Richard Wagner was a romantic composer noted for his invention of the music-drama, which was his new style of opera in which the drama and the orchestra are as important as the singers. His operas were famous in his lifetime, and a special opera house was built in Bayreuth, Germany for performance of his works. Wagner's operas are fervently loved by many people, but tend to be somewhat heavy for the taste of some others.
Wagner was born in Leipzig into a theatrical and operatic family. At first his ambition was to become a poet and to write plays, and in later years he wrote his own librettos for the Ring Cycle of operas. Then he became heavily influenced by Beethoven's music, and he taught himself music by studying scores. After marrying an actress, in 1839 he went to try his luck with opera in Paris. But his work was not well received there.
To make matters worse, Wagner was a voracious dueller, drinker and gambler all his life, and he racked up huge unpaid debts. In Paris he was put into a debtor's prison. Eventually in 1842 he returned to Germany, where he had more success at Dresden. However he participated in a failed revolution in Germany in 1848 (see the World Events Time-line), hoping to have his debts wiped out. An arrest warrant was made for him, so he fled to Switzerland, where he wrote the librettos for his Ring Cycle - The Ring of the Nibelung. This contains 4 operas based on Nordic mythology,- the Rhine Gold, The Valkyrie, Siegried, and the Twilight of the Gods.
Wagner's other famous operas are Tristan and Isolde, the Master-Singers of Nuremburg, Lohengrin, Tannhauser, and the Flying Dutchman. After finishing his last opera, Parsifal, he visited Venice, where he died in 1883 at the age of 69.