Die komplette Wagner

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
'Die komplette Wagner'
(Complete Wagner)

Richard Wagner
George Bernard Shaw
'The Perfect Wagnerite': A Commentary on the Niblung's Ring (originally published London, 1898) is a philosophical commentary on Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, by George Bernard Shaw.
Shaw offered it to those enthusiastic admirers of Wagner who "were unable to follow his ideas, and do not in the least understand the dilemma of Wotan."
According to Shaw:
"I write this pamphlet for the assistance of those who wish to be introduced to the work on equal terms with that inner circle of adepts...The reason is that its dramatic moments lie quite outside the consciousness of people whose joys and sorrows are all domestic and personal, and whose religions and political ideas are purely conventional and superstitious. To them it is a struggle between half a dozen fairytale personages for a ring, involving hours of scolding and cheating, and one long scene in a dark gruesome mine, with gloomy, ugly music, and not a glimpse of a handsome young man or pretty woman. Only those of wider consciousness can follow it breathlessly, seeing in it the whole tragedy of human history and the whole horror of the dilemmas from which the world is shrinking today."
Musicologically, his interpretation is noteworthy for its perception of the change in aesthetic direction beginning with the final scene of Siegfried, in which he claimed that the cycle turns from Musikdrama back towards opera.

The Concept of Musikdrama

Theodor Mundt
Musikdrama is a German word that means a unity of prose and music.
Initially coined by Theodor Mundt in 1833, it was most notably used by Richard Wagner, along with gesamtkunstwerk, to define his operas.
Theodor Mundt (1808–1861), who coined musikdrama was a German critic and novelist.
He was a member of the 'Young Germany' group of German writers.
Mundt formulated his definition explicitly in contrast to intermezzo, or a piece that sits in between dramatic entities.
To this day, 'musikdrama' is associated with the works of Richard Wagner where poetry, music and stage performances are not arbitrarily combined.
Wagner himself composed the music and libretto, and was a consultant on the stage design and choreography.This all-encompassing art, or 'gesamtkunstwerk', called on the diegesis of musikdrama in order to further the immersive feel.

Diegesis is a style of fiction storytelling which presents an interior view of a world and is:
that world itself experienced by the characters in situations and events of the narrative
telling, recounting, as opposed to showing, enacting.
In diegesis the narrator tells the story. The narrator presents the actions (and sometimes thoughts) of the characters to the readers or audience.
Diegesis may concern elements, such as characters, events and things within the main or primary narrative. However, the author may include elements which are not intended for the primary narrative, such as stories within stories; characters and events that may be referred to elsewhere or in historical contexts and that are therefore outside the main story and are thus presented in an extradiegetic situation.

Wagner himself resisted calling his works 'musikdrama'. which would imply a drama "meant for music," like a libretto.
Instead he, under the influene of Nietzsche, wanted to put music at the service of the drama, which indeed in its original ancient form was inseparable from music.
Nevertheless, the term music-drama has become accepted.
A major characteristic of 'musikdrama' is its formal unity, without interruptions or smaller closed forms such as arias or duets.
Recurring 'leitmotifs' provide support and interpretation of the text, which progresses as in a spoken drama.

For many people the 'Ring' dominates - but there is much more to Wagner than his 'Ring Cycle'.
While his early works may be of mainly academic interest, 'Tristan und Isolde' and 'Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg' form a glittering frame to the great, four part 'Ring Cycle', with the incomparable 'Parsifal' forming a crowning glory, and pinnacle, to Wagner's magnificent and unique achievement.

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