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Richard Wagner has come to be seen as the quintessential artist of the nineteenth century, whose work embraces all the arts of the period. Dieter Borchmeyer here provides the first systematic and comprehensive account of Wagner's aesthetic theory, examining his hitherto neglected prose writings and his ideas on music drama from the various standpoints of literature, the linking of ideas, and the sociology of art. The pre-eminent importance for Wagner of classical Greek art and mythology emerges with particular clarity, while his links with the great figures and forms of world theatre - Shakespeare, the commedia dell'arte, the popular theatre, and the puppet theatre - are traced in detail. The influence on Wagner of the historical and social novel is also discussed. The author provides the first comprehensive analysis of Cosima Wagner's Diaries, and throws unexpected sidelights on Wagner's relationship with Nietzsche, in particular his important contribution to Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy. Central to the present study are Wagner's music dramas from Die Feen to Parsifal.
These are examined in their literary, ideological, and socio-political contexts (including the problem of anti-Semitism). First published in German in 1982, this book has become established as a standard work of Wagner scholarship, and now appears for the first time in English in a completely revised edition incorporating a number of new chapters on the music dramas.
Spencer is editor of the journal of the English Wagner Society and co-author with B. Millington of Selected Letters of Richard Wagner