The Wagner Journal

Barry Millington, All in it Together: the ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ Revisited

Barry Millington, All in it Together: the ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ Revisited

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March 2017, Volume 11, Number 1, 46–61.

The promise latent within the term Gesamtkunstwerk of something suitably Wagnerian – vast, multi-dimensional, all-consuming – has stimulated a revival of it in more recent times, as witness the Bauhaus, Disney World and all manner of mixed-media, total-immersion projects. In this article I trace the history of the Gesamtkunstwerk both pre- and post-Wagner, asking to what extent the principles of the total work of art were realised by Wagner himself and to what extent they achieved their apotheosis in the 20th and 21st centuries, outside the theatre in a variety of venues, and inside under the rubric ‘Regietheater’. Several important studies of the Gesamtkunstwerk have appeared in the last few years and this article is intended, in part, as a critique of three of them.

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