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Symposium Review I
Whoever cannot distinguish between g and ch is an un-German barbarian ... .
- Richard Wagner and the pronunciation of (sung) German in the 19th century
Our article, situated between musicology and speech science, can be understood as an introduction to the major themes for »Wagner Readings« with regard to stage pronunciation while speaking and singing and other conversational situations in the 19th century with a particular focus on Richard Wagner. The dimensions of pronunciation will be described – the correlations between pronunciation and phonetics / phonology as well as between pronunciation and orthography – and the reasons behind the establishment of a standard German pronunciation will be outlined. The concept of a »historical pronunciation practice« in its beginnings using Wagner as an example and the »Ring of the Nibelung« in particular will be realized. How can Wagner’s ideal pronunciation be determined? Which clues are already open to speculation? – Questions such as these and others will be raised and attempts at answers made. Our contribution is to be understood as the beginning of performance practice-motivated research into pronunciation ideals and concrete standards of speaking and singing on stage in the 19th century. Further studies that tie in to this and that examine various aspects in great detail are to follow.
Translation: Jennifer Smyth