Wagner's Visions

September 2014
8 colour, 3 black and white, 18 line illustrations
276 pages
9x6 in
Eastman Studies in Music
ISBN: 9781580464826
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC MUS028000, MUS050000, POL031000

Wagner's Visions

Poetry, Politics, and the Psyche in the Operas through "Die Walküre"

Katherine R. Syer

Examines the impact of contemporary ideas about the psyche and neglected yet crucial artistic influences on the psychological dimension of Wagner's operas, especially Die Feen, Der fliegende Holländer, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, and the Ring.
Wagner's Visions studies crucial influences on Wagner's dramatic style during the years before and just after the failed Dresden revolutionary uprising of 1849. Offering a detailed examination of Die Feen, Wagner's least-known complete opera, together with analysis of Der fliegende Holländer, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, and the four Ring dramas, Katherine Syer explores the inner experiences of Wagner's protagonists. Sources of particular political significance include the fables of the eighteenth-century Venetian playwright Carlo Gozzi, the Iphigenia operas of Christoph Willibald Gluck, and the legacy of the martyr Theodor Körner, whose poetry became the lingua franca of the revolutionary movement to liberate and unify Germany. Syer's book offers fresh insights into the historical context that gave rise to Wagner's dramatic art, revealing how his distinct and powerful imagery is intimately bound up with the crises and instabilities of his era.

Katherine R. Syer is associate professor of theatre and musicology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Table of Contents

To Be Born in Leipzig in 1813
Fairytale Madness: Wagner and Gozzi
Senta the Somnambulist
Opposing Worlds: Tannhäuser and Lohengrin
Hunding's Horns, Wotan's Storms, Sieglinde's Nightmare


An insightful analysis of Wagner's operas, which displays a profound understanding of the deep structure of operas and is impressive in its ability to draw together a wide variety of different phenomena. Not least because of the extremely skillful handling of language that leads to vivid and concise descriptions of both artworks and their historical and cultural environments, it is an enjoyable read. MUSIC & LETTERS

Seldom, if ever, has Wagner's music been written about in such a lyrically beautiful way, with such penetrating insights. WAGNERSPECTRUM

Accomplished and absorbing. . . . One of the strongest recent contributions to Wagner studies. MUSICAL TIMES

Just when you think that scholarship has covered every angle of Wagner's work, along comes an author with yet another way of looking at it. In this wide-ranging study . . . [a]n impressive aspect of Syer's analysis is the frequency and skill with which she peels off the textual layers of Wagner's creations -- the revised accounts, different prose sketches, libretto revisions, staging comments etc. [This, along with the emphasis on live performance,] ensures Wagner's Visions a place among the most significant Wagner books of the decade. WAGNER JOURNAL

Well-written narrative. With her unique insight into the early works, Syer sheds new light on the complex psychological elements of their characters and the creative strategies that set the political tone for the later works. Recommended [for] upper-division undergraduates through faculty. CHOICE

Syer's new study is a major contribution to the scholarship on the first half of Wagner's career; let us hope that a study of the second half is forthcoming. WAGNER NOTES

[A]n outstanding book on Wagner's literary roots in fairy tale, German Hellenism, and German patriotic Romanticism. Syer also brings further illumination to the phenomenon of psychological drama in Wagner's stage works, showing how these three-pronged roots played a role in the formation of Wagner's dramatic -- even fantastical -- protopsychology. This excellent contribution places Syer firmly among the leading Wagner scholars of her generation. --Bryan Gilliam, Duke University

Author Bio

Ph.D. 1999, University of Victoria, Canada.

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