Richard Wagner is a composer of superlatives. For Wagner, it was not enough to simply compose operas. The ‘master’, as friends and admirers such as the Bavarian king Ludwig II used to call him, wanted his works to be understood and staged as a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’, a complete synthesis of the arts. For the RING OF THE NIBELUNG, he had a festival theatre constructed on the Green Hill outside Bayreuth. This was the sole place where Wagner wanted his last opera PARSIFAL to be staged; a ‘sacred stage festival play’ that transcends myth and religion.
But Wagner remains a figure of both light and darkness. The Teutonic worlds he created in his works and his ardent anti-Semitism place Wagner near the emerging nationalist ideology. In his writings, Wagner anticipates some of the thoughts that later will characterize the Aryan dominance of the Third Reich. Thus, the name Wagner is insolubly connected with one of the darkest chapters in German history.
But at last Wagner remains one of the greatest innovators of Romantic music. His TRISTAN Chord that dissolves dissonances in harmonies and that makes the keynote vanish in the chord, has become one of the central elements of the ‘music of the future’, which Wagner imagined.