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date: 04 June 2020

Appia, Adolphe (François)locked

  • Manfred Boetzkes



(b Geneva, Sept 1, 1862; d Nyon, Feb 29, 1928). Swiss theatrical theorist and stage designer. He studied at Geneva (1879–89), and at the conservatories of Leipzig and Dresden, at the same time acquainting himself with contemporary theatrical practice by attendance at the Bayreuth Festival (from 1882), and the court opera houses of Dresden (1889) and Vienna (1890). After 1890 he pursued his interests as a writer and artist and led a secluded existence in the vicinity of Lake Geneva.

Like many contemporary artists Appia reacted against the economic and social conditions of his day, registering a Romantic protest by aspiring to a theatrical art independent of reality and determined solely by the creative imagination of the artist. Wagner’s music dramas were the focal point of his ideas. Whereas Wagner’s music and text as a product of the ‘first and primordial idea of creation’ was to his mind free from the conventions of the real world, its stage representation had been taken over by the ‘conventional influence of the milieu’. For Appia, the solution followed on from the insight that in Wagner the music constituted not only the time element but also that of space, taking on ‘bodily form’ in the staging itself. However, this could come about only if there were a hierarchical order of the factors of presentation to guarantee that the music, as the prime revelation of the artist’s soul, would determine all the relationships on the stage. Appia’s hierarchical synthesis – a departure from the equal participation of the arts in Wagner’s ...

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