The politicization of the Germanic Musical Canon in the GDR

Project Details


The project examined the official appropriation of the musical canon in the GDR, focusing in particular on the reception of Richard Wagner in the early years of the state.

Key findings

The portrayal of Wagner in the GDR of the 1950s and early 1960s exposes the complexities inherent in reconciling the essentially bourgeois canon with socialist realism. While Wagner's early revolutionary leanings were conducive to a socialist interpretation, his later Schopenhauerian perspectives were not, and his posthumous appropriation under the Nazis rendered him particularly problematic in the GDR. Despite these difficulties, however, his cultural currency was such that the East German cultural authorities were not prepared to relinquish him to the 'other' Germany. They went to considerable lengths to uncover the "socialist" Wagner and to offer stagings of his works that reflected the ideals of the state. Particularly important in this context was the portrayal of the annual festival at Dessau as the socialist alternative to Bayreuth.
Among the most important findings of the project are:
1) the extent to which cultural ideology in the GDR was tempered by political pragmatism.
2) the importance placed on the past in the construction of a 'new' Germany.
3) the impact of the Federal Republic on the process of identity formation in the GDR.
Effective start/end date1/08/0530/04/07


  • AHRC: £4,505.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.