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Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22 May 1813, Leipzig, Germany - 13 February 1883, Venice, Italy) was a German composer, conductor, music theorist and essayist, primarily known for his operas (or "music dramas", as they were later called). Unlike most other great opera composers, Wagner wrote the scenario and libretto for his works.
Wagner's compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for contrapuntal texture, rich chromaticism, harmonies and orchestration, and elaborate use of leitmotifs: musical themes associated with particular characters, locales or plot elements. Wagner pioneered advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centres, which greatly influenced the development of European classical music.
He transformed musical thought through his idea of Gesamtkunstwerk ("total artwork"), the synthesis of all the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, epitomized by his monumental four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (1876). To try to stage these works as he imagined them, Wagner built his own opera house.
Richard Wagner was born in Leipzig on 22 May 1813, the ninth child of Carl Friedrich Wagner, who was a clerk in the Leipzig police service. Wagner's father died of typhus six months after Richard's birth, following which Wagner's mother, Johanna Rosine Wagner, began living with the actor and playwright Ludwig Geyer, who had been a friend of Richard's father. In August 1814 Johanna Rosine married Geyer, and moved with her family to his residence in Dresden. For the first 14 years of his life, Wagner was known as Wilhelm Richard Geyer. Wagner may later have suspected that Geyer was in fact his biological father, and furthermore speculated incorrectly that Geyer was Jewish.
Geyer's love of the theatre was shared by his stepson, and Wagner took part in performances. In his autobiography Wagner recalled once playing the part of an angel. The boy Wagner was also hugely impressed by the Gothic elements of Weber's Der Freischutz. Late in 1820, Wagner was enrolled at Pastor Wetzel's school at Possendorf, near Dresden, where he received some piano instruction from his Latin teacher. He could not manage a proper scale but preferred playing theatre overtures by ear. Geyer died in 1821, when Richard was eight. Consequently, Wagner was sent to the Kreuz Grammar School in Dresden, paid for by Geyer's brother. The young Wagner entertained ambitions as a playwright, his first creative effort (listed as 'WWV 1') being a tragedy, Leubald begun at school in 1826, which was strongly influenced by Shakespeare and Goethe. Wagner determined to set it to music; he persuaded his family to allow him music lessons.
By 1827, the family had moved back to Leipzig. Wagner's first lessons in composition were taken in 1828-31 with Christian Gottlieb Müller. In January of 1828 he first heard Beethoven's 7th Symphony and then, in March, Beethoven's 9th Symphony performed in the Leipzig Gewandhaus. Beethoven became his inspiration, and Wagner wrote a piano transcription of the 9th Symphony, piano sonatas and orchestral overtures.
In 1829 he saw the dramatic soprano Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient on stage, and she became his ideal of the fusion of drama and music in opera. In his autobiography, Wagner wrote, "If I look back on my life as a whole, I can find no event that produced so profound an impression upon me." Wagner claimed to have seen Schröder-Devrient in the title role of Fidelio; however, it seems more likely that he saw her performance as Romeo in Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi. He enrolled at the University of Leipzig in 1831. He also took composition lessons with the cantor of Saint Thomas church, Christian Theodor Weinlig. Weinlig was so impressed with Wagner's musical ability that he refused any payment for his lessons, and arranged for one of Wagner's piano works to be published. A year later, Wagner composed his Symphony in C major, a Beethovenesque work which gave him his first opportunity as a conductor in 1832. He then began to work on an opera, Die Hochzeit (The Wedding), which he never completed.
In 1833, Wagner's older brother Karl Albert managed to obtain Richard a position as chorusmaster in Würzburg. In the same year, at the age of 20, Wagner composed his first complete opera, Die Feen (The Fairies). This opera, which clearly imitated the style of Carl Maria von Weber, would go unproduced until half a century later, when it was premiered in Munich shortly after the composer's death in 1883.
Meanwhile, Wagner held brief appointments as musical director at opera houses in Magdeburg and Königsberg, during which he wrote Das Liebesverbot (The Ban on Love), based on William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. This second opera was staged at Magdeburg in 1836, but closed before the second performance, leaving the composer (not for the last time) in serious financial difficulties.
On 24 November 1836, Wagner married actress Christine Wilhelmine "Minna" Planer. In June 1837 they moved to the city of Riga, then in the Russian Empire, where Wagner became music director of the local opera. A few weeks afterwards, Minna ran off with an army officer who then abandoned her, penniless. Wagner took Minna back; however, this was but the first debâcle of a troubled marriage that would end in misery three decades later.
By 1839, the couple had amassed such large debts that they fled Riga to escape from creditors (debt would plague Wagner for most of his life). During their flight, they and their Newfoundland dog, Robber, took a stormy sea passage to London, from which Wagner claimed to draw the inspiration for Der Fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman - it was actually based on a sketch by Heinrich Heine). The Wagners spent 1840 and 1841 in Paris, where Richard made a scant living writing articles and arranging operas by other composers, largely on behalf of the Schlesinger publishing house. He also completed Rienzi and Der Fliegende Holländer during this time.
Wagner completed writing his third opera, Rienzi, in 1840. Largely through the agency of Meyerbeer, it was accepted for performance by the Dresden Court Theatre (Hofoper) in the German state of Saxony. Thus in 1842, the couple moved to Dresden, where Rienzi was staged to considerable acclaim. Wagner lived in Dresden for the next six years, eventually being appointed the Royal Saxon Court Conductor. During this period, he staged Der fliegende Holländer and Tannhäuser, the first two of his three middle-period operas.
The Wagners' stay at Dresden was brought to an end by Richard's involvement in leftist politics. A nationalist movement was gaining force in the independent German States, calling for constitutional freedoms and the unification of the weak princely states into a single nation. Richard Wagner played an enthusiastic role in this movement, receiving guests at his house who included his colleague August Röckel, who was editing the radical left-wing paper Volksblätter, and the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin.
Widespread discontent against the Saxon government came to a head in April 1849, when King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony dissolved Parliament and rejected a new constitution pressed upon him by the people. The May Uprising broke out, in which Wagner played a minor supporting role. The incipient revolution was quickly crushed by an allied force of Saxon and Prussian troops, and warrants were issued for the arrest of the revolutionaries. Wagner had to flee, first to Paris and then to Zürich. Röckel and Bakunin failed to escape and endured long terms of imprisonment.
Exile, Schopenhauer and Mathilde Wesendonck
Wagner spent the next twelve years in exile. He had completed Lohengrin before the Dresden uprising, and now wrote desperately to his friend Franz Liszt to have it staged in his absence. Liszt, who proved to be a friend in need, eventually conducted the premiere in Weimar in August 1850.
Nevertheless, Wagner found himself in grim personal straits, isolated from the German musical world and without any income to speak of. Before leaving Dresden, he had drafted a scenario that would eventually become his mammoth cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. He wrote the libretto for a single opera, Siegfried's Tod (Siegfried's Death) in 1848. After arriving in Zurich he expanded the story to include an opera about the young Siegfried. He completed the cycle by writing Die Walküre and Das Rheingold and revising the later operas to agree with his new concept. His wife Minna, who had disliked the operas he had written after Rienzi, was falling into a deepening depression. Finally, he fell victim to erysipelas, which made it difficult for him to continue writing.
Wagner's primary published output during his first years in Zürich was a set of notable essays: The Art-Work of the Future (1849), in which he described a vision of opera as Gesamtkunstwerk, or "total artwork", in which the various arts such as music, song, dance, poetry, visual arts, and stagecraft were unified; Judaism in Music (1850), a tract directed against Jewish composers; and Opera and Drama (1851), which described ideas in aesthetics that he was putting to use on the Ring operas.
By 1852 Wagner had completed the libretto of the four Ring operas, and he began composing Das Rheingold in November 1853, following it immediately with Die Walküre in 1854. He then began work on the third opera, Siegfried in 1856, but finished only the first two acts before deciding to put the work aside to concentrate on a new idea: Tristan und Isolde.
Wagner had two independent sources of inspiration for Tristan und Isolde. The first came to him in 1854, when his poet friend Georg Herwegh introduced him to the works of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. Wagner would later call this the most important event of his life. His personal circumstances certainly made him an easy convert to what he understood to be Schopenhauer's philosophy, a deeply pessimistic view of the human condition. He would remain an adherent of Schopenhauer for the rest of his life, even after his fortunes improved.
One of Schopenhauer's doctrines was that music held a supreme role amongst the arts, since it was the only one unconcerned with the material world. Wagner quickly embraced this claim, which must have resonated strongly despite its direct contradiction with his own arguments, in "Opera and Drama", that music in opera had to be subservient to the cause of drama. Wagner scholars have since argued that this Schopenhauerian influence caused Wagner to assign a more commanding role to music in his later operas, including the latter half of the Ring cycle, which he had yet to compose. Many aspects of Schopenhauerian doctrine undoubtedly found their way into Wagner's subsequent libretti. For example, the self-renouncing cobbler-poet Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger, generally considered Wagner's most sympathetic character, is a quintessentially Schopenhauerian creation (despite being based on a real person).
Wagner's second source of inspiration was the poet-writer Mathilde Wesendonck, the wife of the silk merchant Otto von Wesendonck. Wagner met the Wesendoncks in Zürich in 1852. Otto, a fan of Wagner's music, placed a cottage on his estate at Wagner's disposal. By 1857, Wagner had become infatuated with Mathilde.
Though Mathilde seems to have returned some of his affections, she had no intention of jeopardising her marriage, and kept her husband informed of her contacts with Wagner. Nevertheless, the affair inspired Wagner to put aside his work on the Ring cycle (which would not be resumed for the next twelve years) and begin work on Tristan und Isolde, based on the Arthurian love story.
The uneasy affair collapsed in 1858, when Minna intercepted a letter from Wagner to Mathilde. After the resulting confrontation, Wagner left Zürich alone, bound for Venice. The following year, he once again moved to Paris to oversee production of a new revision of Tannhäuser, staged thanks to the efforts of Princess de Metternich. The premiere of the Paris Tannhäuser in 1861 was an utter fiasco, due to disturbances caused by members of the Jockey Club. Further performances were cancelled, and Wagner hurriedly left the city.
In 1861, the political ban against Wagner in Germany was lifted, and the composer settled in Biebrich, Prussia, where he began work on Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Despite the failure of Tannhäuser in Paris, the possibility that Der Ring des Nibelungen would never be finished and Wagner's unhappy personal life, this opera is by far his sunniest work. Wagner's second wife Cosima would later write, "when future generations seek refreshment in this unique work, may they spare a thought for the tears from which the smiles arose." In 1862, Wagner finally parted with Minna, though he (or at least his creditors) continued to support her financially until her death in 1866.
Between 1861 and 1864 Wagner tried to have Tristan und Isolde produced in Vienna. Despite over 70 rehearsals the opera remained unperformed, and gained a reputation as being "unplayable", which further added to Wagner's financial woes.
Patronage of King Ludwig II
Wagner's fortunes took a dramatic upturn in 1864, when King Ludwig II assumed the throne of Bavaria at the age of 18. The young king, an ardent admirer of Wagner's operas since childhood, had the composer brought to Munich. He settled Wagner's considerable debts, and made plans to have his new operas produced. After grave difficulties in rehearsal, Tristan und Isolde premiered to enormous success at the National Theatre in Munich on 10 June 1865, the first Wagner premiere in almost 15 years.
In the meantime, Wagner became embroiled in another affair, this time with Cosima von Bülow, the wife of the conductor Hans von Bülow, one of Wagner's most ardent supporters and the conductor of the Tristan premiere. Cosima was the illegitimate daughter of Franz Liszt and the famous Countess Marie d'Agoult, and 24 years younger than Wagner. Liszt disapproved of his daughter seeing Wagner, though the two men were friends. In April 1865, she gave birth to Wagner's illegitimate daughter, who was named Isolde. Their indiscreet affair scandalized Munich, and to make matters worse, Wagner fell into disfavor amongst members of the court, who were suspicious of his influence on the king. In December 1865, Ludwig was finally forced to ask the composer to leave Munich. He apparently also toyed with the idea of abdicating in order to follow his hero into exile, but Wagner quickly dissuaded him.
Ludwig installed Wagner at the villa Tribschen, beside Switzerland's Lake Lucerne. Die Meistersinger was completed at Tribschen in 1867, and premiered in Munich on 21 June the following year. In October, Cosima finally convinced Hans von Bülow to grant her a divorce, but not before having two more children with Wagner. They had another daughter, named Eva, and a son named Siegfried. Richard and Cosima were married on 25 August 1870. On Christmas Day of that year, Wagner presented the Siegfried Idyll for Cosima's birthday. The marriage to Cosima lasted to the end of Wagner's life.
Wagner, settled into his newfound domesticity, turned his energies toward completing the Ring cycle. At Ludwig's insistence, "special previews" of the first two works of the cycle, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, were performed at Munich, but Wagner wanted the complete cycle to be performed in a new, specially-designed opera house.
In 1871, he decided on the small town of Bayreuth as the location of his new opera house. The Wagners moved there the following year, and the foundation stone for the Bayreuth Festspielhaus ("Festival House") was laid. In order to raise funds for the construction, "Wagner societies" were formed in several cities, and Wagner himself began touring Germany conducting concerts. However, sufficient funds were only raised after King Ludwig stepped in with another large grant in 1874. Later that year, the Wagners moved into their permanent home at Bayreuth, a villa that Richard dubbed Wahnfried ("Peace/freedom from delusion/madness", in German).
The Festspielhaus finally opened in August 1876 with the premiere of the Ring cycle and has continued to be the site of the Bayreuth Festival ever since.
Following the first Bayreuth festival Wagner spent a great deal of time in Italy where he began work on Parsifal, his final opera. The composition took four years, during which he also wrote a series of increasingly reactionary essays on religion and art.
Wagner completed Parsifal in January 1882, and a second Bayreuth Festival was held for the new opera. Wagner was by this time extremely ill, having suffered through a series of increasingly severe angina attacks. During the sixteenth and final performance of Parsifal on 29 August, he secretly entered the pit during Act III, took the baton from conductor Hermann Levi, and led the performance to its conclusion.
After the Festival, the Wagner family journeyed to Venice for the winter. On 13 February 1883, Richard Wagner died of a heart attack in the Palazzo Vendramin on the Grand Canal. His body was returned to Bayreuth and buried in the garden of the Villa Wahnfried.
Franz Liszt's memorable piece for pianoforte solo, La lugubre gondola, evokes the passing of a black-shrouded funerary gondola bearing Richard Wagner's remains over the Grand Canal.
Wagner's music dramas are his primary artistic legacy. These can be divided chronologically into three periods.
Wagner's early stage began at age 19 with his first attempt at an opera, Die Hochzeit (The Wedding), which Wagner abandoned at an early stage of composition in 1832. Wagner's three completed early-stage operas are Die Feen (The Fairies), Das Liebesverbot (The Ban on Love), and Rienzi. Their compositional style was conventional, and did not exhibit the innovations that marked Wagner's place in musical history. Later in life, Wagner said that he did not consider these immature works to be part of his oeuvre; he was irritated by the ongoing popularity of Rienzi during his lifetime. These works are seldom performed, though the overture to Rienzi has become a concert piece.
Wagner's middle stage output is considered to be of remarkably higher quality, and begins to show the deepening of his powers as a dramatist and composer. This period began with Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman), followed by Tannhäuser and Lohengrin. These works are widely performed today.
Wagner's late stage operas are his masterpieces that advanced the art of opera. Some are of the opinion that Tristan und Isolde (Tristan and Iseult) is Wagner's greatest single opera. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg) is Wagner's only comedy still in the repertoire (his early Das Liebesverbot is forgotten) and one of the lengthiest operas still performed. Der Ring des Nibelungen, commonly referred to as the Ring cycle, is a set of four operas based loosely on figures and elements of Teutonic myth, particularly from later period Norse mythology. Taking 26 years to complete, and requiring roughly 15 hours to perform, the Ring cycle has been called the most ambitious musical work ever composed. Wagner's final opera, Parsifal, which was written especially for the acoustics of Wagner's Festspielhaus in Bayreuth and which is described in the score as a "Bühnenweihfestspiel" (festival play for the consecration of the stage), is a contemplative work based on the Christian legend of the Holy Grail.
Wagner drew largely from Northern European mythology and legend, notably Icelandic sources such as the Poetic Edda, the Volsunga Saga and the German Nibelungenlied. Through his operas and theoretical essays, Wagner exerted a strong influence on the operatic medium. He was an advocate of a new form of opera which he called "music drama", in which all the musical and dramatic elements were fused together. Unlike other opera composers, who generally left the task of writing the libretto (the text and lyrics) to others, Wagner wrote his own libretti, which he referred to as "poems". Further, Wagner developed a compositional style in which the orchestra's role is equal to that of the singers. The orchestra's dramatic role includes its performance of the leitmotifs, musical themes that announce specific characters, locales, and plot elements; their complex interleaving and evolution illuminates the progression of the drama.
Wagner's musical style is often considered the epitome of classical music's Romantic period, due to its unprecedented exploration of emotional expression. He introduced new ideas in harmony and musical form, including extreme chromaticism. In Tristan und Isolde, he explored the limits of the traditional tonal system that gave keys and chords their identity, pointing the way to atonality in the 20th century. Some music historians date the beginning of modern classical music to the first notes of Tristan, the so-called Tristan chord.
(1832) Die Hochzeit (The Wedding) (abandoned before completion)
(1833) Die Feen (The Fairies)
(1836) Das Liebesverbot (The Ban on Love)
(1837) Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen (Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes)
(1843) Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman)
(1865) Tristan und Isolde (Tristan and Isolde)
(1867) Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg)
Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), consisting of:
(1869) Das Rheingold (The Rhinegold)
(1870) Die Walküre (The Valkyrie)
(1871) Siegfried (previously entitled Jung-Siegfried or Young Siegfried, and Der junge Siegfried or The young Siegfried)
(1874) Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods) (originally entitled Siegfrieds Tod or The Death of Siegfried)
Apart from his operas, Wagner composed relatively few pieces of music. These include a single symphony (written at the age of 19), a Faust symphony (of which he only finished the first movement, which became the Faust Overture), and some overtures, choral and piano pieces, and a re-orchestration of Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride. Of these, the most commonly performed work is the Siegfried Idyll, a piece for chamber orchestra written for the birthday of his second wife, Cosima. The Idyll draws on several motifs from the Ring cycle, though it is not part of the Ring. The next most popular are the Wesendonck Lieder, properly known as Five Songs for a Female Voice, which were composed for Mathilde Wesendonck while Wagner was working on Tristan. An oddity is the "American Centennial March" of 1876, commissioned by the city of Philadelphia for the opening of the Centennial Exposition, for which Wagner was paid $5,000.
A vocal and instrumental piece which is not often performed and somewhat forgotten, Das Liebesmahl der Apostel (The Love-Meal of the Apostles) is a piece for male choruses and orchestra, composed in 1843. Wagner had just successfully played Rienzi in Dresden. However, Der fliegende Holländer witnessed a bitter failure. Wagner, who had been elected at the beginning of the year to the committee of a cultural association in the city of Dresden, received a commission to evoke the theme of Pentecost. The premiere took place at the Dresdner Frauenkirche on 6 July 1843, and was performed by around a hundred musicians and almost 1,200 singers. The concert was very well received.
After completing Parsifal, Wagner apparently intended to turn to the writing of symphonies. However, nothing substantial had been written by the time of his death. World Wagner week starts on the 19th May.
The overtures and orchestral passages from Wagner's middle and late-stage operas are commonly played as concert pieces. For most of these, Wagner wrote short passages to conclude the excerpt so that it does not end abruptly. This is true, for example, of the Parsifal prelude and Siegfried's Funeral Music. A curious fact is that the concert version of the Tristan prelude is unpopular and rarely heard; the original ending of the prelude is usually considered to be better, even for a concert performance.
One of the most popular wedding marches played as the bride's processional in English-speaking countries, popularly known as "Here Comes the Bride", takes its melody from the "Bridal Chorus" of Lohengrin. In the opera, it is sung as the bride and groom leave the ceremony and go into the wedding chamber. The calamitous marriage of Lohengrin and Elsa, which reaches irretrievable breakdown twenty minutes after the chorus has been sung, has failed to discourage this widespread use of the piece.
Wagner was an extremely prolific writer, authoring hundreds of books, poems, and articles, as well as voluminous correspondence, throughout his life. His writings covered a wide range of topics, including politics, philosophy, and detailed analyses (often mutually contradictory) of his own operas. Essays of note include "Oper und Drama" ("Opera and Drama", 1851), an essay on the theory of opera, and "Das Judenthum in der Musik" ("Judaism in Music", 1850), a polemic directed against Jewish composers in general, and Giacomo Meyerbeer in particular. He also wrote an autobiography, My Life (1880).
Theatre design and operation
Wagner was responsible for several theatrical innovations developed at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, an opera house specially constructed for the performance of his operas (for the design of which he appropriated many of the ideas of his former colleague, Gottfried Semper, which he had solicited for a proposed new opera house at Munich). These innovations include darkening the auditorium during performances, and placing the orchestra in a pit out of view of the audience. The Bayreuth Festspielhaus is the venue of the annual Richard Wagner Festival, which draws thousands of opera fans to Bayreuth each summer.
The orchestra pit at Bayreuth is interesting for two reasons:
The first violins are positioned on the right-hand side of the conductor instead of their usual place on the left side. This is in all likeliness because of the way the sound is intended to be directed towards the stage rather than directly on the audience. This way the sound has a more direct line from the first violins to the back of the stage where it can be then reflected to the audience.
Double basses, cellos and harps (when more than one used, e.g. Ring) are split into groups and placed on either side of the pit.
Vegetarianism and animal rights
Wagner never espoused vegetarianism, unlike his friend Nietzsche, however he was in his later years a vociferous opponent of experimentation on animals. In 1879 he published an open letter, translated in the English version of his Collected Works as ' Against Vivisection ', in support of the animal rights activist Ernst von Weber.
Wagner's influence and legacy
In his lifetime, and for some years after, Wagner inspired fanatical devotion, and was occasionally considered by fans to have a near god-like status. His compositions, in particular Tristan und Isolde, broke important new musical ground. For years afterward, many composers felt compelled to align themselves with or against Wagner. Anton Bruckner and Hugo Wolf are indebted to him especially, as are César Franck, Henri Duparc, Ernest Chausson, Jules Massenet, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Hans Pfitzner and dozens of others. Gustav Mahler said, "There was only Beethoven and Wagner". The twentieth century harmonic revolutions of Claude Debussy and Arnold Schoenberg (tonal and atonal modernism, respectively) have often been traced back to Tristan. The Italian form of operatic realism known as verismo owes much to Wagnerian reconstruction of musical form.
Wagner made a major contribution to the principles and practice of conducting. His essay On conducting (1869) advanced the earlier work of Hector Berlioz and proposed that conducting was a means by which a musical work could be re-interpreted, rather than simply a mechanism for achieving orchestral unison. The central European conducting tradition which followed Wagner's ideas includes artists such as Hans von Bülow, Arthur Nikisch, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Herbert von Karajan.
Wagner also made significant changes to the conditions under which operas were performed. It was Wagner who first demanded that the lights be dimmed during dramatic performances, and it was his theatre at Bayreuth which first made use of the sunken orchestra pit, which at Bayreuth entirely conceals the orchestra from the audience.
Wagner's influence on literature and philosophy is significant. Friedrich Nietzsche was part of Wagner's inner circle during the early 1870s, and his first published work The Birth of Tragedy proposed Wagner's music as the Dionysian rebirth of European culture in opposition to Apollonian rationalist decadence. Nietzsche broke with Wagner following the first Bayreuth Festival, believing that Wagner's final phase represented a pandering to Christian pieties and a surrender to the new demagogic German Reich. In the twentieth century, W. H. Auden once called Wagner "perhaps the greatest genius that ever lived", while Thomas Mann and Marcel Proust were heavily influenced by him and discussed Wagner in their novels. He is discussed in some of the works of James Joyce. Wagner is one of the main subjects of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, which contains lines from Tristan und Isolde and refers to The Ring and Parsifal. Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine worshipped Wagner. Many of the ideas his music brought up, such as the association between love and death (or Eros and Thanatos) in Tristan, predated their investigation by Sigmund Freud.
Not all reaction to Wagner was positive. For a time, German musical life divided into two factions, Wagner's supporters and those of Johannes Brahms; the latter, with the support of the powerful critic Eduard Hanslick, championed traditional forms and led the conservative front against Wagnerian innovations. They were supported by the conservative leanings of some German music schools, including the Conservatoire at Leipzig under Ignaz Moscheles and that at Köln under the direction of Ferdinand Hiller. Even those who, like Debussy, opposed him ("that old poisoner"), could not deny Wagner's influence. Indeed, Debussy was one of many composers, including Tchaikovsky, who felt the need to break with Wagner precisely because his influence was so unmistakable and overwhelming. Others who resisted Wagner's influence included Gioachino Rossini ("Wagner has wonderful moments, and dreadful quarters of an hour").
Wagner in popular music and film
Wagner's concept of leitmotif and integrated musical expression has been a strong influence on many 20th century film scores, including such examples as John Williams' music for Star Wars. The rock composer Jim Steinman created what he called Wagnerian Rock. The rock subgenre of heavy metal music is also said by some to show influence of Wagner (as well as other classical composers}. In Germany Rammstein and Joachim Witt who has named three of his albums Bayreuth, claim inspiration from Wagner's music. Klaus Schulze (German electronic composer and Wagner admirer) dedicated his 1975 album Timewind to Wagner's death (two 30-min tracks, "Bayreuth Return" and "Wahnfried 1883"). He also used the alias Richard Wahnfried for a part of his discography.
Most of Trevor Jones's soundtrack to John Boorman's Arthurian film Excalibur is from Wagner's operas.
An adapted version of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries is used in the Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now.
An unusual manifestation of Wagner was in the 1957 Bugs Bunny cartoon film, What's Opera, Doc?, adapting music from various of his operas to fit in with the traditional topic of Elmer Fudd hunting Bugs.
Movies about Wagner
The 1913 silent film Richard Wagner was directed by Carl Froelich and had Giuseppe Becce in the lead role who also wrote the musical score as Wagner's music was going to be too expensive. A documentary with the same title was made in 1925.
A film of the composer's life,Wagner, was made in 1983 for a TV mini-series by the director Tony Palmer. The cast included Richard Burton, John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave.
Wagner is also portrayed in Ken Russel's Lisztomania, and his music are featured frequently in the film.
Wagner's operas, writings, his politics, beliefs and unorthodox lifestyle made him a controversial figure during his lifetime. In September 1876 Karl Marx complained in a letter to his daughter Jenny: "Wherever one goes these days one is pestered with the question: what do you think of Wagner?" Following Wagner's death, the debate about his ideas and their interpretation, particularly in Germany during the 20th century, continued to make him politically and socially controversial in a way that other great composers are not. Much heat is generated by Wagner's comments on Jews, which continue to influence the way that his works are regarded, and by the essays he wrote on the nature of race from 1850 onwards, and their putative influence on the anti-Semitism of Adolf Hitler.
Opinion on Jews and Judaism
Under a pseudonym in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, he published "Das Judenthum in der Musik" in 1850 (originally translated as "Judaism in Music," by which name it is still known, but better rendered as "Jewishness in Music.") The essay attacks Jewish contemporaries (and rivals) Felix Mendelssohn and Giacomo Meyerbeer, and accused Jews of being a harmful and alien element in German culture. Wagner stated the German people were repelled by their alien appearance and behavior: "with all our speaking and writing in favour of the Jews' emancipation, we always felt instinctively repelled by any actual, operative contact with them." He argued that because Jews had no connection to the German spirit, Jewish musicians were only capable of producing shallow and artificial music. They therefore composed music to achieve popularity and, thereby, financial success, as opposed to creating genuine works of art.
The initial publication of the article attracted little attention, but Wagner wrote a self-justifying letter about it to Liszt in 1851, claiming that his "long-suppressed resentment against this Jewish business" was "as necessary to me as gall is to the blood". As a pamphlet under his own name in 1869, Wagner republished a greatly expanded version of Das Judenthum, leading to several public protests at performances of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Wagner repeated similar views in several later articles, such as "What is German?" (1878), and his subsequent memoirs often recorded his comments about Jews. Although many have argued he suggested only Jews should suppress their Jewishness, others have interpreted sections of his writing more aggressively, to mean wiping out or burying the Jewish people.
Some biographers have suggested that antisemitic stereotypes are also represented in Wagner's operas. The characters of Mime in the Ring, Sixtus Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger, and Klingsor in Parsifal are sometimes claimed as Jewish representations, though they are not explicitly identified as such in the libretto. Moreover, in all of Wagner's many writings about his works, there is no mention of an intention to caricature Jews in his operas; nor does any such notion appear in the diaries written by Cosima Wagner, which record his views on a daily basis over a period of 8 years.
Despite his very public views on Jews, throughout his life Wagner had Jewish friends, colleagues and supporters.
Racism & Nazi appropriation
Some biographers have asserted that Wagner in his final years came to believe in the racialist philosophy of Arthur de Gobineau, and according to Robert Gutman, this is reflected in the opera Parsifal, but the latter conclusion remains unproven, as has been argued by more recent Wagner biographers (Lucy Beckett etc). Wagner showed no significant interest in Gobineau until 1880, when he read Gobineau's An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races. Wagner had completed the libretto for Parsifal by 1877, and the original drafts of the story date back to 1857. Wagner's writings of his last years indicate some interest in Gobineau's idea that Western society was doomed because of miscegenation between "superior" and "inferior" races. However, he does not seem to have subscribed to Gobineau's belief in the superiority of the supposed Germanic or "Nordic race".
Wagner's writings on race and his antisemitism reflected some trends of thought in Germany at the end of the 19th century. Houston Stewart Chamberlain, expanded on Gobineau's and Wagner's ideas his 1899 book The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, a work proclaiming the superiority of Aryan races, which had a wide circulation and later became required reading for members of the Nazi party. Chamberlain greatly admired Wagner's work and married Wagner's daughter, Eva, becoming a central part of the Bayreuth Circle, and thus contributing to the association of Wagner's name and works with racism and anti-semitism.
Adolf Hitler was an admirer of Wagner's music, lifestyle and anti-Jewish sentiments and saw in Wagner's operas an embodiment of his own heroic mythology of the German nation. There continues to be debate about the extent to which Wagner's views might have influenced Nazi thinking. As with the works of Nietzsche, the Nazis used those parts of Wagner's thought that were useful for propaganda and ignored or suppressed the rest. For example Joseph Goebbels banned Parsifal in 1939, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, due to the perceived pacifistic overtones of the opera. Although Hitler himself was obsessed by "the Master" many in the Nazi hierarchy were not, and, according to the historian Richard Carr, deeply resented the prospect of attending these lengthy epics at Hitler's insistence.
As a consequence of this appropriation by Nazi propaganda, Wagner's operas have never been staged in the modern state of Israel. Although his works are broadcast on Israeli government-owned radio and television stations, attempts to stage public performances in Israel have been halted by protests, including protests from Holocaust survivors.
Arthur Conan Doyle
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Born 22 May 1859(1859-05-22)
Died 7 July 1930 (aged 71)
Occupation Novelist, short story writer, poet, doctor
Genres Detective fiction, historical novels, non-fiction
Notable work(s) stories of Sherlock Holmes
The Lost World
Edgar Allan Poe
Agatha Christie and other detective fiction authors
Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle, DL (22 May 1859 - 7 July 1930) was a Scottish author most noted for his stories about the detective Sherlock Holmes, which are generally considered a major innovation in the field of crime fiction, and for the adventures of Professor Challenger. He was a prolific writer whose other works include science fiction stories, historical novels, plays and romances, poetry, and non-fiction.
Arthur Conan Doyle was born on 22 May 1859, in Edinburgh, Scotland, to an English father, Charles Altamont Doyle, and an Irish mother, née Mary Foley, who had married in 1855. Although he is now referred to as "Conan Doyle", the origin of this compound surname is uncertain. Conan Doyle's father was an artist, as were his paternal uncles (one of whom was Richard Doyle), and his paternal grandfather John Doyle.
Conan Doyle was sent to the Roman Catholic Jesuit preparatory school Hodder Place, Stonyhurst, at the age of eight. He then went on to Stonyhurst College, but by the time he left the school in 1875, he had rejected Christianity to become an agnostic.
From 1876 to 1881 he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, including a period working in the town of Aston (now a district of Birmingham). While studying, he also began writing short stories; his first published story appeared in Chambers's Edinburgh Journal before he was 20. Following his term at university, he served as a ship's doctor on a voyage to the West African coast. He completed his doctorate on the subject of tabes dorsalis in 1885.
In 1882, he joined former classmate George Budd as his partner at a medical practice in Plymouth, but their relationship proved difficult, and Conan Doyle soon left to set up an independent practice. Arriving in Portsmouth in June of that year with less than £10 to his name, he set up a medical practice at 1 Bush Villas in Elm Grove, Southsea. The practice was initially not very successful; while waiting for patients, he again began writing stories. His first significant work was A Study in Scarlet, which appeared in Beeton's Christmas Annual for 1887 and featured the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes, who was partially modelled after his former university professor, Joseph Bell. Future short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes were published in the English Strand Magazine. Interestingly, Rudyard Kipling congratulated Conan Doyle on his success, asking "Could this be my old friend, Dr. Joe?" Sherlock Holmes, however, was even more closely modelled after the famous Edgar Allan Poe character, C. Auguste Dupin.
While living in Southsea he played football for an amateur side, Portsmouth Association Football Club, as a goalkeeper. (This club disbanded in 1894 and had no connection with the Portsmouth F.C. of today, which was founded in 1898.) Conan Doyle was also a keen cricketer, and between 1900 and 1907 he played 10 first-class matches for the MCC. His highest score was 43 against London County in 1902. He was an occasional bowler who took just one first-class wicket.
In 1885, he married Louisa (or Louise) Hawkins, known as "Touie", who suffered from tuberculosis and died on 4 July 1906. He married Jean Leckie in 1907, whom he had first met and fallen in love with in 1897 but had maintained a platonic relationship with her out of loyalty to his first wife. Conan Doyle had five children, two with his first wife (Mary Louise (born 1889) and Alleyne Kingsley (1892 - 1918)) and three with his second wife (Jean Lena Annette, Denis Percy Stewart (17 March 1909 - 9 March 1955), second husband in 1936 of Georgian Princess Nina Mdivani (circa 1910 - 19 February 1987) (former sister-in-law of Barbara Hutton), and Adrian Malcolm).
In 1890, Conan Doyle studied the eye in Vienna; he moved to London in 1891 to set up a practice as an ophthalmologist. He wrote in his autobiography that not a single patient crossed his door. This gave him more time for writing, and in November 1891 he wrote to his mother: "I think of slaying Holmes... and winding him up for good and all. He takes my mind from better things." His mother responded, saying, "You may do what you deem fit, but the crowds will not take this lightheartedly." In December 1893, he did so in order to dedicate more of his time to more "important" works (his historical novels).
Holmes and Moriarty apparently plunged to their deaths together down a waterfall in the story, "The Final Problem". Public outcry led him to bring the character back; Conan Doyle returned to the story in "The Adventure of the Empty House", with the explanation that only Moriarty had fallen but, since Holmes had other dangerous enemies, he had arranged to be temporarily "dead" also. Holmes ultimately appears in a total of 56 short stories and four Conan Doyle novels (he has since appeared in many novels and stories by other authors).
Following the Boer War in South Africa at the turn of the 20th century and the condemnation from around the world over the United Kingdom's conduct, Conan Doyle wrote a short pamphlet titled, The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct, which justified the UK's role in the Boer war, and was widely translated.
Conan Doyle believed that it was this pamphlet that resulted in 1902 in his being knighted and appointed Deputy-Lieutenant of Surrey. He also in 1900 wrote the longer book, The Great Boer War. During the early years of the 20th century, Sir Arthur twice ran for Parliament as a Liberal Unionist, once in Edinburgh and once in the Hawick Burghs, but although he received a respectable vote he was not elected.
Conan Doyle was involved in the campaign for the reform of the Congo Free State, led by the journalist E. D. Morel and the diplomat Roger Casement. He wrote The Crime of the Congo in 1909, a long pamphlet in which he denounced the horrors in that country. He became acquainted with Morel and Casement, taking inspiration from them for two of the main characters in the novel, The Lost World (1912).
He broke with both when Morel became one of the leaders of the pacifist movement during the First World War, and when Casement committed treason against the UK during the Easter Rising out of conviction for his Irish nationalist views. Conan Doyle tried, unsuccessfully, to save Casement from the death penalty, arguing that he had been driven mad and was not responsible for his actions.
Conan Doyle was also a fervent advocate of justice, and personally investigated two closed cases, which led to two imprisoned men being released. The first case, in 1906, involved a shy half-British, half-Indian lawyer named George Edalji, who had allegedly penned threatening letters and mutilated animals. Police were set on Edalji's conviction, even though the mutilations continued after their suspect was jailed.
It was partially as a result of this case that the Court of Criminal Appeal was established in 1907, so not only did Conan Doyle help George Edalji, his work helped establish a way to correct other miscarriages of justice. The story of Conan Doyle and Edalji is told in fictional form in Julian Barnes' 2005 novel, Arthur & George.
The second case, that of Oscar Slater, a German Jew and gambling-den operator convicted of bludgeoning an 82-year-old woman in Glasgow in 1908, excited Conan Doyle's curiosity because of inconsistencies in the prosecution case and a general sense that Slater was framed.
After the death of his wife Louisa in 1906, and the deaths of his son Kingsley, his brother Innes, his two brothers-in-law, and his two nephews shortly after World War I, Conan Doyle sank into depression. He found solace supporting Spiritualism and its alleged scientific proof of existence beyond the grave.
According to the History Channel program Houdini: Unlocking the Mystery (which briefly explored the friendship between the two), Conan Doyle became involved with Spiritualism after the deaths of his son and his brother. Kingsley Doyle died from pneumonia on 28 October 1918, which he contracted during his convalescence after being seriously wounded during the 1916 Battle of the Somme. Brigadier-General Innes Doyle died in February 1919, also from pneumonia. Sir Arthur became involved with Spiritualism to the extent that he wrote a Professor Challenger novel on the subject, The Land of Mist.
His book, The Coming of the Fairies (1921) shows he was apparently convinced of the veracity of the Cottingley Fairies photographs, which he reproduced in the book, together with theories about the nature and existence of fairies and spirits.
In his The History of Spiritualism (1926) Conan Doyle praised the psychic phenomena and spirit materialisations produced by Eusapia Palladino and Mina "Margery" Crandon.
His work on this topic was one of the reasons that one of his short story collections, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, was banned in the Soviet Union in 1929 for supposed occultism. This ban was later lifted. Russian actor Vasily Livanov later received an Order of the British Empire for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.
Conan Doyle was friends for a time with the American magician Harry Houdini, who himself became a prominent opponent of the Spiritualist movement in the 1920s following the death of his beloved mother. Although Houdini insisted that Spiritualist mediums employed trickery (and consistently attempted to expose them as frauds), Conan Doyle became convinced that Houdini himself possessed supernatural powers, a view expressed in Conan Doyle's The Edge of the Unknown. Houdini was apparently unable to convince Conan Doyle that his feats were simply magic tricks, leading to a bitter public falling out between the two.
Richard Milner, an American historian of science, has presented a case that Conan Doyle may have been the perpetrator of the Piltdown Man hoax of 1912, creating the counterfeit hominid fossil that fooled the scientific world for over 40 years. Milner says that Conan Doyle had a motive, namely revenge on the scientific establishment for debunking one of his favourite psychics, and that The Lost World contains several encrypted clues regarding his involvement in the hoax.
Samuel Rosenberg's 1974 book Naked is the Best Disguise purports to explain how Conan Doyle left, throughout his writings, open clues that related to hidden and suppressed aspects of his mentality.
Conan Doyle was found clutching his chest in the family garden on 7 July 1930. He soon died of his heart attack, aged 71, and is buried in the Church Yard at Minstead in the New Forest, Hampshire, England. His last words were directed toward his wife: "You are wonderful." The epitaph on his gravestone reads:
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
PATRIOT, PHYSICIAN & MAN OF LETTERS
Undershaw, the home Conan Doyle had built near Hindhead, south of London, and lived in for at least a decade, was a hotel and restaurant from 1924 until 2004. It was then bought by a developer, and has been empty since then while conservationists and Conan Doyle fans fight to preserve it.
A statue honours Conan Doyle at Crowborough Cross in Crowborough, East Sussex, England, where Sir Arthur lived for 23 years. There is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, Scotland, close to the house where Conan Doyle was born.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Birth name Shahnour Vaghinagh Aznavourian
Born May 22, 1924 (1924-05-22) (age 84) in Paris, France
Genre(s) Pop, Chanson, Jazz
Occupation(s) singer, songwriter, actor, public activist
Voice type(s) Tenor
Years active 1936 - present
Label(s) EMI, MusArm Records
Charles Aznavour (Armenian: Շառլ Ազնավուր; born Shahnourh Varinag Aznavourian, Շահնուր Վաղինակ Ազնավուրյան, May 22, 1924) is an Armenian-French singer, songwriter, actor and public activist. Besides being one of France's most popular and enduring singers, he is also one of the most well-known singers in the world. He is known for his characteristic short figure and unique tenor voice; clear and ringing in its upper reaches, with gravely and soulful low notes. He has appeared in more than 60 movies, composed about 1000 songs (including 150 in English, 100 in Italian, 70 in Spanish, and 50 in German), and sold well over 100 million records. Aznavour started his global farewell tour in late 2006.
Aznavour was born in Paris, the son of Armenian immigrants Michael Aznavourian and Knar Bagdasarian. His artistic parents introduced him to the world of theatre at an early age.
He began to perform when he was nine and soon took the stage name Aznavour. His big break came when the singer Édith Piaf heard him sing and arranged to take him with her on tour in France and to the United States.
Often described as the "Frank Sinatra of France", Aznavour sings mostly about love. He has written musicals and about a thousand songs, made more than one hundred records, and appeared in sixty movies, including Shoot the Piano Player, The Tin Drum and Ararat. Aznavour sings in many languages (French, English, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian, Armenian, Portuguese), which has helped him perform at Carnegie Hall and other major venues around the world. He also recorded at least one song from the 18th century poet Sayat Nova, in Armenian. Que C'est Triste Venise, sung in French, Italian (Com'è Triste Venezia), Spanish (Venecia Sin Ti), English (How Sad Venice Can Be), and German (Venedig im Grau), is one of Aznavour's most famous polylingual songs.
In the 1970s Aznavour became a major success in the United Kingdom where his song "She" went to Number One in the charts. His other well-known song in the UK was "Dance in the Old Fashioned Way".
An admirer of Quebec, where he played in Montreal cabarets before becoming famous, he has helped the career of Quebec singer-songwriter Lynda Lemay in France, and has a house in Montreal.
Since the 1988 earthquake in Armenia, Aznavour has been helping the country through his charity, Aznavour for Armenia. Together with his brother in-law and co-author Georges Garvarentz he writes the song "Pour toi Armenie", which topped the charts for 13 weeks. There is a square named after him in central Yerevan on Abovian Street. In 1995 Charles Aznavour was appointed an Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Armenia to UNESCO. Aznavour is a member of the Armenia Fund International Board of Trustees. The organization has rendered more than $150 million in humanitarian aid and infrastructure development assistance to Armenia since 1992. Charles Aznavour was appointed as "Officier" (Officer) of the Légion d'honneur in 1997.
In 1998, Charles Aznavour was chosen as Entertainer of the Century by CNN and users of Time Online from around the globe. Aznavour was recognized as the century's outstanding performer, with nearly 18% of the total vote, edging out Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. After Frank Sinatra's death, Charles Aznavour is the last of these "Greats".
Artists who have covered his songs range from Fred Astaire, Bob Dylan and Bing Crosby to Ray Charles, Liza Minnelli and Julio Iglesias. In 1974, Jack Jones recorded an entire album of Aznavour compositions entitled "Write Me A Love Song, Charlie", re-released on CD in 2006 . Elvis Costello recorded "She" for the film Notting Hill. Legendary Spanish operatic tenor Plácido Domingo is a good friend of Aznavour and often performs his hits, most notably Aznavour's version of "Ave Maria" in 1994. Also in 1994, Aznavour performed with Domingo and Norwegian soprano Sissel Kyrkjebø at Domingo's third annual Christmas in Vienna concert. The three singers performed a variety of carols, medleys, and duets, and the concert was televised throughout the world, as well as released on a CD internationally. 
At the start of autumn in 2006, Aznavour initiated his farewell tour, performing in the US and Canada, and earning very positive reviews. Aznavour started 2007 with concerts all over Japan and Asia. The second half of 2007 saw Aznavour return to Paris for over 20 shows at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, followed by more touring Belgium, the Netherlands, and the rest of France. He has repeatedly stated that this farewell tour, health permitting, will likely last beyond 2010. At 84, Aznavour is in excellent health. He still sings in multiple languages and without teleprompters, but typically sticks to just two or three (French and English being the primary two, with Spanish or Italian being the third) during most concerts. On September 30, 2006, Aznavour performed a major concert in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia to start off the cultural season "Arménie mon amie" in France. Former Armenian president Robert Kocharyan and French president Jacques Chirac, at the time on an official visit to Armenia, were in front-row attendance.
In 2006, 82-year old Aznavour traveled to Cuba, where he, together with Chucho Valdes, recorded his new album Colore Ma Vie, presented at Aznavour's Moscow concert in April 2007. Later, in July of 2007, Aznavour was invited to perform at the Vieilles Charrues Festival, and sang his greatest hits to a thrilled audience.
"Forever Cool" (2007), an album from Capitol/EMI, features Aznavour singing a new duet of "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime" with the voice of the late Dean Martin.
Aznavour finished a tour of Portugal in February 2008. On January 18, 2008 he participated as guest vocalist with the contestants of the French reality show Star Academy and sang his famous Emmenez-Moi with contestant Jérémy Chapron. Throughout the spring of 2008, Aznavour will tour South America, holding a multitude of concerts in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay.
Aznavour has had a long and varied parallel career as an actor, appearing in over 60 films. In 1960 Aznavour starred in François Truffaut's Tirez sur le pianiste, playing a character called Édouard Saroyan. He also put in a critically acclaimed performance in the 1974 movie And Then There Were None. Aznavour had an important supporting role in 1978's The Tin Drum, winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1979. Aznavour starred in the 2002 movie Ararat playing Edward Saroyan, a movie director.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Birth name Bernard Nierow
Born 22 May 1934 (1934-05-22) (age 74)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Peter Nero (born Bernard Nierow, 22 May 1934) is an American pianist and pops conductor.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Nero started his formal music training at the age of seven. By the time he was fourteen, he was accepted to New York City's prestigious High School of Music and Art and won a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music. Constance Keene, his teacher and mentor, once wrote in an issue of Keyboard Classics, "Vladimir Horowitz was Peter's greatest fan!"
Nero recorded his first album in 1961, and won a Grammy Award that year for "Best New Artist." Since then, he has received another Grammy, garnered ten additional nominations and released 67 albums. Nero's early association with RCA Records produced 23 albums in eight years. His subsequent move to Columbia Records resulted in a million-selling single and album - The Summer of '42.
His first major national TV success came at the age of seventeen when he was chosen to perform Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue on Paul Whiteman's TV Special. He subsequently appeared on many top variety and talk shows including 11 guest appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, and numerous appearances on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.
Hailed as one of the premier interpreters of Gershwin, Nero starred in the Emmy Award-winning NBC Special, S'Wonderful, S'Marvelous, S'Gershwin. Other TV credits include performances on PBS-TV Piano Pizzazz and with the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. on its July 4th special titled A Capitol Fourth. Nero served as music director and pianist for the PBS-TV special The Songs of Johnny Mercer: Too Marvelous for Words with co-stars Johnny Mathis, Melissa Manchester and many members of The POPS.
In 1963 Peter composed and performed the musical score for the major motion picture "Sunday in New York." The title song has been recorded by over two dozen vocalists and the score was nominated for both a Golden Globe and Hollywood Reporter Award. He also made an appearance in the film alongside Jane Fonda, Rod Taylor, and Cliff Robertson.
Peter's recordings over the last 15 years include CDs with full symphony orchestra: On My Own, Classical Connections and My Way. He recorded Peter Nero and Friends, which contains collaborations with Mel Torme, Maureen McGovern and Doc Severinsen, among others. Peter's latest CDs are romantic albums titled Love Songs for a Rainy Day and More in Love. By popular demand, four of his earlier recordings have been re-issued. A younger generation of music lovers can now hear Peter on the recent Rod Stewart CD, As Time Goes By
The Great American Songbook, Volume II.
Awards and honors
In an issue of Keyboard Magazine, Ray Charles, when asked about his favorite pianist was quoted as saying, "Art Tatum could play anything he wanted to. He's one of the few people who I truly believe could play anything he thought of
and Peter Nero plays his buns off!"
Nero's long list of honors include six Honorary Doctorates, the most recent from Drexel University in 2004, and the prestigious International Society of Performing Arts Presenters Award for "Excellence in the Arts." He is also included on two historic walks of fame - one in Philadelphia, and one in Miami, Florida. In 1999, he received the Pennsylvania Distinguished Arts Award, presented by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. Previous honorees include Marian Anderson, James Michener, Andrew Wyeth and Riccardo Muti.
One of Nero's greatest achievements is being the founding Music Director of the world renowned Peter Nero and the Philly Pops(R).
He currently is the artistic director and conductor of Peter Nero and the Philly Pops.
He is an active participant committed to many important causes, including the funding of school music programs, fundraising for the building of new arts centers across the country, as well as research for cancer, dystonia and autism.
Nero has long been a devotee and advocate of consumer electronics. His expertise has led him to be dubbed a "technocrat" by leaders of the industry. While computers and other electronics have made him "the Gadget King," he still makes music on the traditional Steinway concert grand piano.
He is the father of two children, Beverly and Jedd.
Furniture (band) released a track called 'On A Bus With Peter Nero'.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Born Paul Edward Winfield
May 22, 1939(1939-05-22)
Los Angeles, California, USA
Died March 7, 2004 (aged 64)
Los Angeles, California, USA
Years active 1966-2004
Spouse(s) Charles Gillan Jr. (1970s-2002)
Outstanding Guest Actor-Drama Series
1995, Picket Fences
Paul Edward Winfield (May 22, 1939 - March 7, 2004) was an Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated American television and film actor. He was known for his portrayal of a Louisiana sharecropper who struggles to support his family during the Great Depression in the landmark film Sounder and as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the television miniseries King. Off camera, Winfield narrated the television crime series City Confidential.
Winfield carved out a diverse career in film, television, theater and voiceovers by taking ground breaking roles at a time when African-American actors were scarcely cast. His first major feature film role was in the 1969 film, The Lost Man starring Sidney Poitier. Winfield first became well-known to television audiences when he appeared for several years opposite Diahann Carroll on the groundbreaking television series Julia. Filmed during a high point of racial tensions in the United States, the show was unique in featuring an African-American female as the central character. He also starred as Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1978 miniseries King.
In 1973, Winfield was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the 1972 film Sounder, and his co-star in that film, Cicely Tyson, was nominated for Best Actress. Prior to their nominations, only two other African Americans - Dorothy Dandridge and Sidney Poitier - had ever been nominated for a leading role. He appeared in the 2003 Disney-produced television remake of Sounder. Winfield played the part of "Jim the Slave" in Huckleberry Finn (1974) which was a musical based on the novel by Mark Twain. Winfield would recall late in his career that as a young actor he had played one of the two leads in Of Mice and Men in local repertory, made up in whiteface, since a black actor playing it would have been unthinkable. Winfield also starred in more recent miniseries, including Roots: The Next Generations, Alex Haley'sQueen: The Story of an American Family and Scarlett.
The actor gained a new segment of fans for his brief but memorable roles in several science fiction TV programs and movies. He portrayed Captain Clark Terrell, an unwilling minion of Khan Noonien Singh, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and a friendly but crusty cop partnered with Lance Henriksen in The Terminator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. On the small screen Star Trek franchise, he appeared as an alien captain who communicates in metaphor in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Darmok". He also appeared on Babylon 5, as General Richard Franklin, the father of regular character Dr. Stephen Franklin, in the second season episode "Gropos."
Winfield also took on roles as gay characters in the films Mike's Murder in 1984 and again in 1998 in the film Relax...It's Just Sex.
Winfield found success off-camera due to his unique voice. He provided voices on the cartoons Spider-Man, The Magic School Bus, Batman Beyond, K10C, and The Simpsons, on the latter voicing the Don King parody Lucius Sweet. In his voiceover career, he perhaps best-known as the narrator for the A&E true crime series City Confidential, a role he began in 1998 and continued with until his death in 2004.
Throughout his career, Winfield frequently managed to perform in the theater. His only Broadway production, Checkmates, in 1988, co-starring Ruby Dee, was also the Broadway debut of Denzel Washington. He also appeared in productions at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C.
He was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance in the King and Roots: The Next Generations. He won an Emmy Award, in 1995, for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, for his appearance as Judge Harold Nance in an episode of the CBS drama Picket Fences.
Winfield was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Lois Beatrice (née Edwards), a union organizer in the garment industry. His stepfather from the age of eight was Clarence Winfield, a construction worker. He attended the University of Portland, Stanford University, Los Angeles City College and the University of California at Los Angeles. He was openly gay in his private life, but remained discreet about it in the public eye.
Winfield died of a heart attack in 2004 at the age of 64. His husband of 30 years, architect Charles Gillan Jr., died March 5, 2002 of bone cancer.