Curtain, Gong, Steam (Hardcover)

Wagnerian Technologies of Nineteenth-Century Opera

By Gundula Kreuzer

University of California Press, 9780520279681, 368pp.

Publication Date: May 18, 2018

List Price: 70.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


In this innovative book, Gundula Kreuzer argues for the foundational role of technologies in the conception, production, and study of nineteenth-century opera. She shows how composers increasingly incorporated novel audiovisual effects in their works and how the uses and meanings of the required apparatuses changed through the twentieth century, sometimes still resonating in stagings, performance art, and popular culture today. Focusing on devices (which she dubs “Wagnerian technologies”) intended to amalgamate opera’s various media while veiling their mechanics, Kreuzer offers a practical counternarrative to Wagner’s idealist theories of total illusionism. At the same time, Curtain, Gong, Steam’s multifaceted exploration of the three titular technologies repositions Wagner as catalyst more than inventor in the history of operatic production. With its broad chronological and geographical scope, this book deepens our understanding of the material and mechanical conditions of historical operatic practice as well as of individual works, both well known and obscure.

About the Author

Gundula Kreuzer is Associate Professor of Music at Yale University. She is the author of the award-winning Verdi and the Germans: From Unification to the Third Reich and editor of Verdi’s instrumental chamber music for The Works of Giuseppe Verdi.

Praise For Curtain, Gong, Steam: Wagnerian Technologies of Nineteenth-Century Opera

“Kreuzer considers operas, pre-operas, post-operas (films), and meta-operas (Ring cycle satires) while moving through past and present with ease. …Her approach is original. She pulls Wagner down from the heavens among the gods and makes him mortal—a flawed, infuriating and curious creature who worried about receipts while cursing at the riggers.”

— Times Literary Supplement

“Kreuzer offers an innovative and staggeringly detailed examination of the intertwined developments of opera as an art form and the technical machines that brought it to life. Her investigation sheds light on how composers, from the nineteenth century onward, sought to incorporate old and emerging stage technologies into their operas in various ways to achieve ever-grander artistic ends, no one more so than Wagner.”

— The Wagner Society

"Gundula Kreuzer has written an imaginative, highly original, and stunningly researched book. It is not just about Wagner, but is instead a minihistory of selected technologies employed by European theater going as far back as the baroque and right up to our own time, where Wagner serves as a fulcrum and point of constant reference."

— German Studies Review

"Kreuzer’s study combines meticulous historical research and critical analysis, which makes for innovative, exciting work."

— College Music Symposium