Richard Wagner

A photo of Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner’s birthday was on May 22, 1813. He passed away February 13, 1883. Richard Wagner was a German composer best known for his operas. Before composing his own works, he was a theatrical and operatic producer. He was also a conductor and wrote articles and essays on drama and music, something he continued to do throughout his lifetime.

Wagner was self-trained as a musician, but had tremendous talent. In 1837 he composed Rienzi, his first successful operatic work. This was followed by The Flying DutchmanTannhauser and Lohengrin. His masterpiece, however, is the Ring of the Nibelung, a cycle of four operas that tells the story of mythological German gods and beings. Composition of this series took over twenty-five years. Another important aspect of his music is infinite melody; in his Ring operas, the music never stops until the final curtain has dropped. And, the orchestra is equally as important as the singers and drama. Wagner wanted a theatre that would meet the considerable needs of these operas and eventually built Bayreuth, a theater in which his works are still performed today.

Wagner’s music was loved by some and hated by others, but it had, and continues to have, a tremendous effect on all audiences and musicians. (Information borrowed from “Classics for Kids”)

Some of his most famous pieces are included in links below:

Rienzi Overture

The ever famous Ride of the Valkyries

The very famous Wedding March from Lohengrin

Tannhäuser Overture

At home, feel free to play Wagner during cooking, eating, drawing/crafts, or anytime! Children often love to dance to classical music and Wagner has many lively and lengthy pieces to enjoy.

  • Bring out light-weight scarves or small cloths for the children to wave or dance with when you are listening to the music.
  • Talk with your child about what instruments are heard as well as what feelings do you feel when listening to the music.
  • Explore and view other opera performances with your child.
  • Introduce new terms if you choose to and name them when you hear it in the music. After a while have your child guess. The terms include:
    • Is the tempo Adagio (Slow), Andante (Walking Speed), Moderato (Moderate), or Allegro (Fast)?
    • Are the dynamics Piano (Soft), Mezzo Piano (Medium Soft),  Mezzo Forte (Medium Loud), Forte (Loud)?
I hope you and your children enjoy his music!