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Thread: Gesamtkunstwerk

  1. #16
    Senior Member Bulldog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    I have the Ring on DVD and have never been able to sit through a single opera uncut.
    Considering your views on Wagner and his music, you made a poor acquisition.

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  3. #17
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joen_cph View Post
    I am in no way a Wagner expert, but considering the extreme hype and general, described ecstasy surrounding his works in his own days, I think it's very likely that he came closest to fulfilling his ideals back then, in the past, before the advance of the movie and the inflation of modern entertainment industries; this of course not forgetting that his public was mostly constituted by an elite.

    EDIT:
    Oh yes: and experiencing Wagner in some sort of future 3D-way, moving around in the no-longer-just-a-theatre-stage-setting, together with the singers and protagonists, that would perhaps be interesting ...
    I've been waiting all my life for "Wagner's Ring: The Movie" - a filmed production that actually seeks to realize totally the visions the composer must have imagined, free from the constraints of the theater of his day, and even those of our own much more advanced theater technology. We are now capable of making it happen - Tolkien, move over! - but I guess it will never be commercially viable and so will never be done. Where is mad King Ludwig when we need him?
    Last edited by Woodduck; Oct-30-2018 at 01:04.

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  5. #18
    Senior Member WildThing's Avatar
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    For the OP, here's a thoughtful and compact discourse on the Ring worth watching:



    And another talk that delves into some of the philosophical ideas that the opera expresses and that its characters respond to at the beginning of this:



    Scruton's recent book, The Ring of Truth, is also one of the most comprehensive analyses on The Ring that I've come across.
    Last edited by WildThing; Oct-30-2018 at 15:38.

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  7. #19
    Senior Member Dimace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    You are asking a great many questions all at once, my friend! Briefly...

    Wagner thought that opera had become a shallow entertainment that sacrificed depth of meaning and aesthetic integrity to theatrical and vocal display. He wasn't alone in this; Gluck had sought to reform opera from a similar conviction. Wagner saw ancient Greek drama as a ritual enacting the fundamental values of its society, utilizing a combination of the arts. Again, this was not entirely a novel view; the originators of opera, the Florentine camerata, had looked to Greece for models.

    Wagner's operas are not philosophical tracts and are certainly not religious in any specific sense, but they do dramatize philosophical, moral, social and psychological ideas symbolically, much more than most operas. The key word is "dramatize"; there is little explicit philosophical dialogue. This is too big a topic for a brief response. You need to experience the operas at some length first hand and determine whether you like them, and then if you're drawn into their emotional worlds do some reading. Trying to approach them by asking what they're supposed to mean is to some extent putting the cart before the horse.

    Die Walkure, by the way, is just one part of a much larger work. Figuring out what the Ring is all about can keep you busy for years!
    You speak like a German! Respect!

    (The crossroad, where the Greek mythology - as it was expressed through the Greek Tragedies with Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles- meets the German one is the core and soul of Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk. The target for the Greeks was the Olympus or the Parnassus. For Wagner ''die Walhalla''. Salvation is the magic word. Nothing more or less)
    Geheimnisvoll sie nahen die Lüfte, fraglos gebe ihrem Zauber ich mich hin.

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  9. #20
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dimace View Post
    You speak like a German! Respect!

    (The crossroad, where the Greek mythology - as it was expressed through the Greek Tragedies with Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles- meets the German one is the core and soul of Wagner's Gesamtkunstwerk. The target for the Greeks was the Olympus or the Parnassus. For Wagner ''die Walhalla''. Salvation is the magic word. Nothing more or less)
    Nicely put. Danke (like a German).
    Last edited by Woodduck; Oct-31-2018 at 03:39.

  10. #21
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bulldog View Post
    Considering your views on Wagner and his music, you made a poor acquisition.
    I would have thought it was fair acquisition of an open mind as I actually wanted to see the operas and find out for myself.

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  12. #22
    Senior Member Granate's Avatar
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    I had the same reaction to my first opera on cinema: Wagner's Tristan und Isolde by Skelton and Stemme in the Metropolitan opera. However, I didn't instantly question his whole concept of opera but was intrigued by his outstanding Act III overture.

    The disadvantage of Wagner for me is that he is a composer difficult to put on stage yet alone follow his long scores. I was bored then about how slow were they talking about Isolde's past. I eventually came to love the music and especially his librettos. It took time. Don't force yourself.

    Other opera composers have reached a similar or even superior amount of quality with other methods. I can think of Mozart as an example. Delighted with his music and vocal composition style, horrified by whoever wrote his libretto for Idomeneo.

    The ROH CG production doesn't look bad by still images. Quite metallic, but I don't know the stage directions.


    It can happen with modern productions. I have watched parts of the recent Covent Garden Parsifal and I was quite stunned by the orchestra's playing and correct singing. But the Langridge production is even bloodier than the Girard one in Metropolitan! Ugh. I plan to watch it this weekend. I am currently reviewing Mono Walküres from the 50s and 70s.




    By the way. Don't swear. Thank you <3
    Last edited by Granate; Oct-31-2018 at 12:02.

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  14. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    I would have thought it was fair acquisition of an open mind as I actually wanted to see the operas and find out for myself.
    Oh you're absolutely right -- most people would not make such an expensive purchase and extravagent commitment of time to music they found so uneven and frustrating, or to a dramatic experience they were completely unsympathetic to and felt made little sense. Your example should be a paradigm for us all. And the way your posts on the subject show a willingness to learn from others and to consider new points of view is admirable. At least you're not like some who stubbornly assert their point of view in the face of thoughtful and considered responses from those with an intimate knowledge and deep admiration for a subject, or make condescending remarks aimed at those who find something of real value in something they do not.

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    Junior Member sharkeysnight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Agamemnon View Post
    It makes me wonder: what is 'Gesamtkunstwerk' exactly? I read that it is an unison or synthesis of all the arts, in particular of music, drama and theater (and a little dancing). But isn't opera already that unison? What is a Gesamtkunstwerk different than a normal opera? Is it only about a more equal importance given to drama, theater and music? And succeeds Wagner better in this synthesis than others?
    I think of it in terms of Anything Goes compared to Sweeney Todd. Anything Goes is just an excuse to hear a bunch of random Cole Porter numbers and watch people tap dance, whereas everything that's in Sweeney Todd is there, and is placed where it is, to guide you through its themes and moods. The music of Sweeney Todd isn't just a "Sondheim" sound, it's a "Sweeney Todd" sound, and the libretto isn't just a bunch of funny one-liners or ways to beeline from one showstopper to the next, it's there specifically to assist in the highlighting of the message. Every element of Sweeney Todd guides you to a very specific experience and even provoke you towards (or remind you of) certain philosophical concepts, and it does all of this while being entertaining, moody, and thoroughly itself.

    You could, with minor lyrical rewriting, stick a popular piece from Barber of Seville into La Cenerentola. I imagine you would be hard-pressed to do the same with Wagner - can you picture Ride of the Valkyries wedged somewhere into Meistersinger?

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  18. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by sharkeysnight View Post
    I think of it in terms of Anything Goes compared to Sweeney Todd. Anything Goes is just an excuse to hear a bunch of random Cole Porter numbers and watch people tap dance, whereas everything that's in Sweeney Todd is there, and is placed where it is, to guide you through its themes and moods. The music of Sweeney Todd isn't just a "Sondheim" sound, it's a "Sweeney Todd" sound, and the libretto isn't just a bunch of funny one-liners or ways to beeline from one showstopper to the next, it's there specifically to assist in the highlighting of the message. Every element of Sweeney Todd guides you to a very specific experience and even provoke you towards (or remind you of) certain philosophical concepts, and it does all of this while being entertaining, moody, and thoroughly itself.

    You could, with minor lyrical rewriting, stick a popular piece from Barber of Seville into La Cenerentola. I imagine you would be hard-pressed to do the same with Wagner - can you picture Ride of the Valkyries wedged somewhere into Meistersinger?
    This is really well said. And Anything Goes has been revived with significant changes such as reassigning songs to other characters, and inserting other Cole Porter songs. The idea of a book musical - starting with/around Oklahoma! - is very much like Wagner's idea of Gesamtkunstwerk. Of course not every post-Oklahoma! musical is a unified work where everything was supposed to be purposeful... but there was a real shift in what audiences expected and what writers created. There was, at least, a new target, a new (possible) goal.

    This isn't a knock on Anything Goes! It's terrific to have a flexible show that you can switch around (a little) depending on the cast you are working with, and still come up with an entertaining performance. And, really, some of your audience isn't looking for more than a few good songs, some fun choreography, and some laughs.

    But others are looking for something different. I grew up well after the book musical took hold and I find old musical comedies like that very strange.

    Anyway, getting back to Wagner and Gesamtkunstwerk, one example I'll bring when he brought Tannhäuser to Paris. The opera had be revised to add a ballet (because all operas there had to have a ballet). Wagner could not come up with a reason to have a ballet at the start of act 2 (where it traditionally should have been) so... he didn't put it there. He did, however, add a bacchanale after the overture that started act one, which he used as an introduction to the world of Venus.

    That is his decision about how to incorporate a ballet was made not according to the traditions of the house (which would have made it easier to for everyone) but according to what made sense for the opera and the story being told.

    (I have also heard it told that the sailor's chorus that opens act 3 of Der fliegende Holländer was his half-hearted stab at a ballet for when that opera was to be performed at the Paris Opera).

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    Of course another option would have been to not do a ballet and let Paris not perform the work. That is, more or less, what Wagner did for his future operas.

    But my point is that it isn't about writing worse music but about making sure that when you're writing that music, when you're structuring a scene, when you're deciding what stays and what gets cut... that the decisions are made together. Wagner wrote his libretti as well as his music, and had a lot to say about staging, and conducted some of his own works, so he was in a rare position to make sure everything was working together.

    And of course, other operas have integrated ballets that serve a dramatic purpose. But many operas had ballets that were there because it was required. And it's not surprising that many of those ballets are cut in modern performance. We no longer require operas to have ballets, so if it doesn't make sense to have one, it's OK.


    Another thing I'll note: the Ring by and large avoids many typical operatic devices through much of it's runtime. There aren't duets... until we have a pair of lovers that have a good reason to duet. There isn't a chorus... until the final opera of the cycle, Götterdämmerung, when the gods are all gone.

    Might Die Walküre be more enjoyable (on some level) if there was a chorus of kinsmen on Hunding's arrival? Maybe, but what would that serve other than being fun to hear? And would it make Hunding - who is present for only a few scenes - seem more important than he is? There could also be a chorus of fallen warriors to start act 3, perhaps integrated into the calls of the Valkyries. I can imagine some wonderful music... but I don't see how that would do anything other than interrupt the story.

    Wagner didn't write many traditional arias because he literally didn't want show-stopping numbers.

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  21. #27
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Byron View Post
    Oh you're absolutely right -- most people would not make such an expensive purchase and extravagent commitment of time to music they found so uneven and frustrating, or to a dramatic experience they were completely unsympathetic to and felt made little sense. Your example should be a paradigm for us all. And the way your posts on the subject show a willingness to learn from others and to consider new points of view is admirable. At least you're not like some who stubbornly assert their point of view in the face of thoughtful and considered responses from those with an intimate knowledge and deep admiration for a subject, or make condescending remarks aimed at those who find something of real value in something they do not.
    Oh don''t worry, I got the discs very cheap. So no great expenditure. I didn't make an extravagant commitment to time either as I watched them over a time period. It did confirm my opinions though. I have, of course, as you rightly say, found in my many years of historical research and writing that a willingness to learn is essential. I have also learned, however, that it is important though to distinguish fact from opinion. Also to allow for the fact that people have different opinions and that on certain issues there is no black and white and one has to agree to differ.
    Last edited by DavidA; Nov-02-2018 at 10:21.

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