This is a pioneering attempt to rearticulate the relationship between music and the problem of mimesis, of presentation and re-presentation. Four "scenes" compose this book, all four of them responses to Wagner: two by French poets (Baudelaire and Mallarme), two by German philosophers (Heidegger and Adorno). It is difficult today to realize how profoundly Wagner affected the cultural and ideological sensibilities of the nineteenth century. Wagnerism rapidly spread throughout Europe, partly because of Wagner's propagandizing talent and the zeal of his adherents. But the main reason for his ascendance was the sudden appearance of what the century had desperately tried to produce since the beginnings of Romanticism - a work of art on the scale of great Greek and Christian art. Finally, here it was, the secret of what Hegel called the "religion of art" rediscovered. The first two scenes of the book, contemporary with the European triumph of Wagnerism, inscribe themselves in a historical sequence that is punctuated by the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune, in which the universal unbridling of nations and classes is prefigured. The second two register certain effects of Wagnerism that are not just ideological but make themselves felt in a new political configuration that solidifies a confusion between the "national" and the "social." Art and politics are both at play here, but as neither a politics of art nor, even less, an art of politics. Instead, what is at stake, more gravely, is the aestheticization, the figuration, of the political. The four scenes frame and clarify the "true scene" that sanctioned Nietzsche's rupture with Wagner, the major philosophical event that Heidegger, in 1938, said it was imperative to understand as a turning point in Western history.