This project takes the Mahler-Roller productions at the Vienna Court Opera House as a case study to examine the ways that contemporary artistic trends can influence operatic productions. By analyzing the sketches Roller created for their productions, I argue that Mahler and Roller expanded the Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk to both increase the production quality, the metaphorical content, and set a new standard for interpretive operatic productions.

This project is divided into two parts. Part I is a historical essay that provides context for the Mahler-Roller productions. I first outline the history of the Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk and discuss the ways that Wagner implemented it in his own operas. Next, to provide context to the operatic production standards in Vienna before Mahler and Roller, I examine what designers were creating for sets and costumes, followed by an introduction to Adolphe Appia, an important figure in the transformation of the Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk for twentieth-century operatic productions. Finally, after covering the Vienna Secession, I examine two productions staged by the duo and look at two sketches Roller created for the sets. Following this paper, I have created a syllabus that can be used to teach a class which deals with this topic.

Degree Date

Spring 5-16-2020

Document Type


Degree Name





Peter Kupfer

Subject Area


Number of Pages




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

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