Gesamtkunstwerk is a German compound noun made up of gesamt (‘whole’), kunst (‘art’), and werk (‘work’).
A Gesamtkunstwerk is a complete or unified work of art produced through a synthesis of various art forms, such as music, drama, and set design.
The term is associated with composer Richard Wagner (1813-83), who used it in a long essay entitled The Artwork of the Future (1849). In the piece, Wagner employs Gesamtkunstwerk to refer to a type of opera (typified by his later works) in which poetry, drama, music, dance, and the visual arts are combined to form one completely unified performance.
Today, Gesamtkunstwerk is used to describe any work that fuses multiple art forms. Baroque palaces, for example, can be considered Gesamtkunstwerks (guh-ZAHMT´-koonst-vay´-ahks) because they combine architecture, sculpture, painting, and landscape design.
Since Gesamtkunstwerk is capitalized in its native German, keep it that way–it’s more snobby.
We’re planning a Gesamtkunstwerk made up of song, dance, film, and fireworks for the opening ceremony of the state gymnastics tournament.