Leitmotiv and Drama. Wagner, Brecht and the limits of 'epic' theatre.

H.M. Brown. Clarendon Press, Oxford 1991, reprinted 1993 (210 pp)

Wagner and Brecht are seemingly opposed in their approach to drama, music, and visual representation, the former believing in the integration of these different elements in the 'Gesamtkunstwerk', the other in their separation. However, they share common ground in their sophisticated use of leitmotivic networks, a bridging device for Wagner who builds onto its verbal and semantic foundations a unique and complex musical language. Both use the device to 'explain' and 'evaluate' a dramatic action as it unfolds, i.e. as a major form of perspectival commentary. Thus we have the paradox that Wagner's theory can shed light on Brecht's dramatic practice, since Brecht's own theoretical concerns focus almost exclusively on the 'gestic' and disjunctive perspectives identified with Epic Theatre.