The paper analyses the relationship of lyrical drama, which emerged as the dominant genre of European Modernism, and opera, representing a paradigm shift in European thought on the eve of World War One. The musical metaphor of love-death, originating in Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, was adopted widely and transposed into verbal art by the dramatists and prose-writers of Modernism in Eastern and Western Europe. This metaphor or leit-motif is read in the context of the theory of the Freudian death-drive and the emergence of a modern analytic of finitude, which announces a new European cultural paradigm, grounded in identity and difference. A new ‘modern’ sensibility is formed out of these metaphysical elements, which come to expression in the Modernist genre of lyrical drama, in which a synaesthetic relationship is forged between music and the verbal text. A musical motif (love-death) is generalised into desire in the verbal text which it structures through intonation, gesture and the representation of unconscious drives on stage.
Conceived in1864, Mallarmé’s Hérodiade-fragments were given the general title of Les Noces d’Hérodiade:Mystère.[Herodiade’s Wedding: A Mystery Play.] But of the extant fragments, only one was published, first in 1869, in the Parnasse Contemporain, and twice more subsequently, as a single scene, entitled Herodiade and the Nurse. Compare Peter Szondi, Das lyrische Drama des Fin-de-siècle. Studienausgabe der Vorlesungen. Band 4. Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Wissenschaft, Frankfurt am Main, 1975, pp. 32, 36–8. Szondi treats Mallarmé’s Hérodiade as a paradigmatic genre of Modernism. Although he mentions ‘the young Georg Lukacs’ once (on page 25–6), it is not in connection with Lukasc’ essay on the romance. However, like Lukacs, Szondi identifies the lyrical drama as a genre which is anti-tragic: “Le drame poetique marque l’impossibilite historique de la tragédie en cinq actes.” (Das lyrische Drama ist Zeichen der historischen Unmőglichkeit der Tragődie in fűnf Akten. – Űbers. d. Hersg.).[“The lyrical drama signals the historical impossibility of the tragedy in five acts.” sv-g]. Szondi, opt. cit., p. 19.
Compare Elisabeth Frenzel, Stoffe der Weltliteratur. 3. Aufl. (Stuttgart: Kroner, 1980), pp. 758 ff.