Richard Wagner (1813-1883), it seems, still challenges his listeners to a decision: for me or against me?
On the one hand there are his ardent admirers - the Wagnerians: they give themselves unrestrainedly to the pull of his music and every summer they make a pilgrimage to the work (and the grave) of their master on the ’Green Hill’ in Bayreuth. On the other side are the Wagner haters: His works are too long and too loud for them, or they cannot and will not ignore the fact that Wagner was Hitler’s favourite composer.
When viewed soberly, one has to admit: Richard Wagner revolutionised music and theatre by returning them to their common origin. He saw this in ancient Greek drama, in which poetry, music and dance formed a unity. This idea of an all embracing piece of art he implemented in an exemplary fashion in the four parts of the The Ring of the Nibelung, for the performance of which the Bayreuth Festival Theatre was built.
Just as his contemporary Giuseppe Verdi is considered the representative of Italian music, Richard Wagner became the epitome of the German composer. Already during his lifetime irreconcilable camps were formed by admirers like Franz Liszt and Anton Bruckner and opponents like Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms . Wagner also had a great influence on French composers like Claude Debussy or Ernest Chausson.
Although Wagner did not write number operas in the traditional sense, some highlights can be extracted from his works and performed by amateurs. For choirs, the Bridal choir from Lohengrin and - a classic for all male choirs - Steuermann, lass die Wacht from The Flying Dutchman are suitable.