Mastodon Wagner through a Phenomenological looking-glass - The Wagnerian

Wagner through a Phenomenological looking-glass

Written By The Wagnerian on Friday, 5 October 2012 | 12:42:00 am

For anyone unfamiliar with Husserl or phenomenology we include a brief introduction - with kind permission of The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

What is Phenomenology?

Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object. An experience is directed toward an object by virtue of its content or meaning (which represents the object) together with appropriate enabling conditions.

Phenomenology is commonly understood in either of two ways: as a disciplinary field in philosophy, or as a movement in the history of philosophy.

The discipline of phenomenology may be defined initially as the study of structures of experience, or consciousness. Literally, phenomenology is the study of “phenomena”: appearances of things, or things as they appear in our experience, or the ways we experience things, thus the meanings things have in our experience. Phenomenology studies conscious experience as experienced from the subjective or first person point of view. This field of philosophy is then to be distinguished from, and related to, the other main fields of philosophy: ontology (the study of being or what is), epistemology (the study of knowledge), logic (the study of valid reasoning), ethics (the study of right and wrong action), etc.

The historical movement of phenomenology is the philosophical tradition launched in the first half of the 20th century by Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Paul Sartre, et al. In that movement, the discipline of phenomenology was prized as the proper foundation of all philosophy — as opposed, say, to ethics or metaphysics or epistemology. The methods and characterization of the discipline were widely debated by Husserl and his successors, and these debates continue to the present day. (The definition of phenomenology offered above will thus be debatable, for example, by Heideggerians, but it remains the starting point in characterizing the discipline.)

In recent philosophy of mind, the term “phenomenology” is often restricted to the characterization of sensory qualities of seeing, hearing, etc.: what it is like to have sensations of various kinds. However, our experience is normally much richer in content than mere sensation. Accordingly, in the phenomenological tradition, phenomenology is given a much wider range, addressing the meaning things have in our experience, notably, the significance of objects, events, tools, the flow of time, the self, and others, as these things arise and are experienced in our “life-world”.

Phenomenology as a discipline has been central to the tradition of continental European philosophy throughout the 20th century, while philosophy of mind has evolved in the Austro-Anglo-American tradition of analytic philosophy that developed throughout the 20th century. Yet the fundamental character of our mental activity is pursued in overlapping ways within these two traditions. Accordingly, the perspective on phenomenology drawn in this article will accommodate both traditions. The main concern here will be to characterize the discipline of phenomenology, in a contemporary purview, while also highlighting the historical tradition that brought the discipline into its own.

Basically, phenomenology studies the structure of various types of experience ranging from perception, thought, memory, imagination, emotion, desire, and volition to bodily awareness, embodied action, and social activity, including linguistic activity. The structure of these forms of experience typically involves what Husserl called “intentionality”, that is, the directedness of experience toward things in the world, the property of consciousness that it is a consciousness of or about something. According to classical Husserlian phenomenology, our experience is directed toward — represents or “intends” — things only through particular concepts, thoughts, ideas, images, etc. These make up the meaning or content of a given experience, and are distinct from the things they present or mean.

The basic intentional structure of consciousness, we find in reflection or analysis, involves further forms of experience. Thus, phenomenology develops a complex account of temporal awareness (within the stream of consciousness), spatial awareness (notably in perception), attention (distinguishing focal and marginal or “horizonal” awareness), awareness of one's own experience (self-consciousness, in one sense), self-awareness (awareness-of-oneself), the self in different roles (as thinking, acting, etc.), embodied action (including kinesthetic awareness of one's movement), purpose or intention in action (more or less explicit), awareness of other persons (in empathy, intersubjectivity, collectivity), linguistic activity (involving meaning, communication, understanding others), social interaction (including collective action), and everyday activity in our surrounding life-world (in a particular culture).

Furthermore, in a different dimension, we find various grounds or enabling conditions — conditions of the possibility — of intentionality, including embodiment, bodily skills, cultural context, language and other social practices, social background, and contextual aspects of intentional activities. Thus, phenomenology leads from conscious experience into conditions that help to give experience its intentionality. Traditional phenomenology has focused on subjective, practical, and social conditions of experience. Recent philosophy of mind, however, has focused especially on the neural substrate of experience, on how conscious experience and mental representation or intentionality are grounded in brain activity. It remains a difficult question how much of these grounds of experience fall within the province of phenomenology as a discipline. Cultural conditions thus seem closer to our experience and to our familiar self-understanding than do the electrochemical workings of our brain, much less our dependence on quantum-mechanical states of physical systems to which we may belong. The cautious thing to say is that phenomenology leads in some ways into at least some background conditions of our experience.




It is a commonplace in humanistic scholarship that works of art are reflective of and influenced by surrounding, historical, social, and even philosophical circumstances. The works of Richard Wagner have been heavily investigated for their manifestations of contemporaneous philosophical principles. While the literature focuses mainly on their Hegelian, Feuerbachian, and Schopenhauerian implications, phenomenological considerations can be discerned in his operatic reforms. This project focuses on three aspects of Wagner’s artistic agenda—the gesamtkunstwerk concept, the construction of the Bayreuth theatre, and the implementation of the leitmotif system—and how they were motivated by phenomenological considerations, thereby providing a new perspective through which Wagner’s works can be philosophically studied.

It has long been recognized that the German composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883) was heavily influenced by several philosophers and consciously embodied their systems and principles in his compositional practice as the research of Bryan Magee, among other scholars, has shown.1 2 Research on Wagner shows that his philosophical influences were from two main figures—Ludwig Feuerbach and Arthur Schopenhauer. Wagner’s magnum opus, Der Ring des Nibelungen, is especially noteworthy for its textual reflections of the tenets of these philosophers. For example, the presence of “the idea of the liberation of mankind through love [a]s one of the central occupations of The Ring’s libretto”3 is said to have been influenced by Feuerbach, while the alternative ending to the Ring, in which Brünnhilde announces her departure from the world into a “free-from-desire, free-from-illusion, holiest, chosen land”4 is said to have been influenced by Schopenhauer’s Buddhist and pessimistic inclinations and advocation of the renunciation of the Will, tenets which also strongly influenced Wagner’s conception of Tristan und Isolde, a work that was composed during a hiatus of work on the Ring.

While the textual and musical content of Wagner’s operas have been investigated for the influences of these philosophers, and while he is said to have influenced operatic aesthetics indelibly with both his theoretical writings and the operas modeled upon them5, his artistic agenda in general, which includes his proposal of an “fused hybrid”6 opera comprised of the various subordinate arts on an equal footing with each other, the construction of a new facility specifically tailored to the performance of his works, and his implementation of a system of leitmotivs, has been studied primarily as it pertains to a resurrection of ancient Greek theatre, and only secondarily from a specifically philosophical standpoint. From such a perspective, it can be seen as an artistic exercise of phenomenological considerations. As will be explained, Wagner advocated the abandonment of an “artistic ‘natural attitude’” through which the art form had degenerated into a mere diversionary entertainment and was “taken for granted”7 (as is everything in the “natural attitude”) and, by phenomenological motivation, demanded that changes be made to the art and its performance, particularly regarding the three aforementioned aspects, thereby performing a sort of artistic “epoché.” These three aspects, upon closer examination, are products of not merely musical or artistic, but phenomenological motivations, corroborating theatre scholar Pannill Camp’s belief that “the phenomenology of Husserl is…an ideological complex with a special relationship to theatre in the Western tradition.”8 Wagner’s artistic agenda consisted of proposals for change based on an evaluation of previously practiced theatrical methods. Such an evaluation was a phenomenologically motivated practice, given Husserl’s statement that “every intellectual process and indeed every mental process whatever, while being enacted, can be made the object of a pure ‘seeing’ and understanding…We inspect them, and while inspecting them we can observe their essence, their constitution, [and] their intrinsic character.”9

It is important to make clear that I do not propose that Richard Wagner was actually influenced by Edmund Husserl. The former’s death nearly twenty years before the latter’s exposition of his phenomenological principles renders such a connection impossible. However, what I do propose is that Wagner’s artistic considerations were not only merely aesthetic, but also imbued with an underlying motivation that would be, considerably after him, formally established as phenomenological, thus demonstrating how he was, in this respect, ahead of his time.

Both a short explanation of Wagner’s concept of the gesamtkunstwerk and one of the phenomenological reduction are necessary to illustrate the connection between the former to the latter. Wagner felt that the Greek tragedy was the highest form of art that man had produced because of its healthy combination of the individual arts of music, dancing, and poetry, its representation of the “folk” by means of universally identifiable myths,10 and its consequent conduciveness to community participation.11 Eventually, however, the individual arts broke away to pursue their own development, and theatrical art lost its status as a communal activity, becoming the most degenerate of art forms and becoming a mere platform for the virtuosic showmanship of the singers for the superficial pleasure of the otherwise disinterested audiences.12 Only Wagner’s efforts, in the form of “the Art-work of the Future,”13 could restore the theater to its former prominence and dignity. This artwork would be known as the gesamtkunstwerk, or “total work of art,”14 wherein literary genius on par with Shakespeare and musical genius on par with Beethoven would be united and synthesized into an art form in which the dramatic, musical, scenic, and architectural constituents would equally contribute to the artistic totality.15 No one element would assume prominence over another. To quote from Scott Pratt’s pictorial analogy, “it is a sunset framed by hills and high clouds and a sweep of color from yellow to deep red in which no one element dominates the scene and in which one element leads to the next in a continuous whole.”16

The phenomenological reduction, pioneered by Edmund Husserl and exhaustively described in the five lectures which comprise The Idea of Phenomenology, is given a comprehensive and more accessible definition by John Brough:

The epoché represents a change from the natural attitude, the condition in which we find ourselves when we are not doing philosophy, to the philosophical attitude. Ordinarily we are absorbed in straightforward living, only exceptionally reflecting philosophically and undertaking the task of uncovering the essential features of our experience. We perceive, for example, but do not inquire into what perception is; we enjoy images flickering on the screen, but do not investigate what images are and what is essential to our experience of them. Now it is precisely the philosopher’s business, Husserl thinks, to engage in such inquiries and to strive to see those essential features. In order to do that, we must disengage ourselves from ordinary living, and that is the business of the phenomenological reduction.17

Because of the decline of Greek tragedy, Wagner lamented the consequent reduction in the involvement of a theatrical audience from eager participation out of a sense of civic responsibility to the theatre to an artistic “natural attitude.” Regarding the widespread adoption of this new attitude, Wagner wrote that “when the prince leaves a heavy dinner, the banker a fatiguing financial operation, the working man a weary day of toil, and go to the theatre [,] they ask for rest, distraction, and amusement, and are in no mood for renewed effort and fresh expenditure of force,”18 the only expenditure being what Moritz Geiger would call the “inner concentration” on moods and sentimentality.19 Wagner also realized that the public derived pleasure from individual components of the operatic experience, particularly the style of the music and the singing, that took—in his view—inappropriate precedence over others and that, in the grips of this “natural attitude,” the people were content to be enraptured by those particularly pleasing components rather than by a holistic assessment of the work. He questioned his readers: “Do we not read from day to day, that this or that new opera is a masterpiece because it contains a goodly number of fine arias and duets, the instrumentation is extremely brilliant, etc., etc.?...[To] the great dramatic aim…folk never give so much as a thought.”20 Comparatively, Wagner felt that the excessive preoccupation on the part of contemporary operatic audiences with mere sensational aspects of the work was misguided attention and that those would need to be “bracketed” (Husserl’s term for suspending attention or judgment on extraneous information that does not directly pertain to the object at hand21) for the sake of concentration on that dramatic aim.

Wagner was not concerned with the components of the opera in themselves, but rather for how they would contribute to the “dramatic aim”22 and how the form of opera would appear to his audience as a work wherein the elements would be united and synthesized for the purpose of that dramatic aim. In his voluminous output of prose writing, particularly in Opera and Drama, he meticulously explained his proposed modifications to music, text, and speech in order to create this more elevated style of opera.23 Wagner’s gesamtkunstwerk would be a theatrical spectacle in which all aspects would be apprehended simultaneously and equally, in accordance with the phenomenological principle that intentionality, the idea that “all consciousness is essentially consciousness of objects,”24 “does not work in steps. We do not start by constituting six sides and then synthesize these into a die; we constitute the die and the six sides of it in one step.”25 It is clear that while “Wagner’s concept was concordant with the prevailing radical philosophical outlook of the 1840s: the reuniting of constituent parts in the Gesamtkunstwerk mirror[ing] the socialist aim of restoring integrity to a fragmented, divided society,”26 there was another underlying philosophical motivation for this concept. The phenomenologist Mikel Dufrenne, who, interestingly, used the word “neutralization” as synonymous with “phenomenological reduction,”27 would endorse the gesamtkunstwerk concept, in which the idea of “neutralization” of the artistic elements is practiced, by stating

There is a deeper unity in the work as a whole, in which are gathered together the different facets of sensuous being which offers itself to me—a unity in which an alliance is sealed among this phrase in the poem, that flight of song, this choreographic movement of the actors, that play of light over the color scheme of the set. Of this alliance I must be the witness, and it is not always easy to apportion my attention equally among all the solicitations of the sensuous without privileging one of its aspects or one of its meanings…Nevertheless, practically equal attention is always possible, because the object itself invites this and, more precisely, because the different aspects, poetical, musical, or plastic, have still another meaning, an expressive one which goes beyond what is purely intelligible and comes to convergence in a coalescence of sensuous elements.28

Wagner’s eventually fulfilled desire to construct a new theatre tailored specifically for the performance of his works was also, upon closer examination, phenomenologically motivated. He described the necessity of such a building in The Art-Work of the Future:

The problem of the Theatrical edifice of the Future can in no wise be considered as solved by our modern stage buildings; for they are laid out in accord with traditional laws and canons which have nothing in common with the requirements of pure Art…Thus no architect in the world will be able to raise our stratified and fenced-off auditoria…to conformity with any law of beauty. If one imagine oneself, for a moment, within the walls of the common Theatre of the Future, one will recognize with little trouble, that an undreamt width of field lies therein open for invention.29

One of the most recognizable characteristics of this theatre is the “sunken” orchestra pit, concealed almost entirely underneath the stage so as to eliminate the visual distraction of the conductor and musicians directly in front of the stage. Though this kind of pit was constructed in theatres several years before the opening of Wagner’s theatre in Bayreuth and is thus not solely a Wagnerian innovation,30 Wagner deemed it essential for his theatre and for the enhancement and improvement of the theatrical experience. Although a merely visual-aesthetic concern was said by Wagner himself to be his “primary consideration,”31 it was not his only one. As it turns out, Wagner also considered the quality of the consciousness of the operatic experience and how it was compromised by the open pit of Italian theatres and the division of seating by social classes. He sought to facilitate an experience in which the audience felt like participants in the work in the style of Greek tragedies of which he wrote so fondly by doing away with the division of seating by social classes,32 as well as to envelope them in an all-encompassing mass of sound emanating from an “invisible” and ethereal source,33 also referred to as a “mystic gulf,”34 within a dark theatre, a condition described as “a kind of bracketing,”35 to use Husserl’s term. Through seemingly simple modifications to the theatre itself, Wagner sought to create not only a more democratic and communal atmosphere for his operas, “cement[ing] the union of men and transform[ing] the association of their bodies into an indissoluble connection,”36 a point stressed in Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations, but to facilitate a more elevated consciousness in his audiences and, as a prerequisite and justification for doing so, offer a critique of contemporary theatrical cognition by proposing an improvement by way of the means for this enhanced theatrical experience. Support for describing Wagner’s reforms to the very building in which his productions would occur as a phenomenologically motivated endeavor can be found most clearly in the connection formed by Dr. Pannill Camp, theatre scholar at Washington University in St. Louis, between “the architectonics of Husserlian phenomenology,” including “the architectonics of Husserl’s theory of consciousness as spatially encompassing”, and “the architecture of the modern theatre.”37

The implementation of the leitmotif system was also phenomenologically motivated. Through this system, Wagner utilized short melodic or harmonic figures known as leitmotifs to represent particular characters, objects, events, or ideas/emotions.38 While the median estimate is that over 100 different leitmotifs appear in various forms over the entire sixteen hour production, one source, the 1991 edition of the libretto by Schott and Co., has proposed up to 367.39 Not just simple musical phrases that appear amidst the labyrinth of musical and textual events occurring within the work, these figures, possessing an “inherent meaning” and “communicative potential,”40 are phenomenologically significant since their existence and symbolic import render their apprehension and recognition as of this or that particular character, object, event, or idea a noetic act, another of Husserl’s terms. (This circumstance, in which Wagner “place[s] the spectator in the same intellectually active position as the composer himself,”41 is strikingly different from the superficial musical experiences of the Italian operas of which Wagner was so critical.) This is so in that “the very term ‘noema’ signifies that there is more in the subject than the subject itself and that a specific reflection uncovers for every moment of consciousness its implied correlate.”42 The existence of a corresponding character, object, event or idea for every leitmotif fulfills another definition of “noema,” “an abstract structure that can in principle be the same from act to act,” while the representation of a particular character, object, event, or idea serves as the “noesis,” “the meaning-giving aspect of the act,”43 the meaning being that condition which renders phenomena as “cases of the same thing”44 in a “signifier and signified” relationship. 45 46 The ascription of signification to Wagner’s leitmotifs is an act of “noetic description,” such as describing a cup as “thirst-slaking, disappointingly empty, fearfully poisoned, etc.,” whereby subjective features or the capacity to perform some action or fulfill a need are assigned to an objective, existing entity.47 Although the motives are given titles of the character, object, event, or idea that they signify, one can wonder how their musical structure can signify them. In other words, a motive may be called the “Nature” motive, but, especially given the absence of musical representation of sounds of nature in its musical structure, such as the imitation of bird calls by trilled figures in the upper strings in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, how can it justifiably be called by this name? Robert Donington has offered an answer by implementing the “noetic description” mentioned above by ascribing a narrative to the “Nature” motive that opens the first Ring opera, Das Rheingold. He describes the emergence of the arpeggiated motive from the pedal E-flat as reflective of the “origin of consciousness,” in that the primordial substance of the beginning of the world is given some kind of recognizable order by the repetition of the diatonic, arpeggiated patterns.48 (This and the other motives mentioned below can be found in the score of the operas as well as John Weinstock’s website, “The Wagner Experience,” which can be accessed at

Four other motives merit this kind of semiotic, “noetic description,” further attesting to the phenomenological implications of Wagner’s leitmotif system. The first is the “definitive Ring” motive in scene one of Das Rheingold, most likely referred to as “definitive” by John Weinstock because it is given in its most basic form from which it is subsequently altered harmonically and rhythmically for other statements of the motive.

Just as one can employ a “noetic description” to describe a cup as “thirst-slaking, disappointingly empty, fearfully poisoned, etc.,” indicative of a function that it can perform, so too can one rightfully describe a “Ring” motive as being “ring-shaped” or indicative of a ring. While Daniel Foster makes this point in his book Wagner’s Ring Cycle and the Greeks,49 I would supplement his observation by a remark on the fact that the motive is almost, but not entirely, circular. Its semi-circular and therefore incomplete ring shape is symbolic of the unwholesomeness of its removal from the Rhein and the Rheinmaidens and the ills befalling its unrightful possessor.

The second motive that can be granted this “noetic description” is the “definitive Spear motive” in scene two of Das Rheingold.

Just as the “Ring” motive above was demonstrated to be “ring-shaped,” so too would the same expectation be imposed on the “Spear” motive. Such a motive would be expected to be “spear-shaped,” and indeed it is. Its descent through over two octaves yields the contour of a straight line, the shape of a spear or other blade.

Next, the potential of “noetic description” is latent within the “Magic Sleep” motive that appears near the conclusion of Die Walküre.

Just as with the previous two, it stands to reason that the motive should have the character of the object or idea which it is supposed to signify. The slow, continual descent in register by the woodwinds and strings in this passage is clearly representative of the gradual approach of the state of sleep, and, even more specifically, the gradual closing of the eyes for that purpose.

Finally, this “noetic description” can be employed for the “Rainbow Bridge” motive that appears at the conclusion of Das Rheingold to accompany the appearance of the bridge upon which the gods will cross to enter Valhalla. Just as the previous three can be said to be shaped like the objects or states they purport to signify, so too can this motive. Its alternating ascending and descending contours are suggestive of an arch or rainbow shape.

The artistic agenda of Richard Wagner, one he carried out in an attempt to save art, and even humanity, from total degeneration, carried a hidden program—a consideration not only of the quality and the value, but also of the phenomenology of the theatrical experience. Wagner advanced that program without using that word and without being aware of the implications his ideas would have for later philosophers of art. The fact that his proposals for a new kind of artwork would be so wholly imbued with the spirit and principles of phenomenology is not unusual given Wagner’s own desire to comprehend the most complicated of philosophical matters, as evidenced by his statement that “none of the Leipzig professors had been able to hold my attention with their lectures on basic philosophy and logic”50 and by his avowal of his desire to “get to the bottom of what was termed ‘the Absolute’ and everything connected with it.”51 Yet, at the same time, it is rather unexpected, given the anecdote related by Bryan Magee wherein Wagner and his friend, the painter Friedrich Pecht, were discussing the topic:

One day when I called on him I found him burning with passion for Hegel’s Phenomenology, which he was just studying, and which, he told me with typical extravagance, was the best book ever published. To prove it he read me a passage which had particularly impressed him. Since I did not entirely follow it, I asked him to read it again, upon which neither of us could understand it. He read it a third time and a fourth, until in the end we both looked at one another and burst out laughing. And that was the end of phenomenology.52

--Boston University


Bryan Magee, The Tristan Chord: Wagner and Philosophy (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2000)

2 Bryan Magee, Aspects of Wagner (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988)

3 Magee 2000, 50.

4 Ibid., 181.

5 Michael Tanner, “Opera, Aesthetics of,” in The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward Craig (London: Routledge, 1998), p. 130.

6 Paul Thom, “Aesthetics of Opera,” Philosophy Compass 6:9 (September 2011), p. 578.

7 Edmund Husserl, The Idea of Phenomenology, trans. William P. Alston and George Nakhnikian (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1970), p. 15.

8 Pannill Camp, “The Trouble with Phenomenology,” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 19:1 (Fall 2004), p. 94.

9 Husserl 1970, 24.

10 Magee 1988, 9.

11 Ibid., 5-6.

12 Ibid., 6-7.

13 Richard Wagner, The Art-Work of the Future and Other Works, trans. William Ashton Ellis (Lincoln, Nebraska: The University of Nebraska Press, 1993), p. 61.

14 Magee 1988, 75.

15 Ibid., 7.

16 Scott L. Pratt, “Opera as Experience,” The Journal of Aesthetic Education 43:4 (Winter 2009), p. 81.

17 John B. Brough, “Showing and Seeing: Film as Phenomenology,” in Art and Phenomenology, ed. Joseph D. Parry (London: Routledge, 2011), p. 194.

18 Wagner 1993, 44.

19 Moritz Geiger, The Significance of Art: A Phenomenological Approach to Aesthetics, ed. and trans. by Klaus Berger (Washington, D.C.: Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology and University Press of America, 1986), ch. 6, “Inner and Outer Concentration.”

20 Wagner 1993, 44.

21 Ellen J. Burns, “When 1+1=1: An Interartistic Aesthetic for Opera,” Journal of Aesthetic Education 32:1 (Spring 1998), p. 50.

22 Wagner 1993, 44.

23 Richard Wagner, Opera and Drama, trans. William Ashton Ellis (Lincoln, Nebraska: The University of Nebraska Press, 1995)

24 Dagfinn Føllesdad, “Husserl, Edmund,” in The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward Craig (London: Routledge, 1998), p. 578.

25 Ibid., 578.

26 Barry Millington, “Gesamtkunstwerk,” in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed. Stanley Sadie (London: Macmillan Press Limited, 1992), p. 397.

27 Mikel Dufrenne, The Phenomenology of the Aesthetic Experience, trans. Edward S. Casey, Albert A. Anderson, Willis Domingo, and Leon Jacobson (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1973), p. 575.

28 Ibid., 13.

29 Wagner, “Art-work”, 185.

30 Ned A. Bowman, “Investing a Theatrical Ideal: Wagner’s Bayreuth ‘Festspielhaus,’” Educational Theatre Journal 18: 4 (December 1966), p. 438.

31 Quote attributed to Wagner, cited in Magee 1988, 63.

32 J. K. Holman, Wagner’s Ring: A Listener’s Companion and Concordance (Pompton Plains, New Jersey: Amadeus Press, 2001), p. 41.

33 Magee 1988, 65.

34 Daniel Foster, Wagner’s Ring Cycle and the Greeks (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 76.

35 Brough 2011, 194.

36 Paul Ricoeur, Husserl: An Analysis of his Phenomenology, trans. Edward G. Ballard and Lester E. Embree, (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1967), p. 135.

37 Pannill Camp, “Theatre Optics: Enlightenment Theatre Architecture in France and the Architectonics of Husserl’s Phenomenology,” Theatre Journal 59:4 (December 2007), p. 627.

38 “The Wagner Experience: Ring Motives.” (Accessed October 20, 2011)

39 William O. Cord, An Introduction to Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1995), p. 137.

440 Ruth Hacohen and Naphtali Wagner, “The Communicative Force of Wagner’s Leitmotifs: Complementary Relationships Between Their Connotations and Denotations,” Music Perception 14:4 (Summer 1997), p. 445.

41 Hilda Meldrum Brown, Leitmotiv and Drama: Wagner, Brecht, and the Limits of ‘Epic’ Theatre (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), p. 43.

42 Ricoeur 1967, 23.

43 Føllesdad 1998, 578.

44 Husserl 1970, 48.

45 Ellen J. Burns, “An Unfolding of Theory and Practice: From Ingarden to a Phenomenological Aesthetic for Opera,” in The Orchestration of the Arts-A Creative Symbiosis of Existential Powers: The Vibrating Interplay of Sound, Color, Image, Gesture, Movement, Rhythm, Fragrance, Word, Touch, ed. Marlies Kronegger (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000), p. 403.

46 Regarding this point, it is important to debunk a passage from Wagner’s own theoretical writings. This should not be considered out of the ordinary, as the scholarly literature, as well as some of Wagner’s own biographical writings, acknowledges the contradictory tendencies of his writings. Suzanne Langer makes reference to a passage of Wagner that explicitly rejects the possibility of correspondence of a musical passage with a particular entity: “What music express is eternal, infinite, and ideal; it does not express the passion, love, or longing of such-and-such an individual on such-and-such an occasion, but passion, love, or longing in itself, and this it presents in that unlimited variety of motivations, which is the exclusive and particular characteristic of music, foreign and inexpressible to any other language.”

-Quoted in Suzanne Langer, Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1957), pp. 221-222.

The fact that Wagner consciously implements a leitmotif system in which motives signify specific characters, objects, events, or ideas renders this theoretical passage unrepresentative of his practice.

47 Harry Reeder, The Theory and Practice of Husserl’s Phenomenology (Lanham: The University Press of America, 1986), p. 85.

48 Robert Donington, Wagner’s ‘Ring’ and its Symbols: The Music and the Myth (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1963), pp. 21-22.

49 Foster 2010, 70.

50 From Wagner’s autobiography Mein Leben, quoted in Magee 2000, 94.

51 Ibid., 95.

52 Ibid., 96.