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Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

Composer of concertos, symphonies

and overtures, but mostly known for his operas Brought German Romantic opera to its consummation, by creating a new genre, the music drama Music critic, also published on literature, drama, and politics Widely interested in literature, philosophy, politics and religion Musical innovations: dissolution of tonality and the technique of leitmotive

Strongly influenced by

Carl Maria von Weber and Beethoven Very passionate about literature and music Worked as conductor while composing his first works Struggled to premiere his first works Participated in the revolution of 1848-9 and had to be exiled to Switzerland from Germany


Commercially oriented,

with an appeal to the general public Emerged in the late 1820s Typically four or five acts, with a ballet

Large casts, elaborate

French Grand Opera

sets, special effects, scenery In the lineage of Lully Emphasis on historical realism

Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864)

Robert le diable (1831) Les Huguenots (1836) Eugne Scribe (librettist) Helped Wagner perform his first large opera, Rienzi at the Dresden Opera House, in 1842

After Rienzi was criticized for drawing excessively on Meyerbeers style, Wagner published in 1850 an article entitled Judaism in Music, attacking Meyerbeer and Mendelssohn, charging them for being deracinated and thus lacking in artistic depth.

This created a precedent for the appropriation of Wagner as an icon of National Socialism in Nazi Germany


Thus it is our task to make of Hellenic art the altogether human art; to remove from it the conditions under which it was precisely a Hellenic, and not an altogether human art; to widen the garb of religion, in which alone it was a communal Hellenic art, and after removing which, as an egoistic individual art species, it could no longer fill the need of the community, but only that of luxuryhowever beautiful!to widen this garb of the specifically Hellenic religion to the bond of the religion of the futurethat of universalityin order to form for ourselves even now a just conception of the art work of the future. Yet, unfortunate as we are, it is precisely the power to close this bond, this religion of the future, that we lack, for after all, no matter how many of us may feel this urge to the art work of the future, we are singular and individual. An art work is religion brought to life; religions, however, are created, not by the artist, but by the folk.

Rienzi, 1840!

Late medieval Roman politician, from an English novel

Tannhuser (1843)!

German legend set in the time of the minnesingers ! (German courtly love musicians) Heinrich Heines telling of an old legend about a ghost ship

The Flying Dutchman (1845)!

Lohengrin (1850)!

Medieval German legend by Wolfbach von Eschenbach

Based on concept of Gesamtkunstwerk Music, poetry, drama, and philosophy all

equally important
Deal with weighty philosophical issues Based on old German myths and legends Myth as embodiment of unconscious truths Required expanded use of orchestra Leitmotiv technique

Let us, then, be content that for the presentwithout egoistic vanity, without wishing to seek satisfaction in any selfish illusion whatsoever, but with sincere and affectionate resignation to the hope for the art work of the futurewe test first of all the nature of the art varieties which today, in their dismembered condition, make up the present general state of art; that we brace ourselves for this test by a glance at the art of the Hellenes; and that we then boldly and confidently draw our conclusions as to the great universal art work of the future!

Not one rich faculty of the separate arts will remain unused in the United Artwork of the Future; in it will each attain its first complete appraisement. Thus, especially, will the manifold developments of Tone, so peculiar to our instrumental music, unfold their utmost wealth within this Artwork; nay, Tone will incite the mimetic art of Dance to entirely new discoveries, and no less swell the breath of Poetry to unimagined fill. For Music, in her solitude, has fashioned for herself an organ which is capable of the highest reaches of expression. This organ is the Orchestra. The tone-speech of Beethoven, introduced into Drama by the orchestra, marks an entirely fresh departure for the dramatic artwork. While Architecture and, more especially, scenic Landscape-painting have power to set the executant dramatic Artist in the surroundings of physical Nature, and to dower him from the exhaustless stores of natural phenomena with an ample and significant background,so in the Orchestra, that pulsing body of many-coloured harmony, the personating individual Man is given, for his support, a unstoppable elemental spring, at once artistic, natural, and human.

Tristan und Isolde (1865) Die Meistersinger (1867) Das Ring des Nibelungen (1869-1874): Das Rheingold Die Walkre Siegfried Gtterdmmerung Parsifal (1882)

The Orchestra is, so to speak, the loam of endless, universal Feeling, from which the individual feeling of the separate actor draws power to shoot aloft to fullest height of growth: it, in a sense, dissolves the hard immobile ground of the actual scene into a fluent, elastic, impressionable ther, whose unmeasured bottom is the great sea of Feeling itself. Thus the Orchestra is like the Earth from which Antus, so soon as ever his foot had grazed it, drew new immortal life-force. By its essence diametrically opposed to the scenic landscape which surrounds the actor, and therefore, as to locality, most rightly placed in the deepened foreground outside the scenic frame, it at like time forms the perfect complement of these surroundings; inasmuch as it broadens out the exhaustless physical element of Nature to the equally exhaustless emotional element of artistic Man.

Carries the music drama along No more recitatives, arias, etc. One long web woven with singing New intensity of emotional expression Larger than evernew instruments Brass section now equal to others Exciting new tone colors


Like every man who is passionately thrilled with life, I too sought first for the conclusions of Schopenhauer's system. With its aesthetic side I was perfectly content, and was especially astonished at his noble conception of music. But, on the other hand, the final summing-up regarding morals alarmed me, as, indeed, it would have startled any one in my mood; for here the annihilation of the will and complete abnegation are represented as the sole true and final deliverance from those bonds of individual limitation in estimating and facing the world, which are now clearly felt for the first time. For those who hoped to find some philosophical justification for political and social agitation on behalf of so-called 'individual freedom' there was certainly no support to be found here, where all that was demanded was absolute renunciation of all such methods of satisfying the claims of personality. At first I naturally found his ideas by no means palatable, and felt I could not readily abandon that so-called 'cheerful' Greek aspect of the world, with which I had looked out upon life in my Kunstwerk der Zukunft. As a matter of fact, it was Herwegh who at last, by a well-timed explanation, brought me to a calmer frame of mind about my own sensitive feelings. It is from this perception of the nullity of the visible worldso he saidthat all tragedy is derived, and such a perception must necessarily have dwelt as an intuition in every great poet, and even in every great man. On looking afresh into my Nibelungen poem I recognised with surprise that the very things that now so embarrassed me theoretically had long been familiar to me in my own poetical conception. Now at last I could understand my Wotan, and I returned with chastened mind to the renewed study of Schopenhauer's book.

Built to perform

Wagners works exclusivelyto this day

The orchestra is hidden

from the audiences view: the great sea of endless Feeling itself.


The Nibelungs Ring Huge four-opera cycle The Rhine Gold The Valkyrie Siegfried Twilight of the Gods Drawn from famous Norse legends Critique of middle-class values of the day Moral decline brought about by greed

for money and power Work and discipline valued over emotion

Siegmund and Sieglinde,



children of the leader of the gods Wotan, fall in love after having been separated at birth Wotan orders Brnhilde to protect Siegmund, Fricka (Wotans wife) orders her to kill the couple for commiting incest and adultery. Fricka and Brnhilde convince Wotan to submit to their will. Siegmund is killed in a duel with Hunding, Sieglindes husband. Sieglinde escapes to bear their child Siegfried, hero of the last two nights Wotan punishes Brnhilde by turning her into a mortal woman and then puts her to sleep surrounded by fire, waiting for a hero (Siegfried) to save her

8 other Valkyries Siegmund SieglindeHunding Brnhilde



These Melodic Moments [...] will be made by the orchestra into a kind of guides-toFeeling through the whole labyrinthine building of the drama. At their hand we become the constant fellow-knowers of the profoundest secret of the poet's Aim, the immediate partners in its realization.

Guiding, or leading, motives Associated with a person, thing, idea, or symbol in

the drama Makes use of thematic transformation (unlike Berliozs Ide Fixe) Romantic variation-like technique Pioneered by Liszt in symphonic poems! Guide the listener through the story Can tell us what the hero thinks or feels when he is saying something else Can show a person or idea changing as drama progresses Technique used widely since Wagners day


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