This study offers a reading of Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nüürnberg in relation to compositional rules. By separating the latter into categories of rhetorical and tonal rules, one may determine first if either set of rules is followed adequately by the various characters in the opera, and also whether the rules themselves are sufficient for the composition of master songs. The rhetorical rules are abstracted from the libretto, while tonal rules are the principles of harmony and counterpoint as understood within Heinrich Schenker's theory of tonality. The essay focuses specifically on Walther's songs "An stillen Herd," "Fanget An!," and the multiple verses and versions of the Morning Dream/Prize Song. Close analyses of these songs lead to a better understanding of what Wagner may have intended to teach his characters and his audience about compositional rules.
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