Exploring Richard Wagner’s Fantastical Image Of Germany

Even 128 years after his death, the presence of the legendary Richard Wagner can still be felt throughout his native land.

The Flying Dutchman was one of his first operas, although these days it is better known as one of the pirate ships in the Johnny Depp movies! Wagner claimed that the idea was inspired by a rather turbulent journey he took from modern-day Estonia’s capital city of Riga to that well-known British metropolis, London.

Other aspects of the story were derived from an earlier work of Heinrich Heine. This beautiful tale of love and redemption set among the stormy seas helped establish Wagner as a promising composer.

You can feel the essence of this opera by visiting the Semper Opera in Dresden, where the opera had its debut.

Tannhäuser is another of Wagner’s best-known works. This magical tale was based on the singing contests of the Castle Wartburg and the romantic hero, Tannhäuser, who falls under a spell by none other than the famous goddess of love, Venus. For a glimpse of this Wagner epic, there’s no better place to visit than the site of the famous song competition, the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach. The castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was a one-time refuge for religious exile Martin Luther.

Lohengrin is perhaps the most famous of all of Wagner’s operatic works. First of all, the opening song, the Bridal Chorus, is better known as the Wedding March, or Here Comes the Bride, played at millions of weddings around the western world.

And if that weren’t enough, let’s not forget about the heroic saga paintings of Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau at the German Alps. But, we need to step back in time just a little to explain the connection.

King Ludwig of Bavaria — who is famously, if somewhat unfairly, known as the “Mad King” — became enchanted with the works of Wagner. Since his childhood, the king had been a great fan but with his new-found powers as monarch, he was finally able to do something about it. Wagner had gotten himself into considerable trouble with debts and other issues. Once the king settled his accounts, Wagner was able to devote his time to his work again rather than dealing with political problems.

There is no better place to see this patronage with your own eyes than at the castle of Neuschwanstein. This palace already looks as if it were plucked out of a fairy tale from its exquisite exterior, but the interior paintings match this fantastical theme to a tee. On the walls, you will see many of Wagner’s famous characters portrayed in vivid color and paint. The tales of Lohengrin and Tristan and Isolde come to life in a series of wonderful frescoes.

Wagner’s operas can, of course, still be seen in Germany and around the world. But if you really want to experience the mythical creations of this great composer in his own country, you now have a list of where to begin.

Happy travels! :-)

—Marcus

 

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