Tristan's Shadow: Sexuality and the Total Work of Art after Wagner

Front Cover
University of Chicago Press, Nov 25, 2013 - Music - 240 pages

Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, and Siegfried. Parsifal. Tristan und Isolde. Both revered and reviled, Richard Wagner conceived some of the nineteenth century’s most influential operas—and created some of the most indelible characters ever to grace the stage. But over the course of his polarizing career, Wagner also composed volumes of essays and pamphlets, some on topics seemingly quite distant from the opera house. His influential concept of Gesamtkunstwerk—the “total work of art”—famously and controversially offered a way to unify the different media of an opera into a coherent whole. Less well known, however, are Wagner’s strange theories on sexuality—like his ideas about erotic acoustics and the metaphysics of sexual difference.

Drawing on the discourses of psychoanalysis, evolutionary biology, and other emerging fields of study that informed Wagner’s thinking, Adrian Daub traces the dual influence of Gesamtkunstwerk and eroticism from their classic expressions in Tristan und Isolde into the work of the generation of composers that followed, including Zemlinsky, d’Albert, Schreker, and Strauss. For decades after Wagner’s death, Daub writes, these composers continued to grapple with his ideas and with his overwhelming legacy, trying in vain to write their way out from Tristan’s shadow.


What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


The Fate of Sexual Differencein Opera
Wagner and the Metaphysics of Sexual Difference
The Total Work of Art and the Ugly Detail
Richard Strausss Guntram Arthur Schopenhauer and the Exorcism of the Voice
The Natural History of the Theater and Der ferne Klang
Visions of Marriage in the Operas of Eugen dAlbert
Eroticism and the Dynasty in Siegfried Wagners Operas
Post Wagnerian Redheads in Das Rheingold Fredegundis and Irrelohe
Coda Im a Stranger Here Myself

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2013)

Adrian Daub is associate professor of German Studies at Stanford University. He is the author of Uncivil Unions: The Metaphysics of Marriage in German Idealismand Romanticism and of Four-Handed Monsters: Four-Hand Piano Playing and the Making of Nineteenth Century Domestic Culture. He lives in San Francisco.

Bibliographic information