Richard Wagner (born Leipzig 1813, died Venice, 1883) was the overtowering figure of 19th century Romantic Opera. He was greatly assisted by the patronage of King Ludwig II of Bavaria (sometimes, possibly unfairly, nicknamed Mad King Ludwig) who helped him finance the Bayreuth Festival Theatre, where all of his adult works (except "Rienzi") are performed every summer. His anti-semitic views, though no worse than many prevalent at the time, and the fact he was Hitler's favourite composer, will always lead to him being controversial. He was also a fiery revolutionary in his youth, though one can only presume he was glad his call of "Burn the Opera houses!" fell on deaf ears. His works vary from the spiritual intensity of "Parsifal" to the comedy of "Die Meistersinger". Unlike many composers, he was his own librettist. His second wife, Cosima, was Franz Liszt's daughter.

Senta is the heroine of "The Flying Dutchman" whose act of self-sacrifice saves the title hero from his eternal wanderings; Elisabeth is the pious but spirited female lead in "Tannhaueser" and Sieglinde the sister-bride of Siegmund and mother of Siegfried in "Die Walkuere".

Leonore is the heroine of Beethoven's only opera "Fidelio" - a work Wagner greatly admired. In her liberation of her husband Florestan from jail, one can see the appeal to Wagner, with his redemptive heroines, although there is a happy ending, rare if not unknown in Wagner's works.

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