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The analysis of Der Ring des Nibelungen — spread across four chapters — for instance, succeeds in presenting a varied yet coherent take on the majestic tetralogy.


  • Richard Wagner Biography:The Frightening Power of Wagner — Gentleman's Gazette;
  • Furti di percezioni (Gli emersi poesia) (Italian Edition).
  • Richard Wagner at Two Hundred | The Musical Quarterly | Oxford Academic.

This challenge should not be underestimated and is not always tackled successfully by Geck. Based on circumstantial and anachronistic arguments e. Martin Geck sets out to weave a teleological thread throughout his book. Nevertheless, Geck hesitates to acknowledge the pragmatic intentions of writings like Oper und Drama or Eine Mittheilung an meine Freunde , of which we should be aware at all times that Wagner did not solely intend for them to divulge the new trails he was about to blaze; these texts also served the purpose of justifying his former dramas within the boundaries he had just set out to break.

Luckily, Geck does not fail to provide a broader image than just that which Cosima and the composer himself fashioned. He complements these auto biographical texts with observations drawn from a small stock of authors such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas Mann, Walter Benjamin and Theodor W. Three decades after —and two after the film's appearance—passed before a true Wagner renaissance could take hold.

Pierre Boulez's debut in Bayreuth in the mids coincided with the capitulation of modernism and an anti-Wagnerian bias in musical taste. But it was a late twentieth-century technological innovation that actually made a Wagner revival possible: supertitles. Supertitles paved the way for the surprising and widespread renewal of interest in all opera at the end of the twentieth century.

Before supertitles, the conventional opera audience apart from that consistently loyal, self-replicating, and fanatical band of adherents that never vanished found Wagner hard going. Standees at the Metropolitan Opera in the years before supertitles knew that they would find choice seats at Wagner performances after the first or second acts, as patrons fled, gladly handing over their ticket stubs to impecunious enthusiasts. Indeed, supertitles rekindled the taste for Wagner by permitting the audience to follow word for word the carefully crafted interaction of music and text. The relentlessly overblown emotions and philosophical rhetoric in Wagner—perhaps for the first time, or at least once again—lent performances, for listeners, the plausible appearance of spiritual gravity and philosophical profundity not always apparent in opera.

Richard Wagner

The one exception may be Bayreuth, the bastion of hard-core Wagner enthusiasm where the theater is small, the acoustic clarity exemplary, and the audience overwhelmingly German speaking. But beyond Bayreuth, with supertitles the essential existential questions of life, death, love, and history appeared uniquely on display in a comprehensible manner that appealed to an audience eager to accept confirmation of their refined sensibilities.

The very claims that Wagner made for himself—that he was redeeming musical art from the status of trivial or sentimental entertainment—seemed vindicated with ease through the foregrounding of the libretto and the mythic world it evoked. The sort of enthusiasm that evolved during Wagner's lifetime, rooted in the ideology and drama of the stage works—not the music—once again gained legitimacy.

The Wagner of Magic Fire had been reduced to being just a composer, just a musician, albeit one of genius. The Wagner of the late twentieth century once again re-emerged as a writer, prophet, and philosopher. Indeed, in the reception of Wagner today the music takes a subordinate place. The recent Wagner revival has had little impact on aspiring composers and musicians take, for example, Nico Muhly in a manner comparable to the effect Tristan had on Emmanuel Chabrier or Parsifal on Claude Debussy.

Overwhelmed by the music, Chabrier, at age thirty-nine, resolved to abandon his livelihood and devote his life to musical composition.

Richard Wagner | Nexus Instituut

The reasons that today's passion for Wagner is in the end, oddly enough, not the consequence of the allure of the music, are certainly not to be found in the quality of contemporary performances. The orchestral sound in modern performances, epitomized best by the playing of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, has never been as refined, precise, and elegant.


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The astonishing library of recordings and DVDs, dating back to Solti's Ring and the Boulez—Chereau Bayreuth production, is still growing including a distinctive recent Lohengrin conducted by Semyon Bychkov. These sound documents attest to an unrivalled standard of performance with regard to Wagner in opera houses today. Nevertheless, serious reconsideration of what is assumed to be the proper Wagnerian style is long overdue and has yet to begin. Historical inquiry into performance traditions has had little impact on the way Wagner is played and sung.

What we encounter now is unrelieved intensity, a lush orchestral texture, defined by rich brass and wind playing and a concomitantly charged string sound. This in turn has forced the already taxing vocal demands to the limit, leaving us, particularly in oversized opera houses, with unrelentingly shrill vocal power, most notably in female and tenor roles. The possibilities of the use of a lighter, more transparent texture characteristic of the expressive range of mid-nineteenth-century vocal and instrumental musical practice have yet to be explored.

Wagnerian performance might benefit from less bombast and more intimacy and grace—a stronger debt in terms of sonority to the music of Weber, Mendelssohn, and Meyerbeer. Although Wagner's influence in the history of music cannot be overestimated, it is no longer the astonishing harmonic language, the capacity to use music as a narrative medium, and the skill at constructing extensive and continuous musical space with the elaborate transformation of constituent motivic elements that fascinate.

These aspects of the Wagnerian have become too commonplace. They reveal themselves in the use of music in the world of the commercial motion picture.

Wagner: His Life & Music [With 2 CDs]

Even the sonorities he pioneered have become banal. Wagner invented movie music before there were movies. Not only has the movie house displaced the opera house but the fastest growing aspect of opera seems to be its reinvention as a subspecies of cinema through HD broadcasts.

Richard Wagner - Rienzi Ouverture (Full)

On account of the fact that the drama and the texts indeed drive today's enthusiasm for Wagner, audiences in turn call for arresting visual and dramaturgical treatments, often bizarre and arbitrary. This focus is paradoxical. Precisely when the political currency, literary style, and philosophical pertinence of what Wagner wrote may be at their weakest, most arcane, and irrelevant—if not dated—audiences appear mesmerized and engaged by attempts to redeem the dramaturgy through sets and various efforts to extract from the argument and the theatrical encounter with Wagner new meaning and significance for which the music functions as little more than a soundtrack.

The same paradox holds for the seemingly never-ending outpouring of writing about the meaning of Wagner, his world view, the construct of the erotic, the nature of narration, and, of course, Wagner's philosophy and politics. This observation applies to both journalism and scholarship. But the nonmusical aspects of Wagner seem still germane and certainly inexhaustible as objects of clever and not so clever speculation.

By linking Wagner's vocal writing to traditions of the German theater and declamation, to the use of the voice in melodrama, and to Wagner's own manner of reading aloud in public, Trippett sheds useful new light on many passages in the major works that in turn suggest strategies by which we might better differentiate how we perform Wagner.

The secondary place music in Wagner has fallen to would not have surprised his contemporary critics, who feared, less in the case of Wagner himself than in those who were drawn to his work, a convenient exit from any requirement to become literate in music in order to appreciate the works.

They thought that Wagner whose craft they admired ushered in the end of the primacy of musical culture and its subordination to the literary and visual. The irony was that it was Wagner's brilliant use of music that propelled that historical shift. Consider the case of Chabrier.

Wagner's use of melody and harmony overwhelmed him, as did Wagner's potent manner of intersecting music with the linguistic and the dramatic—the musical characterization of events, ideas, and emotions. On the surface, that opera seems everything but Wagnerian. It is a farce, with dialogue, set numbers, and an affectionate connection to a specifically French theatrical tradition, from Meyerbeer to Offenbach and Bizet. But what sets it apart—both in terms of the power of the score and its capacity to transcend the charming and ephemeral characteristics of comic light opera—are its harmonic usage, its treatment of motivic elements, and its orchestration—all hallmarks of Wagner's legacy.

These aspects are not on the surface, however, and they transcend style. Chabrier, like most composers, wrote for the broad public and colleagues and cognoscenti all at the same time; he sustained a surface of grace and lightness not notable Wagnerian virtues combined with accessibility. But the interior parallel complex musical argument he cultivated was deeply Wagnerian and directed at a discerning and highly literate audience capable of following complex musical arguments. He eschewed the Wagnerian habit of wearing profundity on his proverbial sleeve, but he exploited the resources of dense progressive Wagnerian harmonic subtlety.

Richard Wagner

The debt is found in hidden references and telling musical elaborations of text. Much of it is affectionate, such as an eloquent but discreet evocation of Die Meistersinger at the end of act 2. But most of it is recognizable only by listeners with a sophisticated capacity to think in music.

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Consider a short passage in act 1, where Chabrier, moving from a long section in C major, travels to A major. Then in two bars, when the tenor Nangis expresses that he is confused and does not understand what he is being told, Chabrier writes a densely chromatic but elegant Wagnerian moment that modulates from A major to A-flat major in a flagrant Wagnerian manner that bewilders the ear and suspends a facile harmonic orientation, as if to underscore the sense of incomprehension articulated by Nangis in the text.

Such moments now usually go unnoticed. From a less probing standpoint, shared by most contemporary listeners who are neither amateurs nor wholly musically literate but familiar with the music through recordings, Wagner's music cannot seem unusual, striking, overwhelming, or demanding of further explanation. Only a small elite of listeners, scholars, and professionals are interested in or can follow Wagner's deft and inspired handling of musical time and form, or that of those who followed him, whether Chabrier or Richard Strauss.

Even in scholarly writing about Wagner, the attraction remains everything about Wagner but the music. The continuing obsession today with Wagner concerns all that was subsumed by his appropriation of musical gestures: the use of music to illuminate to borrow a visual metaphor issues and sensibilities regarding identity, mortality, desire, history, justice, meaning, loss, nostalgia, grandiosity, monumentality, and dramatic tension and resolution.


  • Richard Wagner - Wikipedia.
  • Wagner – His Life and Music (unabridged) – Naxos AudioBooks.
  • Red Right Hand.
  • The Music of Richard Wagner.

The ideologies are more reminiscent of today's self-help literature, crude popular philosophy, and television evangelical preaching.