As Robert W. Gutman observed, “cannonades preluded the birth of Richard Wagner“.* When he passed up, from Venice to Valhalla, almost seventy years later, he had been working on “The Feminine Element in Humanity”, a concept bearing some similarity to work of another German giant, Goethe, and he expired in the arms of his wife, Cosima. Betwixt 4 am on 22 May, 1813, and 3.30 pm on 13 February, 1883, the greatest music dramatist that ever lived led a hectic, crowded life, one that defies encapsulation, even by the very best biographers.
You’d need to spare a couple of decades, travel a million kilometres, learn German, French and Italian, read the Icelandic Sagas and the great works of Christian myth, immerse yourself in 17th century European history (including the malady of anti-semitism), learn to read music, delve into enlightenment literature (including philosophy), and harass a myriad librarians, in order to write a biography that does him justice. We lack the time and tools for that; instead, as a service for Wagnerians and fans of linear time, we offer this Wagnerian Timeline, as an ongoing construction.
22 May – Wagner born in Leipzig, Saxony.
16 August – Wagner baptized in Teplitz.
23 Novemer – Wagner’s legal father, Carl Friedrich, dies.
January – An elder sister, Maria Theresa, dies, aged 4.
February – Ludwig Geyer engaged to Johanna, Wagner’s mother.
28 August – Mrs Wagner marries Ludwig Geyer.
Brief attendance at Karl Friedrich Schmidt school.
Wagner starts piano lessons.
18 June – Weber’s Der Freischütz premieres at Berlin.
30 September – Death of Geyer.
Wagner sees Der Freischütz at Dresden.
2 December – Wagner enrolled at Dresden Kreuz School, and takes intense piano lessons.
His sister, Klara, debuts at Dresden Opera.
Wagner displays his aptitude for Greek, translating 3 books of the Odyssey.
He starts, and abandons, an epic poem.
28 January – He starts at St Nicholas School at Leipzig.
26 March – Beethoven dies.
Mid-year – School trip to Leipzig.
8 April – He is confirmed in Dresden, under the name ‘Geyer’.
21 January – Returned to Leipzig, takes composition and then harmonic lessons.
Wagner sees Fidelio in Leipzig.
He hears Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient sing.
His first compositions.
Wagner takes violin lessons.
His first orchestral overtures.
25 December – His B-Flat Major (Drum-beat) Overture is played at Leipzig, conducted by Heinrich Dorn.
Wagner writes Seven Pieces for Goethe’s ‘Faust.'”
He attends Leipzig University.
Mid-year – Composes Piano Sonata and a Fantasia.
Mid-year – C Major Symphony.
Begins, then abandons, an Opera, Die Hochzeit.
He writes libretto for Die Feen.
Wagner composes Die Feen (first performed at Munich in 1888).
May – Wagner goes to stay with brother Albert at Würzburg, become Chorus Master.
8 January – Wagner completes Die Feen.
21 January – He returns to Leipzig.
June – Wagner prepares libretto for Das Liebesverbot.
10 June – He writes the article “On German Opera.”
He is appointed musical theatre director in Lauchstädt; meets Minna Planer.
2 August – Conducts Don Giovanni.
January – He begins to compose music for Das Liebesverbot.
Mid-year – Visits Bayreuth; visits Nuremberg and sees a street fight.
August – Starts notes for autobiography.
29 March – Das Liebesverbot premieres (catastrophically) in Magdeburg.
24 November – Wagner marries Minna.
Wagner is music director of Königsberg Theatre.
March – Composes the Rule Britannia Overture.
May – Minni runs away, but she and Wagner reconcile later in the year.
June – Wagner appointed musical director at Riga theatre.
July – He starts prose-sketch work on Rienzi.
1 September – First conducting at Riga.
November – His sister Rosalie passes away.
24 December – Cosima Liszt born at Como.
Begins compositional work on Rienzi.
November – He conducts concert series of works by Beethoven, Weber, Mendelssohn & Wagner.
Wagner and Minna flee Riga, and creditors, take a stormy voyage to London (arrives 12 August).
20 August – France: He meets Meyerbeer.
17 September – Arrives in Paris.
24 November – Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette.
December – He composes draft of his Faust Overture.
January – Faust Overture completed.
He meets Liszt.
June – Wagner sends Meyerbeer an early draft of The Flying Dutchman.
19 November – Completes score for Rienzi.
November – He is close to being jailed for debts.
November – Wagner completes The Flying Dutchman.
Wagner starts work on Tannhäuser.
7 April – Wagners leave Paris for Dresden.
20 October – Rienzi first performed, at Dresden, with success.
2 January – Premiere of Der Fliegende Holländer in Dresden.
2 February – Wagner becomes kapellmeister to the King of Saxony.
February – Publishes Autobiographical sketch.
Wagner reads ‘German Mythology’ by Jacob Grimm and begins composing Tannhäuser.
April – Completes poem of Tannhäuser.
He starts collecting works on German mythology and medieval matters.
7 January – Wagner commences conducting of The Flying Dutchman in Berlin.
He meets Mendelssohn.
He writes a musical homage to the King of Saxony.
15 October – Birth of Nietzsche.
15 December – Wagner has Weber’s remains come to Dresden; he composes and conducts the funeral march for Weber’s funeral.
April – Completes Tannhäuser.
3 July – Wagners take the last waters at Marienbad.
July – Wagner commences work on Die Meistersinger and Lohengrin.
3 August – Completion of libretto for Lohengrin.
25 August – Birth of Ludwig II.
19 October – Premiere of Tannhäuser in Dresden.
2 March – Wagner’s memo re orchestral re-organisation.
5 April – Wagner conducts the Choral Symphony and Beethoven’s 9th on Palm Sunday.
30 July – Completes first draft of Lohengrin.
He meets Hans von Bülow.
February – He conducts Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulis.
29 August – Wagner works at and completes libretto for Lohengrin.
24 October – Conducts Rienzi in Berlin.
9 January – His mother dies.
Wagner sends poem of support to Viennese uprising.
28 April – Wagner completes score of Lohengrin. He will not write music again till 1853.
May – Wagner submits his “Plan for the Organization of a German National Theatre for the Kingdom of Saxony”.
May/ June – He begins revolutionary activities.
July – Travels to Vienna, meets Herr Hanslick.
c. October – He begins to think on and write what will become the Ring.
January/April – Sketches drama, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’
2 May – Dresden revolt.
9 May – Wagner escapes from Dresden.
13 May – He goes to Weimar.
16 May – Warrant issued for Wagner’s arrest.
28 May – He arrives in Zurich.
June/July – He writes “Art and Revolution.”
4 November – Wagner completes “The Art-Work of the Future.”
January / May – He works in Zurich, then Paris, and travels to Bordeaux, has an affair with Jessie Laussot.
3 July – He returns to Minna in Zurich.
August – Composes sketches for ‘Siegfried’s Death.’
28 August – Liszt conducts Lohengrin in Weimar ‘timed’ by Wagner.
September – He publishes “Jewishness in Music.”
October – Bülow becomes Wagner’s pupil.
October – He starts on opus, “Opera and Drama.”
10 January – Wagner finishes “Opera and Drama.”
June – Young Siegfried.
He conceives the basic shape of the Ring and its presentation.
July – “A Communication to My Friends.”
15 September – Hydrotherapy in Switzerland.
October – A loan from Julie Ritter.
Wagner proceeds with text of the Ring.
February – Wagner meets Mathilde Wesendonck.
April / May – Conducts revised Holländer in Zurich.
He reads Ludwig Feuerbach.
July / December – Verse drafts of Rheingold, Walküre, Young Siegfried.
He contemplates suicide.
February – Wagner reads text of the Ring to a private audience in Zurich.
May / June – Piano sonata from Mathilde Wesendonck.
July – Wagner takes the cure in St Moritz, visit from Liszt.
August / September – A trip to Italy.
September – Conceives Prelude to Das Rheingold in a dream during stay at La Spezia.
10 October – He meets Cosima in Paris.
November – Wagner composes music for Das Rheingold.
He is enamoured of Mathilde Wesendonck.
June – Minna in bad health, takes a cure at Lake Lucerne.
June / July – Wagner composes music for Die Walküre.
September – Otto Wesendonck settles a portion of Wagner’s debts and agrees to pay an allowance.
.Autumn – He reads Schopenhauer’s “The World as Will and Representation.”
December – Conceives Tristan und Isolde.
January – He revises Faust Overture.
March / June – Wagner in London, conducting 8 concerts without gain.
Mid-year – He meets Victoria and Albert; he meets Berlioz.
He works on Tristan und Isolde in Zurich and thinks about Parsifal.
Autumn – Attacks of erysipelas.
23 March – Wagner completes score of Die Walküre.
Summer – Takes the water cure.
September onward – He works on Gotterdammerung, Siegfried and Tristan.
19 December – First finished musical sketches for Tristan.
10 April – Wagner finishes prose sketch of Parsifal.
April – The Wagners move to the Asyl, a house lent by the Wesendoncks.
9 August – Wagner ceases work on the Ring (Act II of Siegfried); he takes it up 8 years later.
29 August – Hans and Cosima von Bülow visit the Wagners.
October – He starts compositional work for Tristan and sets 5 poems by Mathilde Wesendonck to music.
January – Wagner sees Berlioz in Paris, discusses Les Troyens..
7 April – Minna intercepts ‘confessional’ letter from Wagner to Mathilde Wesendonck.
17 August – Wagner leaves for Venice.
29 August – Arrives in Venice, resumes work on Tristan.
24 March – Under political pressure, Wagner leaves Venice for Lucerne.
6 August – He completes Tristan und Isolde.
September – He concludes sale of copyright for The Ring score; leaves for Paris, followed by Minna.
17 November – Wagners reunite in Paris.
January / February – Conducts three concerts of his music.
22 July – Wagner receives a partial amnesty, allowing him to return to German kingdoms (except Saxony).
21 September – Schopenhauer dies.
24 September – He begins rehearsing Tannhäuser in Paris.
13 March – Tannhäuser crashes and burns in Paris.
May – Wagner sees Lohengrin performed in Vienna.
November – On train trip from Venice (where he visits the Wesendoncks) to Vienna, he begins to formulate Meistersinger.
Wagner, separated from Minna, moves to Biebrich.
5 February – He holds a public reading of Meistersinger in Vienna.
21 February – Minna joins him in February, for “ten days in hell.”
28 March – Full amnesty granted.
July – Bülow and Cosima visit. Wagner coaches the Schnorrs on Tristan and Isolde.
September – He conducts Lohengrin in Frankfurt.
.November – Wagners’ last meeting in Dresden.
23 November – Private reading of Meistersinger.
January / April – Wagner undertakes a large concert programme throughout Europe.
May – Furnishes his bachelor pad in Vienna luxuriously.
July / December – Concert programme continues.
November – Meets the Bülows in Berlin; Wagner and Cosima decide they are soul-mates.
10 March – King Ludwig II ascends the Bavarian throne.
Wagner skips Vienna and hides from his creditors.
4 May – Ludwig’s invitation arrives.
June – Cosima arrives in Bavaria.
August – He produces Homage March for Ludwig; Liszt visits.
October – He takes up comfortable lodgings in Munich courtesy of the King.
November – Ludwig decides to build Wagner a festival theatre.
He resumes helping Siegfried up the mountain.
10 April – Isolde born to Cosima and Richard.
10 June – Premiere of Tristan und Isolde in Munich under Bülow.
17 July – He commences dictating Mein Leben.
21 July – Death of Schnorr.
August – Prose sketch for Parsifal.
6 December – King Ludwig asks Wagner to get out of town for the time being.
10 December – Wagner skips Munich – heads to Geneva.
25 January – Minna dies, in Dresden.
March – Cosima joins Wagner in Tribschen, near Lucerne.
22 May – Ludwig drops in.
June – Wagner – Cosima scandal breaks.
17 February – Wagner’s and Cosima’s daughter, Eva, born.
April – Bülow appointed Kapellmeister to Ludwig.
24 October – Wagner completes Meistersinger.
23 December – He returns to Munich.
21 June – Successful premiere of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in Munich.
8 November – Wagner and Nietzsche meet in Leipzig.
16 November – Cosima formally joins Wagner at Tribschen.
1 March – Wagner resumes work on the Ring, finishing Act II of Siegfried.
May – Nietzsche comes to Tribschen, the first of 23 visits.
6 June – Siegfried Wagner born.
22 September – Das Rheingold premieres in Munich, over Wagner’s opposition.
2 October – Wagner commences work on Gotterdammerung.
He writes “On Conducting.”
December – He reads Parsifal to Cosima and Nietzsche.
26 June – Die Walküre premieres in Munich.
26 June – Cosima and Hans’ marriage dissolved.
18 July – Official divorce of Cosima and Hans.
19 July – Franco-Russian War starts.
25 August – Wagner and Cosima marry in Lucerne.
7 September – Writes essay on Beethoven.
25 December – Siegfried Idyll.
5 February – He completes Siegfried.
16 April – The Wagners visit Bayreuth.
12 May – Wagner announces first Bayreuth Festival will be in 1873.
November – Bayreuth Council votes to provide Wagner with the site for the Festspielhaus.
The Wagner Society founded.
January – Nietzsche sends Wagner a copy of his important work, The Birth of Tragedy.
February – Wagner scouts for singers and conducts fundraising concerts.
22 May – Wagner lays the foundation stone for the Festspielhaus.
October – Liszt’s first visit to Bayreuth.
3 May – Begins full score of Gotterdammerung.
22 May – Ludwig Geyer’s Der bethlehemitische Kindermord performed at Bayreuth.
30 August – Announces festival postponed till 1875.
September – Bruckner visits.
November – Wagner asks Ludwig for funding help.
February – Ludwig makes a ‘loan’ towards the Festspielhaus.
28 April – Wagners move into Wahnfried.
June / September – Ring rehearsals.
21 November – He finishes Gotterdammerung (See 1848).
Substantial rehearsals for the Ring.
March – American Centennial March.
3 June – Final Ring rehearsals.
13 August – first Bayreuth festival – Das Rheingold.
14 August – first Bayreuth festival – Die Walküre.
16 August – first Bayreuth festival – Siegfried.
17 August – first Bayreuth festival – Gotterdammerung.
October/December – Wagner in Sorrento, meets Nietzsche for last time.
19 April – Text of Parsifal completed.
May – Wagner on concert tour in London, meets Queen Victoria at Windsor.
September – He begins to compose Parsifal.
January – First issue of Bayreuther Blätter.
February – Wagner caught burning love letters from Judith Gautier.
31 March – Royalty deal with Ludwig.
Prelude to Parsifal in Wahnfried.
April – He works on, and completes, text of Parsifal.
31 December – The Wagners move to Italy for his health.
In Naples. He sees Palazzo Rufolo, the inspiration for Klingsor’s magic garden.
He works on “Religion and Art.”
30 October – conducts Parsifal prelude for Ludwig at Munich.
12 November – Last meeting with Ludwig.
17 November – Return to Bayreuth.
25 April – Wagner completes score for Act I of Parsifal.
5 – 9 May – The Ring staged in Berlin (Wagner has heart trouble during performance on 29th).
11 May – He receives Count Gobineau in Bayreuth.
20 October – Act II of Parsifal finished.
5 November – Move to Palermo.
13 January – Wagner completes Parsifal in Sicily.
15 January – Renoir’s god-awful portrait of Wagner.
March – Wagner’s first major heart attack.
1 May – He returns to Bayreuth.
26 July – Premiere of Parsifal at Bayreuth.
August – Conducts (Parsifal) for the last time.
14 September – Wagners return to Venice, residing at Palazzo Vendramin.
November – Liszt visits.
24 December – He conducts C major symphony.
13 February – Writing the essay “Uber das Weibliche im Menschlichen”, his last words are “Love – tragedy”
13 February – Death in Venice (Trauermarsch – 18 February).[*Richard Wagner – The Man, His Mind, and His Music, (1990) p.1.]
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