Dissertation Index

Author: BaileyShea, Matthew L.

Title: The Wagnerian Satz: The Rhetoric of the Sentence in Wagner's Post-Lohengrin Operas

Institution: Yale University

Begun: September 1997

Completed: May 2003


In the first volume of Das Geheimnis der Form bei Richard Wagner, Alfred Lorenz introduces the concept of Barform with the claim that Wagner "especially loves this form since it is better suited for the dramatic momentum than any other." Though Lorenz would have been unaware of the idea at the time, this statement also applies to Schoenberg's concept of the sentence (Satz). Both forms grow out of the same gestural core and both have an extraordinary influence on Wagner's formal rhetoric at the level of the phrase. The concept of the sentence, however, offers a new perspective on our understanding of the developmental foreground of Wagner's music. Thus, this dissertation builds upon the recently revived Formenlehre tradition by identifying the dramatic and rhetorical role of the sentence in Wagner's music.

Among other things this dissertation presents a revised model for the sentence that more accurately recognizes its dramatic and gestural qualities. It also clarifies the relationship between the sentence and other more traditional Wagnerian formal paradigms, including model-sequence technique and Barform. In addition, it illuminates the interaction between sentence and voice--an issue that has been much overlooked in studies of classical phrase structure--and introduces the concept of the Satzkette, or sentence chain: situations in which sentences or sentential fragments are combined to create larger strings of wave-like sentence patterns. Much of Wagner's music is informed by an overriding sentential impulse and by identifying the conventions of the Wagnerian Satz, we reveal crucial dramatic parallels between the gesture of the sentence and the movements, emotions, and text of the characters onstage.

Keywords: Wagner, Sentence, Form, Gesture, Rhetoric, Schoenberg

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