under the cover of night. They climbed through a ditch that marked the border and then were smuggled onto a small merchant ship bound for London. From London they went on to Paris, where Richard hoped to conquer the Opera. Unfortunately Richard and Minna survived through many hardships for two and a half years while in Paris. Richard was forced to earn his keep by making hack arrangements of operatic selections and by musical journalism.(Barry Millington) By this time Wagner was threatened with imprisonment for debt. There are conflicting reports on weather this threat was ever executed. By 1842 He was deeply disillusioned with Paris and began to make his way back to Dresden.

Wagner arrived back in Dresden to his first triumph, Rienzi. This success was followed by more modest success for Der Fliegende Hollander. (John Warrack) Wagner took a position as conductor of the Dresden Opera, the job provided a good salary and was a lifetime position. However he only help



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