Richard Wagner was an important innovator of music in his time. He is best known for his operas, which he himself preferred to refer to as musical dramas. He wrote the texts (the libretti) himself and sought to make a Gesamtkunstwerk, the ideal union of text, music and theatre. Over time, this lead to grandiose musical dramas which were performed in a specially built theater for these works in the small town of Bayreuth.
Wagner's greatest critic, the philosopher Nietzsche, named his former friend the "greatest miniaturist of music who in the smallest of space squeezed an endless amount of sense and sweetness". Nietzsche regarded this as a sympton of decadence, yet it does portray the large variety of treasures which can be found in Wagner's music: the mysterious fantasy stories of the love potion of Tristan & Isolde, Wotan's spear, the sea of flames of Brünhilde, the sword of Siegfried... Still the real main character is the orchestra, which shines its light on all the true intentions and feelings of these heroes with great depth.
Both as a composer and as an individual, Wagner remains a subject of controversy and emotional discussions. By many he is hailed as a hero, and by equally many others completely dismissed. But his influence as a composer and musical innovator is undeniable!