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Masques, Mayings and Music-Dramas

Masques, Mayings and Music-Dramas: Vaughan Williams and the Early Twentieth-Century Stage

Roger Savage
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 388
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  • Book Info
    Masques, Mayings and Music-Dramas
    Book Description:

    Masques, Mayings and Music-Dramas comprises a sequence of in-depth case-studies of significant aspects of early twentieth-century English music-theatre. Vaughan Williams forms a central thread in this discussion, and Stratford-upon-Avon serves as a geographical focus-point for mediating conflicting visions of an English musical tradition. But the reach of the book is much wider, shedding new light on English Wagnerism (at Glastonbury especially) and on the reception of Wagner's ideas as a point of emulation and resistance. No less significant is the discussion of Purcell and the seventeenth-century masque - one of the primary sources for re-imagining an English dramatic tradition - and the more familiar images of the May festival, the Mummers' play and the pageant play, which are tellingly re-contextualised. The book also looks at the associations between Vaughan Williams, the theatre artist Edward Gordon Craig and the impresario Serge Diaghilev. The sequence is framed by the image of the pilgrim-vagabond Vaughan Williams's setting of the poetry of Matthew Arnold and Robert Louis Stevenson as a metaphor and paradigm for his creative career and personal progress. The book not only sheds light on the activities and ambitions of principal agents but also illuminates a particularly dynamic moment in the re-emergence of a distinctively English music-theatrical practice: one especially concerned with calling on aspects of the past to help to secure a worthwhile future. Notions of Englishness turn out to be less insular than sometimes thought and the idea of a 'musical renaissance' more complex when the case-studies are understood in their proper historical context. Scholars and students of twentieth-century English music, theatre and opera will find this volume indispensable. Roger Savage is Honorary Fellow in English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. He has published widely on theatre and its interface with music from the baroque to the twentieth century in leading journals and books.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-366-9
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. List of Musical Examples
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Preface with Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xi)
    Roger Savage
  6. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-3)

    On the afternoon of Thursday 15 August 1912, Ralph Vaughan Williams talked to an audience of summer-school students in the Memorial Lecture Room that was part of the handsome and still-surviving scene-dock building close to the old Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. His subject was traditional folk-music and dance. Intelligent interest in such things, he stressed, was not a matter of backward-looking antiquarianism or an attempt to re–create the past, for (as a journalist from theBirmingham Postreported him as saying) ‘the past was done with; we had to live on in the present and for the future, although...

  8. 1 Books to Make a Traveller of Thee: Pilgrims, Vagabonds and the Monodramas of Vaughan Williams
    (pp. 4-33)

    There is a vision of heaven near the end ofThe Pilgrim’s Progress, Ralph Vaughan Williams’s operatic ‘morality founded on John Bunyan’s allegory of the same name’. Throughout the work, Pilgrim the hero has been travelling towards the Celestial City on Mount Zion, and now we see him going up to its golden gates. As he is welcomed there, the ‘Holy—Holy—Holies’ of Heavenly Beings (‘grouped in circles’, the stage direction tells us, ‘like a mediaeval Italian picture’) blend with afortissimoorchestral reprise of ‘York’, the Puritan hymn-tune that had rather more quietly begun the opera. The blending...

  9. 2 A Quarry for Profitable Working: Staging the Masques of Ben Jonson in London and Stratford-upon-Avon, 1903–1912
    (pp. 34-66)

    The Pilgrim’s Progress, the plays of Shakespeare, Milton’sParadise Lost: the turn of the twentieth century in Britain inherited previous generations’ love and admiration for these, but it added enthusiasms of its own for other work from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Comedies and tragedies by certain contemporaries of Shakespeare were reprinted in Havelock Ellis’s ‘Mermaid’ series and every now and then staged. Lyrics were recovered from obscure Jacobethan playbooks and music-books, eagerly anthologised and occasionally sung, sometimes in their original settings, sometimes in new ones. And then there were the masques of the Stuart court. These were anthologised too...

  10. 3 The Edens of Reginald Buckley: Temples and Tetralogies at Bayreuth, Stratford and Glastonbury
    (pp. 67-140)

    Who is it ranks as Britain’s ‘perfect Wagnerite’ in the decades following Wagner’s death? If we think of the phrase as essentially Shavian—Bernard Shaw after all published a book calledThe Perfect Wagneritein 1898—the answer has to be Shaw himself. His commitment to his own brand of Wagnerism was formidable, and the mass of his Wagner criticism is impressive in its no-nonsense concern with standards of performance, its ingenious political-allegorical readings of some of the operas, and its championing of ‘the vigorous commonsense, the clear-sighted practicalness, the unfailing grip of the vital and permanent elements in art’...

  11. 4 ‘One of the Greatest Composers the World has ever seen’: Vaughan Williams and the Purcell Revival
    (pp. 141-164)

    Lecturing to a London audience in 1922, Gustav Holst singled out two composers who in their different ways were supreme in the art of dramatic characterisation. Both, he said, used ‘all their gifts of melody and harmony, all their mastery of orchestral colour, to give life to their characters and situations’.¹ They were Richard Wagner and Henry Purcell. Holst’s audience might have found his yoking of the two a shade provocative, but at least they would have been disposed to take it seriously. Fifty years earlier, a similar audience in London would have thought it wildly eccentric, for in 1872...

  12. 5 ‘What About an English Ballet?’: Edward Gordon Craig, Music-Theatre and Cupid and Psyche
    (pp. 165-221)

    It is late February 1913, and in London five men are planning a ballet. They meet in various grand hotels close to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, where Sergei Diaghilev’s company, the Ballets Russes, is mounting a season. Two men out of the five, Diaghilev himself and the dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, are staying at the Savoy. A third, the German Count Harry Kessler, patron of avant-garde artists and engineer of collaborations between them, is at the Cecil. The other two planners have deeper London roots. The theatre artist Edward Gordon Craig, though he has been based in Italy for...

  13. 6 Alice Shortcake, Jenny Pluckpears and the Stratford-Upon-Avon Connections of Sir John in Love
    (pp. 222-274)

    Although Ralph Vaughan Williams’s operaSir John in Loveis set in and around the town of Windsor, it has connections as well with another English town, Stratford-upon-Avon. This is not only because Stratford was the birthplace of the dramatist whose comedy of theMerry Wivessupplies a large part ofSir John’s libretto, but also because the composer might well not have written his opera at all if he hadn’t spent several weeks in the August of 1912 and spring of 1913 in residence, so to speak, at the old Memorial Theatre there: its stage the venue for earnest...

  14. 7 Bringing in the May: Alice Gomme, Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams at the Crystal Palace
    (pp. 275-303)

    There is a sudden mysterious stillness. The tribe, which has been busy with boisterous seasonal games and dances, notices that a procession is coming to a halt in its midst and falls silent. In the stillness and silence a ritual act is performed. It triggers a terrific upsurge of noise and communal energy. Wild round dances fill the stage—for a stage it is, as these are the final minutes of ‘The Adoration of the Earth’, the first tableau of Igor Stravinsky and Nikolai Roerich’s balletLe Sacre du Printemps. Four performances ofLe Sacrewere given by Diaghilev’s Ballets...

  15. 8 Vaughan Williams, the Romany Ryes and the Cambridge Ritualists
    (pp. 304-358)

    Did Vaughan Williams ever take to the open road, Gypsy-fashion? Did a friend ever make him the kind of offer a famous character in Kenneth Grahame makes two ofhisfriends?

    He led the way to the stable-yard […] and there, drawn out of the coach-house into the open, they saw a gipsy caravan, shining with newness, painted a canary-yellow picked out with green, and red wheels. ‘There you are! cried the Toad.’ […] ‘There’s real life for you, embodied in that little cart. The open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows, the rolling downs! Camps,...

  16. APPENDIX I (see Essay 2, p. 53) Masquing: A Reconstructed Scenario for Pan’s Anniversary, 1905
    (pp. 359-364)
  17. APPENDIX II (see Essay 6, p. 267) Roots: Vaughan Williams, Virginia Woolf and Dodgson Hamilton Madden
    (pp. 365-369)
  18. APPENDIX III (see Essay 7, p. 276) Maying: Tunes for the May Day Scene, Crystal Palace 1911
    (pp. 370-371)
  19. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 372-376)
  20. Index of names
    (pp. 377-388)
  21. Index of topics
    (pp. 389-390)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 391-391)