Biography and History

Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, music theorist, and essayist, primarily known for his operas or "music dramas." He pioneered advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centers, which greatly influenced the development of European classical music. He transformed musical thought through his idea of Gesamtkunstwerk or "total artwork," the synthesis of all the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, epitomized by his monumental four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (1876). Wagner even built his own opera house to try to stage these works as he had imagined them.

Cosima Francesca Gaetana Wagner was the daughter of the pianist and composer Franz Liszt. She became famous as the second wife of Richard Wagner and, after his death, as director of the Bayreuth Festival for thirty-one years.

Source: From the finding aid for C1246