Music drama is an introduced by Theodor Mundt 1833 designation for the opera as a "unity of poetry and music ."

Definitions in general and with reference to Richard Wagner

Mundt formulated his definition explicitly in contrast to " musical drama in which the music played along just as an intermezzo ."

Later ( and to date), the term word music drama with the works of Richard Wagner and his successor has been associated. Poetry, music and stage performances where these do not arbitrarily combined as it can be, especially in the aria the case, but form an indivisible unit that Wagner has also called a work of art.

Wagner himself objected to the term music drama, which is a shortening of the nonsensical term " musical drama ," namely, " a drama [ ... ], which itself makes either music, or making music is suitable, or even understands music, such as our musical critics. " a musical drama is the meaning of the word after a drama " for the purpose of music "as a conventional libretto. In contrast, Wagner wanted to ask, conversely, the music at the service of the drama. The drama was already in its original ancient form inseparable from music.

Nevertheless, the term music drama has naturalized. Characteristic of music dramas is its formal unity, the Tiered without interruptions or another, only self-contained forms and phrases (like Trio, finals, etc.) manages. Recurring motifs ( leitmotifs ) recognized the link. The music is no longer divided into recitative and aria, but supports and indicates resistant to continuous as in the spoken drama text. Wagner called this method as a musical version of the concept of spectacle, " which has become visible deeds of music."

A prime example in this sense shall Wagner, first performed in 1865 and no more than " opera", rather than " action " specified work Tristan und Isolde. At the end of the 19th century, the musical drama almost the norm for "serious" opera composer was. Engelbert Humperdinck's fairy-tale opera self Hansel and Gretel (1893 ) is the Wagnerian music drama modeled ( Humperdinck was Wagner's assistant at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus ). In the 1920s, the music drama was divided into newer or rediscovered older forms of music theater. For Richard Strauss, however, remained lifelong role model.


In his extensive correspondence Opera and Drama ( 1851) Wagner thinks about a renewal of the opera, which must be accompanied by a political and social renewal. Thus Wagner designed a program that he will run in the coming decades, in particular his monumental work Der Ring des Nibelungen. Wagner will alone be regarded as dramatic poetry, which could perfectly merge in musical expression. Musically is only what serves the expression of poetic intention. Indispensable to the orchestra as a carrier of the drama, as a companion and commentator on the action. It thus takes over the function, which had the chorus in ancient tragedy.