Wagner's Das Rheingold

Wagner's Das Rheingold

Wagner's Das Rheingold

Wagner's Das Rheingold

Synopsis

Richard Wagner's opera Das Rheingold is a milestone in the composer's output and in the history of music in general. It marked Wagner's return to operatic composition after a hiatus of five years, and signified his definitive break with earlier operatic conventions. It also represents a reconsideration of the whole question of dramatic-musical form, and the role of tonality in articulating this form. Warren Darcy traces here the genesis of Das Rheingold through the various textual and musical sketches and drafts to the full score, and also develops a theoretical framework within which the opera may be meaningfully analyzed. Using Wagner's manuscripts as a point of departure, Darcy discusses the formal, harmonic, and linear structure of the work. In so doing, he challenges a number of contemporary views about the opera, esppecially those of Carl Dahlhaus.

Excerpt

This series provides a number of monographs, each dealing with a single work by an important composer. the main focus of each book is on the compositional process by which the work developed from antecedent stages, so far as these can be determined from the sources. in each case the genesis of the work is connected to an analytical overview of the final version. Each monograph is written by a specialist, and, apart from the general theme of the series, no artificial uniformity is imposed. the individual character of both work and evidence, as well as the author's special critical viewpoint, dictates differences in emphasis and treatment. Thus some studies may stress a combination of sketch evidence and analysis, while others may shift the emphasis to the position of the work within its genre and context. Although no such series could possibly aim at being comprehensive, it will deal with a representative body of important works by composers of stature across the centuries.

Although the fundamental importance of Das Rheingold in Wagner's artistic development has long been clear, intensive studies of it as an individual work, apart from its function as Prelude to the Ring as a whole, have been few and far between. Perhaps this is owing in part to its relative obscurity when compared to the other monumental parts of the Ring cycle. Even for convinced Wagnerians this work presents problems of comprehension not only for its dramatic material but for the complexity of its musical language, which adheres more closely than that of any later Wagner work to the precepts for a new kind of symphonic drama that he had laid down in Opera and Drama.

Now Warren Darcy proposes a new and solidly detailed study of the whole of Das Rheingold, based on close study of the surviving textual and musical sources and providing an analytical overview of each major unit of the work and of the entire opera. His approach goes some distance towards counteracting a recent and widely influential view of Wagner, namely, that he abandoned all concern with architectural musical form in structuring his larger works. the result is a carefully wrought interpretation, which both analyses the work and elucidates its compositional history. It should deepen and extend the reader's understanding of Das Rheingold not only as a monumental musical structure but as a complex drama whose every word and . . .

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