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After Wagner

After Wagner: Histories of Modernist Music Drama from Parsifal to Nono

Mark Berry
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    After Wagner
    Book Description:

    This book is both a telling of operatic histories 'after' Richard Wagner, and a philosophical reflection upon the writing of those histories. Historical musicology reckons with intellectual and cultural history, and vice versa. The 'after' of the title denotes chronology, but also harmony and antagonism within a Wagnerian tradition. Parsifal, in which Wagner attempted to go beyond his achievement in the Ring, to write 'after' himself, is followed by two apparent antipodes: the strenuously modernist Arnold Schoenberg and the æstheticist Richard Strauss. Discussion of Strauss's Capriccio, partly in the light of Schoenberg's Moses und Aron, reveals a more 'political' work than either first acquaintance or the composer's 'intention' might suggest. Then come three composers from subsequent generations: Luigi Dallapiccola, Luigi Nono, and Hans Werner Henze. Geographical context is extended to take in Wagner's Italian successors; the problem of political emancipation in and through music drama takes another turn here, confronting challenges and opportunities in more avowedly 'politically engaged' art. A final section explores the world of staging opera, of so-called Regietheater, as initiated by Wagner himself. Stefan Herheim's celebrated Bayreuth production of Parsifal, and various performances of Lohengrin are discussed, before looking back to Mozart (Don Giovanni) and forward to Alban Berg's Lulu and Nono's Al gran sole carico d'amore. Throughout, the book invites us to consider how we might perceive the æsthetic and political integrity of the operatic work 'after Wagner'. After Wagner will be invaluable to anyone interested in twentieth-century music drama and its intersection with politics and cultural history. It will also appeal to those interested in Richard Wagner's cultural impact on succeeding generations of composers. MARK BERRY is Lecturer in Music at Royal Holloway, University of London.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-407-9
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Music Examples
    (pp. vi-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    Mark Berry
    (pp. 1-20)

    ‘After Wagner’: a good many objections may doubtless be raised to this title, not least that the first chapter is devoted toParsifal. That, however, is partly my point. In his final stage work, intended exclusively for the very particular stage of Bayreuth, Richard Wagner was not only writing a ‘late work’, not only writing the drama he had always intended to be his last, but was, to an even great extent than in his earlier music dramas, dealing with issues he had raised in previous works, or which, intention notwithstanding, those works had raised. So, as will become immediately...

  6. Part I In the Shadow of German Idealism:: From Parsifal to Capriccio

    • Prelude
      (pp. 21-25)

      The first two parts of this book progress in broadly chronological fashion – though not without offering some conception of alternatives in historical writing. Straightforward narrative is far from the only form available to the historian, or indeed to the creator of theRing-cosmos, but it retains an honoured place. Here,Parsifalis considered not only in itself but very much ‘after theRing’ and, to a certain extent, after the Wagner of his other works too.

      Yet, as we shall see, the seeds of the composer’s final music drama were sown many years previously, at least as early as...

    • CHAPTER 1 Wagner ‘After Wagner’: Parsifal
      (pp. 26-63)

      It may seem quixotic to take a last work as a starting point, but the reasons for this should become clear. WithParsifal, Wagner squares up to a challenge he has already presented to himself, and which he continues to pose to his successors. This work may therefore be considered to be Wagner’s own attempt at writing ‘after Wagner’ – and quite straightforwardly is his attempt to write musical drama ‘after’ theRing.

      Parsifalhas generally been understood to represent the culmination of an ideological line different from that of his earlier works, perhaps, though only perhaps, with the partial...

    • CHAPTER 2 Arnold Schoenberg’s ‘Biblical Way’: Towards Moses und Aron
      (pp. 64-98)

      Schoenberg, perhaps even more so than Wagner, conceived of his musical and artistic development as a journey. Perhaps even more so than Wagner, Schoenberg was certain of a goal, if uncertain whether it would or even could be reached. This journey was more a seeking after faith than the following of a trustworthy map. As early as 1909, he wrote to Busoni that interpretation of his recent, atonal compositions demanded ‘belief and conviction’. They could only be played by ‘someone, who like yourself, takes the side of all who seek’.¹ Such mystical seeking after faith might seem soon to have...

    • CHAPTER 3 Richard Strauss: Paths to (and from) Capriccio
      (pp. 99-122)

      Richard Strauss may well be the most difficult ‘case’ in this book; indeed, there is perhaps no more difficult case in all opera. There are numerous ‘political’ ways in which his work may be considered. A strong argument exists for consideration of his œeuvre as a running commentary, perhaps disreputable, for some even repellent, upon the course of that German history in which it was written, created, and experienced. ‘Consumed’, one might be tempted to add, by way of Adornian reference to the Culture Industry. There is also good reason to consider the position of Strauss’s work with respect to...

  7. Part II Composition after the Second World War:: From Germany to Italy, and Back Again?

    • Prelude
      (pp. 123-126)

      Given that the three composers, Luigi Dallapiccola, Luigi Nono, and Hans Werner Henze, examined in this second part are likely to be less familiar to many readers than Wagner, Schoenberg, and Strauss, I have tried to offer here a greater sense of contextualisation. That has arguably involved treating with our second-part trio more as composers, less exclusively as musical dramatists, hence the titular inclusion of ‘composition’, but there is no harm in that. Again, different standpoints afford different problemsandopportunities.

      Dallapiccola’sIl prigionierocontributes to what again proves to be a slight complication of chronological boundaries. Although Dallapiccola began...

    • CHAPTER 4 Luigi Dallapiccola, Il prigioniero: Imprisonment, Liberty, and the Word
      (pp. 127-148)

      I have so far concentrated upon the Austro-German compositional ‘mainstream’ – doubtless in part an ideological construct, yet one that it would be perverse to discard in dealing with history, philosophy, music, and politics ‘after Wagner’. It is now time to turn south to Italy, as, throughout history, so many Germans have done, not least Wagner and Henze. No one will need reminding that Italy has its own rich operatic tradition, though the extent to which it should be considered ‘Italian’ prior to unification is debatable; nor will anyone need reminding that its values often differed from those north of...

    • CHAPTER 5 Luigi Nono, Intolleranza 1960
      (pp. 149-171)

      Foremost amongst the politically engaged Italian composers of the generation after Dallapiccola was Luigi Nono. A Venetian by birth (1924) and death (1990), he also, like Dallapiccola and many others, evinced considerable interest in early ‘Italian’, often Venetian, music; Nono’s final music drama,Prometeo, often conjures up the impression of a marriage between Marx and Palestrina, mediated by Walter Benjamin and Nono’s librettist, Massimo Cacciari. For, as Nono’s friend and colleague, Claudio Abbado, attested, Nono ‘never lost the deep-rooted ties to the long tradition of Venetian music, as demonstrated by his unerring feeling for the relation of sound and space,...

    • CHAPTER 6 Hans Werner Henze: Paths to (and from) Natascha Ungeheuer
      (pp. 172-204)

      Henze’s way proved very different from but at least as involving as the paths of the composers looked at so far. It was certainly not Schoenberg’s Biblical way; nor, despite the title of its most equivocal of (non-)destinations,Der langwierige Weg in die Wohnung der Natascha Ungeheuer(‘The Tedious Way to Natascha Ungeheuer’s Apartment’), could it in any sense be described as tedious. Dallapiccola and Nono have already signalled the complexity of the relationship between Italian and German experience, which should never be viewed a simple opposition. Henze’s attraction towards Italy offers further evidence of that complexity. He left Germany...

  8. Part III Performance and the Fruitful Instability of the Work:: From Parsifal to Nono

    • Prelude
      (pp. 205-209)

      The first two parts of this book having been organised broadly chronologically, the third part will look more to after-lives, to performative reception, to some of the process of writing history and histories. Such matters have not of course been absent earlier; they may now, however, move centre-stage. ‘Working’ is shown in the treatment of Stefan Herheim’s Bayreuth production ofParsifal, opportunities to see that staging in three different seasons having afforded a further opportunity to look back at the progression of my thoughts on work and staging, and also to bring that cumulative experience together through further reflection. That...

    • CHAPTER 7 Stefan Herheim’s Parsifal
      (pp. 210-233)

      Having staged not just one but two Ring cycles, Keith Warner has become something of a Wagner veteran. In an interesting and, in the best sense, provocative essay, he points out that Wagner ‘almost single-handedly invented, certainly in opera’, the role of director, ‘almost certainly provoked into action by the work of the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen [George II] and his celebrated acting troupe’s artistic director, Ludwig Chronegk’, whose production of Kleist’sDer Hermannsschlachthe had seen in 1875, the year before the first BayreuthRing, ‘which Wagner chose to direct rather than conduct’.¹ It is not difficult to imagine why,...

    • CHAPTER 8 Staging Lohengrin, or Not
      (pp. 234-250)

      Opera-goers, at least those interested in some form of critical engagement with work and genre, have become wearily accustomed to so much of their ‘experience’ in the opera house standing almost diametrically opposed to their understanding and appreciation of the ‘art’. It is relatively uncontroversial to say that, whatever the realities of, say, nineteenth-centurygrand opéramight have been, the worlds of corporate entertainment, advertising, fashion, and conspicuous consumption sit uneasily with Wagner, Schoenberg, Nono,et al.¹ Apparently without irony, the 2012 Royal Opera House programme for theRingdevoted its back cover to an advertisement for Barclays Wealth and...

    • CHAPTER 9 From Wagner to Nono
      (pp. 251-274)

      When dealing with operatic performance ‘after Wagner’ it does not seem unreasonable to have devoted considerable space toParsifaland toLohengrin. However, it would have been unduly restrictive to leave matters there. The Wagnerian legacy of the ‘director’ extends far beyond his own works – and did so when he was alive too; one may even trace it back, as here, beyond the visit of the Duke of Meiningen’s troupe. It certainly holds interesting implications for our understanding of the artwork and its conceptual stability.

      It is not difficult to imagine Wagner’s reaction had conductors, directors, singers, or anyone...

    (pp. 275-296)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 297-315)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 316-316)