Synopses & Reviews
What do Wagner's operas really mean? How much room do they leave for different perspectives? In this fresh and inventive book, James Treadwell lays open the rich possibilities for interpretation offered across the full range of Wagner's art. Focussing steadily on Wagner's music, dramas and prose writings, rather than on questions of biography or influence, the book carefully traces the tensions and uncertainties embedded within the composer's central themes. The result is a new and vivid depiction of the essential character of Wagner's work. Addressing both general Wagner enthusiasts and more scholarly students of music, Treadwell identifies and pursues the habitual concerns of Wagner's operas and writings: enchantment, seduction, heroism, victory, transcendence and sacredness. While Wagner's work repeatedly and urgently sets itself to deny various or ambiguous interpretations, the operas themselves are nevertheless far more intricate and conflicted than this denial allows for. In this altered light, the dimensions of Wagner's art are unexpectedly extended, and its enduring vitality is refreshingly reasserted. James Treadwell was lecturer and junior research fellow at the University of Oxford, and assistant professor of English at McGill University.