In 1809, E. T. A. Hoffmann declared that the symphony, in the hands of Haydn and Mozart, had become the “opera of instruments.” This view of symphony, which was echoed by other writers of the period, reflected how composers engaged with instruments through orchestration. This essay explores the use of instrumental sonority in the slow movements of Haydn’s later symphonies, in particular looking at the ways in which Haydn’s approach to the orchestra helped cultivate the notion that symphonies unfolded as dramas. This conception of the orchestra and of orchestration informed the language of musical criticism of the early nineteenth century: Hoffmann’s discussions of musical works frequently take the form of operatic plot summaries, in which individual instruments act as characters. The persistence of operatic metaphors suggests that, instead of thinking of this period as the “rise of instrumental music,” it is more accurate to understand it as the rise of the orchestra.
This study aims to revisit the creation of opera, symphonic versions of opera and ballet (yangbanxi) during the period of the Cultural Revolution of Mao's China. Beginning with the Kwok Collection (Fundação Oriente, Portugal), I aim to establish a new vision of the yangbanxi (production and reception) by means of an analysis of sources with musical iconography. The focus of the study is on questions of gender and the way in which the feminine was an indispensable tool for the construction and dissemination of the idea of a new nation-state. This study thus aims to make a new contribution to the area, showing how the construction of new opera heroines, communist and of the proletariat, is built on the image of the first “heroine-villain” constructed by the regime, Jiang Qing, the fourth wife of Mao Zedong. The title chosen demonstrates the paradox of the importance of woman in opera and in politics at a time when the only image to be left to posterity was that of a dominant male hero, Mao Zedong.
From the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century, the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe supported the development of musical theater in Yiddish. Given the difficulties of life in the shtetl, comprising isolation from non-Jewish neighbors, limited educational opportunities, poverty and political oppression, Yiddish opera functioned as a statement of Jewish nationalism. In this paper, I will discuss the historical conditions under which it was presented, including the following factors: effect of folk music styles documented in the field research of ethnomusicologists in Eastern Europe; topicality of subject matter in Yiddish opera as definition of the growing Jewish nationalist political movement; and identity and background of important composers and performers of the genre, and the effect of emigration to the United States on the style and content of their work.
If Bedřich Smetana is thought to be the father of Czech national opera, Antonín Dvořák and Zdeněk Fibich would be his sons. Czech critics as well as the public expected that Smetana’s successors would bring Czech opera to international recognition. Dvořák and Fibich gave increased attention to opera composition during the 1890s and the beginning of the twentieth century. They both crowned their achievements with monumental operas on subjects with historical settings: Fibich’s The Fall of Arkona (1900) and Dvořák‘s Armida (1904). The reason for this apparent coincidence was, in part, that these works were written after Wagner’s operas and before the operatic successes of Richard Strauss, when it was possible to devise free combinations of symphonically composed scenes, arioso-like vocal lines influenced by verismo, and the dramaturgical effects of grand opera. As a praised model for successful historical opera might have served Karl Goldmark’s famous work Die Königin von Saba, especially in the case of Fibich’s last opera, which was explicitly compared with Goldmark’s opera. Operas on historical subjects form a little-known part of the works of Czech composers, but they extend from Smetana’s piece The Brandenburgers in Bohemia through the late operas of Dvořák and Fibich to Janáček’s two-part opera The Excursions of Mr Brouček. It is a line of operas that present an unforgettable counterpart to many successful Czech theatrical compositions – representative operas and intimate tragedies, comic operas and fairy tales, generally written on subjects from Czech villages and mythology, including Smetana’s Bartered Bride and Libuše, Fibich’s The Tempest and Šárka, Dvořák’s Jakobín, Kate and the Devil and Rusalka, Josef Bohuslav Foerster’s Eva, as well as Leoš Janáček’s Jenůfa.
In a hitherto unpublished letter to his father of 1 October 1878, Hugo Wolf scathingly reviews a performance of Wagner's
directed by Hans Richter, concluding on the grim joke that the Vienna Court Opera, for the sake of music, should be demolished by the Austrian army. The letter also contains a metaphysically disillusioned view of consolation (“Trost”) - Wolf compares it to intoxication (“Rausch”) - rather significant given that idea's rôle both in his early and his mature work.
In the opera materials of the Esterházy Court in the Széchényi National Library in Budapest, that have survived from the time when Haydn directed the opera at Eszterháza, there are several inserted papers that had been used before the sheet of paper was re-used for the adaptation of the given opera. The fragmentary notations vary in content and extent. Two groups are of special interest for Haydn scholars: fragments that can be related to Haydn’s operas and fragments written by Haydn. The latter are listed in the appendix in a catalogue that might be expanded in the future.
In the search for reasons, why Weinberg’s opera Passažirka op. 97 never made it into public despite the praise it received after various hearings, one reason can be found in the way the opera deals with remembrance, especially in the context of the Holocaust. Whereas remembrance provides a mental shelter to those in need, others are denied to take refuge in memories or are even forced to confront brutal truths. Not only the libretto but also the music deals with the act of remembrance in a way, that made the opera a daring composition in the time of its origin.
Serbia was an Ottoman province for almost four centuries; after some rebellions, the First and Second Uprising, she received the status of autonomous principality in 1830, and became independent in 1878. Due to the historical and cultural circumstances, the first stage music form was komad s pevanjem (theater play with music numbers), following with the first operas only at the beginning of the twentieth century. Contrary to the usual practice to depict “golden age” of medieval national past, like in many other traditions of national opera, the earliest Serbian operas were dedicated to the recent past and coexistence with Ottomans. Thus the operas Na uranku (At dawn, 1904) by Stanislav Binički (1872–1942), Knez Ivo od Semberije (Prince Ivo of Semberia, 1911) by Isidor Bajić (1878–1915), both based on the libretti by the leading Serbian playwright Branislav Nušić, and also Zulumćar (The Hooligan, librettists: Svetozar Ćorović and Aleksa Šantić, 1927) by Petar Krstić (1877–1957), presented Serbia from the first decades of the nineteenth century. Later Serbian operas, among which is the most significant Koštana (1931, revised in 1940 and 1948) by Petar Konjović (1883–1970), composed after the theatre play under the same name by the author Borisav Stanković, shifts the focus of exoticism, presenting a life of a south-Serbian town in 1880. Local milieu of Vranje is depicted through tragic destiny of an enchanting beauty, a Roma singer Koštana, whose exoticism is coming from her belonging to the undesirable minority. These operas show how the national identity was constructed – by libretto, music and iconography – through Oriental Self. The language (marked by numerous Turkish loan words), musical (self)presentation and visual image of the main characters of the operas are identity signifiers, which show continuity as well as perception of the Ottoman cultural imperial legacy.