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The Total Work of Art in European Modernism$
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David Roberts

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801450235

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801450235.001.0001

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The Promised Land: Toward a Retotalized Theatre

The Promised Land: Toward a Retotalized Theatre

(p.165) 8 The Promised Land: Toward a Retotalized Theatre
The Total Work of Art in European Modernism

David Roberts

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines the total work as the regeneration of sacred theatre. It considers three dramatists of the 1920s: Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Paul Claudel, and Bertolt Brecht, together with Antonin Artaud’s theatre writings and manifestos for a “theatre of cruelty.” The connections between them rest on inner and outer coincidence: the Catholics Hofmannsthal and Claudel both turned to the world theatre of the Spanish baroque. Hofmannsthal collaborated with the director Max Reinhardt in the Salzburg Festival, and a commission from Reinhardt was the occasion of Claudel’s spectacle Christopher Columbus, with music by Darius Milhaud. Brecht was greatly impressed by the premiere of Claudel’s play at the Berlin State Opera in 1930; his own treatment of the crossing of the Atlantic, the 1929 Lehrstück on the aviator Lindbergh with music by Paul Hindemith, can also be read as his version of Artaud’s theatre of cruelty. Artaud (1896–1948) and Brecht (1898–1956)—like Mallarmé and Nietzsche—were almost exact contemporaries.

Keywords:   total work of art, sacred theater, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Paul Claudel, Bertolt Brecht, Antonin Artaud

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