Contesting Wagner

Lawrence Kramer

in Opera and Modern Culture

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2004 | ISBN: 9780520241732
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520940840 | DOI:
Contesting Wagner

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This chapter seeks to identify the negative connection between the original anti-Semite essence of Wagner's works and the anti-anti-Semite inference that they are manipulated to complement. This negation of negation is proved by citing the instance of Charlie Chaplin's seminal film, The Great Dictator, which uses Wagner Lohengrin prelude while portraying two of the most famous scenes in the history of world movies—a silent solo dance number for Chaplin as Adenoid Hynkel, the film's travesty Hitler, and an impassioned anti-Nazi speech by Hynkel's double, a Jewish barber also played by Chaplin, who at this point slips out of character to become Chaplin himself. Wagner's work has achieved fame to the extent that it supercedes the identity of its creator himself. Hence, even those unfamiliar with Wagner would still find his musical rhetoric familiar as by this time these rhetorics had become part and parcel of Hollywood narrative films.

Keywords: Wagner; Charlie Chaplin; musical rhetoric; Hollywood; narrative; Lohengrin

Chapter.  13881 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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