Richard Wagner and Festival Theatre

By Simon Williams | Go to book overview

century operatic theatre. Such coherence in realizing the full thematic implications of the action suggested a theatre of total integrity unprecedented in Wagner's time.

On 28 June 1857, Wagner wrote to Liszt:

I have decided at last to give up my obstinate attempt to complete my Nibelung. I have led my young Siegfried into beautiful solitude in the forest; there I have left him under a linden tree and bidden farewell to him with heartfelt tears. . . . If I were to take up the work again, then this must either be made very easy for me, or I myself must be able to present it to the world as a gift in the fullest sense of the word. ( WLB, II, 173)

His reasons for abandoning The Ring have been much debated. Although he endowed the action with dimensions that defied contemporary theatre, he was becoming increasingly discouraged by the lack of opportunity to have his most recent work performed. Because he insisted that The Ring should first be produced complete, he reduced even further the chances of hearing his music. There is distinct evidence too that, by 1857, his ideas on the interrelationship of words and music were changing and that he needed some time for his technique to mature before he could successfully complete the cycle. But perhaps the major reason for abandoning the work was that his interest in it, at least temporarily, was on the wane. While there is no decline in his musical inventiveness, the emotional temperature of the first two acts of Siegfried is distinctly lower and the dramatic momentum slacker than in the earlier works. In fact, circumstances in both Wagner's private and professional life suggested to him that the time was ripe for him to turn to new material. At this point, the story of Tristan and Isolde was better suited to express both his artistic and emotional needs.


NOTES
1
See Robert T. Laudon, Sources of the Wagnerian Synthesis ( Munich: Katzbichler, 1979), for a full account of the origins of this theory.
2
For the vitalistic aspects of Wagner's theatre, see especially Michael Tanner, "The Total Work of Art", The Wagner Companion, ed. Peter Burbidge and Richard Sutton ( New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979) (henceforward TWC).
3
Thomas Mann, "Der Ring des Nibelungen", in Pro and Contra Wagner, trans. Allan Blunder, ed. Patrick Carnegy ( London: Faber and Faber, 1985), 192.
4
Ernest Newman, The Wagner Operas ( New York: Knopf, 1949), 451-634; Robert Donington, Wagner's Ring and Its Symbols ( London: Faber & Faber, 1963), 275-308.

-75-

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Richard Wagner and Festival Theatre
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Chapter 1 - The Fiery Conformist 1
  • Notes 17
  • Chapter 2 Bohemian in Paris 19
  • Notes 29
  • Chapter 3 - Kapellmeister in Dresden 31
  • Notes 52
  • Chapter 4 - Revolutionary in Exile 53
  • Notes 75
  • Chapter 5 - Romantic in Exile 77
  • Notes 90
  • Chapter 6 - The King's Friend 91
  • Notes 109
  • Chapter 7 - The Master of Bayreuth 111
  • Notes 131
  • Chapter 8 - The Dying Magus 133
  • Notes 145
  • Chapter 9 - Wagner's Theatrical Legacy 147
  • Notes 161
  • Chronology of Wagner's Life 163
  • Further Reading 171
  • Index 177
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