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The tradition of European “classical music” has long evoked the exotic, and two of the most prominent exotic referents in that tradition are the Middle East, first and foremost the Turk, and the Hungarian Gypsy, raising the questions of how these “exotic” traditions are related, and what their comparison might tell us about the idea of musical exoticism more broadly. In this essay, I briefly survey the “Turkish style” and its use in Classical-period opera; discuss its replacement by Hungarian- Gypsy style in the nineteenth century; and finally examine the interesting juxtaposition of Turkish and Hungarian-Gypsy topics in two fin-de-siècle Central European operettas, Der Zigeunerbaron by the Austrian Johann Strauss Jr. and Gül baba by the Hungarian Jenő Huszka. An examination of these works and their reception reveals fissures between the Viennese and Budapest versions of operettas featuring “exotic” topics and characters, and between the operetta industries in the two cities. These details offer a fascinating look at the dividing line between exoticism and auto-exoticism and at the significance of references to Turkish and Hungarian- Gypsy topics in the Central European cultural climate of this period - in short, a reconsideration of what it means to be Hungarian, and for whom.

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Hungarian Studies
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