Whether subject to political persecution, fleeing from his creditors or embarking on a new love affair, Wagner was a restless spirit who never stayed long in one place. Following the trail of the great composer means taking a journey across Germany.
Thirteen towns and cities in Germany are closely associated with Wagner’s life and legacy. They shaped the person he was and the works he created – and he too left his mark on them. In these towns and cities, visitors have the chance to see how the great musician lived and what inspired his music.
Get better acquainted with the real Wagner, listen to his operas at the very places where they were first performed and stroll with the mastersingers through Nuremberg!
Today, just as back then, people from all over the world pour into the hall as soon as the fanfares begin for the Richard Wagner Festival. The festival hall, built on ‘Green Hill’ to Wagner’s designs, is still famed for its excellent acoustics.
Germany’s largest exhibition on Wagner can be found at Wahnfried House in Bayreuth. The residence, also built to the composer’s designs, was where Wagner lived in the years up to his death.
The performance of his choral piece ‘The Feast of Pentecost’ at the Church of Our Lady also received considerable acclaim.
Today visitors can hear Wagner’s works at the Semper Opera House, retrace his steps at Marcolini Palais and find out more about Wagner’s favourite composer and the source of his inspiration at the Carl Maria von Weber Museum.
Today the Reuter Wagner Museum at the foot of the hill beneath Wartburg Castle is home to one of the world’s most extensive collections on Wagner, second only to Bayreuth, featuring many original exhibits illustrating the composer’s life and legacy. Perhaps not original but nonetheless a wonder of nature is the Tannhäuser cave in the Hörsel hills. Its connection to Wagner has not been proven but its romantic location is uncontested!
Wagner spent ten weeks living at the Schäfersches Gut farmhouse with his wife Minna, going on long walks and taking his inspiration from nature.
The reconstructed rooms inside the house now contain a small museum on Wagner. Other Wagner-related places of interest in Graupa are the hunting lodge, which features a special exhibition, the Richard Wagner culture trail in the garden of the lodge – and the beautiful surrounding landscape which Wagner found so inspirational.
Today a stroll around the city will take you to sites associated with Wagner – indeed visitors encounter the great composer at every turn. In addition, the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum presents life in Leipzig as it was in Wagner’s day. From Mai 2013 there will be a new permanent exhibition showing the period of young Wagner in an authentic location: the "Alten Nikolaischule".
Inspired by their stormy relationship, he wrote the opera ‘The Ban on Love’ in Magdeburg, a frivolous piece for its day about love in defiance of the prevailing social order. It was Wagner’s first opera and premiered at Magdeburg Theatre – but was cancelled on its second day owing to a lack of demand.
Today Wagner’s operas are performed at Magdeburg Opera House in front of sell-out crowds.
Today Meiningen has lost none of its innovative spirit. Visitors can enjoy state-of-the-art exhibits on music history in the former private rooms of Georg II and marvel at the Meiningen stage sets at the Theatre Museum. A cycle route and guided tours take in important sites associated with Wagner in and around Meiningen. The original Court Theatre visited by Wagner reopened in 2011.
Wagner stayed in Munich for two years, and four of his operas premiered at the National Theatre. The theatre was destroyed in the Second World War before reopening to the public in 1963 with a performance of ‘The Mastersingers of Nuremberg’. Since then, Wagner’s operas have delighted audiences here time and time again – at the very place where they were first performed.
Today visitors can retrace the steps of the mastersingers in the narrow lanes of Nuremberg’s old quarter and even watch the ‘festival meadow scene’ from the opera performed on the market square where it was originally set. The opera house on Richard-Wagner-Platz stages Wagner’s operas, whereas the Meistersingerhalle (Mastersingers’ Hall) is a concert and conference venue.
Wagner also had a great admirer and wealthy patroness in Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna.
Today visitors to Weimar can go to the German National Theatre or find out more about Wagner’s friend, and the man who would become his father-in-law, at the Liszt Museum.
Wagner was so fond of Biebrich that he planned to build a festival hall on an area of land belonging to the city known as the ‘sand pit’. Nothing came of this, however. Instead, in the early 20th century, a three-and-a-half hectare Richard Wagner Park was laid out in Biebrich.
He especially liked to go with his friend, the piano teacher Alexander Müller, to the ‘Am letzten Hieb’ beer garden on Galgenberg Hill with its glorious views of the city and the citadel.
Wagner completed his first opera ‘Die Feen’ (The Fairies) in Würzburg, although it took until after his death for this to be given its premiere.