The works of Richard Wagner have been celebrated for their impact on progressive elements in European culture, as a bridge from romanticism to modernism. In France the influence of Wagner on symbolist writers and artists, and musicians sympathetic to them, has emerged as particularly significant. But there was also a conservative response to Wagner that has received much less attention in the scholarly literature. This filiation is exemplified in the figure of Albéric Magnard and his opera Bérénice (1911), which he claimed was influenced by a “classical” Wagner. This article considers the classicism of Bérénice and its composer from several perspectives: portrayals of temperament that demonstrate consonance with classical precepts, political readings that emphasize classical values, the legacy of the French theater of the seventeenth century, and strategies of tonal organization and motivic development related to the German symphony extending back to Beethoven.
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