From Bayreuth to Hollywood: Richard Wagner and the Art of Cinema
October 30, 2011
Come and find out about the relationship between cinema and the operas of Richard Wagner, as well as the impact that Wagner’s work had on the development of the film industry. The discussion will incorporate video clips from Wagner’s operas and several films.
Wagner’s theory of “music drama”—an intricate synthesis of dramatic, musical, and visual information—is analogous to the art of cinema. After Wagner’s death, his operas and theoretical writings had a major impact on many early film artists. These included not only film composers, but screenwriters and directors, including D. W. Griffith and Sergei Eisenstein, whose study of Wagner helped to shape his seminal theories of montage. No other artist from precinematic times influenced so many different aspects of film craft as did Wagner.
The first part of the lecture focuses on Wagner’s operas and essays to highlight the qualities in his work that might be termed protocinematic. The second part addresses the historical impact of Wagner on the film industry, particularly in Germany and in America—where Wagnerian traditions were a cultural bequest of the Central European film artists who fled the Nazis and settled in Hollywood.