Saturday, August 9, 2008

Notes on Richard Wagner


Comic adaptation from the second act of Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal, 1882. Written by Patrick C. Mason, illustrated by P. Craig Russell.

  • A leitmotif is a recurring musical theme associated within a particular piece of music with a particular person, place or idea. Wagner is the composer most often associated with leitmotifs, and Parsifal makes liberal use of them.
  • Parsifal is an opera, or music drama, in three acts by Richard Wagner. It is loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, the medieval (13th century) epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail.
  • Fortune found him in the patronage of King Ludwig of Bavaria, who built him a home and theatre at Bayreuth.
  • Wagner’s musical genius is undisputed. Commentators marvel at his manipulation of hundreds of musical themes in prodigiously ambitious operas.
  • Wagner saw opera as ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’, a complete art from in which he controlled not only musical features but also the libretto, staging, costumes, and sets.
  • Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), one of Parsifal’s fiercest critics, was a former fan of Wagner. Nietzsche’s book The Birth of Tragedy (1872) was dedicated to Wagner and spoke of glowing terms of a rebirth of tragedy that everyone knew referred to the composer. According Nietzsche, tragic vision showed the very essence of life as violence and suffering, with no meaning or justification. In Wagner’s operas, suffering was revealed and even reveled in.
  • But in 1888 Nietzsche published The Case of Wagner, berating the composer and Parsifal. Nietzsche found Parsifal’s music wonderful but rejected Parsifal’s message as too “Christian”.
  • Some modern commentaries feel a similar ambivalence about Wagner. They find Wagner’s “Aryan” mythologizing repugnant. Wagner’s rabid anti-Semitic writings were read by an admiring Hitler.
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Freeland, Cynthia. Art Theory: A Very Short Introduction.Oxford U Press: New York, 2001.

    2 comments:

    sassygurl said...

    hi sir.. i just want to ask if the topics below the brillo box is still included in the exam?

    shawn said...

    you mean preceding the brillo box? yeap.. from the Pottery to brillo box... hehe