Interpreting Wagner

James Treadwell

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In this fresh and inventive book, James Treadwell lays open the rich possibilites for interpretation offered across the full range of Wagner’s art. Focusing 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.

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.

“A thoughtful collection of essays on the challenges of understanding Wagner’s operatic art. . . . . Among its many strengths: readability, literary sophistication, and, above all, grounding in the experience of Wagner’s operas as heard and seen on stage. Highly recommended.”—Choice

Interpreting Wagner has something to offer every serious student of nineteenth-century opera.”—Jeffrey L. Buller, The Opera Quarterly


“[Treadwell] writes discerningly and in-depth.”—John Warrack, Times Literary Supplement

"James Treadwell's fine study offers a sensitively nuanced and carefully argued overview of Wagner's operas and prose writings."—Linda Hutcheon, University of Toronto Quarterly

ISBN: 9780300098150
Publication Date: May 11, 2003
304 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
10 b/w illus.