Music Stories October 20th (1842)

Wagner's Breakthrough: "Rienzi" Is a Hit

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Holger Noltze
Holger Noltze
10/20/2020

14th century Rome. The city is at the mercy of a feud between the two leading aristocratic families, the Orisinis and the Colonnas. Much like his early work Das Liebesverbot, Wagner opens the opera with a brawl. Paolo Orsini attempts to kidnap Irene, the sister of papal notary Cola di Rienzi. He is prevented from carrying out his plan by Adriano, the son of Colonna (the only breeches role in a Wagner opera), who is in love with the beautiful Irene. The fight leads to a...

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