Gustav Mahler, Alfred Roller, and the Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk: "Tristan" and affinities between the arts at the Vienna Court Opera
TABLE OF CONTENTS
List of Figures vii List of Musical Examples viii Abstract ix
Survey of Literature 7
PART I: HISTORICAL ANTECEDENTS
1. MUSIC IN RELATION TO THE OTHER ARTS IN THE GERMAN IDEALIST TRADITION 13
Lessing 18 Lessing Revisited: Irving Babbitt’s The New Laokoon 26 German Romantics and Divisions between the Arts 33
2. WAGNER’S CONCEPTION OF THE GESAMTKUNSTWERK 45
Influence of Earlier Philosophers 46 Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft 50 Oper und Drama 59 Bayreuth and the Gesamtkunstwerk 63 Mann on the Gesamtkunstwerk 65 Tristan and Isolde as a Gesamtkunstwerk? The Influence 67 of Schopenhauer’s Philosophy
PART II: THE 1903 VIENNA COURT OPERA TRISTAN
3. MAHLER’S ENGAGEMENT WITH WAGNER’S MUSIC AND GESAMTKUNSTWERK IDEAL 71
Mahler’s Work in Leipzig, Budapest, and Hamburg 73 Reforms in Vienna 81 Mahler as Conductor and Director 89
4. ROLLER AND STAGE DESIGN 104
Views on Stage Design 104 Roller’s Visual Style in Tristan 113
5. ROLLER’S DESIGNS AND THE GESAMTKUNSTWERK 146
The Influence of Wagner on Visual Artists 146 Wagner’s Score as Inspiration for Visual Design 177
PART III: RESONANCES
6. TWENTIETH-CENTURY COLLABORATORS 187
Ballets Russes 188 Ballets Suédois (1920-1925) 195 Wieland Wagner and Postwar Bayreuth 203
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 240
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1.1. The Laocoön Group (1 st century BCE) 21
Figure 4.1. Alfred Roller: sketch of Tristan standing (courtesy OETM) 121
Figure 4.2. Roller: Isolde reclining in Act I (courtesy OETM) 124
Figure 4.3. Roller: Tristan and Isolde embrace (courtesy OETM) 126
Figure 4.4. Detail of Figure 4.3 127
Figure 4.5. Roller: Isolde transfigured in Act II (courtesy OETM) 129
Figure 4.6. Detail of Figure 4.5 129
Figure 4.7. Roller: Tristan und Isolde, Act I Beginning (courtesy OETM) 136
Figure 4.8. Roller: Tristan und Isolde, Act I End (courtesy OETM) 136
Figure 4.9. Roller: Tristan und Isolde, Act II Beginning (courtesy OETM) 137
Figure 4.10. Carlo Brioschi: Tristan und Isolde, Act II (courtesy OETM) 137
Figure 4.11. Roller: Tristan und Isolde, Act II End (courtesy OETM) 138
Figure 4.12. Roller: Tristan und Isolde, Act III (courtesy OETM) 139
Figure 5.1. Proscenium Frieze in the Chicago Auditorium Theater 155
Figure 5.2. Fleury’s Autumn Reverie Mural in the Chicago 155 Auditorium Theater.
Figure 5.3. Fleury’s Spring Song Mural in the Chicago Auditorium Theater 156
Figure 5.4. The Vienna Secession 175
LIST OF MUSICAL EXAMPLES
Example 4.1. Tristan und Isolde, Act I, Scene 5, mm. 186-188 121
Example 4.2. Tristan und Isolde, Act I, Scene 1, mm. 25-26 123
Example 4.3. Tristan und Isolde, Act I, Scene 2, mm. 23-26 125
Example 4.4. Tristan und Isolde, Act II, Scene 2, mm. 21-22 127
Example 4.5. Tristan und Isolde, Act II, Scene 1, mm. 453-454 128
Example 4.6. Tristan und Isolde, Act II, Scene 1, mm. 384-388 130
Example 5.1. Das Rheingold, Act I, Scene 1, mm. 137-142 171 (Rhinemaiden Theme)
Example 5.2. Die Walküre, Act III, Scene 3, m. 694 (Magic Fire Music) 171
Example 5.3. Die Walküre, Act III, Scene 3, mm. 667-669 (Spear Motive) 172
Gustav Mahler’s music has been extensively studied and discussed in both scholarly and popular circles, especially since the middle of the past century. His conducting and directorial activity, however, deserves greater attention. The 1903 Vienna Court Opera production of Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde was a landmark in opera history because of Mahler's masterful conducting and Secession artist Alfred Roller's vibrant costumes, sets, and lighting design. Roller helped to move the Court Opera away from overly naturalistic and museum-like stage sets and costumes towards greater stylization and abstraction. The dissertation situates this collaborative project within fin- de-siècle debates about the nature of the Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk, which today is generally misinterpreted as a multimedia spectacle in which all production elements are conceived organically. Previous studies of this production explored the technical achievements of Mahler and Roller and surveyed the critical response in Vienna. More work remains to be done in examining the deeper cultural significance of the Mahler-Roller Tristan and differing contemporary views on the proper balance of aural and visual stimuli in the Gesamtkunstwerk. This study demonstrates the degree to which Mahler participated in a long tradition of addressing the proper sphere of the arts in the theatrical spectacle through his work with Roller in Vienna. Their partnership also anticipated the spirit of cooperation and mutual encouragement that characterized the work of influential troupes such as the Ballets Russes and Ballets Suédois, both of which represented the “modern” in the twenty years after Mahler’s death. The spirit of the Mahler-Roller production of Tristan und Isolde can also be detected in Wieland Wagner’s bold postwar productions at Bayreuth. Through his work with Roller, Mahler served as a link between naturalistic Romantic stage practice, epitomized by many nineteenth-century Wagner productions, and the more symbolic style of twentieth-century directors such as Wieland Wagner.
In these scenic images the most modern principles of art seem to have guided the theater painter’s brush. The stage image appears to hog all the artistic appeal and moreover to want to relate symbolically and intellectually to the plot […] These endeavors seem fully to embrace Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk. 1
-Critic Julius Korngold, on the Mahler-Roller Tristan (1903)
There has never been a Gesamtkunstwerk. Perhaps one could even say: there will never be a Gesamtkunstwerk. To create one is just as impossible as perpetual motion or squaring a circle. 2
-Composer Juan Allende-Blin (1994)
On February 21, 1903, a new production of Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde premiered at the Vienna Court Opera. This was the first major collaboration between music director Gustav Mahler and his stage designer, the Secession artist Alfred Roller. The production’s striking visual images, incorporating key colors for each act, lush new costumes and props, and dramatic lighting effects, provoked the most discussion in the press. Many critics praised this production as the realization of Wagner’s artistic ideal, as the first quote above indicates. For Mahler biographer Henry-Louis de La Grange, the 1903 Tristan also marked a significant step beyond Wagner’s productions at Bayreuth and towards the true ideal of the Gesamtkunstwerk. The idea of a “total” or “collective” work of art was developed by Wagner in his theoretical writings around 1850 while in exile in Switzerland after the failed 1848 Dresden uprisings. Philosophical examinations of the proper form and function of the different arts, and the degree to which they might be combined, had a long history. Leaders of the German Enlightenment, such as art historian Johann Joachim
1 Julius Korngold, Neue Freie Presse (22 February 1903). “In diesen szenischen Bildern scheinen modernste Kunstprinzipien den Pinsel des Theatermalers gelenkt zu haben. Das Bühnenbild scheint Kunstwirkung für sich zu beanspruchen und überdies in symbolische, geistige Beziehungen treten zu wollen zur Handlung […] Diesen Bestrebungen scheint Wagners Gesamtkunstwerk weit die Arme zu öffnen.” All translations are my own unless otherwise indicated. 2 Juan Allende-Blin, “Gesamtkunstwerke – von Wagners Musikdramen zu Schreyers Bühnenrevolution,” in Gesamtkunstwerk: zwischen Synästhesie und Mythos, edited by Hans Günther (Bielefeld: Aisthesis, 1994), 175. “Ein Gesamtkunstwerk hat es nie gegeben. Vielleicht darf man sogar sagen: ein Gesamtkunstwerke wird es nie geben. Es zu schaffen ist so unmöglich wie die Quadratur des Kreises oder das perpetuum mobile unmöglich sind.”
Winckelmann and playwright Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, dealt with issues concerning the different arts in the eighteenth century. The years around 1900 also marked a period of intense artistic discussion of the Gesamtkunstwerk; the Mahler-Roller Tristan emerged within this vibrant culture. This dissertation takes as its focus the long disputed and never clearly defined concept of Gesamtkunstwerk and the degree to which the 1903 Mahler-Roller Tristan might have realized this ultimate artistic goal. Previous studies of this production have explored the technical achievements of Mahler and Roller and surveyed some of the critical responses in Vienna. More work, however, remains to be done in examining the significance of this production, not only in its own time, but also as a pivotal moment which joined the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century intellectual debates about the proper sphere of the different arts with the bold theatrical experimentation of the twentieth century. As director of the Vienna Court Opera from 1897 until 1907, Mahler held a position of enormous influence. He was one of the most important composer-conductors of his day, along with Richard Strauss, and provoked impassioned critical reactions not only to his bold symphonies, but also to his decisions as director of one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world. Much of the contemporary critical reaction to the 1903 Tristan stressed the powerful impact of Roller’s lighting and use of color upon the senses. His and Mahler’s achievement was sometimes compared favorably with Wagner’s total work of art. Artists and historians in our day, however, are often more reluctant to credit past experiments in the arts with such an exalted accomplishment. Allende-Blin, quoted above, denied even the possibility of the Gesamtkunstwerk. He proclaimed that Wagner’s music dramas were only partial successes in realizing that ideal, because the poetic texts did not equal the quality of the music or dramatic conception (no mention of visual elements was made). For him, each artist who strove for the Gesamtkunstwerk did so by taking “his [or her] own art as the starting point.” 3 This seems self-evident and highlights the difficulty of achieving an equal balance of many arts in one spectacle. Although Wagner not only composed the music of his works, but also wrote the libretti and specified staging
3 Idem. “Die Sehnsucht nach einem Gesamtkunstwerk nahm bei jedem Künstler, der es versuchte, zunächst seine eigene Kunst als Ausgangspunkt.”
direction in his scores, he was a far better composer than poet or visual artist. Musicologist Wolfgang Dömling, writing in 1994, stressed the utopian nature of the Gesamtkunstwerk concept as developed by Wagner. For Dömling, the total work of art was really only a “partially realizable artistic anticipation of a coming social order.” 4
Constantin Floros, in a recent essay on Mahler and the musical theater, did not concern himself exclusively with the issue of the Gesamtkunstwerk and Mahler’s relationship to it. Instead, he posited that the director’s significance in relation to twentieth-century developments in music theater depends upon how one defines the term “music theater.” If the term implies a “complete harmony between scenery and music,” then Mahler was “truly a trailblazer” in that sphere of art. But if the goal of music theater is to use scenery as a “counterpoint to music,” then Mahler aimed for something completely different, since Roller recalled that Mahler wanted the public’s attention to remain focused on the music and not be distracted by the “struggles over the scene design.” 5 Floros’s ideas have deep ramifications for my study of Romantic and Modernist approaches to musical theater, in which the 1903 Tristan plays a pivotal role. We shall find, however, that what some considered to be a cooperative fusion of visual and aural components, others found hardly ideal, with the visuals competing too prominently for the viewer/listener’s attention. The dissertation is divided into three broad sections. Part 1, consisting of the first two chapters, examines antecedents to the 1903 Mahler-Roller Tristan. These include an examination of conflicting views on the possibility of combining the arts into a larger whole within the German Enlightenment and Romantic traditions. This leads into an exploration of Richard Wagner’s ideas about the total work of art as expressed in his mid-century exile writings, primarily Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft. As an intellectually- curious German, Wagner would have been aware of his place within the historical dialogue on the arts and their functions, and in his writings he openly addressed the ideas of Enlightenment figures such as Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.
4 Wolfgang Dömling, “Reuniting the Arts: Notes on the History of an Idea,” 19th-Century Music 18/1 (Summer 1994): 8. 5 Constantin Floros, “Gustav Mahler und das Musiktheater: Inszenierungen aus dem ‘Geiste der Musik,’” in Gustav Mahler und die Oper. Schriftenreihe der Gustav Mahler Vereinigung Hamburg; No.2, ed. Constantin Floros (Hamburg: Arche, 2005), 19.
Part 2 consists of chapters 3-5 and focuses on Mahler and Roller and the significance of the Court Opera production of Tristan und Isolde within the artistic world of the fin-de-siècle. Important topics in chapter 3 include Mahler’s engagement with Wagner’s music as a conductor and director, and his attempts to transplant a sense of Bayreuth solemnity and professionalism to the Court Opera. Mahler has been characterized as lacking a sophisticated visual sensibility. The noted biographer Kurt Blaukopf characterized the composer as someone who, because of his personality structure was “kein optischer Typ” (“not a visually-oriented guy”). He credited Mahler’s introduction to the world of the visual arts to Siegfried Lipiner and Fritz Löhr, and declared that Mahler’s “optical reaction” was not to be awakened by “pure contemplation,” but rather through “philosophical reflection.” 6
In spite of Blaukopf’s general assessment, Mahler seems to have had at least a keen interest in the visual elements of opera production. Before being appointed as head of the Court Opera in 1897, Mahler held numerous music-directorships across Europe, most notably in Budapest and Hamburg. He directed both orchestral and operatic performances at these stops on his career path to Vienna. In Budapest he was particularly involved in shaping new opera productions, controlling not only the musical aspects but the visual elements as well. By the time Mahler took charge of the Vienna Court Opera, he was experienced in operatic direction. 7
Mahler helped to introduce the revolving stage at the Court Opera, which allowed for rapid scene changes, the sustaining of dramatic intensity, and a smoother flow of the entire show. He also had very specific ideas about stage gestures and actor movement. The Austrian National Library possesses a vocal score for Tristan und Isolde that belonged to Anna von Mildenburg, who sang Isolde in the 1903 Court Opera production. Mahler made notes throughout the score indicating stage movement and gestures for Mildenburg to incorporate into her study of the role. Mahler, according to Roller, believed that the music should always remain in the foreground of the audience’s
6 Kurt Blaukopf, Gustav Mahler oder Der Zeitgenosse der Zukunft (Zürich: Molden, 1969), 104. 7 For more on Mahler in Budapest, see: Zoltan Roman, “Mahler and the Budapest Opera,” Studia musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 31/1-4 (1989): 353-69. A recent examination of his work in Hamburg can be found in: Sabine Siemon, “Gustav Mahler als Erster Kapellmeister des Hamburger Stadttheaters,” in Gustav Mahler und die Oper. Schriftenreihe der Gustav Mahler Vereinigung Hamburg; No.2, ed. Constantin Floros, 53-79 (Hamburg: Arche, 2005).
perception. His view was that “everything is in the score” (“steht alles in der Partitur”). He nevertheless praised and approved of Roller’s visual conception of Tristan, demonstrating a more fully-developed view of the Gesamtkunstwerk than that of Wagner himself, who promoted the idea of an equal collaboration of many arts but favored musical expression above all. In chapter 4, Roller’s views on the profession of stage designer and his visual conception of the production are examined. His bold use of light and color modernized the visual element of Wagner productions and also invigorated critical debates about the relative importance of music and stage spectacle in the Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk. Chapter 5 provides a closer look at the widespread interest in the unity of the arts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Artists as diverse as American architect Louis Sullivan, Austrian architect Camillo Sitte, and Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky advocated the combined power of multiple arts in their own ways. Critical responses to the Tristan production by contemporary journalists and artists are also interwoven throughout chapters 4 and 5. The American aesthetician Irving Babbitt, in his The New Laokoon (1910), recognized contemporary interest in multi-sensory stimulation. He criticized such attempts to blend different arts and sensory perceptions. Babbitt associated hybrid art forms, such as color audition (associating sounds with particular colors), with the abnormal and the dangerous. Such phenomena found expression for him “only in those who belong to what we may term the neurotic school,” which he connected with the German Romantics, who tended “not only to worship music, but to reduce to music all the other arts.” 8 Babbitt related an account of a multi-sensory event that had taken place in New York in 1902, the first “experimental perfume concert in America,” at which “a trip to Japan in sixteen minutes,” was simulated by a series of odors. For him, any attempt to “have a whole audience respond in a similar manner to olfactory suggestiveness was foredoomed to failure,” because it was more likely to appeal not to the audience’s sense of smell, but to “its sense of humor.” 9
Just two years before the New York concert the Scottish stage reformer Edward
8 Irving Babbitt, The New Laokoon: An Essay on the Confusion of the Arts (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1910). 175. 9 Ibid., 182.
Gordon Craig had contemplated “making illusion more complete” in a London production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas by involving the audience’s senses of smell, hearing, and sight by filling the performance space with the odor of sulphur during the witches’ scene, and with “rare perfume” while rose petals fell on Dido’s corpse. 10 There was a clear desire on the part of many stage reformers of that period to create what we might now term “multi-media” experiences. Babbitt linked these radical, experimental artistic endeavors with a lack of centeredness and permanency in the modern world, and with the “flux of phenomena” and “torrent of impressions” that characterized modern urban life. 11 Although a perfume concert and a new production of a famous work by Wagner are two completely different things, both highlight the creative spirit that was evident in theater around 1900 and represent attempts by directors to stimulate theatergoers on multiple sensory levels. In the final part (and chapter) of the dissertation, I consider ways in which the Mahler-Roller collaboration anticipated the work of influential twentieth-century theater artists. These include the Ballets Russes and Ballets Suédois in Paris and Wieland Wagner at Bayreuth after the Second World War. The dance troupes were models of artistic collaboration, employing leading artists in music, dance, and the visual arts, though under the guidance of a Sergei Diaghilev or a Rolf de Maré. Wieland stripped the Bayreuth stage of traditional naturalistic elements and created productions of his grandfather’s works that sought universal appeal rather than a narrower German Romantic focus. His striking use of light and color suggested a similar goal to that of Mahler and Roller in Vienna: to reinvigorate older works that had become somewhat stale over time because of traditional productions. The 1903 Vienna Court Opera Tristan emerged at a time when the idea of Gesamtkunstwerk both inspired and polarized artists and thinkers in many fields. The Mahler-Roller collaboration was both a reaction against the long tradition of antiquated naturalism in opera production and also a catalyst in the emergence of coming movements such as Expressionism and Der blaue Reiter, both of which aimed at the ideal of Gesamtkunstwerk, and advocated art as a socially-regenerative force. Critics
10 Christopher Innes, Edward Gordon Craig: A Vision of Theatre (Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1998), 50. 11 Babbitt, 185.
such as Babbitt recognized the sensory overload inherent in the modern world and argued for art that would re-center the modern individual according to the critic’s own artistic model, which was often at odds with many fin-de-siècle attempts at Gesamtkunstwerk.
Survey of Literature
Some of the best sources of information concerning Mahler’s work with Roller, particularly on the 1903 Tristan in Vienna, include two articles by Franz Willnauer in a recent collection of essays edited by Constantin Floros. 12 Dissertations by Edith Dutzer, 13
Eva Luschinsky, 14 and Evan Baker also provide valuable information. 15 Manfred Wagner examined Roller’s life and work in his 1996 monograph on the artist. 16 The work of Floros, Wolfgang Greisenegger, and Henri-Louis de la Grange has also contributed to our knowledge of the Mahler-Roller collaborations. In “Gustav Mahler und Alfred Roller: Die Reform der Opernbühne aus dem Geist des Jugendstils,” Franz Willnauer examined Mahler’s work with Roller at the Court Opera between 1903 and 1907. He discussed Secession philosophy and goals, provided a brief biographical background on Roller, including details concerning the first meeting of the two artists at the 1902 Beethoven exhibition mounted by the Secession, and surveyed critical reaction to their collaborative efforts. Several of Roller’s sketches related to his work at the Hofoper were reproduced. Willnauer stated that the Tristan-sketches “show that Roller sought, above all, to capture the mood of each act in a fundamental color.” 17
He traced the development of Roller’s style in the years 1903-1907, characterizing it as a steady move towards greater abstraction after the 1903 Tristan production. Willnauer
12 Franz Willnauer, “Gustav Mahler und Alfred Roller: Die Reform der Opernbühne aus dem Geist des Jugendstils,” in Gustav Mahler und die Oper. Schriftenreihe der Gustav Mahler Vereinigung Hamburg; No.2, ed. Constantin Floros, 81-128 (Hamburg: Arche, 2005) and “‘Auf Dein Geheiß entbrenne ein Feuer’: Dunkelheit und Licht auf Alfred Rollers Hofopern-Bühne,” in ibid., 129-40. 13 Edith Dutzer, “Die Wagner-Oper und ihre Bühnenbilder an der Wiener Hof – bzw. Staatsoper,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Vienna, 1949). 14 Eva Luschinsky, “Studien zur Morphologie des Tristan: Konzept und Realisierung,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Vienna, 1977). 15 Evan Baker, “Alfred Roller's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni: A break in the scenic traditions of the Vienna Court Opera” (Ph.D. Dissertation, New York University, 1993). 16 Manfred Wagner, Alfred Roller in seiner Zeit (Salzburg: Residenz, 1996). 17 Willnauer “Mahler und Roller,” 93.
argued that Secession and Jugendstil styles were brought to the Vienna Court Opera stage by Mahler and Roller, which supports my thesis that the 1903 Tristan was intricately connected with the ideals of Gesamtkunstwerk and social regeneration through art. In “‘Auf Dein Geheiß entbrenne ein Feuer’: Dunkelheit und Licht auf Alfred Rollers Hofopern-Bühne” Willnauer specifically explored Roller’s use of light and darkness in his Hofoper sets, especially those created for Fidelio and Die Walküre. He included a sample of the critical response that highlighted elements of Roller’s stage lighting. Willnauer concluded with the first publication of a letter from Anna von Mildenburg to Roller in which she asked for more lighting onstage in Die Walküre. The Mildenburg letter was the most significant aspect of this essay, since it documented both praise for and criticism of Roller’s ideas from a prominent cast member (Mildenburg) rather than from an outside journalist. There were practical issues involved with Roller’s dark stages, since performers could not see and react to their fellow actors’ faces, and the audience would not be able to follow the onstage action as easily. Willnauer connected Roller’s work with the ideas of stage reformers such as Adolphe Appia, and his findings support my study of the Mahler-Roller partnership in the context of widespread artistic reforms at the turn-of-the-century. In her 1949 dissertation titled “Die Wagner-Oper und ihre Bühnenbilder an der Wiener Hof – bzw. Staatsoper,” Edith Dutzer provided one of the first discussions of the 1903 Mahler-Roller Tristan, and this at a time when archival materials related to the production were less accessible than they are now. 18 She examined twentieth-century stagings of all of Wagner’s major works in Vienna, in productions by several notable designers, including Roller, Emil Preetorius, Robert Kautsky, and Ludwig Sievert. She laid particular emphasis on the individual working methods of the different designers and how they pursued the ideal of the Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk, while also stressing that a visual sketch, even if thoroughly carried out, never transmitted the “same impression as the actual scenic realization.” 19
Regarding Roller’s work on Tristan, she concluded that his stage designs “entered into a symbolic-intellectual relationship to the plot and, insofar as they were born out of
18 She was not allowed to publish any photographs or other mechanical reproductions of any visual materials. 19 Dutzer, foreword.
the spirit of the music, they fulfilled Wagner’s strivings towards the Gesamtkunstwerk completely.” She spoke of a “timeless validity” for his stage designs, perhaps influenced by Furtwängler’s resurrection of Roller’s sets for a Vienna State Opera Tristan in early 1943. 20 Dutzer concluded that Roller and stage designers after him came closer to the Wagnerian ideal of the Gesamtkunstwerk than nineteenth-century designers largely because of technical innovations, especially in lighting techniques. Her dissertation is a valuable resource, but it covers so many stagings of Wagner’s works that there is no possibility of an exhaustive examination of any single production. My dissertation goes beyond the scope of Dutzer’s by examining the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk and the significance attached to it in great detail and in connection with the 1903 Tristan. In her dissertation titled “Studien zur Morphologie des Tristan: Konzept und Realisierung,” Eva Luschinsky analyzed the dramatic elements of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, as well as the philosophical and psychological currents that permeate the work. She examined Classical and Romantic ideas drawn from Novalis and Schopenhauer that influenced Wagner’s conception of the work and discussed the demands placed upon the singers in Tristan and the important role of the orchestra in expressing that which words cannot. Luschinsky concluded by analyzing five influential stagings of Tristan, including the 1903 Hofoper production, as well as the world premiere in Munich and twentieth- century productions by Heinz Tietjen, Wieland Wagner, and August Everding. She discussed Roller’s style in the 1903 Tristan, surveyed critical response to the production, and also examined the influence of Roller on the later productions by Tietjen and Wieland Wagner. Luschinsky thoroughly documented the Roller influence on later Wagner stagings, whereas I focus specifically on the intersection of the 1903 Tristan with the broader concept of Gesamtkunstwerk. In his dissertation titled “Alfred Roller's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni: A break in the scenic traditions of the Vienna Court Opera,” Evan Baker examined the 1905 Mahler-Roller production of Don Giovanni and innovations in stage design associated with it. In the introduction and first two chapters, he discussed ideas for theatrical reform popular in Mahler’s time in Vienna, and provided a brief overview of
20 Ibid., 68.
the history of stage production and design at the Hofoper. Baker surveyed a fair amount of critical response to the 1903 Tristan production, and provided detailed information about all aspects of Roller’s stage design for Don Giovanni. My dissertation will situate within a broader artistic and philosophical context the important Mahler-Roller productions that Baker examined from a technical point of view. Laura Anne Dolp, in her dissertation on spatial elements in Mahler’s music, specifically Das Lied von der Erde, did not directly address Mahler’s conducting activities, but she did make note of music criticism at the fin-de-siècle that blended aural and visual imagery. Dolp observed that “language that promoted musical and visual correspondence” was not used only in connection with Mahler’s music, but that it “stemmed in part from the tradition of Baudelaire” and “pervaded journalistic commentary on many of Mahler’s contemporaries.” 21 Her observations support my study of one significant Wagner production within a culture that was deeply engaged with the idea of Gesamtkunstwerk and affinities between the arts. The major monograph on Alfred Roller is Manfred Wagner’s 1996 Alfred Roller in seiner Zeit. Wagner thoroughly examined the career and achievements of Mahler’s accomplished stage designer in Vienna. He reproduced many of Roller’s paintings, drawings, stage models, and even a few original costumes, many in color. Regarding the 1903 Tristan, Wagner reproduced several important critical reviews and highlighted the significant aspects of this first Mahler-Roller collaboration, including the striking use of color enhanced through new lighting techniques. My work explores the cultural context in which the cultural artifacts Wagner described emerged. Constantin Floros, in his essay entitled “Gustav Mahler und das Musiktheater: Inszenierungen aus dem ‘Geiste der Musik,’” offered a brief survey of Mahler’s operatic conducting activities during his years in Vienna. 22 He developed a view of Mahler as a sophisticated man of the theater, largely through the recollections of people who knew him well. After conducting Les Huguenots in Hamburg with the final act cut entirely, Mahler responded to critics with an essay that defended his actions. Floros argued that