Richard Wagner was Europe’s most influential artist of the nineteenth century. His virulent anti-Semitism and Adolf Hitler’s obsessive love for his operas have led many to treat him simply as a bombastic proto-Nazi—a view that Ross, a music critic at The New Yorker, challenges. Wagner, he observes, was in fact the most left-wing and antimilitaristic of the great composers. Exiled from Germany for nearly two decades after he manned the revolutionary barricades of 1848 as an anarchist, he produced a string of operas that belie his typical association with right-wing politics, including his four-opera Ring cycle, a socialist morality play about the triumph of love over power, and his final work, Parsifal, a thinly disguised meditation on Buddhism. Ross focuses especially on the transformative impact that Wagnerian opera had not just on musicians but also on generations of leading painters, poets, theater directors, choreographers, philosophers, classicists, psychologists, and filmmakers—not to mention feminists, environmentalists, gay rights activists, Zionists, African American intellectuals, and elected politicians— most of whom were on the left. Wagner’s art allowed them all to unlock their own creativity because his operas let each listener take away something different and profound.