Opera and Drama (German : Oper und Drama) is a book-length essay written by Richard Wagner in 1851 setting out his ideas on the ideal characteristics of opera as an art form. It belongs with other essays of the period in which Wagner attempted to explain and reconcile his political and artistic ideas, at a time when he was working on the libretti, and later the music, of his Ring cycle.
As the longest of all of Wagner's literary works apart from his autobiography Mein Leben (376 pages long in its English translation), Opera and Drama is perhaps better described by the word 'treatise', as suggested by its translator W. Ashton Ellis. It follows from his earlier writings of the period 1849–50: more particularly "Art and Revolution" (1849), which sets out Wagner's ideals for an artwork that would be appropriate for his ideal society; "The Artwork of the Future" (1849), which sets out ideas for a music drama which would meet such ideals; and "Jewishness in Music" (1850), which (amongst other matters) Wagner attacks Jews in general and the composers Giacomo Meyerbeer and Felix Mendelssohn in particular.
Wagner wrote the entire book in Zurich in four months between October 1850 and January 1851.[ citation needed ] He gave public readings of large extracts in Zurich in early 1851, with a dedication to Theodor Uhlig. Parts of it were published in the Monatschrift, an intellectual magazine, and the whole was published in Leipzig in 1852. A second edition appeared in 1868, with a dedication to the German political writer Constantin Frantz.
The earliest English translation had appeared as early as 1856, but the translation generally used in the English-speaking world is that by W. Ashton Ellis, first published in 1893. Like the original, this is full of complex phrases, grammar and structure, which render the work difficult to absorb. Even Ellis commented that some 'tantalising epithets seemed to group themselves into a coruscation baffling all description.'
Opera and Drama is in three parts.
The first part, "Opera and the Nature of Music", is an extended attack on contemporary opera, with significant attacks on Rossini and Meyerbeer, whom Wagner regarded as betraying art for public acclaim and sensationalism. In this section Wagner makes his famous allegation of Meyerbeer's operas consisting of "effects without causes".
The second part, "The Play and the Nature of Dramatic Poetry" is Wagner's most extensive consideration of the role of poetry in his idealised music drama.
The last section, "The Arts of Poetry and Tone in the Drama of the Future", gives a conspectus of the ideal music drama as a whole—an ideal which, however, in reality Wagner was obliged to compromise to achieve success in his later works.
The Wagner scholar Curt von Westernhagen identified three important problems discussed in the essay which were particularly relevant to Wagner's own operatic development: the problem of unifying verse stress with melody; the problems caused by formal arias in dramatic structure, and the way in which opera music could be organised on a different basis of organic growth and modulation; and the function of musical motifs in linking elements of the plot whose connections might otherwise be inexplicit (what was to become known as the leitmotif technique, although Wagner himself did not use this word).
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is chiefly known for his operas. Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works in the romantic vein of Carl Maria von Weber and Giacomo Meyerbeer, Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk, by which he sought to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama. He described this vision in a series of essays published between 1849 and 1852. Wagner realised these ideas most fully in the first half of the four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Romantic music is a stylistic movement in Western classical music associated with the period spanning the nineteenth century, commonly referred to as the Romantic era. It is closely related to the broader concept of Romanticism—the intellectual, artistic and literary movement that became prominent in Europe from approximately 1800 until 1910.
Der Ring des Nibelungen, WWV 86, is a cycle of four German-language epic music dramas composed by Richard Wagner. The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied. The composer termed the cycle a "Bühnenfestspiel", structured in three days preceded by a Vorabend. It is often referred to as the Ring cycle, Wagner's Ring, or simply The Ring.
"Das Judenthum in der Musik" is an essay by Richard Wagner which attacks Jews in general and the composers Giacomo Meyerbeer and Felix Mendelssohn in particular. It was published under a pseudonym in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (NZM) of Leipzig in September 1850 and was reissued in a greatly expanded version under Wagner's name in 1869. It is regarded by some as an important landmark in the history of German antisemitism.
A leitmotif or leitmotiv is a "short, constantly recurring musical phrase" associated with a particular person, place, or idea. It is closely related to the musical concepts of idée fixe or motto-theme. The spelling leitmotif is an anglicization of the German Leitmotiv, literally meaning "leading motif", or "guiding motif". A musical motif has been defined as a "short musical idea ... melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic, or all three", a salient recurring figure, musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in or is characteristic of a composition: "the smallest structural unit possessing thematic identity."
Giacomo Meyerbeer was a German opera composer of Jewish birth who has been described as perhaps the most successful stage composer of the nineteenth century. With his 1831 opera Robert le diable and its successors, he gave the genre of grand opera 'decisive character'. Meyerbeer's grand opera style was achieved by his merging of German orchestra style with Italian vocal tradition. These were employed in the context of sensational and melodramatic libretti created by Eugène Scribe and were enhanced by the up-to-date theatre technology of the Paris Opéra. They set a standard which helped to maintain Paris as the opera capital of the nineteenth century.
The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music is an 1872 work of dramatic theory by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. It was reissued in 1886 as The Birth of Tragedy, Or: Hellenism and Pessimism. The later edition contained a prefatory essay, "An Attempt at Self-Criticism", wherein Nietzsche commented on this earliest book.
A Gesamtkunstwerk is a work of art that makes use of all or many art forms or strives to do so. The term is a German word which has come to be accepted in English as a term in aesthetics.
The evolution of Richard Wagner's operatic tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen was a long and tortuous process, and the precise sequence of events which led the composer to embark upon such a vast undertaking is still unclear. The composition of the text took place between 1848 and 1853, when all four libretti were privately printed; but the closing scene of the final opera, Götterdämmerung, was revised a number of times between 1856 and 1872. The names of the last two Ring operas, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung, were probably not definitively settled until 1856.
The German composer Richard Wagner was a controversial figure during his lifetime, and has continued to be so after his death. Even today he is associated in the minds of many with Nazism and his operas are often thought to extol the virtues of German nationalism. The writer and Wagner scholar Bryan Magee has written:
I sometimes think there are two Wagners in our culture, almost unrecognizably different from one another: the Wagner possessed by those who know his work, and the Wagner imagined by those who know him only by name and reputation.
La reine de Chypre is an 1841 grand opera in five acts composed by Fromental Halévy to a libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges.
"Art and Revolution" is a long essay by the composer Richard Wagner, originally published in 1849. It sets out some of his basic ideas about the role of art in society and the nature of opera.
"The Artwork of the Future" is a long essay written by Richard Wagner, first published in 1849 in Leipzig, in which he sets out some of his ideals on the topics of art in general and music drama in particular.
"Music of the Future" is the title of an essay by Richard Wagner, first published in French translation in 1860 as "La musique de l'avenir" and published in the original German in 1861. It was intended to introduce the librettos of Wagner's operas to a French audience at the time when he was hoping to launch in Paris a production of Tannhäuser, and sets out a number of his desiderata for true opera, including the need for 'endless melody'. Wagner deliberately put the title in quotation marks to distance himself from the term; Zukunftsmusik had already been adopted, both by Wagner's enemies, in the 1850s, often as a deliberate misunderstanding of the ideas set out in Wagner's 1849 essay, The Artwork of the Future, and by his supporters, notably Franz Liszt. Wagner's essay seeks to explain why the term is inadequate, or inappropriate, for his approach.
Wieland der Schmied(Wieland the Smith) is a draft by Richard Wagner for an opera libretto based on the Germanic legend of Wayland Smith. It is listed in the Wagner-Werk-Verzeichnis as WWV82.
Theodor Uhlig was a German violin-player, composer and music critic.
"Eine Mitteilung an meine Freunde", usually referred to in English by its translated title of "A Communication to My Friends", is an extensive autobiographical work by Richard Wagner, published in 1851, in which he sought to justify his innovative concepts on the future of opera in general, and his own proposed works in particular.
Richard Wagner's "Autobiographic Sketch" was written in 1842. It is the composer's earliest autobiographical account.
Alexander Müller was a German pianist, teacher, conductor and composer.