Keywords

theatre theory, musical theatre, total theatre, Stephen Sondheim, Richard Wagner

Abstract

Stephen Sondheim, famous for writing such musicals as Company, Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, and Assassins, is often referred to as the originator of the modern concept musical. Despite varying definitions of the concept musical, it is generally agreed that the form embodies a specific identity or mood, which it communicates to an audience both emotionally and intellectually. As such it offers audience members a complete experience resembling in theory the idea of "total theatre" proposed in the nineteenth century by composer Richard Wagner. My thesis will argue that the similarity between Sondheim's concept musical and Wagner's total theatre is more than purely theoretical; it is practical as well, involving structural parallels such as leitmotif, minor chord development, and intricate lyricism. Congruently, many of Sondheim's choices describing communication with audiences on the emotional and intellectual levels also recall those utilized by Wagner over a century earlier. These similarities not withstanding, Sondheim, as a contemporary artist, creates work that has often been described in terms of theoretical movements that post-date Wagner, including "desconstructionism" and Brechtian theatre. While these terms certainly describe some differences between the work of Sondheim and Wagner, I will argue that their existence with regard to Sondheim does not preclude a Wagnerian approach to the contemporary composer's work. Elements of deconstruction and Brechtian alienation may, in fact, be linked back to Wagner in specific manners. My thesis will explore these connections, concluding that an approach to the work of Sondheim in the vein of Richard Wagner may suggest a successful method of interpreting the contemporary concept musical.

Notes

If this is your thesis or dissertation, and want to learn how to access it or for more information about readership statistics, contact us at STARS@ucf.edu

Graduation Date

2005

Semester

Summer

Advisor

Listengarten, Julia

Degree

Master of Arts (M.A.)

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Theatre

Degree Program

Theatre

Format

application/pdf

Identifier

CFE0000714

URL

http://purl.fcla.edu/fcla/etd/CFE0000714

Language

English

Release Date

August 2006

Length of Campus-only Access

None

Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)

Restricted to the UCF community until August 2006; it will then be open access.

Share

COinS