Wagner's leitmotifs

Three examples of Wagner’s unique approach to thematic development


Wagner’s use of themes associated with characters, events, ideas or even just psychological associations developed in his earliest operas, but reached its height in the Ring, providing an immense continuity between them and bridging the gap of some three decades between beginning and conclusion. He himself, though, never originally called them leitmotifs, and only once does he seem to have given any of them a name. They can be simple or complex, but almost always they shift, evolve, mutate into or simply suggest others, creating a complex but relatively clear musical texture…


A) This is perhaps the most basic leitmotif to appear in the Ring cycle: