May 22, 1813: Wilhelm Richard Wagner is born in the Haus zum roten und Weißen Löwen, Brühl 3 (now Brühl 20--the building no longer stands) in Leipzig, Kingdom of Saxony, the ninth child of Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Wagner, a police actuary, and Johanna Rosine Pätz, daughter of a baker. It is possible that Wagner is the illegitimate child of Ludwig Geyer, who will become the boy’s stepfather upon the death of Carl Friedrich Wagner in November 1813.
August 28, 1814: Johanna Rosine (Pätz) Wagner, a widow with nine children, marries Ludwig Heinrich Christian Geyer, a portrait painter, actor and poet, in Dresden. Geyer will be Richard Wagner’s (1) mentor and de facto father.
January 21, 1828: Richard Geyer enters Leipzig Nicolaischule under the name Richard Wagner (14), the name of his genetic father.
June 16, 1830: Richard Wagner (17) enters the Thomasschule in Leipzig where he takes violin lessons for a short while.
December 25, 1830: An overture in B flat “Drumbeat Overture” WWV 10 by Richard Wagner (17) is performed for the first time, in the Royal Saxon Hoftheater, Leipzig. It is Wagner’s public debut as a composer.
December 25, 1831: Concert Overture no.1 in d WWV 20 by Richard Wagner (18) is performed for the first time, in the Royal Saxon Hoftheater, Leipzig.
February 17, 1832: Incidental music to Raupach’s play König Enzio WWV 24 by Richard Wagner (18) is performed for the first time, in the Royal Saxon Hoftheater, Leipzig.
April 22, 1832: A Scene and Aria WWV 28 for soprano and orchestra by Richard Wagner (18) is performed for the first time, in the Leipzig Hoftheater.
December 15, 1832: The Symphony in C by Richard Wagner (19) is performed publicly for the first time, in Leipzig.
January 17, 1833: Richard Wagner (19) moves from Leipzig to Würzburg to work as a chorus director and coach for his brother Albert.
December 12, 1833: Selections from Richard Wagner’s (20) romantic opera Die Feen WWV 32 are performed for the first time, in Munich. See 10 January 1835 and 29 June 1888.
June 10, 1834: Richard Wagner’s (21) first published essay, “Die deutsche Oper,” appears in Zeitung für die elegante Welt, Leipzig.
August 2, 1834: Richard Wagner (21) debuts as opera conductor with a performance of Mozart’s (†42) Don Giovanni in Lauchstädt, Thuringia.
January 1, 1835: Incidental music to Schmale’s play Beim Antritt des neuen Jahres WWV 36 by Richard Wagner (21) is performed for the first time, in the Magdeburg Stadttheater, conducted by the composer.
January 10, 1835: The overture to Richard Wagner’s (21) romantic opera Die Feen WWV 32 is performed for the first time, in Magdeburg, conducted by the composer. See 12 December 1833 and 29 June 1888.
February 16, 1835: Incidental music to Apel’s play Columbus WWV 37 by Richard Wagner (21) is performed for the first time, in Magdeburg, conducted by the composer.
April 6, 1835: Two duets from Richard Wagner’s (21) romantic opera Das Liebesverbot to his own words are performed for the first time, in the Magdeburg Stadttheater, conducted by the composer. See 29 March 1836.
May 2, 1835: In an attempt to satisfy his creditors, Richard Wagner (21) organizes a benefit concert for himself in Magdeburg, including a large orchestra and the famed singer Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient. The evening is a fiasco, with the orchestra outnumbering the audience. Those strong enough to attend leave before the end of Wellington’s Victory.
March 29, 1836: Richard Wagner’s (22) grosse komische Oper Das Liebesverbot, oder Die Novize von Palermo to the composer’s words after Shakespeare is performed for the first time, in the Magdeburg Stadttheater, conducted by the composer. On the same day, an anonymous article appears in Robert Schumann’s (25) Neue Zeitschrift für Musik in support of Wagner’s opera. It is written by Wagner.
March 30, 1836: A second performance of Richard Wagner’s (22) Das Liebesverbot has to be cancelled when fist fights break out among the cast on stage before curtain. One combatant produces a knife but no one is seriously injured. See 11 April 1836.
April 11, 1836: Das Liebesverbot by Richard Wagner (22) is given a second performance in Magdeburg but the fiasco of 30 March has caused a scandal and only three people show up to form an audience.
November 24, 1836: Richard Wagner (23) marries Christine Wilhelmine (Minna) Planer, an actress, in the Tragheimer Kirche near Königsberg (Kaliningrad).
February 17, 1837: Incidental music to Singer’s play Die letzte Heidenverschwörung in Preußen oder Der Deutsche Ritterorden in Königsberg WWV 41 by Richard Wagner (23) is performed probably for the first time, in the Königsberg Stadttheater.
April 1, 1837: Richard Wagner (23) is appointed as music director of the city theatre in Königsberg (Kaliningrad).
August 21, 1837: Richard Wagner (24) arrives in Riga to take up his position as musical director of the theatre there.
September 13, 1837: Richard Wagner (24) conducts in Riga for the first time, in a performance of a comic opera by Carl Blum to which Wagner added an aria.
December 3, 1837: Richard Wagner’s (24) Volks-Hymne “Nikolai” for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra to words of von Brackel is performed for the first time, in the Riga Stadttheater.
March 19, 1838: Richard Wagner’s (24) Overture Rule Britannia is performed for the first time, probably in the Schwarzhäuptersaal, Riga, the composer conducting.
January 16, 1839: Gesang am Grabe by Richard Wagner (25) to words of von Brackel is performed for the first time, in the Jakobi-Kirchhof, Riga.
July 9, 1839: His contract in Riga not renewed, and one step ahead of his creditors, Richard Wagner (26) and his wife depart from Mitau, near Riga, hoping to make it to Paris.
August 12, 1839: After three weeks at sea, for a trip that should have taken one, and suffering furious gales, Richard Wagner (26) and his wife arrive in London.
August 20, 1839: Richard Wagner (26) meets Giacomo Meyerbeer (47) as the latter takes the cure at Boulogne-sur-Mer. Wagner asks Meyerbeer for assistance and the elder composer freely gives it, both financially and with recommendations. These were eventually withdrawn after Meyerbeer learns that Wagner is speaking ill of him behind his back.
November 24, 1839: Roméo et Juliette, a symphonie dramatique for solo voices, double chorus, and orchestra by Hector Berlioz (35) to words of Deschamps after Shakespeare, is performed for the first time, at the Paris Conservatoire, conducted by the composer. Dedicated to Nicolò Paganini (57), it is an unquestioned triumph. Richard Wagner (26), present either today or 1 December, is very impressed.
April 15, 1840: Richard Wagner (26) and his wife move from 3 rue de la Tonnellerie (31 rue du Pont-Neuf) to 25 rue du Helder in Paris.
May 6, 1840: From Paris, Richard Wagner (26) sends the scenario to an opera to Eugène Scribe, hoping the poet will create a libretto which he could set to music. It is based on the story of the Flying Dutchman which Wagner read in a book by Heinrich Heine. Scribe will not write a libretto.
July 12, 1840: The first of Richard Wagner’s (27) essays entitled “German Music” appears in the Paris periodical Gazette musicale.
July 26, 1840: The second of Richard Wagner’s (27) essays entitled “German Music” appears in the Paris periodical Gazette musicale.
December 4, 1840: Richard Wagner (27) sends the score of Rienzi to August von Lüttichau, the director of the Dresden Opera.
April 25, 1841: Hector Berlioz (37) and Franz Liszt (29) produce an all-Beethoven (†14) concert at the Salle du Conservatoire to benefit the Beethoven monument in Bonn. Liszt plays various piano sonatas and the “Emperor” Concerto, conducted by Berlioz, along with the Sixth Symphony. Unfortunately, the receipts are barely enough to pay the musicians. The audience requires Liszt to play his own Reminiscences on Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable, while Berlioz and the orchestra wait. Richard Wagner (27), reviewing the concert for the Dresden Abendzeitung, is offended. “Some day, Liszt in heaven will be summoned to play his Fantasy on The Devil before the assembled company of angels.” An aspiring cellist named Jacob (Jacques) Offenbach (21) joins forces with a visiting prodigy from Russia, Anton Rubinstein (11), to perform the second and third movements of Beethoven’s Cello Sonata in A.
April 29, 1841: Richard Wagner (27) and his wife move to Meudon near Paris, at 3 avenue de Meudon (27 avenue du château) to finish Der fliegende Holländer.
April 7, 1842: After 30 months of economic destitution, Richard Wagner (28) and his wife Minna leave Paris for Dresden. He is so poor that his relatives forward him travel expenses.
April 12, 1842: Richard Wagner (28) and his wife arrive in Dresden where he will assist in rehearsals for Rienzi.
October 20, 1842: Richard Wagner’s (29) grosse tragische Oper Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen WWV 49 to his own words after Bulwer Lytton is performed for the first time, in the Dresden Hoftheater. The work is a great success and is very enthusiastically received.
October 28, 1842: Eight days after the enormous success of Rienzi, the Dresden Kapellmeister dies. All eyes turn to Wagner (29).
January 2, 1843: Der fliegende Holländer, a romantische Oper by Richard Wagner (29) to his own words after Heine, is performed for the first time, at the Dresden Hoftheater, directed by the composer. It receives only four performances.
February 2, 1843: Richard Wagner (29) is installed as Kapellmeister to the Royal Court of Saxony in Dresden.
February 6, 1843: Hector Berlioz (39) arrives in Dresden. He meets Richard Wagner (29) who he finds “self-satisfied but warm” and enjoys Rienzi and Der fliegende Holländer. Wagner has written unkind remarks about Berlioz which appear in the Zeitung für die elegante Welt during Berlioz’ stay, but will regret them once he hears Berlioz’ music.
June 7, 1843: Richard Wagner (30) conducts music for the unveiling of a statue of the late Friedrich August I in Dresden, including the premieres of his own Festgesang “Der Tag erscheint” WWV 68 for male chorus to words of CC Hohlfeld and Felix Mendelssohn’s (34) setting of the national anthem of Saxony, Gott segne Sachsenland for male chorus and winds.
July 6, 1843: Das Liebesmahl der Apostel WWV 69 for male chorus and orchestra by Richard Wagner (30) to his own words is performed for the first time, in the Dresden Frauenkirche, conducted by the composer.
October 1, 1843: Richard Wagner (30) and his wife move to an expensive apartment in Dresden at Ostra-Allee 6 where he begins to amass a large collection of literature from all eras, concentrating on German myths. (The building was destroyed in World War II)
July 22, 1844: The Overture to Faust WWV 59 by Richard Wagner (31) is performed for the first time, in the Palais des Königlichen grossen Gartens, Dresden conducted by the composer. See 23 January 1855.
August 12, 1844: Gruss seiner Treuen an Friedrich August den Geliebten WWV 71 for male chorus and wind band composed for the King of Saxony by Richard Wagner (31) is performed for the first time, on a riverboat at Pillnitz, near Dresden with 300 singers and 120 players.
October 19, 1845: Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg, a grosse romantische Oper by Richard Wagner (32) to his own words, is performed for the first time, in the Dresden Hoftheater, conducted by the composer. The reception is friendly but lukewarm. Robert Schumann (35) is in the audience. He is not impressed. See 1 August 1847, 13 March 1861 and 1 August 1867.
July 29, 1846: At Gross-Gaupa, while he is composing Lohengrin, Richard Wagner (33) receives a 16-year-old visitor, an admirer of his work, Hans von Bülow.
August 1, 1847: The second incarnation of Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg, a grosse romantische Oper by Richard Wagner (34) to his own words, is performed for the first time, in the Dresden Hoftheater. See 19 October 1845, 13 March 1861 and 1 August 1867.
May 11, 1848: Richard Wagner (34) submits a “Plan for the Organization of a German National Theatre for the Kingdom of Saxony.”
June 14, 1848: Richard Wagner (35) reads his article “What relationship do republican endeavors bear to the monarchy?” to the Vaterlandsverein. It is strongly anti-monarchy and will be published in the Dresdener Anzeiger tomorrow.
June 15, 1848: Richard Wagner's (35) article "What relationship do republican endeavors bear to the monarchy?" is published anonymously in the Dresdener Anzeiger.
September 22, 1848: Richard Wagner (35) conducts the finale to Act I of his unperformed opera Lohengrin at a concert celebrating the 300th anniversary of the Saxon Royal Court Orchestra, Dresden.
October 8, 1848: Richard Wagner (35) dates a manuscript entitled Die Nibelungensage (Mythus). It is a prose outline of the Ring.
April 1, 1849: Richard Wagner (35) conducts his last concert in Dresden in a performance including the Ninth Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven (†22). Michael Bukunin, a wanted Russian revolutionary, approaches Wagner afterwards and tells him that “when everything else is destroyed in the flames of the future, that work of art must be preserved, even at the cost of our lives.”
April 8, 1849: Richard Wagner (35) publishes an inflammatory article, “The Revolution”, in the Volksblätter.
May 4, 1849: During the night, barricades appear in Dresden. Richard Wagner (35) attempts to win the troops over by appealing to their nationalistic sensibilities in the face of a possible Prussian invasion. The royal cabinet, fearful that the King might accede to demands, induces His Royal Highness to flee to his summer palace. The revolutionaries set up a provisional government which swears to uphold the Frankfurt constitution.
May 5, 1849: During the Dresden revolt, Richard Wagner (35) mans the observation post in the tower of the Kreuzkirche and, under constant fire from Prussian troops, relays messages to the rebels below. At night he debates philosophy with a schoolteacher also in the tower.
May 6, 1849: Prussian and Saxon troops begin their assault on Dresden. Richard Wagner (35) sees his opera house in flames, apparently set by revolutionaries. “It was an ugly building anyway.”
May 8, 1849: August Röckel is captured by Saxon troops in Dresden. On his person is a letter from his friend Richard Wagner (35) which clearly implicates Wagner in revolutionary activities.
May 9, 1849: In the face of growing Prussian intervention, the Dresden revolutionaries call a retreat, hoping to regroup in Chemnitz or Freiburg. While driving back to Dresden from Freiburg where he went to summon reinforcements, Richard Wagner (35) encounters rebels marching away from the city. Some rebel leaders will be captured in Chemnitz but through a stroke of luck, Wagner escapes. Royal troops execute 26 students and many rebels are thrown out of third and fourth-floor windows.
May 14, 1849: Franz Liszt (37) arrives at his home in Weimar and finds Richard Wagner (35). He decides to hide Wagner from the authorities. Liszt then organizes a false identity and an escape to Switzerland and Paris. Before he leaves, Wagner is able to hear Liszt conduct a rehearsal of Tannhäuser, scheduled to be performed 20 May. Wagner will remember, “I was astounded to recognize in him my second self...”
May 18, 1849: Franz Liszt (37) returns from Karlsruhe to his home in Weimar and learns that a warrant has been issued for Richard Wagner (35). At night he takes Wagner out of his home and places him in the home of Eduard Genast, the manager of the Weimar theatre. Genast goes to minister Bernhard von Watzdorf who tells him that the warrant has not yet been delivered, therefore there is time to get Wagner away. Liszt sends Wagner to the village of Magdala with money borrowed from Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein. Two hours later, the warrant arrives from Dresden.
May 19, 1849: Richard Wagner (35) reaches Magdala with 60 thalers, a false identity and a scheme whereby he is to impersonate a “financial expert” sent to administer an estate near Magdala. He will be hidden on the estate for three days, during which time he consults with other revolutionaries.
May 24, 1849: After five days of hiding in Magdala, Richard Wagner (36) walks to Jena and the home of Prof. Oskar Wolf.
May 28, 1849: Richard Wagner (36) boards a steamer at Lindau and crosses Lake Constance into Switzerland.
April 16, 1850: Richard Wagner (36) writes from Montmorency to his wife Minna, informing her of his decision to separate from her. He is presently engaged in a liaison with Jessie Laussot, the English wife of a Bordeaux wine merchant.
July 3, 1850: After escaping an irate husband bent on his death, and breaking up with his lover, Jessie Laussot, Richard Wagner (37) returns to his “Villa Rienzi” and his wife Minna in Zürich.
August 24, 1850: Richard Wagner (37) completes his essay Das Judenthum in Musik. It will be published in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik under the pseudonym of K. Freigedank.
August 28, 1850: On the 100th anniversary of the birth of Goethe, Lohengrin, a romantische Oper by Richard Wagner (37) to his own words, is performed for the first time, at the Weimar Hoftheater directed by Franz Liszt (38). The theatre is full of artistic luminaries including Robert Franz (35), Joseph Joachim, and Hans von Bülow. The composer is not present as he is a wanted man in Germany.
September 3, 1850: The Neue Zeitschrift für Musik publishes the first of two installments of Das Judenthum in Musik by Richard Wagner (37).
September 6, 1850: The Neue Zeitschrift für Musik publishes the second of two installments of Das Judenthum in Musik by Richard Wagner (37).
September 14, 1850: In a letter to E.B. Kietz, Richard Wagner (37) first mentions the idea of a festival theatre built to his specifications.
August 6, 1851: Richard Wagner (38) and Theodor Uhlig complete a walking tour from Brunnen, Switzerland which included the Surenen Pass. It is at this point that he adds Das Rheingold and Die Walküre to his Nibelung concept.
September 15, 1851: Richard Wagner (38) begins a cure at Dr. Zacharia Brunner’s Hydrotherapy Institute at Albisbrunn, south of Zürich. He will stay here until 23 November during which time he will work his “Siegfried” project into the idea of four separate works and begin writing the prose sketches of the first two.
November 24, 1851: In Berlin, Giacomo Meyerbeer (59) is informed that he has been attacked by Richard Wagner (38) in his Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft. He is “deeply demoralized” and finds a manuscript copy of an essay that Wagner gave him ten years ago called Über den Standpunkt der Musik Meyerbeers in which he praises Meyerbeer’s music.
March 17, 1852: Giacomo Meyerbeer (60) receives a visit at his Berlin home from a friend who recently spent time in Weimar, “where Liszt (40) is gathering many musicians around him who subscribe to a new direction in music, which defines itself as freedom of musical thought, independent of any specific form: Richard Wagner (38) is their ideal.”
December 15, 1852: By this date, Richard Wagner (39) has finished the entire text of Der Ring des Nibelungen.
December 18, 1852: Today and tomorrow, Richard Wagner (39) gives the first reading of the complete poem of Der Ring des Nibelungen at the home of François and Eliza Wille in Mariafeld, near Zürich.
February 16, 1853: On four successive nights beginning today, Richard Wagner (39) reads Der Ring des Nibelungen to invited guests in the Hotel Baur au Lac in Zürich.
May 22, 1853: Three nights of concerts featuring the music of Richard Wagner ends in Zürich on the composer’s 40th birthday. He is given a banquet, a laurel wreath and a poem in his honor is read. This poem is presented anonymously, but was written by the wife of a close friend, Johanna Spyri, who will become more famous for creating Heidi in 1880. The festival brings Wagner great acclaim, and produces an enormous debt.
July 13, 1853: The choral societies of Zürich join outside of Richard Wagner’s (40) window to give him a torchlight serenade.
September 5, 1853: While visiting La Spezia, near Genoa, Richard Wagner (40) (so he claims) in half-sleep, half-waking state, dreams that he is sinking into a current of water (in E flat). On waking he realizes that he has dreamed the prelude to Das Rheingold.
October 10, 1853: In the home of Madame Patersi de Fossombroni in Paris, Franz Liszt (41) sees his three children for the first time in nine years. He has come from Switzerland with Richard Wagner (40), Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein and her daughter Princess Marie. Also present are Hector Berlioz (49) and Liszt’s mother Anna. At the request of Princess Marie, Wagner continues to read his Nibelungen poem which he had begun reading to them in Switzerland. It is the first time that Wagner lays eyes on Cosima Liszt, now just 15. It is the first time that Wagner and Berlioz have met since 1843. This is probably the only time that Liszt, Berlioz, and Wagner ever inhabited the same room.
October 18, 1853: Sometime during the next five days, Giuseppe Verdi (40) arrives in Paris with Giuseppina Strepponi to spend the winter. He is staying five minutes walk from the hotel where Franz Liszt (41) and Richard Wagner (40) are. They do not run into each other, and Verdi will never meet either Wagner or Liszt.
November 1, 1853: At his home in Zürich, Richard Wagner (40) begins to compose Der Ring des Nibelungen.
November 20, 1854: The first meeting of the Neu-Weimar-Verein takes place at the Russischer Hof. Charter members include Franz Liszt (43) and Peter Cornelius (29), as well as out-of-town members Hector Berlioz (50), Hans von Bülow, Joseph Joachim, and Richard Wagner (41). The purpose of the association is to further the music of the more radical Romantics: Berlioz, Wagner, Liszt, and others.
January 23, 1855: A second version of the Overture to Faust WWV 59 by Richard Wagner (41) is performed for the first time, in the Casino Zürich conducted by the composer. See 22 July 1844.
April 29, 1855: Giacomo Meyerbeer (63) sees Richard Wagner’s (41) Tannhäuser for the first time, in Hamburg. “The opera itself is incontestably a musical-artistic manifestation of the highest interest. There is indeed a great dearth of melody, an unclarity and a formlessness, but nonetheless great flashes of genius in conception, in orchestral coloring, and in purely musical respects, particularly in the instrumental passages.”
June 11, 1855: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert attend the sixth of Richard Wagner’s (42) seven philharmonic concerts in London. The composer visits with the royal couple in their box at intermission. They request an encore to the overture to Tannhäuser.
June 25, 1855: Before Richard Wagner’s (42) last concert in London, Hector Berlioz (51) dines with him. Afterwards they retire to Wagner’s lodgings and drink together until 03:00. It is the third time in two weeks that they have been together and they seem to part great friends, with promises to exchange future scores.
October 19, 1855: Hans von Bülow conducts the first performance in Berlin of the Overture and Venusberg music from Richard Wagner’s (42) Tannhäuser. Present are Franz Liszt (43) and his two daughters. The conclusion of the music is met with hisses and boos. In his dressing room, von Bülow collapses and faints from the strain. At 02:00 he is well enough for Liszt to force him out and back to his hotel. Cosima Liszt is waiting for him. The two stay up all night talking, and confess their love for each other.
April 26, 1856: In Zürich, Richard Wagner (42) plays and sings through the first act of Die Walküre for friends. Businessman Otto Wesendonck is so taken by it that he decides to forward 250 francs a month to the composer so that he may complete the work unhindered.
November 23, 1856: Franz Liszt (45) conducts two of his symphonic poems, Les Preludes and Orpheus, at a concert at St. Gall, Switzerland. Richard Wagner (43), who conducts the Eroica Symphony on the same program, is enormously impressed with both of them, and calls Orpheus “a totally unique masterpiece of the highest perfection.”
April 28, 1857: Richard Wagner (43) takes up residence at Green Hill, Otto Wesendonck’s villa overlooking Lake Zürich. His cottage is called Asyl (True Refuge) by Wesendonck’s wife, Mathilde. The main house is still under construction and the Wesendonck’s will move into it in August.
August 9, 1857: At the Wesendonck villa outside Zürich, Richard Wagner abruptly stops the composition of Siegfried at the end of Act II.
August 20, 1857: Having stopped the composition of Siegfried two weeks ago at the Wesendonck villa outside Zürich, Richard Wagner (44) begins writing Tristan und Isolde. Otto and Mathilde Wesendonck will move into the new house in two days.
August 22, 1857: Otto and Mathilde Wesendonck move into their new villa outside Zürich. In their cottage on the grounds, Richard Wagner (44) has just begun the writing of Tristan und Isolde.
September 18, 1857: Richard Wagner (44) finishes the poem of Tristan und Isolde at Asyl and presents it to Mathilde Wesendonck. He will shortly read it to a private audience which includes his wife Minna, Otto and Mathilde Wesendonck, and the newly married Hans and Cosima von Bülow, all of whom are unaware of how their lives will intersect over the next ten years.
December 23, 1857: Träume for violin and small orchestra by Richard Wagner (44) is performed for the first time, in Zürich, outside Otto Wesendonck’s villa, on the birthday of Mathilde Wesendonck. This is an arrangement of the fifth of the Wesendonck lieder. See 30 July 1862.
January 14, 1858: In an effort to cool the atmosphere between himself and the Wesendoncks over the ménage a trois, Richard Wagner (44) leaves Zürich for Paris.
February 5, 1858: Richard Wagner (44) returns to Zürich from Paris after receiving an Erard grand piano worth 5,000 francs from Madame Erard.
April 7, 1858: Minna Wagner intercepts a letter from her husband to Mathilde Wesendonck wrapped in the first sketch of the Prelude to Tristan und Isolde. She then confronts Mathilde with it, thus ending the “arrangement” between Wagner (44) and the Wesendoncks and bringing the affair into the open.
August 17, 1858: Pursuant to the end of his relationship with the Wesendoncks (see 7 April 1858), Richard Wagner (45) leaves Asyl, the cottage near Zürich provided for him by Otto Wesendonck. He heads for Venice where he will continue the composition of Tristan und Isolde.
August 29, 1858: Richard Wagner (45) arrives in Venice and sees the city that will be such a large part of his life, for the first time. He is accompanied by his young friend Karl Ritter.
August 30, 1858: Having fled the Wesendoncks, Richard Wagner (45) takes up residence in the Palazzo Giustiniani in Venice.
March 12, 1859: The prelude to Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner (45) is performed for the first time, in Prague, conducted by Hans von Bülow. This is the version with a concert ending by von Bülow. See 25 January 1860.
March 24, 1859: Six days after finishing Act II of Tristan und Isolde, Richard Wagner (45) is obliged to leave Venice due to the impending war between Sardinia, France, and Austria. Afraid of being cut off from Switzerland, he goes to Lucerne and eventually to Paris.
April 4, 1859: A complete Wagner (45) opera is staged in the United States for the first time when Tannhäuser is produced in the Stadt Theatre, New York.
January 13, 1860: Breitkopf and Härtel complete the publishing of Richard Wagner’s (46) Tristan und Isolde.
January 21, 1860: A package arrives at the Paris home of Hector Berlioz (56) with a note. “Dear Berlioz, I am delighted to be able to offer you the first copy of my Tristan. Accept it and keep it out of friendship for me. Richard Wagner (46).” The score is inscribed, “To the dear and great author of Romeo and Juliet, from the grateful author of Tristan und Isolde.”
January 25, 1860: Richard Wagner (46) conducts the first of three concerts of his music in Paris. Attending today at the Théâtre-Italien are Daniel Auber (77), Hector Berlioz (56), Valentin Alkan (46), Charles Gounod (41) and Pauline Viardot (38). The audience is enthusiastic but the press is merciless. Heard tonight for the first time is the Prelude to Tristan und Isolde with the concert ending composed by Wagner. Alkan leaves at intermission, later saying “Wagner is not music; it’s a sickness.” Viardot writes, "Wagner has just given a concert which exasperated three quarters of the audience and delighted the rest. Personally, I found a lot of it painful, even though I admired the vehemence of his musical feelings in certain instances. But the diminished sevenths, the discords and the crude modulations made me feverish, and I have to say that I find this sort of music loathsome and revolting." (Kendall-Davies I, 413-414) See 12 March 1859.
February 9, 1860: Hector Berlioz (56) publishes a criticism of Richard Wagner’s (46) music in the Journal des débats beginning a second Querelle des Bouffons. “If this is the religion, and a new one at that, then I am far from confessing it. I never have, am not about to, and never will. I raise my hand and swear: non credo! “
February 15, 1860: The Journal des débats publishes Richard Wagner’s (46) soft-spoken reply to Berlioz’ (56) article of 9 February, all 1,400 words of it.
March 11, 1860: Emperor Napoléon III orders the production of Tannhäuser at the Paris Opéra. With such backing, the Saxon ambassador in Paris, Baron von Seebach, will gain an amnesty for the composer, Richard Wagner (46), an exile for eleven years.
July 15, 1860: Baron von Seebach, Saxon ambassador to France, receives word that Richard Wagner (47) is given free access to Germany, except Saxony.
August 12, 1860: Richard Wagner (47) crosses into Germany for the first time in eleven years, on his way from Paris to Baden-Baden.
March 13, 1861: By imperial command, the so-called “Paris” version of Tannhäuser by Richard Wagner (47) to his own words is performed for the first time, at the Paris Opéra. The performers have been subjected to 160 rehearsals, almost all of them personally supervised by the composer. The performance is disrupted by the Jockey Club, a group of young aristocrats who object to Wagner’s decision not to place the ballet at the beginning of the second act, as is customary in French opera. The conductor, Pierre Dietsch, is completely inept, conducting from a violin part. See 1 August 1847, 19 October 1848, and 1 August 1867.
March 18, 1861: Recalling a performance of the overture to Lohengrin, conducted by Richard Wagner (47) in Paris last year, Charles Beaudelaire writes, “I felt as if released from gravity, with rekindled memories of voluptuous pleasures that circulate in lofty places.” (Grey, 372)
April 15, 1861: Richard Wagner (47) meets Grand Duke Friedrich I of Baden in Karlsruhe. The two make plans to mount Tristan und Isolde in September but it comes to nought.
May 9, 1861: Richard Wagner (47) arrives in Vienna looking for singers for a projected performance of Tristan und Isolde in Karlsruhe.
June 22, 1861: Richard Wagner’s (48) dog Fips dies. It is the last thing that he and Minna have in common.
October 30, 1861: Richard Wagner (48) suggests to the publisher Schott, the idea of “a grand comic opera” called Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
December 1, 1861: In Mainz, Richard Wagner (48) reads the scenario of Die Meistersinger to Schott who immediately offers him 10,000 francs.
February 15, 1862: Richard Wagner (48) takes up residence at Rheingaustrasse 137 in Biebrich (now Wiesbaden).
February 21, 1862: Minna Wagner shows up unexpectedly at Richard Wagner’s (48) residence in Biebrich. He describes what follows as “ten days in hell.” He wants a divorce but can not suggest it because of her bad health. They decide on a separation. She will move to Dresden.
March 25, 1862: Richard Wagner (48) in Biebrich writes a letter to King Johann of Saxony, pleading for amnesty on account of his need to have access to the Dresden theatre and because of the ill-health of his wife.
March 28, 1862: Richard Wagner (48) is pardoned by King Johann of Saxony and allowed to reenter the country after an exile of 13 years.
July 30, 1862: Fünf Gedichte für eine Frauenstimme WWV 91 by Richard Wagner (49) to words of Mathilde Wesendonck are performed for the first time, at Laubenheim near Mainz. The songs were composed in 1857-1858 during Wagner’s liaison with Frau Wesendonck.
November 1, 1862: The Prelude to Die Meistersinger by Richard Wagner (49) is performed for the first time, in the Leipzig Gewandhaus conducted by the composer.
November 14, 1862: Richard Wagner (49) moves to Vienna once more, hoping to produce Tristan und Isolde there.
November 23, 1862: Richard Wagner (49) reads his poem Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in the home of Dr. Josef Standhartner in Vienna.
December 26, 1862: Richard Wagner (49) conducts music from his unperformed music-dramas Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, and Die Meistersinger in Vienna in a concert attended by Empress Elizabeth of Austria.
January 1, 1863: Two Schmiedelieder from Siegfried by Richard Wagner (49) are performed for the first time, in a concert setting in the Theater an der Wien, Vienna, directed by the composer.
January 6, 1863: Piano Sonata no.3 by Johannes Brahms (29) is performed in Vienna by the composer. The critic Eduard Hanslick remarks, “it belongs to the most inward experiences that recent piano music has to offer.” In the audience is Richard Wagner (49) who is in Vienna trying to get Tristan und Isolde performed. Also premiered are Brahms’ songs Jucche! op.6/4 to words of Reinick, Treue Liebe op.7/1 to words of Ferrand, and Parole op.7/2 to words of Eichendorff.
November 28, 1863: While traveling from Mainz to Löwenberg, Richard Wagner (50) stops at the home of Hans von Bülow in Berlin. In the afternoon, as von Bülow is rehearsing, Wagner and Cosima von Bülow go for a ride. They both will regard this as the beginning of their serious relationship.
February 6, 1864: The men who will tower over the two opposing forces of German art music for the rest of the century, Richard Wagner (50) and Johannes Brahms (30), meet for the first and last time at the home of Baron von Voclow in Penzing, near Schönbrunn. Since late 1862, Brahms has been involved in organizing Wagner’s concerts in Vienna. Brahms performs his Handel Variations prompting Wagner to remark, “It shows what can still be done with the old forms by somebody who knows how to handle them.”
March 23, 1864: Richard Wagner (50) escapes from Vienna ahead of his creditors making for Switzerland via Munich.
March 26, 1864: Richard Wagner (50) arrives in Zürich where a friend, Eliza Wille, has agreed to give him room for a month.
April 14, 1864: 18-year-old King Ludwig II of Bavaria, on the throne for one month, orders his cabinet secretary Franz Seraph von Pfistermeister, to find Richard Wagner (50).
May 3, 1864: After a search of nearly two months, Franz Seraph von Pfistermeister, cabinet secretary to King Ludwig II of Bavaria, catches up to Richard Wagner (50) in Stuttgart. Pfistermeister brings a photograph of the King and a ring, and conveys the king's wish that Wagner come to Munich at once. Everything Wagner needs will be provided so that Der Ring des Nibelungen can be produced. Later in the day, Wagner learns of the death of Meyerbeer. He takes the coincidence of these two “happy” events as an omen of good fortune.
May 4, 1864: Richard Wagner (50) meets King Ludwig II of Bavaria for the first time, in the Residenz, Munich. Ludwig offers Wagner an annual stipend, a house, and to pay all his outstanding debts. Wagner accepts. According to the composer, “It was one unending love scene.”
May 10, 1864: Richard Wagner (50) arrives in Vienna to pay off his debts and retrieve his personal items. He learns that his Erard piano has been sold to pay creditors.
May 14, 1864: Richard Wagner (50) moves into Haus Pellet at Münchner Strasse 49-61 in Berg, a house provided for him on Lake Starnberg by King Ludwig.
May 22, 1864: His beloved Erard having been sold to pay creditors, King Ludwig II gives a new Bechstein piano to Richard Wagner for his 51st birthday.
June 29, 1864: Cosima von Bülow and her two daughters join Richard Wagner (51) at his house on Lake Starnberg, Bavaria. Wagner has invited the von Bülow family to his house and Hans has sent Cosima and the children on ahead. He will arrive on 7 July.
July 7, 1864: After Cosima von Bülow has visited Richard Wagner (51) for a week in the Villa Pellet on Lake Starnberg (during the king’s absence), her husband Hans von Bülow arrives. In the week before von Bülow’s arrival, Wagner and Cosima have consummated their union. A servant will later testify that when von Bülow finds the locked bedroom door, he went “to his living room, threw himself on the ground, beat on the floor with his hands and feet like a man possessed, and cried and even screamed.” (Köhler, 460)
October 5, 1864: Huldigungsmarsch WWV 97 for military band by Richard Wagner (51) in honor of King Ludwig II of Bavaria is performed for the first time, at the Residenz in Munich. See 12 November 1871.
October 7, 1864: King Ludwig agrees to give Richard Wagner (51) a contract to finish Der Ring des Nibelungen.
October 12, 1864: Richard Wagner (51) moves into a new house provided by King Ludwig, at 21 Briennerstrasse, Munich. (The building was destroyed in World War II)
November 20, 1864: Hans von Bülow, his wife and children arrive in Munich and take up residence not far from Richard Wagner (51). Von Bülow has been appointed “Vorspieler des Königs” at Wagner’s suggestion, but it is a ruse to bring Cosima as close to him as possible.
February 19, 1865: The Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung begins attacks on Richard Wagner (51), mentioning his excessive spending and abusing the generosity of King Ludwig.
March 11, 1865: King Ludwig writes to Richard Wagner (51) that he wants Wagner to stay in Bavaria, in spite of press attacks on him.
April 10, 1865: Hans von Bülow conducts the first rehearsal for Tristan und Isolde in Munich a few hours after his wife, Cosima, gives birth to the daughter of the composer of the music, Richard Wagner (51). The child is named Isolde Ludowika Josepha.
May 11, 1865: The final dress rehearsal of Richard Wagner’s (51) Tristan und Isolde takes place before King Ludwig II and an invited audience of 600 in the Königliches Hof-und Nationaltheater in Munich. They are very appreciative of the music and the efforts of the musicians directed by Hans von Bülow.
May 15, 1865: On the day scheduled for the premiere of Tristan und Isolde, agents of the court enter the home of Richard Wagner (51) in Munich and take away furniture to pay for a five-year-old debt he owes Madame Julie Salis-Schwabe. His mistress, Cosima von Bülow runs to the Bavarian treasury with a plea from Wagner that they release 2,400 florins against his salary. They do so, on orders of King Ludwig. Later, Wagner learns that Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld, who plays Isolde, is ill and unable to sing. The premiere is postponed.
June 10, 1865: Tristan und Isolde, a music-drama by Richard Wagner (52) to his own words, is performed for the first time, in the Königliches Hof-und Nationaltheater, Munich, conducted by Hans von Bülow. Although there is some hissing, it is a resounding success. Anton Bruckner (40), who came to Munich to see the planned premiere in May, will see the third performance.
July 17, 1865: Richard Wagner (52) begins dictating his autobiography to Cosima von Bülow in Munich.
October 16, 1865: Richard Wagner (52) writes to King Ludwig demanding 200,000 florins, 40,000 payable immediately and the rest paid out through the rest of his life. Ludwig will agree to 40,000 immediately and an annual stipend of 8,000 florins.
October 20, 1865: Cosima von Bülow goes to the Bavarian treasury in Munich to collect 40,000 florins paid to Richard Wagner (52) by King Ludwig. Officials tell her they have no paper money and give her the entire amount in coins. She engages two cabs to haul the loot away.
November 29, 1865: An anonymous letter is published in a Munich newspaper praising King Ludwig and Richard Wagner (52) and calling for the removal of certain court officials. It was written by Wagner and is easily identifiable as such.
December 1, 1865: Bavarian Prime Minister von der Pfordten writes to King Ludwig that he must choose between his people and Richard Wagner (52), and threatens to resign.
December 3, 1865: King Ludwig writes to Richard Wagner (52) that he is leaving Hohenschwangau and returning to Munich to deal with the crisis caused by Wagner’s letter to the newspaper of 29 November.
December 6, 1865: Confronted with his cabinet’s threat to resign, the grumblings and open hostility of his people and the strongly worded advice of the royal family, King Ludwig sends his second cabinet secretary, Johann von Lutz, to Richard Wagner’s (52) Munich home to inform him he must leave the country.
December 7, 1865: King Ludwig writes to Richard Wagner (52) that he must “never doubt the loyalty of your best friend.”
January 9, 1866: Minna Wagner, in Dresden, signs a statement in support of her husband Richard Wagner (52). This is the plan of Cosima von Bülow to answer public criticisms that Wagner abandoned Minna.
March 30, 1866: Richard Wagner (52), Cosima von Bülow, and her daughter Daniela arrive in Lucerne looking for a place for him to settle. During this stay, while boating on Lake Lucerne, they will see Tribschen and decide on the spot to obtain it.
April 15, 1866: Richard Wagner (52) moves to Tribschen, a house obtained for him by King Ludwig overlooking the Vierwald Stättersee near Lucerne. Cosima von Bülow will join him in May and by the time her husband Hans arrives in June, she will be carrying Wagner’s second child.
May 12, 1866: In order to create the appearance of respectability, Richard Wagner (52) invites the entire von Bülow family to his home, Tribschen, on Lake Lucerne. Cosima arrives today. By the time Hans arrives in mid-June, she will be pregnant with Wagner’s second child.
May 15, 1866: As war looms, King Ludwig II telegraphs Richard Wagner (52) announcing his desire to abdicate his throne and join the composer in Tribschen. Wagner responds that he must forget about art for the moment and turn his full attention to affairs of state.
May 22, 1866: On the day he is scheduled to open Parliament, King Ludwig escapes incognito into Switzerland to be with Richard Wagner on his 53rd birthday. He arrives at Tribschen and stays two days.
June 10, 1866: Hans von Bülow arrives at Tribschen to perhaps bring the “situation” with Richard Wagner (53) into the open. No one is sure exactly what transpires. The von Bülows remain at Tribschen into September. Cosima is carrying Wagner’s second child.
June 11, 1866: King Ludwig II of Bavaria releases a statement to the press (it was written by Richard Wagner), attesting to the virtue of Cosima von Bülow and vowing to investigate all those who cast public doubt on Hans von Bülow, his wife, and Richard Wagner (53).
January 22, 1867: King Ludwig II sends a telegram to Richard Wagner (53) announcing that he has just become engaged to his cousin Duchess Sophie Charlotte Augustine.
February 17, 1867: A second child is born to Richard Wagner (53) and Cosima von Bülow at Tribschen, near Lucerne. The girl is named Eva Marie after the heroine of Die Meistersinger. On the same day, the mother’s husband, Hans von Bülow arrives at Tribschen.
August 1, 1867: The fourth and last incarnation of Richard Wagner’s (54) grosse romantische Oper Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartberg to his own words is performed for the first time, in the Königliches Hof-und Nationaltheater, Munich. See 19 October 1845, 1 August 1847, and 13 March 1861.
September 16, 1867: Cosima von Bülow, with her children, leaves Richard Wagner (54) in Tribschen and returns to her husband Hans in Munich.
September 24, 1867: The Süddeutsche Presse is established in Munich with government funds by friends of Richard Wagner (54). Wagner begins a weekly series entitled “German Art and German Politics.”
October 9, 1867: Franz Liszt (55) arrives at Tribschen to discuss Richard Wagner’s (54) relationship with his daughter Cosima von Bülow. They talk for six hours. Later, they discuss Die Meistersinger, which Liszt sight-reads from the orchestral score while Wagner sings the vocal parts. Liszt calls it a masterpiece. They will not see each other again for five years.
December 19, 1867: King Ludwig of Bavaria orders the cessation of a series of articles by Richard Wagner (54) entitled “German Art and German Politics.” The cause for the censorship is unknown, but the articles are anti-French and favor German nationalism.
April 4, 1868: The conclusion of Act 3 to Die Meistersinger by Richard Wagner (54) is performed for the first time, in Linz, conducted by Anton Bruckner (43). Also on the program is the premiere of Bruckner’s own Vaterlandslied O könnt’ ich dich beglücken for tenor, bass, and male chorus to words of Silberstein.
June 21, 1868: Die Meistersinger von Nürnburg, a music drama by Richard Wagner (55) to his own words, is performed for the first time, in the Königliches Hof-und Nationaltheater, Munich, conducted by Hans von Bülow, before King Ludwig and 1,500 invited guests. Although a success with the public, the critics are not impressed. The night watchman is played by Ferdinand Lang, brother of Josephine Lang Köstlin (53).
July 22, 1868: Cosima von Bülow flees the rumors and scandal in Munich over her adultery and goes to Richard Wagner (55) in Tribschen, thus confirming the rumors.
September 14, 1868: Richard Wagner (55) and Cosima von Bülow depart Tribschen together for a two-week tour of Italy.
October 16, 1868: Modest Musorgsky (29), Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (24), Cesar Cui (33), and Sergey Dargomizhsky (55) attend the first Russian performance of Lohengrin by Richard Wagner (55) at the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg. Rimsky-Korsakov recalls, “In our opinion, Lohengrin was contemptable.” They have no end of abuse for the work.
November 8, 1868: While in Leipzig visiting his sister Ottilie and her husband Hermann Brockhaus, Richard Wagner (55) meets a young philology student named Friedrich Nietzsche. The two find common ground in their interest in Schopenhauer.
November 16, 1868: Cosima von Bülow leaves her husband for the last time and with her two daughters moves permanently to Tribschen, the home of the girls’ father, Richard Wagner (55).
January 1, 1869: Cosima von Bülow begins her diary, which she will keep (amounting to over 5,000 pages) until the day before the death of Richard Wagner (55) in 1883.
January 11, 1869: 18 years after its first publication, Richard Wagner (55) sends out from Tribschen a slightly amended Das Judenthum in Musik for republication. It will not be received well.
May 17, 1869: Friedrich Nietzsche, now a professor at the University of Basel, makes the first of several visits to Richard Wagner’s (55) home, Tribschen.
June 6, 1869: A third child is born to Richard Wagner (56) and Cosima von Bülow at Tribschen, a son, who is named Helferich Siegfried Richard.
June 17, 1869: Hans von Bülow, in Munich, writes to his wife Cosima at Tribschen that he reluctantly agrees to a final separation. He entrusts the care of their two children to her. He is apparently unaware that she has just given birth to Richard Wagner’s (56) third child.
September 22, 1869: The Vorabend to Der Ring des Nibelungen, Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner (56) to his own words, is performed for the first time, in the Königliches Hof-und Nationaltheater, Munich. The production has been forced by King Ludwig against the wishes of the composer. Among those in attendance is Franz Liszt (57). See 13 August 1876.
March 5, 1870: In the middle of a conversation with Cosima at Tribschen, the idea occurs to Richard Wagner (56) of placing his opera house halfway between Munich and Berlin, in the city of Bayreuth, as a symbol of German unity.
June 26, 1870: Die Walküre, a music-drama by Richard Wagner (57) to his own words, is performed for the first time, against the composer’s wishes, in the Königliches Hof-und Nationaltheater, Munich. Among the audience are Johannes Brahms (37), Camille Saint-Saëns (34), and Henri Duparc (22). See 14 August 1876.
July 19, 1870: Visitors from France, including Camille Saint-Saëns (34) and Henri Duparc (22), arrive to visit ardent Germanophile Richard Wagner (57) and Cosima von Bülow at Tribschen, near Lucerne, Switzerland. The visit is somewhat awkward, but Wagner manages to keep his conversation on music. Cosima, however, can't help herself. They will stay until 30 July, during which time Wagner’s anti-French rhetoric becomes more strident.
August 25, 1870: Richard Wagner (57) marries Cosima Liszt von Bülow in the Protestant Hofkirche, near Lucerne, on the birthday of King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
December 25, 1870: The Siegfried Idyll WWV 103 (originally titled Symphony ) for small orchestra by Richard Wagner (57) is performed for the first time, on the stairs outside Cosima’s room at Tribschen. The composer has assembled local musicians to perform the work as a birthday-Christmas present to his wife.
March 1, 1871: In an attempt to forestall a projected production in Munich, Richard Wagner (57) writes to King Ludwig of Bavaria that he can not bring himself to finish Siegfried. In fact, he finished it at Tribschen on 5 February.
April 14, 1871: Kaisermarsch by Richard Wagner (57) is performed for the first time, privately, in Berlin. See 23 April 1871.
April 23, 1871: Kaisermarsch by Richard Wagner (57) is performed publicly for the first time, in the Leipzig Stadttheater.
April 28, 1871: Richard Wagner (57) reads his installation thesis, On the Destiny of Opera, at the Berlin Royal Academy of Arts.
May 3, 1871: Richard Wagner (57) receives an audience with Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in Berlin in an attempt to gain funding for his Festspielhaus in Bayreuth. He leaves with no promises.
May 12, 1871: In Leipzig, Richard Wagner (57) publicly announces that Der Ring des Nibelungen will be performed in 1873 in Bayreuth. He has not yet brought up the idea of a new theatre with the town fathers, confident they will not refuse.
November 1, 1871: For the first time, Richard Wagner (58) writes to the town fathers in Bayreuth, laying out the plans for his new theatre. Their response is enthusiastic.
November 7, 1871: The town of Bayreuth formally approves of Richard Wagner’s (58) plan for a new theatre.
November 12, 1871: Huldigungsmarsch WWV 97 by Richard Wagner (58) is performed for the first time in the setting for orchestra, at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna. See 5 October 1864.
November 19, 1871: Giuseppe Verdi (58) attends a performance of Richard Wagner’s (58) Lohengrin in Bologna, also attended by Arrigo Boito (29). Verdi is recognized after the second act and applauded for 15 minutes, but refuses to show himself to the crowd. He brings with him a copy of the score and makes notes on it throughout the performance. His opinion: “Impression mediocre.”
February 1, 1872: An executive committee is formed to organize the Bayreuth Festival. Richard Wagner (58) buys land near the Bayreuth Hofgarten. Here his home Villa Wahnfried will be built.
April 22, 1872: Richard Wagner (58) leaves his house near Lucerne, Tribschen, forever. He moves to Bayreuth to oversee construction of the Festspielhaus.
April 29, 1872: Cosima Wagner, her five children, nursemaid, personal maid, and dog Russ leave Tribschen, setting up household tomorrow with Wagner (58) in the Hotel Fantaisie in Donndorf, near Bayreuth.
May 22, 1872: On his 59th birthday, in a driving rain, Richard Wagner lays the cornerstone for the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. Later, in the town’s opera house, Wagner speaks on how he envisions the building and then conducts a performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s (†45) Symphony no.9 in celebration. There is an enormous banquet. Friedrich Nietzsche, who accompanies Wagner, will write, “Everything that had happened up to now was a preparation for this moment.”
May 24, 1872: Two days after the laying of the cornerstone, Richard Wagner (59) hires an architect to build the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. He signs a contract with Peter Otto Brückwald of Leipzig.
January 17, 1873: Richard Wagner (59) reads Götterdämmerung before a glittering assembly of potential subscribers gathered in the home of Count von Schleinitz in Berlin. “I cannot judge the impression the reading made, but I believe it was considerable.” (C.Wagner, 164)
May 29, 1873: Christus, an oratorio by Franz Liszt (61) to words from the Bible and the Roman Catholic liturgy, is performed completely for the first time, in the Weimar Stadtkirche, conducted by the composer. Liszt’s daughter, Cosima, and his son-in-law Richard Wagner (60) are present. Cosima reports that “Richard’s reaction covers all extremes, from ravishment to immense indignation, in his attempt to do it both profound and loving justice.” (C.Wagner, 178)
August 11, 1873: Richard Wagner (60) writes to King Ludwig II of Bavaria telling him that the German aristocracy is investing all its money in “Jewish and Jesuit” concerns and not him and his Festspielhaus. He asks for a loan of 100,000 taler. He will not receive a reply.
December 25, 1873: Kinder-Katechismus zu Kosels Geburtstag “Sagt mir Kinder, was blüht am Maitag” for solo voice, children’s choir, and piano by Richard Wagner (60) is performed for the first time, at Bayreuth. Wagner has it sung by children in the room next to their bedroom so Cosima can hear it when she awakes.
January 25, 1874: After three rejections, King Ludwig II writes to Richard Wagner (60) that he will help finance the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. He will approve a loan of 100,000 taler.
April 28, 1874: Richard Wagner (60), his wife and family move into the unfinished Villa Wahnfried in Bayreuth.
November 21, 1874: Richard Wagner (61) writes the last note of Götterdämmerung at Wahnfried, his Bayreuth home, thus completing Der Ring des Nibelungen.
March 1, 1875: Richard Wagner (61) conducts a performance of his music in Vienna. For the first time, Wagner tubas are heard, playing Siegfried’s Funeral Music. The sound causes a sensation and the audience requires the musicians to play it again.
March 25, 1875: Excerpts from Götterdämmerung by Richard Wagner (61) are performed for the first time, in the Musikverein, Vienna, conducted by the composer.
August 2, 1875: Richard Wagner (62) hears an orchestra in the Bayreuth Festspielhaus for the first time and is pleased by the acoustical results.
March 20, 1876: The Berlin premiere of Tristan und Isolde takes place in the presence of the imperial family. Kaiser Wilhelm speaks to Richard Wagner (62) during the first intermission and promises to travel to Bayreuth for the opening Ring festival in August. He also promises the proceeds from the Tristan performance will go to the festival fund.
May 10, 1876: Grosser Festmarsch WWV 110 for winds and percussion by Richard Wagner (62), commissioned for the opening ceremonies of the Centennial Exposition of the American Declaration of Independence, is performed for the first time, in Philadelphia. Also premiered is the Centennial Hymn op.27 for chorus by John Knowles Paine (37).
August 6, 1876: Just after midnight, the royal train from Munich stops in an open field outside Bayreuth. King Ludwig steps out into a waiting carriage containing Richard Wagner (63), who he has not seen for eight years. The king is to view the dress rehearsals for Der Ring des Nibelungen in their entirety on the nights of 6, 7, 8, and 9 August alone with Wagner and a few others.
August 13, 1876: A glittering array of political leaders and artists, including Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany and Emperor Pedro II of Brazil, gathers in Bayreuth for the opening of the Festspielhaus. Attending musicians include Franz Liszt (64), Anton Bruckner (51), Camille Saint-Saëns (40), Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (36), Edvard Grieg (33), and Arthur Foote (23). Friedrich Nietzsche is also there. The first production of the complete Der Ring des Nibelungen, Bühnenfestspiel für drei Tage und einen Vorabend, by Richard Wagner (63) to his own words opens in the Bayreuth Festspielhaus with a production of Das Rheingold.
August 16, 1876: Siegfried, a music-drama by Richard Wagner (63) to his own words, is performed for the first time, on the third night of the first complete production of Der Ring des Nibelungen in the Bayreuth Festpielhaus.
August 17, 1876: The first complete production of Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner (63) concludes with the premiere of Götterdämmerung, a music-drama to the composer’s own words, in the Bayreuth Festspielhaus.
September 14, 1876: A month after the first Bayreuth Festival, Richard Wagner (63), his wife, stepdaughter, and a governess depart Munich to spend a four-month vacation in Italy.
September 23, 1876: While vacationing in Venice with his wife and family, Richard Wagner (63) receives word that the Bayreuth Festival is 120,000 marks in debt and the debt is growing.
November 2, 1876: In Sorrento, Richard Wagner (63) spends an evening with Friedrich Nietzsche. It is the last time the two will see each other.
April 2, 1877: At a meeting in Leipzig of members from various Wagner (63) Societies, the General Patrons Association for the Maintenance and Preservation of the Stage Festivals in Bayreuth is created. Its goal is to provide a sound financial foundation for the Bayreuth festival.
May 17, 1877: Queen Victoria receives Richard Wagner (63) at Windsor Castle. Cosima remembers the architecture and the paintings, but says nothing of the Queen.
December 24, 1877: Willkommen in Wahnfried, du heil’ger Christ for children’s chorus by Richard Wagner (64) is performed for the first time, in Bayreuth, for Cosima at Wahnfried.
March 31, 1878: The Munich Hoftheater, directed by King Ludwig II, agrees to pay off the Bayreuth Festival’s debt based on receipts of royalties from the production of Richard Wagner’s (64) works. The Munich Hoftheater receives the right to perform Parsifal free after the Bayreuth premiere. Bayreuth is finally solvent.
April 4, 1878: This is the probable date of Friedrich Nietzsche’s visit to his doctor, Otto Eiser, in Frankfurt. After his examination, Eiser, a fervent Wagnerite, shows Nietzsche a letter from Richard Wagner (54) wherein the composer accuses the philosopher of homosexuality. Nietzsche explodes. “Why Nietzsche broke with Wagner is something that I alone know, for the break took place under my roof, in my surgery...Nietzsche was beside himself--the words that he found for Wagner are unrepeatable.” (Köhler, 526).
April 28, 1878: Today and tomorrow in Leipzig, Richard Wagner’s (54) Das Rheingold and Die Walküre are performed for the first time outside Bayreuth with the composer’s blessings.
September 21, 1878: Today and tomorrow see the first performances of Richard Wagner’s (65) Siegried and Götterdammerung outside Bayreuth. They are produced with the composer’s blessings, in Leipzig.
December 25, 1878: The Prelude to Richard Wagner’s (65) unperformed music drama Parsifal is performed for the first time, at Wahnfried in Bayreuth, for the birthday of the composer’s wife, Cosima. See 26 July 1882.
January 4, 1880: Advised by his doctor to seek a warmer climate, Richard Wagner (66) and his family move into the Villa d’Angri on the Bay of Naples. They will remain until 8 August.
July 25, 1880: While in Naples, Richard Wagner (67) finishes dictating his autobiography to Cosima. He started 15 years ago.
November 12, 1880: Richard Wagner (67) sees King Ludwig II of Bavaria for the last time, at a private performance of the Prelude to Parsifal in the court theatre, Munich.
November 17, 1880: Richard Wagner (67) and his family return to Bayreuth after an absence of eleven months.
December 25, 1880: Ihr Kinder, geschwinde, geschwinde for children’s voices by Richard Wagner (67) is performed for the first time, at Wahnfried in Bayreuth.
November 5, 1881: Richard Wagner (68) and his family arrive at the Grand Hotel delle Palme in Palermo where they will spend the winter until 2 February.
January 14, 1882: The day after Richard Wagner (68) writes the last note of Parsifal in Palermo, he is visited by a young artist named Pierre-August Renoir. The two have a pleasant chat and agree that tomorrow, Renoir will paint a portrait of Wagner.
January 15, 1882: Pierre-August Renoir paints a portrait sketch of Richard Wagner (68) in Palermo. It takes him 35 minutes. Upon viewing the completed work, the composer remarks, “I look like a Protestant minister.” The painter agrees.
February 2, 1882: Richard Wagner (68) and his family move from the Grand Hotel delle Palme to the Palazzo Valguarnera-Gangi in Palermo.
March 20, 1882: Richard Wagner (68) and his family depart Palermo after a stay of four-and-a-half months.
March 28, 1882: At Acireale, Richard Wagner (68) suffers a heart attack but will make a speedy recovery.
April 12, 1882: Richard Wagner (68) and his family are forced to spend an extra day in Messina when they are bumped from a steamship to mainland Italy. The bumper is ex-Khedive Ismail of Egypt.
July 25, 1882: A banquet takes place in Bayreuth to celebrate tomorrow’s premiere of Parsifal. Seated beside Richard Wagner (69) through the evening is not his wife, but his lover, Judith Gautier.
February 13, 1883: 15:30 Wilhelm Richard Wagner dies in the Palazzo Loredan Vendramin Calergi on the Grand Canal, in Venice, Kingdom of Italy, of a heart attack, in the arms of his wife, aged 69 years, eight months, and 22 days. His Venetian doctor, Friedrich Keppler, writes, “It is self-evident that the innumerable psychichal agitations to which Wagner was daily disposed by his peculiar mental constitution and disposition, his sharply defined attitude towards a number of burning questions of art, science, and politics, and his remarkable social position did much to hasten his unfortunate end.” Jacques Manheit, a baritone in the Olmütz opera, will recall “...just as I was going from my home to the theatre, I saw a man running through the streets; he was quite distraught, sobbed loudly, and pressed his handkerchief against his eyes; I recognized Mahler (22) with difficulty...I went up to him anxiously and asked him quietly, ‘In heaven’s name, has something happened to your father?’’ ‘Worse, worse, much worse,’ he howled at the top of his voice: ‘the worst, the worst has happened, the Master has died.’...After that it was impossible to talk to Mahler for days. He came to the theatre for rehearsals and performances, but was inaccessible to everybody for a long time.”
February 14, 1883: More than 24 hours after the death of Richard Wagner, Cosima Wagner is persuaded by family members to let go of his body. He died in her arms yesterday, in Venice. Anton Bruckner (58) is at the Vienna Conservatory when he hears of the death of Richard Wagner. Currently composing the adagio movement of his Symphony no.7, he concludes the work with funeral music in honor of his mentor.
Upon hearing the news of Wagner’s death, Hugo Wolf (22) plays the funeral march from Götterdämmerung, then spends the rest of the day in a tree crying.
February 16, 1883: The body of Richard Wagner is placed on a train in Venice for Bayreuth, accompanied by his wife and family.
February 18, 1883: The earthly remains of Richard Wagner are laid to rest near his home, Wahnfried, near Bayreuth. After the mourners depart, Cosima Wagner enters the open grave and lays down on the coffin. Family members find her and escort her back to the house.
May 3, 1887: Music of Richard Wagner (†4) is staged in Paris for the first time since his death with a production of Lohengrin at the Eden-Théâtre. Among the audience are Gabriel Fauré (41), Ernest Chausson (32), and Claude Debussy (24). Conductor Charles Lamoreux has been publicly accused of being a German agent. A riot takes place outside the theatre with several hefty projectiles thrown at the building, breaking windows. Numerous arrests ensue.
June 29, 1888: Richard Wagner’s (†5) romantische Oper Die Feen WWV 32 to his own words after Gozzi is performed for the first time, in the Königliches Hof-und Nationaltheater, Munich, 55 years after it was composed. See 12 December 1833.
September 16, 1891: Lohengrin by Richard Wagner (†8) is successfully staged at the Paris Opéra. Unlike the production of 1887, the nationalistic demonstrations outside are crushed by the police, even though the crowds are much larger. After this, Wagner becomes the most performed composer at the capital of French musical culture. See 3 May 1887.
December 24, 1903: The first performance of Parsifal outside Bayreuth takes place at the Metropolitan Opera New York over the objections of the Wagner (†20) family.
June 10, 1911: For the first time, the Paris Opéra stages the complete Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner (†28), 35 years after it was first performed. It will run through 14 June.
January 4, 1914: Parsifal by Richard Wagner (†30) is produced at the Paris Opéra for the first time. It is the last of Wagner’s important works to be produced in Paris. See 1 January 1914.
September 27, 1914: Frédéric Masson of the French Academy publishes an article urging his countrymen to banish Wagner (†31) from the country “by violence if need be.”
February 4, 1916: The French periodical La Renaissance publishes opinions as to whether the music of Wagner (†32) should be permitted in France after the war. Five favor it, 16 oppose.
November 19, 1916: Arturo Toscanini directs a concert featuring the work of Richard Wagner (†33) in the Teatro Augusteo, Rome. After a selection from Siegried he begins the Funeral March from Götterdämmerung. Towards the beginning, a voice in the audience cries out, “This is for the dead of Padua!” referring to a recent air raid on the city which killed hundreds. Although the young man who said it did not intend it this way, the audience takes it as an attack on the music and joins in with a chorus of nationalistic disdain directed towards the stage. Toscanini attempts to calm them by playing the national anthem but nothing works. The performance is abandoned, and Toscanini will leave Rome tomorrow.
November 8, 1919: Wagner (†36) is performed in France for the first time since the beginning of the war, in an orchestral concert in Paris. A poll of the audience reveals 4,983 in favor, 213 against performances of Wagner.
January 5, 1921: For the first time since the beginning of the Great War, a work of Richard Wagner (†37) is performed at the Paris Opéra.
September 30, 1923: Adolf Hitler makes his first pilgrimage to Wahnfried, the home of Richard Wagner (†40) in Bayreuth.
November 3, 1923: In a speech to a party meeting in Nuremberg, Adolf Hitler says, “We perceive Wagner (†40) as so great an artist because he presents in all his works the heroic essence of the folk, the German people. The heroic is the great. That is what our people desire.”
February 10, 1933: Thomas Mann delivers a lecture at Munich University to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Richard Wagner. He disapproves of the Nazis using Wagner “for an unholy alliance of Macht and Kultur.”
February 13, 1933: The surviving sections of Richard Wagner’s opera Die Hochzeit are performed for the first time, in the Rostock Stadttheater, 100 years after they were composed, and on the 50th anniversary of the composer’s death. All that remains is the Introduction, a chorus and a septet. Wagner destroyed the libretto.
March 21, 1933: Chancellor Adolf Hitler opens the First Reichstag of the Third Reich in the garrison church, Potsdam. In the evening, a special performance of Richard Wagner’s (†50) Die Meistersinger takes place. At the chorus “Wach auf” the singers are instructed to turn and sing it to Hitler’s box, thus transferring their allegiance from Hans Sachs to the new order.
November 21, 1940: Die Walküre by Richard Wagner (†57) is performed for the first time at the Bolshoy Theatre in Moscow in a production by Sergey Eisenstein. The audience includes many important officials of the Soviet and Nazi governments.
June 30, 1944: The last season at the Vienna Opera House ends, appropriately enough, with a performance of Richard Wagner’s (†61) Götterdämmerung . See 12 March 1945.
May 1, 1945: Listeners to German radio are told to stand by for an important announcement. This is followed by excerpts from Götterdämmerung and the slow movement of Anton Bruckner's (†48) Seventh Symphony (composed for the death of Wagner (†62)). Finally, Admiral Dönitz, speaking from Hamburg, announces the death of Hitler. He also appeals that the fight against Bolshevism be continued. Hans Werner Henze (18) is one of a small group of soldiers in a village near Esbjerg, Denmark who listens to the broadcast. They light a candle and celebrate surviving the war. In Garmisch, Richard Strauss (81) writes in his diary, “...from 1 May onwards the most terrible period of human history came to an end, the twelve-year reign of bestiality, ignorance, and anti-culture under the greatest criminals, during which Germany’s 2,000 years of cultural evolution met its doom and irreplaceable monuments of architecture and works of art were destroyed by a criminal rabble of soldiers. Accursed be technology!”
July 2, 1947: In a Bayreuth court, Winifred Wagner, daughter-in-law of Richard Wagner (†64), is sentenced to 450 days in prison for supporting Hitler.
November 23, 1963: The newly reconstructed Nationaltheater of Munich opens to the public with Richard Wagner’s (†80) Die Meistersinger.
October 15, 1981: Loud protests are heard when Zubin Mehta leads the Israel Philharmonic in an excerpt from Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner (†98), in Tel Aviv. Many walk out.
October 13, 1988: The first movement and sketches to an adagio from a Symphony in E by Richard Wagner (†105) are performed for the first time, in Munich, orchestrated by Mottl.
December 22, 1991: The Israel Philharmonic announces it is canceling a concert of the music of Richard Wagner (†108) because of public and official outrage.