Essay: Wagner Played a Pivotal Role
Wagner also played a pivotal role in the evolution of opera staging. There were many aspects of conventional opera that Wagner criticized and wished to change. His style of writing, as exhibited in Tristan, was seamless with nothing interrupting the flow of the drama. This was in stark contrast to conventional operas with arias, recitatives, duets, etc, in set pieces which stopped the flow of action to allow for applause. Wagner wrote several books about his theories, the most famous of which is Opera and Drama. In this book he lays out his view that an opera should be a “Gesamptkunstwerk” or Total Art-Work.
Nothing should interfere with the flow of the drama. His many ideas about opera production and staging could not be realized until he was able to build a theater in Bayreuth to his own specifications. Present day audiences have Wagner to thank for the orchestra pit, state of the art lighting and stage machinery, seating all facing the stage, and theater lights dimming at the beginning of the performance. All these innovations were designed to permit complete concentration on the music-drama being performed. Tristan und Isolde was first performed in a manner consistent with Wagner’s principles at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus in 1886 after his death.
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