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Opera Fans Mark Richard Wagner's Bicentennial

May 22 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of German composer Wilhelm Richard Wagner, one of the most celebrated composers of the 19th century. He is best known for the Ring Cycle of four operas, as well as the operas "The Flying Dutchman" and "Tristan and Isolde," sometimes described as marking the start of modern music. Though his music is highly influential, Wagner's legacy is controversial, the result of his nationalist and anti-Semitic writings, which later became a source of inspiration for Adolf Hitler. (14 PHOTOS)

A bust of Richard Wagner is on display at a new permanent exhibit on the composer in his hometown of Leipzig, Germany.
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A bust of Richard Wagner is on display at a new permanent exhibit on the composer in his hometown of Leipzig, Germany.

An undated portrait of Wagner, who died in 1883 at the age of 69
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An undated portrait of Wagner, who died in 1883 at the age of 69

German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, a devotee of Wagner's music and writings, with the late composer's daughter-in-law, Winifred Wagner, and her two sons, Wolfgang and Wieland, in Bayreuth, Germany, in 1937
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German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, a devotee of Wagner's music and writings, with the late composer's daughter-in-law, Winifred Wagner, and her two sons, Wolfgang and Wieland, in Bayreuth, Germany, in 1937

Film and theater director Sergei Eisenstein (right) and Georgy Petrovsky work on a production of Wagner's "Die Walkure" ("The Valkyrie"), part of the Ring Cycle, at Moscow's Bolshoi Theater on the eve of World War II.
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Film and theater director Sergei Eisenstein (right) and Georgy Petrovsky work on a production of Wagner's "Die Walkure" ("The Valkyrie"), part of the Ring Cycle, at Moscow's Bolshoi Theater on the eve of World War II.

Vasily Gorshkov (left) as the fire god Loge and Viktor Chernomortsev as Nibelung Alberich in Wagner's "The Ring of the Nibelung" at the Mariinsky Theater in Moscow in 2005
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Vasily Gorshkov (left) as the fire god Loge and Viktor Chernomortsev as Nibelung Alberich in Wagner's "The Ring of the Nibelung" at the Mariinsky Theater in Moscow in 2005

A performance of the opera "Lohengrin" in Moscow in 2008
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A performance of the opera "Lohengrin" in Moscow in 2008

A visitor looks at artist Fyodor Fedorovsky's sketch of stage sets for a performance of Wagner's work at the Bolshoi Theater.
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A visitor looks at artist Fyodor Fedorovsky's sketch of stage sets for a performance of Wagner's work at the Bolshoi Theater.

American conductor Kent Nagano performs "The Valkyrie" at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow in 2010.
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American conductor Kent Nagano performs "The Valkyrie" at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow in 2010.

A reproduction of Nicholas Roerich's 1912 scenery sketch for the opera "Tristan and Isolde"
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A reproduction of Nicholas Roerich's 1912 scenery sketch for the opera "Tristan and Isolde"

A signed letter from Wagner to the Dresden lawyer Franz Adolf Schmidt, dated September 28, 1863. The letter is part of the collection of the Saxon State and University Library in Dresden.
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A signed letter from Wagner to the Dresden lawyer Franz Adolf Schmidt, dated September 28, 1863. The letter is part of the collection of the Saxon State and University Library in Dresden.

Katharina Wagner talks to her father, Wolfgang Wagner, one of the composer's grandsons, during a celebration of his retirement as manager of the Richard Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, Germany.
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Katharina Wagner talks to her father, Wolfgang Wagner, one of the composer's grandsons, during a celebration of his retirement as manager of the Richard Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, Germany.

Yelena Mikhailenko performs in a play based on Wagner's operas, staged to celebrate the composer's bicentennial, at the Helikon Opera Theater in Moscow in February 2013.
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Yelena Mikhailenko performs in a play based on Wagner's operas, staged to celebrate the composer's bicentennial, at the Helikon Opera Theater in Moscow in February 2013.

German weekly "Der Spiegel" marks Wagner's 200th birthday with a cover story titled "The Mad Genius."
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German weekly "Der Spiegel" marks Wagner's 200th birthday with a cover story titled "The Mad Genius."

A young woman carries an oversized Wagner stamp in Leipzig, Germany. The German Finance Ministry issued a commemorative 10-euro coin and a postage stamp to mark the composer's bicentennial.
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A young woman carries an oversized Wagner stamp in Leipzig, Germany. The German Finance Ministry issued a commemorative 10-euro coin and a postage stamp to mark the composer's bicentennial.

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