Wagner and ‘Metamotives’

A Survey of motives which appear in more than one of Wagner’s works


Wagner’s metamotives

Riichard Wagner used a number of motives, or musical ideas, in more than one work. In the early, pre-‘Ring’ works, they are used as simple melodic ideas, but in the later works they are often developed and used in ways that make us forget they are related. Kevin Stephens explores some of these ‘metamotives’ and examines why Wagner returned to certain ideas at different phases of his life.


Kevin Stephen has had a portfolio career in music and opera including stints as a publisher, author, critic, festival director, administrator, consultant, lecturer and tutor on the Rose Bruford opera degree course. He spends time as a pub pianist, a season at Butlins and many appearances live on the stage of the Royal Opera House.