I'm sure this topic has been traversed here and many other places before, but I was interested in hearing some people's thoughts on it nonetheless. I
have been very interested in exploring the ways in which Stockhausen integrates the different forms of artistic expression (music, text, movement, drama, decor, etc) in LICHT. I am of course very much aware that connections with Wagner's Ring and the Wagnerian version of 'Gesamtkunstwerk' is largely scorned by most commentators and I, in the main, agree with their arguments.
But, to my knowledge, there has not yet been a really thorough and detailed investigation of exactly how Stockhausen achieves his own new (and I believe much more integrated and sophisticated) form of 'Gesamtkunstwerk' (probably not the right term, given that it is so closely associated with Wagner) throughout the whole of LICHT.
I personally believe, the enormous differences with Wagner notwithstanding, that that investigation has to acknowledge some parallels with Wagner, while also recognising the many divergences. For example, the use of the Superformula, and its role in creating integrated music-drama, while different to the way in which Wagner uses leitmotifs (the former is essentially musically driven and the latter essentially dramatically driven, for example), is nevertheless worth comparing, I believe: they both are examples of a large-scale work being built out of an essentially small amount of core musical material.
I think there is a lot to be gained in understanding LICHT from acknowledging and examining the ways in which it jumps to a very new concept of Gesamtkunstwerk from what is still in many ways a Wagnerian springboard. Of course, the techniques Stockhausen uses also draw on tools that are very different to those of Wagner, including many that Wagner actively rejected (such as shaping the drama according to essentially musical factors), as well as many that are entirely Stockhausen's own.
Sorry for babbling - I just was interested in sharing my thoughts on this with the forum and in asking other's thoughts on it.
According to some of his utterances Stockhausen seems to dislike Wagner very much - one could suspect that as a trait of Wagnerianism in his own opera-cycle. Obviously there are reasons why many commentators see parallels between the two, and even in Kürten I often heard that Kürten could be or develop into Stockhausen's Bayreuth. As you point out there are fundamental differences. The "Ring" still bases on conventional librettos, that are lacking in LICHT; the operas of Stockhausen are much more constructed through the formel-composition, what happens on stage is to a very large extent derived from the three formulas and thus the musical construction is very dominant. And: The concept of Stockhausen is really all-embracing, for every day of the week touches an essential theme of human life. Spiritually the "Ring" is much more limited. But, though Stockhausen does not illustrate a simple story in his operas, also with him it is not the case, that everything stems from the music. Equally important is the meaning of the days that directs musical action, and also the traditional meaning of the three main protagonists is the basis for the music; one could say the formulas illustrate their characters. That could seem to be a conventional element in LICHT, and in this way the LICHT-cycle belongs to the tradition of European opera, as Wagner does.
You are right that Licht borrows heavily from Wagner, whether Stockhausen did it intentionally or not. The parallels are rather striking. I think they are relatively obvious, and they hardly require enumeration.
What Stockhausen would prefer (...probably) is a comparison to a different model. Instead of a Gesamtkunstwerk, he might suggest that the better model is a Lebenswerk: a work that encompasses an entire life's output: think of Balzac's La Comédie humaine or Rodia's Watts Towers.
Thanks everyone for your thoughts on this issue. I actually don't personally believe that LICHT does borrow heavily from Wagner, but I certainly agree that there are some parallels although most of them I think are relatively superficial although some, as you say, are quite striking, too. However, as Richard Toop has said, if you were going to look for reflections of Wagner in LICHT you would probably look to 'Parsifal' more than to the Ring.
My own view is that Stockhausen greatly advanced the techniques that Wagner used, and created a much more all-encompassing artistic synthesis in the process - which may include something of the notion of 'Lebenswerk' that you mention, but also a more unified, integrated total work of art, too. It is the huge scale of that artistic integration and cohesion, which Stockhausen achieves in LICHT, that I find so staggeringly impressive. I find that every time I study the scores, or listen to the recordings, I find more of this. I sometimes wonder if Stockhausen would have thought to create LICHT had Wagner not created the Ring. I know it's a pointless question, really - but I can't help pondering it nonetheless!!
I will certainly look more closely into Balzac and Rodia, as you suggest.
I feel that it could be useful to have a discussion-forum on the music of Stockhausen. There are so many people from all over the world, young and old, learned and eager to get into contact with this musical world: musicologists, composers, musicians, music lovers; people who plan concerts - who write books or have to give lectures and so on. So there should be much stuff, many ideas that we can share. And when we have open questions, there may be people who studied just that and could give a hint or a stimulus.
A problem might be the English language, but i feel that is the only possibility that many people who are interested can participate. And we can exercise tolerance to mistakes!