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In music, a melodic idea associated with a character or an important dramatic element. It is associated particularly with the operas of Richard Wagner, most of which rely on a dense web of associative leitmotifs. Most composers after Wagner (and some of his immediate predecessors) continued to use this musico-dramatic principle, but few as rigorously as he did.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on leitmotiv, visit Britannica.com.