Wagner's theory of opera

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Wagner's theory of opera

Postby Giant Communist Robot » Tue Jan 23, 2007 2:07 pm

Maybe something like this:

The high point in creativity was Greek drama; for these reasons:

1. It was a sucessful combination of poetry, drama, costumes, mime, instrumental music, dance, song, and so on, giving it greater scope than any other art form.
2. The subject matter came from myth, portraying humanity in universal terms.
3. The content had religious signifigance.
4. The entire community took part.

With the introduction of Christianity, a new philosophical direction was taken, and with the emphasis on the afterlife, the value of art diminished. Decay set in, and performance became entertainment instead of art. Wagner wanted to use Greek drama as a model with 19th century resources to improve it.


Whereas in symphonies music has themes, their development, and some kind of form, Wagner's music modulated with the rest of the spectacle. If the character mumbled something sad, the music was sad; if two lines later he expressed hope, the music expressed hope. And so on.

I think this is why I find Wagner's music so boring--if there's a knock at the door, the character may vasilate between answering or not, and each moment of indecision must be described musically, and change with the "yes I will/no I won't" behavior. On stage it may be so perfectly integrated that an audience only experiences the neat package. On a stand-alone basis, though, the music can be dreary and intolerable. I'll bet those arguing otherwise cannot separate the music from the rest in their mind.

It seems ironic--after all, people attend opera for the music, certainly not the plots. Given the choice, I'll pass on Wagner and choose Gilbert and Sullivan.
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Postby jamiebk » Tue Jan 23, 2007 2:35 pm

GCR - interesting take on Wagner. "I think this is why I find Wagner's music so boring"

Then again, maybe it's because the works are simply just too long! :rofl: :rofl:
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Postby bignaf » Tue Jan 23, 2007 3:46 pm

'wagner should have written symphonies. he has some really great moments, but most of the time, it is as you described.
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Postby dai bread » Tue Jan 23, 2007 5:49 pm

bignaf wrote:'wagner should have written symphonies. he has some really great moments, but most of the time, it is as you described.


That's why you need the rest of it. A Wagner opera is a package, best played in the theatre of the mind. Or maybe given to Peter Jackson & Weta Workshop to film.
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Postby Shapley » Tue Jan 23, 2007 5:53 pm

I recently bought the Ring Without Words, a CD of Wagner's music from the Ring without the singing. With a few exceptions, even the music is boring.

I also have Puccini without words and Carmen without words, which aren't boring. I also have, somewhere in my vinyl collection, a recording of Aida without words, although I'm not sure that is the exact title of that one. I used to listen to it often. Definitely not boring.

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Postby bignaf » Tue Jan 23, 2007 10:08 pm

dai bread wrote:
bignaf wrote:'wagner should have written symphonies. he has some really great moments, but most of the time, it is as you described.


That's why you need the rest of it. A Wagner opera is a package, best played in the theatre of the mind. Or maybe given to Peter Jackson & Weta Workshop to film.

you like watching big people standing on a stage belting at each other for hours at a time? that's what happens most of Tristan. OK, they're laying some of the time.
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Postby dai bread » Wed Jan 24, 2007 4:58 pm

No, I don't like watching people on stage with limited movement and limited facilities. That's why I watch Wagner in the theatre of the mind, and why I suggested Peter Jackson & Weta Workshop as an alternative.

Before they came along, the best way to see a Wagner opera would have been via Walt Disney Studios a la "Fantasia". I don't think anyone ever did animate any of those operas, though.
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Postby Selma in Sandy Eggo » Wed Jan 24, 2007 6:12 pm

dai bread wrote:...Before they came along, the best way to see a Wagner opera would have been via Walt Disney Studios a la "Fantasia". I don't think anyone ever did animate any of those operas, though.

Warner Bros. did a decent job on Wagner, in "What's Opera, Doc?", starring Bugs Bunny in varying roles and Elmer Fudd as Siegfried. Got all the good melodic themes, condensed the story line to about four minutes, ended with everyone dead.

The costuming was a little basic, though.
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