A Wagner Timeline

April 5, 2016 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | HISTORY, MUSIC, WAGNER | 0 Comments |

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.

Image may contain: sky, mountain, snow, cloud, outdoor and nature


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).

Portrait by Hermann Torggler

Portrait by Hermann Torggler

[*Richard Wagner – The Man, His Mind, and His Music, (1990) p.1.]


Leave a comment...

While your email address is required to post a comment, it will NOT be published.

Leave a Reply

© Copyright 2014 The Varnished Culture All Rights Reserved. TVC Disclaimer. Site by KWD&D.