The New Grove guide to Wagner and his operas by Barry Millington

By Barry Millington

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However, the union of music and words does permit a range of emotional expression far wider than that yielded by each alone. With this formulation, Wagner returned (as Carl Dahlhaus has pointed out) to something akin to the traditional Romantic conception of the aesthetic of music which he had espoused about 1840, long before his encounter with Schopenhauer. Settling on the Upper Franconian town of Bayreuth for his planned festival enterprise, Wagner began to secure the support both of the local authorities and of ‘patrons’ across the country.

Conversely, the neurotic self-absorption of Tristan and Isolde and their unassuageable yearning are reflected in the work’s prevailing mode of chromaticism; suspensions, unresolved dissonances, and sequential variation are ubiquitous and chromatically heightened. Every element, poetical and musical, is geared to the generation and intensification of tension—the tension of promised but evaded fulfilment. 34 Works The vocal line undergoes a further development in Die Meistersinger. For much of the time it is little more than recitative, but its bareness is counteracted by the orchestra’s richness of detail; the orchestra is by now firmly established as the chief commentator on the dramatic action.

Wagner was one of many such whose allegiance shifted from liberalism to a form of romantic conservatism. A new wave of anti-Semitic sentiment swept Germany, if anything intensified rather than tempered by the emancipation legislation of the early 1870s. This is the ideological background against which Parsifal was written. The Final Years: 1878–83 The Bayreuth deficit was eventually cleared by an agreement, dated 31 March 1878, according to which Wagner confirmed Ludwig’s right to produce all his works in the Hoftheater without payment, the king voluntarily setting aside 10 percent of all such receipts until the deficit was discharged.

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