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A Symphonic Journey: Germany’s Optimistic Opera (7:04)

Europe

Richard Wagner’s overture to “Die Meistersinger” conveys the optimistic mood of the opera, its composer, and of Germany itself in the 1860s. Wagner had just returned to his homeland after 12 years in exile, and he found the place humming with activity.

Complete Video Script

For this next piece, we sail up the Danube into Germany. You know, 150 years ago, Germany wasn't there. It was a bunch of little German-speaking states with a dream for German nationalism, for German unity. And remember, in the 19th century, all over Europe, national groups like this were coalescing and Romantic music supported them.

In 1871, that grab bag of little German-speaking fiefdoms and dukedoms finally became the Germany we know today. And at that time, the Romantic composer Richard Wagner was in his prime. Wagner was a political radical. He was a nonconformist. An individual's individual. Kind of the quintessential Romantic. And he's a reminder that Romanticism was about more than rising nations. It was also championing personal freedoms and individualism.

This next piece is from an opera by Wagner, "Die Meistersinger." It's the story of a common man overcoming the tyranny of tradition to win his lady love. Up now, Wagner's overture to "Die Meistersinger.”

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