Rienzi is an opera by Richard Wagner. Its full title is Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen (Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes). It is one of the earliest operas Wagner wrote. There are five acts. Wagner wrote the libretto himself, using the story from a novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. It was composed between 1838 and 1840. It was first performed at the Hofoper, Dresden on 20 October 1842. It was the first time Wagner had a success as an opera composer.
The story of the opera is set in Rome and is based on the life of Cola di Rienzi (1313–1354), a medieval Italian populist figure who manages to trick the nobles and their followers. He helps the people to get power. At first he is very popular, but then he has to use force against the nobles, and the Church turns against him. In the end the ordinary people burn the Capitol where Rienzi and his friends are sheltering.