Wagner?s Music Heavily influenced by late Beethoven Very chromatic He didn?t want forward harmonic motion- he wanted the music to linger, and hang over the audience, so that even when the opera was over, the music seemed to continue with the audience. He expanded role of the orchestra, and made extensive use of leitmotifs. These were almost always in the orchestra, not from the singers. Thus, the orchestra conveyed the inner meaning of his dramas. Today, leitmotifs are hugely important in understanding modern film music. Endless melody- Wagner did away with Aria and Recitative In his own words: In opera, up to now, the composer did not even try to achieve unity of form for his entire work. The principal motives of the dramatic action, having not attained to the condition of a distinct melodic phrase that fully realizes the underlying intentions, are gathered into a unified artistic form extending over the drama as a whole. In this way, not only these melodic passages, which elucidate each other and this crate a unity, but also the emotional and phenomenal motives to which they refer are transmitted to the feeling. In this context, the perfectly unified form has been accomplished and, through it, a unified context is manifested, or better still, rendered possible. Wagner, Opera and Drama, 1851 In the words of Mark Twain- ?Wagner?s music is better than it sounds.? This quote is more useful in understanding Wagner than you might think. The idea behind Gesamtkunstwerk is great, but Wagner wrote the librettos himself, and he was a bad writer. His designed the sets himself, but he was not good at that, either. The music looks great on paper, but often bogs down over six hours, or four nights in a row.
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