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date: 30 May 2020

Gesamtkunstwerk (Ger.: ‘total work of art’)locked

  • Barry Millington


(Ger.: ‘total work of art’)

A term used by Wagner for his notion, formulated in his theoretical essays of 1849–51, of an art form that combined various media within the framework of a drama. Harking back to ancient Greek drama, he suggested that there the basic elements of dance, music and poetry had been ideally combined. Their division into separate genres had diminished their expressive force; only in the total work of art could they regain their original dignity. Similarly, the arts of architecture, sculpture and painting would recover their classical and authentic stature only as constituents of the ‘artwork of the future’.

The architect of the theatre of the future would be guided by the law of beauty and the dictates of intelligibility rather than by the demands of social distinctions. Sets would be executed by landscape painters, and the three sister arts would be reunited in the actor of the future, who would be dancer, musician and poet in one. The new work of art would be brought into being not by a single creative artist but by a fellowship of artists, in response to a communal demand. The artist of the future was thus the ...

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