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Music, Drama, and Sprechgesang: About Richard Wagner’s Creative Process
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Music and Art. Ernst Moritz Arndt Univ Greifswald, Germany. (LNUC IMS)
2015 (English)In: 19th Century Music, ISSN 0148-2076, E-ISSN 1533-8606, Vol. 38, no 3, 219-242 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Wagner’s music, aesthetics, and personality were influenced profoundly by the declamation and recitation techniques of his time. ‘Declamation’ as an optic-acoustic phenomenon embraces in this context both the actor’s artificial speech and physical delivery. The theatrical declamation of Wagner’s childhood and youth, i.e., the declamation of Saxon actors in Dresden and Leipzig during the 1820s and 1830s, differed widely from today’s practice. The wide range of pitch, tempo, and dynamics, as well as the highly idealized expression of 19th-century German actors, can be described as manifest musical qualities. These qualities have been lost during the course of history, but are preserved by Wagner in his music. As his sketches, letters, and theoretical explanations show, his way of creating a drama can be interpreted as a chain of different performative processes, which employed declamation, recitation, and acting. The final goal of this process was not to create a score or any other scriptural document, but to provide posterity with a fixed tradition of the staging of his works which would remain unchangeable. Wagner’s hybrid ambitions in this context become comprehensible if his way of creating a drama is taken into consideration. To put it simply: the vocal lines—especially those exhibiting Sprechgesang—resemble the actor’s speech very closely, while the orchestral part often has the function of determining the rhythm and expression of the gestures, attitudes and actions on stage. That theatrical declamation was Wagner’s point of departure when he created his works became forgotten some decades after his death due to profound changes in theatrical performance practice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
University of California Press, 2015. Vol. 38, no 3, 219-242 p.
Keyword [en]
Richard Wagner, drama, composition process, 19th century opera, declamation, gesture
National Category
Musicology
Research subject
Humanities, Musicology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-47670DOI: 10.1525/ncm.2015.38.3.219ISI: 000354147200002OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-47670DiVA: diva2:874670
Available from: 2015-11-27 Created: 2015-11-27 Last updated: 2016-09-23Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
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More styles
Language
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