from Aspects of Wagner by Bryan
synopsis of Wagner’s Theories of Art:
highest point ever reached in human creative achievement
was Greek tragedy. This is for five main reasons, which
should be considered together:
represented a successful combination of the arts –
poetry, drama, costumes mime, music, dance and song
– and as such had greater scope and expressive
powers than any of the arts alone.
took its subject matter from myth, which illuminates
human experience to the depths, and in universal
terms. The myth is true for all times.
the content and the occasion of performance had
was a religion of the purely human, a celebration of
entire community took part”
goes on to say that as time passed, Greek art
disintegrated, each art going its separate way, developing
alone – instrumental music without words, poetry without
music, drama without either, and so on. The content of art
further dissolved when Greek humanism was superseded by
Christianity that taught men to look at his body with
shame, his emotions with suspicion, sensuality with fear,
and love with guilt. The doctrine of man being a worm was
at odds with the essence and nature of art. The descent
reached its rock bottom by the 19th Century,
with the opera of that century, yet opera had the highest
potential to combine all of the arts as Greek tragedy had
didn’t want to return to Greek tragedy, Magee explains,
but create something better as it could depend on
resources that the Greeks never had.
considered Shakespeare “a genius the like of which was
never heard of,” and Beethoven had developed the
expressive powers of music beyond the limits of speech
altogether, even the speech of Shakespeare. Wagner’s
idea was to combine the achievement of Shakespeare and
Beethoven into a single art form that would he called music
drama would be all about the inner life of the characters;
it would be concerned with their emotions. This feat had
been made possible by Beethoven who had developed the
power to express inner reality in all of its fullness.
In music drama, the externals of plot and social
relationships are reduced to a minimum.
explains that Wagner felt that myth was the ideal for this
because it dwelt in archetypal situations and because of
its universal validity a dramatist could dispense with
asocial and political context and present pure inner drama.
explains that Wagner had a deep insight into the nature of
symbolism (he was, after all, the progenitor of the
Symbolist Movement in French Poetry). He had the most
remarkable understand, long before psychology or
anthropology, of the psychic importance of myth. He
realized a half century before Freud that “Today we have
only to interpret the Oedipus myth in a way that keeps
faith with its essential meaning to get a coherent picture
from it of the history of mankind.”
raised a storm of criticism in Europe unlike ever had been
before witnessed. Magee believes that about 10,000 books
and articles had been written before his death and
believes that more books and articles were written about
Wagner than any other human being except Jesus and Napoleon.
book is available from amazon.com.