Richard Wagner was born in Venice on May 22, 1813. As a youth, he studied music in Leipzig. His first opera, "Die Feen" was written at the age of 20, in 1833. This was followed in 1836 with the unsuccessful "Das Liebesverbot". That same year, Wagner married the actress Minna Planer. Wagner and his family lived for a few years in Königsberg, and then later, in Riga. While in Paris from 1839 to 1842, he composed the grand opera, "Rienzi," and the tragedy, "Der Fliegende Holländer."
The success of "Rienzi" led to Wagner's appointment as music director in Dresden. More successes followed with "Tannhäuser" in 1845 and "Lohengrin" in 1850. However, at the same time, Wagner became involved with political radicals. He was forced to flee to Switzerland after his participation in the 1849 Dresden uprisings.
In exile, Wagner began work on his four opera cycle, "Der Ring des Nibelungen," which occupied much of his life. Taking time off from his work on the "Ring", Wagner composed the romantic tragedy, "Tristan und Isolde." The opera, "Die Meistersinger" followed a few years later. This opera is notorious for the anti-Semitic expressions of the protagonist.
In 1860, he was allowed to return to Germany. A triumphant performance of "Tannhäuser" in Paris confirmed Wagner's stature as international artist of great renown.
Finally in 1876, the "Ring" premiered in Bayreuth. The strain of raising money and getting the production ready greatly affected Wagner's health. His final opera, "Parsifal," was presented at the second Bayreuth festival in 1882.
Wagner died on February 13th, 1883 at the age of 69.