Musikdrama is a German word that means a unity of prose and music. Initially coined by Theodor Mundt in 1833, it was most notably used by Richard Wagner, along with gesamtkunstwerk, to define his operas.
Mundt formulated his definition explicitly in contrast to intermezzo, or a piece that sits in between dramatic entities. To this day, musikdrama is associated with the works of Richard Wagner where poetry, music and stage performances were not to arbitrarily combined. Wagner himself composed the music and libretto and was a consultant on the stage design and choreography. This all-encompassing art, or gesamtkunstwerk, called on the diegesis of musikdrama in order to further the immersive feel.
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Wagner himself resisted calling his works musikdrama and instead wanted to contrast reversed provide the music at the service of the actors. The drama is already in its original ancient form and inseparable from music. Nevertheless, the term music drama has naturalized. A major characteristic of musikdrama is its formal unity, which is strung together without interruptions. Recurring leitmotifs support and indicate how resistant the spoken drama is in running text.
- Riemann Musiklexikon, Mainz 1967, Sachteil, p. 605.
- Richard Wagner, "Über die Benennung Musikdrama", in: Wagner, R., Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen, Leipzig: Siegel 1907, vol. 9, pp. 303 & 306