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Curtain, Gong, SteamWagnerian Technologies of Nineteenth-Century Opera$
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Gundula Kreuzer

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780520279681

Published to California Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520279681.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 15 October 2019

Steam

Steam

Chapter:
(p.162) 4 Steam
Source:
Curtain, Gong, Steam
Author(s):

Gundula Kreuzer

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520279681.003.0005

Wagner’s abundant evocation of fogs and fires in Der Ring des Nibelungen was unprecedented. The water vapor used in 1876 at Bayreuth’s inaugural festival provided Wagner with his most “real” stage ingredient. Additionally, the chapter proposes, steam could mediate between bodies and painted scenery and could both enliven and veil open transformations. Yet while onstage vapors became a visual icon of the Ring, steam also drew attention to tensions within Wagner’s works and theories. Although intended to evoke unspoiled mythic nature, this novel and multisensorial technology generated smells and sounds associated precisely with the industrial modernity that Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk was to overcome. Allegorically, steam’s rendering of both fogs and fires anticipated the vanquishing of nature in the Ring by fire, the oldest human technology. Ultimately, its multivalence allowed steam to transcend both scenic realism and the operatic stage to become a cyp her of both modernity and performativityper se.

Keywords:   Richard Wagner, Der Ring des Nibelungen, staging, Bayreuth Festival, steam, fog, fire, Gesamtkunstwerk, industrial modernity, performativity

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