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date: 06 December 2019

Wagner, (Wilhelm) Richardlocked

  • Barry Millington,
  • John Deathridge,
  • Carl Dahlhaus
  •  and Robert Bailey

Extract

Member of Wagner family

(b Leipzig, May 22, 1813; d Venice, Feb 13, 1883). Composer. One of the key figures in the history of opera, Wagner was largely responsible for altering its orientation in the 19th century. His programme of artistic reform, though not executed to the last detail, accelerated the trend towards organically conceived, through-composed structures, as well as influencing the development of the orchestra, of a new breed of singer, and of various aspects of theatrical practice.

It is both fitting and psychologically congruous that a question mark should hover over the identity of the father and mother of the composer whose works resonate so eloquently with themes of parental anxiety. Richard Wagner’s ‘official’ father was the police actuary Carl Friedrich Wagner, but the boy’s adoptive father, the actor-painter Ludwig Geyer, who took responsibility for the child on Carl Friedrich’s death in November 1813, may possibly have been the real father. Wagner himself was never sure, though any concern he may have had about Geyer’s supposed Jewish origins would have been misplaced: Geyer was of incontrovertibly Protestant stock. Recent research has further established that Wagner’s mother Johanna was not the illegitimate daughter of Prince Constantin of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, as previously believed, but his mistress (Gregor-Dellin, ...

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