Art and Ideology in European Opera

Art and Ideology in European Opera: Essays in Honour of Julian Rushton

Rachel Cowgill
David Cooper
Clive Brown
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 430
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt9qdk50
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  • Book Info
    Art and Ideology in European Opera
    Book Description:

    Opera, that most extravagant of the performing arts, is infused with the contexts of power-brokering and cultural display in which it was conceived and experienced. For individual operas such contexts have shifted over time and new meanings emerged, often quite remote from those intended by the original collaborators; but tracing this ideological dimension in a work's creation and reception enables us to understand its cultural and political role more clearly - sometimes conflicting with its status as art and sometimes enhancing it. This collection is a Festschrift in honour of Julian Rushton, one of the most distinguished opera scholars of his generation and highly regarded for his innovative studies of Gluck, Mozart and Berlioz, among many others. Colleagues, associates and former students pay tribute to his work with essays highlighting the interplay between opera, art and ideology across three centuries. Three broad themes are opened up from a variety of approaches: nationalism, cosmopolitanism and national opera; opera, class and the politics of enlightenment; and opera and otherness. British opera is represented by studies of Grabu, Purcell, Dibdin, Holst, Stanford and Britten, but the collection sustains a truly European perspective rounded out with essays on French opera funding, Bizet, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Verdi, Puccini, Janácek, Nielsen, Rimsky-Korsakov and Schreker. Several works receive some of their first extended discussion in English. RACHEL COWGILL is Professor of Musicology at Liverpool Hope University. DAVID COOPER is Professor of Music and Technology at the University of Leeds. CLIVE BROWN is Professor of Applied Musicology at the University of Leeds. Contributors: MARY K. HUNTER, CLIVE BROWN, PETER FRANKLIN, RALPH LOCKE, DOMINGOS DE MASCARENHAS, DAVID CHARLTON, KATHARINE ELLIS, BRYAN WHITE, PETER HOLMAN, RACHEL COWGILL, ROBERTA MONTEMORRA MARVIN, DAVID COOPER, RICHARD GREENE, J.P.E. HARPER-SCOTT, DANIEL GRIMLEY, STEPHEN MUIR, JOHN TYRRELL.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-875-9
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. List of Music Examples
    (pp. viii-ix)
  5. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-ix)
  6. Notes on Editors and Contributors
    (pp. x-xiv)
  7. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  8. PROLOGUE

    • Introduction
      (pp. 1-10)
      Rachel Cowgill, David Cooper and Clive Brown

      This collection of essays has been written in the warmest tribute to Emeritus Professor Julian Rushton by colleagues from the field of musicology, including some of his former doctoral students. Julian holds a commanding position internationally as one of the most influential musicologists of his generation. He is renowned for his encyclopaedic knowledge, for his ability to see straight through to the heart of a problem, and for his scrupulous ness and meticulousness as a scholar and editor. At the same time, he is admired and held in the greatest affection and esteem for his humanity and generosity of spirit....

  9. I NATIONALISM, COSMOPOLITANISM AND NATIONAL OPERA

    • 1 ‘Studying a little of the French Air’: Louis Grabu’s Albion and Albanius and the Dramatic Operas of Henry Purcell
      (pp. 12-39)
      Bryan White

      Louis Grabu’s setting of John Dryden’sAlbion and Albaniusenjoyed the briefest of lives on the English Restoration stage: a total of six performances in June of 1685.¹ This circumstance might suggest that its influence was equally short lived and inconsequential. At first glance this seems to be a reasonable conclusion: no other new through-composed opera appeared upon the professional London stage for another fifteen years and the work’s French-style music soon became thoroughly outdated.² Yet even one of its most hostile modern detractors admits that the opera exerted some influence on Purcell.³ The degree and specific nature of this...

    • 2 Mendelssohn’s Die Hochzeit des Camacho: An Unfulfilled Vision for German Opera
      (pp. 40-66)
      Clive Brown

      Few nineteenth-century musicians were as ideologically motivated in their artistic careers as Mendelssohn, although paradoxically he was notably reluctant to expound or discuss his aims and objectives. Comments on artistic matters in his letters, however, leave no doubt about the profound seriousness with which he engaged in all his musical activities. Towards theatrical music his attitude was ambivalent. On the one hand, he undoubtedly recognized that it was the arena in which a composer could most easily establish a reputation, and that the future of German opera was a burning issue; he will certainly have been aware of Spohr’s exhortation...

    • 3 Funding Grand Opera in Regional France: Ideologies of the Mid-Nineteenth Century
      (pp. 67-84)
      Katharine Ellis

      Should a commercially unviable art form be subsidized with public money? Or should it be for market forces to decide its future? In an environment where private patronage of the arts was rare, that was the central, destabilizing dilemma provoked by moves toward deregulated theatre – spoken and lyric alike – across mid-nineteenth-century France. Composers and playwrights, and their professional associations, had long clamoured for just such a ‘liberté des théâtres’, in which anyone wealthy and in good standing could set up a theatre, and theatre managers could put on whatever repertory they chose. After an unsuccessful attempt amid the revolutionary fervour...

    • 4 Stanford’s and Le Fanu’s Shamus O’Brien: Protestant Constructions of Irish Nationalism in Late Victorian England
      (pp. 85-102)
      David Cooper

      The elevated social status in Victorian England of the Dublin-born composer Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924), as Professor of Composition at the Royal College of Music and of Music at Cambridge, may on the surface seem to sit uncomfortably with the sentiments of his operaShamus O’Brien, the libretto for which, by George H. Jessop, is loosely based on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s eponymous ballad celebrating the exploits of an insurrectionary in the United Irishmen’s rebellion of 1798. For W.J. McCormack, however, Le Fanu’s ballad ‘offers only ambiguous evidence of radical thinking […] The rebel’s pride and isolation are authentic....

    • 5 Janáček, Nejedlý and the Future of Czech National Opera
      (pp. 103-121)
      John Tyrrell

      On 27 May 1910, Leoš Janáček went to Prague to hear Zdeněk Nejedlý give the last of his university extension lectures on Czech opera after Smetana. Then fifty-five, Janáèek had already retired from his main day-job at the Brno Teachers’ Institute, and although he still taught at the Brno Organ School, he could, as director of this little conservatory, allow himself occasional jaunts to Prague. His third operaJejí pastorkyňa[Her Stepdaughter], usually known outside the Czech lands asJenůfa, had been given successfully in Brno in 1904, but had been turned down in Prague. This had set him off...

    • 6 ‘As for opera I am bewildered’: Gustav Holst on the Fringe of European Opera
      (pp. 122-146)
      Richard Greene

      Although opera occupied an apparently peripheral place in Gustav Holst’s compositional work, he expended significant energy during his career on various forms of vocal dramatic art. Even before he enrolled at the Royal College of Music he wrote his first operetta,Lansdown Castle(1892); and very late in his life he composed his mini-chamber-comic-antiquarian-opera,The Wandering Scholar(1929–30), thus framing his creative life with forays into music-theatre styles. Critical response, mixed though it was, suggests that his work was admired. However, compared with the vigorous efforts of other composers in England, such as Ethel Smyth and Charles Villiers Stanford,...

  10. II OPERA, CLASS AND THE POLITICS OF ENLIGHTENMENT

    • 7 The Sadler’s Wells Dialogues of Charles Dibdin
      (pp. 148-175)
      Peter Holman

      Italian opera in late eighteenth-century England has been the subject of much research in recent years, though little work has been done on responses to it by English theatre composers.¹ A case in point is the series of innovative short operatic works that Charles Dibdin wrote during the 1770s for the theatre at Sadler’s Wells near Islington, then a summer resort outside London.² This paper has three main aims, apart from the obvious one of drawing attention to some delightful and unfamiliar eighteenth-century operatic works – a project dear to Julian Rushton’s heart. First, to explore Dibdin’s career at Sadler’s Wells...

    • 8 Nobility in Mozart’s Operas
      (pp. 176-193)
      Mary Hunter

      In his indispensable Cambridge Opera Handbook to Mozart’sDon Giovanni, Julian Rushton describes Don Ottavio as ‘admirable’ and his behaviour as ‘exemplary’.¹ Despite his claim that Ottavio lacks an heroic aspect, Rushton is far more sympathetic to this character than most writers – or indeed, than most producers. Sympathy with, or admiration for Ottavio implies a now-rare understanding of the noble virtues, for Ottavio’s character is the very epitome of Enlightened nobility. Indeed, Don Ottavio and the emperor Tito, arguably Mozart’s two most admirable noblemen in the mature operas, are also the least well-understood characters in their respective works. This lack...

    • 9 New Light and the Man of Might: Revisiting Early Interpretations of Die Zauberflöte
      (pp. 194-221)
      Rachel Cowgill

      Among Mozart’s operatic worksDie Zauberflötehas proved to be the most enigmatic; much scholarly ink has been spilt in search of a key to its ‘secrets’ and a convincing interpretation of its ‘allegory’. ThatDie Zauberflöteshould have become the focus of such hermeneutic obsession is due mainly to lack of evidence concerning Mozart’s and Schikaneder’s collaboration in the months leading up to the première, and a frustrated desire to find a coherent philosophical vision befitting a composer of Mozart’s genius behind the bewildering twists, turns and esoteric symbolism of the text. Particularly vexing to critics has been the...

    • 10 The Victorian Violetta: The Social Messages of Verdi’s La traviata
      (pp. 222-240)
      Roberta Montemorra Marvin

      Ensuring that Victorian notions of decorum and morality were adequately preserved in stage works was an ‘official’ preoccupation in mid-nineteenth-century London. To ensure adherence to ‘standards’, all theatrical works, including operas, had to pass through the Lord Chamberlain’s Office for approval and sometimes censoring before production. No precise rules for censoring stage texts existed, but for many operas officials feared that religious, political, social or, above all, moral improprieties in the stories might either negatively influence or else offend audiences. Officials exercised their judgments based in large part on personal predilections, under the pretext of protecting the public.¹ Beyond opera...

    • 11 Carl Nielsen’s Carnival: Time, Space and the Politics of Identity in Maskarade
      (pp. 241-262)
      Daniel M. Grimley

      At the beginning of March 2007, the Danish capital Copenhagen made a rare appearance in international news headlines following three nights of rioting in the Nørrebro and Christianshavn districts to the north and east of the city centre.¹ The immediate cause of the civil unrest was a series of increasingly violent street protests led by a group of students and squatters evicted from a building on Jagtvej, known as Ungdomshuset, which city authorities had sold to a right-wing Christian family organization.² Protestors claimed right of ownership, and attacked the government’s decision to proceed with the sale as an ideological attempt...

  11. III OPERA AND OTHERNESS

    • 12 Beyond the Exotic: How ‘Eastern’ Is Aida?
      (pp. 264-280)
      Ralph P. Locke

      As all opera-lovers know, Verdi’sAidainvokes an imagined ancient Egypt in its ballet numbers, incantations by priests and priestesses, and in the atmospheric opening of Act 3 (set by the banks of the Nile at night). At the first performances (Cairo, 1871), Filippo Filippi reported ‘an “Oh!” of admiration’ and a ‘cry of astonishment from the audience’ at these various scenes of local and historical colour: ‘And the music was not the least part of it, what with its hieratic colour and with the Oriental hues of the dances, whose rhythmic motives are still heard today here [in Egypt]...

    • 13 Beyond Orientalism: The International Rise of Japan and the Revisions to Madama Butterfly
      (pp. 281-302)
      Domingos de Mascarenhas

      Madama Butterflyis perhaps the primary archetype for what Ralph Locke has termed ‘orientalist opera’;¹ yet it came into existence at a time when a number of political events involving its subject matter – Japan – contributed to a re-evaluation of the worldview that underlies this category. Following the La Scala débâcle of 17 February 1904, which roughly coincided with the opening of the Russo-Japanese War, Puccini embarked on almost three years of revisions (from early 1904 to December 1906), a process requiring at least seven different printings of the vocal score.² This period was one of growing international anxiety as Japan...

    • 14 Opera as Poetry: Bizet’s Djamileh and the Ironies of Orientalism
      (pp. 303-326)
      David Charlton

      Bizet’sDjamileh, the one-act masterpiece that awaits wider recognition, lives mostly in our minds, and not in theatres. Even the literature devoted to it is meagre.¹ Hugh Macdonald’s eloquent, sometimes angry paragraphs concluding his ‘Bizet’ entry inNew Groveexemplify a well-nigh inescapable feeling of the elegiac befitting any discussion of this composer’sNachlass.² The sources for the opera with which I am most familiar reflect the absence of modern editions: an original libretto, a reprinted piano-vocal score deriving from the Choudens plates, and a recording from 1988 conducted by Lamberto Gardelli.³ Happily, this is the least problematic of Bizet’s...

    • 15 Rimsky-Korsakov, Pan Voyevoda and the Polish Question: Exposing the ‘Occidentalist Irony’
      (pp. 327-350)
      Stephen Muir

      Art and ideology have been intimately linked in Russia ever since the nation began to develop a tradition of indigenous rather than imported culture around the beginning of the nineteenth century. Spurred on by the writings of literary critics such as Vissarion Belinsky and Nikolay Chernïshevsky,¹ who asserted that art should depict the very essence of everyday existence itself, or ‘life as it is’,² such significant figures as Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Chekhov, among others, came into conflict with the state and the literary censor at some point in their careers, and it became almost unthinkable for great works of...

    • 16 Modernism’s Distanced Sound: A British Approach to Schreker and Others
      (pp. 351-361)
      Peter Franklin

      The old joke about England beingdas Land ohne Musikmight be relevantly recalled for the purposes of this essay. Of course England never was a ‘Land ohne Musik’, although it has had problems about admitting it. Always and everywhere ‘music’ has signified more than an art of organized sounds; it has been nuanced by type and taste, has stood for class, rebelliousness, spirituality, high intellectual seriousness, mindless knees-ups and military might. And then there is self-indulgent ‘femininity’, anxiety about which Byron Adams has identified as an ingredient in Elgar’s critical self-image and reception in England.¹ It has similarly coloured...

    • 17 Being-with Grimes: The Problem of Others in Britten’s First Opera
      (pp. 362-381)
      J. P. E. Harper-Scott

      Britten is probably the most celebrated composer of oppressed ‘others’, and the sometimes aggressive failures of respect and understanding that are played out in his operas have latterly received a subtle but obvious reflection among the community of Britten scholars. Since Philip Brett offered his famous reading ofPeter Grimesin relation to the social construction of homosexuality at the American Musicological Society convention in 1976,¹ Britten studies have divided into two groups. On one side of the debate are Brett and those who can be regarded as his followers, among whom the most gifted currently writing – and their work...

  12. EPILOGUE

    • Julian Rushton: A Family Memoir
      (pp. 382-384)
      Adrian, Edward and Thomas Rushton

      Julian was born in 1941 into a musical family. His mother Marjorie was very active locally, as an oboist (and sometimes timpanist) in choral and orchestral concerts, and on the amateur-operatic scene in and around Cambridge. She was also secretary of the Cambridge Philharmonic Society and the Cambridge University Musical Society (CUMS) at various times, thus representing both ‘town & gown’. Julian’s father William played bassoon, viola and violin, and the family’s Cambridge home, ‘Shawms’, was visited by a constant stream of instrumentalists and vocalists. In his early years Julian must often have fallen asleep to the sound of his...

  13. The Works of Julian Rushton
    (pp. 385-392)
  14. Index
    (pp. 393-411)
  15. Tabula Gratulatoria
    (pp. 412-416)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 417-417)