The Quest for the Gesamtkunstwerk and Richard Wagner

The Quest for the Gesamtkunstwerk and Richard Wagner

by Hilda Meldrum Brown


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The Gesamtkunstwerk ('total work of art'), once a key concept in Wagner studies, has become problematic. This book sheds light on this conundrum by first tracing the development of the concept in the 19th century through selected examples, some of which include combinations of different art forms. It then focuses on the culmination of the Gesamtkunstwerk in Wagner's theories and in the practice of his late music dramas, of which Der Ring des Nibelungen is the most complete representation. Finally, the book contrasts the view of the Ring as a fusion of dramatic text and music with the 20th century trend towards Deconstruction in Wagnerian productions and the importance of R gie. Against this trend a case is made here for a fresh critical approach and a reconsideration of the nature and basis for the fundamental unity which has hitherto been widely perceived in Wagner's Ring. Approaches through Leitmotiv alone are no longer acceptable. However, in conjunction with another principle, Moment, which Wagner insisted on combining with Motive, these can be ingeniously 'staged' and steered to dramatic ends by means of musical dynamics and expressive devices such as accumulation. Analysis of the two Erda scenes demonstrates how this complex combination of resources acts as a powerful means of fusion of the musical and dramatic elements in the Ring and confirms its status as a Gesamtkunstwerk.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780199325436
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 06/07/2016
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Professor Hilda Meldrum Brown, Emeritus Professor of German at the University of Oxford, is internationally known for her work on Heinrich von Kleist. She has published widely on German literary topics from Goethe to Christa Wolf. Her research has for some years had a strong interdisciplinary bias and involves studying connections between literature, drama, music, the visual arts, especially in the field of German Romanticism and Richard Wagner. Her new book on the Gesamtkunstwerk and Richard Wagner combines a number of these areas of research and has been supported by The Leverhulme Trust (Emeritus Research Fellowship) and a Hawthornden Fellowship at The International Retreat for Writers.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Nature of the Quest
Part I Approaches to the Gesamtkunstwerk before Wagner
1: The Landscape Garden
2: Romantic Drama and the Visual Arts
3: Goethe's Faust: Gesamtkunstwerk or Universaltheater?
Part II Wagner and the Gesamtkunstwerk: Moment and Motiv
4: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Theoretical Approaches
5: Moment and Motiv: Critical Approaches to the Ring Cycle
6: Analysis of the Erda Scenes
Part III Wagner, the Gesamtkunstwerk, and Performance of the Ring
7: Adolphe Appia: A Watershed in the Evolution of the Gesamtkunstwerk
8: Wieland Wagner: The Appia Heritage and the Gesamtkunstwerk
9: The Centenary Ring: Deconstruction and the Gesamtkunstwerk
Appendix - The genesis of Goethe's Faust

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