Opera Music


Wilhelm Richard Wagner

The main purpose of this art research paper is to research and discuss the well-known composer, one of the most outstanding people of his period, Wilhelm Richard Wagner. Wagner was a German composer and theater director and one of the most bright opera composers. The uniqueness of this composer lies in his ability to write both music and libretto for all his stage works and the outstanding beauty and level of professionalism of his works that he wrote in different genres. Wagner is also well known for his innovative idea to change the general character and structure of his opera work, especially in the romantic theme, with the help of Gesamtkunstwerk – the concept that defined the deep synthesis and combination of poetic, visual, and dramatic arts to create the full-fledged masterpiece. He has represented his ideas that revolutionized the world of opera and continued to develop his thoughts and ideas in his following works. As it can be seen, the importance of the works of this composer is really huge as he had a decisive impact on opera. Besides, his compositions together with the theoretical background represent the perfect base for research and discussion.

The compositions that he had written, and especially the ones that appeared in the second half of his professional career, are unique because of the richness of harmony and the complex character of the texture of melody together with perfect orchestration and the innovative use of leitmotifs that also enriched the whole melody and made the music more deep and special. The use of these phrases that have been typical for a particular character made opera more exciting and living. The general approach to music with Wagner’s love to quick shifts of tonal centers made him one of the most prominent figures in the development of classical music. His impact is so enormous and important that sometimes his work “Tristan and Isolde” is considered to be the beginning of modern music.

“Tristan and Isolde”

When investigating “Tristan and Isolde”, it is necessary to mention that it was written with high attention to the music of Schopenhauer, and the influence of the philosopher is felt during the whole performance. This opera, or music drama, is divided into three parts, and the author preferred to refer to his work as drama and action rather than opera, as he has seen it as a more complex and revolutionary composition that is a new kind of music composition.

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The opera had a serious impact on the development of Western music and its score is regarded as the landmark for genre formation and improvement. The outstanding framework of the orchestral color that Wagner used to enrich melody and polyphony in complex gave the unique feeling of freedom that was not present in works of that time and therefore represented the revolutionary push for the development of the whole musical art of that period of time. The specific fracture of the composition is the huge number of harmonic practice that is present in melody and numerous innovations that were used to provide a rich framework for the development of colors and tones. The opera is also known for the presence of harmonic suspension that was used by Wagner to create a particular tension of music with the series of prolonged cadences that aimed to involve the audience in the opera and increase the impression created by it. Moreover, the use of harmonic suspension also made the listener more excited with the dynamic development of the melody and therefore to expect the following events by guessing what is going to happen next. These cadences are introduced to the audience in the prelude, and the final culmination comes in the third part of the opera. However, they have been represented in the series of cases throughout the opera by enriching the general image of the composition and putting important stresses to the details that need to be underlined in the general framework of the action.

The revolutionary use of tonality was one of the key issues that had a decisive impact on Western music and that became present in the series of Western music compositions. The outstanding professionalism in the use of color within the music that Wagner has composed also highly impacted the development of the film industry and the film sound. The general idea of the creation of the opera was highly impacted by the philosophy of Schopenhauer that can be seen in the use of colors and light in the composition. The philosopher claimed that the main driving force of a man is the continuing, undeniable desire for things that one cannot achieve. Besides, he claimed that the gap between the desires that people have and the real possibilities that are open in front of them create the general framework for the whole life of an individual. These ideas have been demonstrated in the relations between Tristan and Isolde in the second act of the opera with the image of changing of the night and day, the dark and the light.

The philosophy of Schopenhauer claimed that the only way for a man to reach the stance of inner peace is to renounce the desires that one has. Wagner returned to this though in the following operas as he found it really attractive and trustworthy, and he was able to adequately represent it in his operas.

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