Emerging from his solitude Rienzi journeyed to Prague, which he reached in July 1350, and threw himself upon the protection of the emperor Charles IV.
At Avignon, where he appeared in August 1352, Rienzi was tried by three cardinals, and was sentenced to death, but this judgment was not carried out, and he remained in prison in spite of appeals from Petrarch for his release.
Giving him the title of senator, he sent him to Italy with the legate, Cardinal Albornoz, and having collected a few mercenary troops on the way, Rienzi entered Rome in August 13 54.
Rienzi attempted to address them, but the building in which he stood was fired, and while trying to escape in disguise he was murdered by the mob.
Accepting this, he remained actively employed until 1839, when he made his first visit to Paris, taking with him an unfinished opera based on Bulwer Lytton's Rienzi, and, like his earlier attempts, on his own libretto.
Wagner failed to gain a footing, and Rienzi, destined for the Grand Opera, was rejected.
But though in Rienzi Wagner had shown energy and ambition, that work was far from representing his preconceived ideal.
In Rienzi Wagner would already have been Meyerbeer's rival, but that his sincerity, and his initial lack of that musical savoir faire which is prior to the individual handling of ideas, put him at a disadvantage.
Though Meyerbeer wrote much that is intrinsically more dull and vulgar than the overture to Rienzi, he never combined such serious efforts with a technique so like that of a military bandmaster.
The step from Rienzi to Der fliegende Hollander is without parallel in the history of music, and would be inexplicable if Rienzi contained nothing good and if Der fliegende Hollander did not contain many reminiscences of the decline of Italian opera; but it is noticeable that in this case the lapses into vulgar music have a distinct dramatic value.
Rienzi, der letzte der Tribunen: grosse tragische Oper; 5 acts (1838-1840).
His mother, Anna Prosperi, is said to have been a descendant of Rienzi, and was a member of the third order of St Francis.
In 1350 Cola di Rienzi, "the last of the tribunes," was confined by the emperor Charles IV.
But his purely political action was very restricted, and not to be compared with that of a Rienzi or a Savonarola.
In the month of May 1347 Cola di Rienzi accomplished that extraordinary revolution which for a short space revived the republic in Rome, and raised this enthusiast to titular equality with kings.
Petrarch, who in politics was no less visionary than Rienzi, hailed the advent of a founder and deliverer in the self-styled tribune.
He was clamorous for the freedom of the Roman people; yet at one time he called upon the popes to re-establish themselves in the Eternal City; at another he besought the emperor to make it his headquarters; at a third he hailed in Rienzi the founder of a new republic. He did not perceive that all these plans were incompatible.
His odes to Giacomo Colonna, to Cola di Rienzi and to the princes of Italy display him in another light.
At first in Sicily and afterwards throughout Italy the Ghibellines gave them a warm welcome; the rigorists and the malcontents who had either left the church or were on the point of leaving it, were attracted by these communities of needy rebels; and the tribune Rienzi was at one time disposed to join them.