01The Saxon Windbag20101004

Donald Macleod on Wagner's early works, including the operas Das Liebesverbot and Rienzi.

Donald Macleod introduces Richard Wagner, a composer whose name instantly ignites controversy like no other - a composer whose life was every bit as much of a titanic saga as the epic music dramas he invented.

Wagner was a young firebrand of twenty-two when he made his debut as an opera composer with Das Liebesverbot (The Ban on Love), and the premiere was a fiasco with fights on stage even before the curtain rose.

His opera Rienzi was much more successful, catching the revolutionary spirit of the time and putting Wagner's name on the map.


Donald Macleod considers why Wagner shared the revolutionary spirit of 1830s Germany.

As his opera Rienzi is removed from the opera programme in Dresden, Richard Wagner takes to the streets and political storm clouds gather.

Donald Macleod explores why Wagner shared the revolutionary spirit of 1830s Germany with its political, social, artistic and moral changes.

Plus the almost nuclear force of the revolution Wagner detonated on the entire history of tonal music with his astonishing Tristan chord.


Donald Macleod explores Wagner's exile in Switzerland.

Donald Macleod explores Richard Wagner's exile in Switzerland, including a period of intense creativity that coincided with the entrance into his life of his second wife, Cosima.

Their rented home was an undistinguished, three story villa near Lucerne, with splendid views of the distant mountains, and Wagner was incredibly happy here, accompanied by his young family, a pair of peacocks and two dogs called Wotan and Fricka.

04The Mad King20101007

Donald Macleod on how Wagner's luck hit new heights thanks to a new king of Bavaria.

Wagner's talent for escaping trouble hits new heights thanks to a new King of Bavaria, whose sanity was questionable.

The composer, a left-wing revolutionary who had fought on the streets in Dresden, now brought about a revolution in music with the help of a ridiculously spoiled and pampered monarch.

King Ludwig happened to be Wagner's number one fan and gave the ever-ambitious composer seemingly limitless financial backing.

With Donald Macleod.

05 LASTThe Holy Grail20101008

Donald Macleod discovers why Wagner took a 12-year break from his work on the Ring cycle.

Donald Macleod discovers why Richard Wagner took a twelve year break from his work on the Ring Cycle.

As the music fizzes back into life, Donald continues his journey through the epic music dramas, from the thunderous music of Siegfried to the monumental funeral music from Gotterdammerung (Twilight of the Gods).

Plus a look at Wagner's controversial legacy and his final work, Parsifal, described by one writer as "opera halfway between Mass and orgy".