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The Great Tradition and Its Legacy

The Great Tradition and Its Legacy: The Evolution of Dramatic and Musical Theater in Austria and Central Europe

Michael Cherlin
Halina Filipowicz
Richard L. Rudolph
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 290
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  • Book Info
    The Great Tradition and Its Legacy
    Book Description:

    Both dramatic and musical theater are part of the tradition that has made Austria - especially Vienna - and the old Habsburg lands synonymous with high culture in Central Europe. Many works, often controversial originally but now considered as classics, are still performed regularly in Vienna, Prague, Budapest, or Krakow. This volume not only offers an excellent overview of the theatrical history of the region, it is also an innovative, cross-disciplinary attempt to analyse the inner workings and dynamics of theater through a discussion of the interplay between society, the audience, and performing artists.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-168-6
    Subjects: History, Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Richard L. Rudolph
  5. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. Dramatic Theater

    • Introduction: Rethinking Drama and Theater in Austria and Central Europe
      (pp. 3-16)
      Halina Filipowicz

      Most people, when they think of the performing arts in Austria, remember the Great Tradition: Mozart, Haydn, Mahler. But what of Johann Nepomuk Nestroy, Karl Goldmark, Elfriede Jelinek? What of Thomas Bernhard’s “scandalous” plays, which have delighted some critics and terrified others? Can we now come at the Great Tradition differently? It is to redress the balance in creative, interdisciplinary ways and to explore the remarkably innovative achievement of what is known as the Great Tradition that we offer this volume. It brings together new readings of a rich juxtaposition of major and minor works, the relation of these works...

  7. Part One: The Enlightenment and the “New Beginning”

    • Chapter 1 “By and By We Shall Have an Enlightened Populace”: Moral Optimism and the Fine Arts in Late-Eighteenth-Century Austria
      (pp. 19-32)
      Ernst Wangermann

      I have chosen as my theme that aspect of the Enlightenment mentality which has long seemed to me its most attractive side—its optimism concerning the prospects of the moral and material improvement of humankind. Insofar as this optimism was associated with a particular notion of the role that the fine arts could play in improving human and social relationships, my contribution might be considered a kind of Auftakt or overture to the discussion of musical and dramatic theater in Austria in the following chapters. The theme is a large one, and I shall confine myself to some basic aspects....

    • Chapter 2 Taming a Transgressive National Hero: Tadeusz Kościuszko and Nineteenth-Century Polish Drama
      (pp. 33-51)
      Halina Filipowicz

      My starting point is a deceptively simple query. What happens when transgressors of cultural norms, which camouflage class and gender inequalities, prove themselves worthy of admission to a pantheon of national heroes? The cult of national heroes, of course, has been indispensable in promoting national unity and pride. Instilling the people with properly national characteristics, modeled after national heroes, has been a central preoccupation for educators, artists, and scholars. Transgressive candidates for national heroes make this task harder but not impossible. Hence it is necessary to rephrase the question. How does the admission of transgressors to a patriotic canon work...

    • Chapter 3 Nestroy and His Naughty Children: A Plebian Tradition in the Austrian Theater
      (pp. 52-61)
      Carl Weber

      When explaining, in 1955, that plays are to be written not merely “for” the stage but “with the stage,” Friedrich Dürrenmatt ranked the farces of the Austrian nineteenth-century actor-playwright Johann Nepomuk Nestroy alongside the comedies of Aristophanes as models of such a writing “with the stage.”¹

      Nestroy’s contemporary, Friedrich Count Schwarzenberg, noted in 1844 that “in Nestroy there lives a truly Shakespearean spirit, humor, and wit.”² And in 1912 the eminent Austrian writer and critic Karl Kraus claimed that Nestroy “is the first German satirist in whose work language itself reflects on the things [that constitute human life].”³ Outside the...

    • Chapter 4 Pantomime, Dance, Sprachskepsis, and Physical Culture in German and Austrian Modernism
      (pp. 62-71)
      Harold B. Segel

      The Russian writer Mikhail Kuzmin was an active participant in Saint Petersburg’s lively cabaret life in the early years of the twentieth century. Besides songs and dramatic skits, he also wrote pantomime. One of his pantomimes,Dukhov den v Toledo(All Souls’ Day in Toledo), was staged apparently only once, on 23 March 1915, at the Moscow Kamerny Theater under the direction of Aleksandr Tairov. The pantomime had in fact been commissioned by Tairov so that the season in which it was performed would have at least one pantomime, given the contemporary interest in nonverbal drama. As Tairov himself declared:...

    • Chapter 5 Populism versus Elitism in Max Reinhardt’s Austrian Productions of the 1920s
      (pp. 72-82)
      Michael Patterson

      Berlin, 1910. The Kammerspiele of the Deutsches Theater is performing a small-cast production by Max Reinhardt, a revival of Ibsen’sGhosts, with which the Kammerspiele had opened four years previously, using a striking set design by Edvard Munch. The auditorium, itself not much larger than the stage, seats 346. Tickets cost twenty marks each, about the amount a female manual laborer could hope to earn in two weeks, or the equivalent of two hundred eggs, one hundred liters of milk, or ten kilos of mutton. So the audience comprises the cultural elite of Berlin, attired in furs, jewels, and dinner...

  8. Part Two: Post-Holocaust and Postmodern Theater

    • Chapter 6 Elfriede Jelinek’s Nora Project; or, What Happens When Nora Meets the Capitalists
      (pp. 85-96)
      Christine Kiebuzinska

      The distinguishing feature of the work of the contemporary Austrian writer Elfriede Jelinek is the unmasking of the illusion perpetuated by misreadings of canonical texts. In her playWas geschah, nachdem Nora ihren Mann verlassen hatte oder Stützen der Gesellschaften(What Happened after Nora Left Her Husband and Met the Pillars of Societies), written in 1979 as a reflection upon the centennial of Henrik Ibsen’sA Doll’s House, Jelinek superimposes a strong materialist feminist reading on a range of contemporary issues: the demythologization of canonical texts that adhere to the fictions of everyday life, the continuity of patriarchal structures in...

    • Chapter 7 George Tabori’s Return to the Danube, 1987–1999
      (pp. 97-111)
      Hans-Peter Bayerdörfer

      George Tabori loves to declare himself the oldest living “royal-imperial Austro-Hungarian playwright.”¹ It took him several decades to return—at least temporarily—to the proper place for a writer of this traditional distinction: in 1968/69 he returned to Europe, first to Germany, then in the 1980s to Austria and to Vienna, and finally to the Burgtheater. As is well known, Tabori is fond of puns, calembours, and clichés in general, so it is hardly surprising that he seems to be fond of Vienna clichés in particular, choosing titles such asWiener BlutandWiener Schnitzelfor his writings.

      Of course,...

    • Chapter 8 Thomas Bernhard’s Heldenplatz: Artists and Societies beyond the Scandal
      (pp. 112-120)
      Alfred Pfabigan

      When talking aboutHeldenplatz, one cannot deny that Thomas Bernhard’s insults against Austria on stage produced the biggest theater scandal in the history of the second republic.¹ But if we concentrate our exclusive attention on the scandal, we give the play an unequivocal nature that it does not have, and we do not give justice to the intellectual work(Geistesarbeit)of the author.

      What we call a scandal was a phenomenon that accompanied Bernhard’s work for decades.² He was often accused of provoking scandals to get attention and ensure the success of his work.³ Although this is an insinuation, Bernhard,...

    • Chapter 9 Pulling the Pants off History: Politics and Postmodernism in Thomas Bernhard’s Eve of Retirement
      (pp. 121-138)
      Jeanette R. Malkin

      One of Thomas Bernhard’s most historically specific plays,Vor dem Ruhestand(Eve of Retirement, 1979) is also one of his most ritualistic. A play of “doubleness” and unsynthesizable tensions, it is both realistic and metaphoric, structured both causally and cyclically. Steeped in public history, it simultaneously ritualizes history through private memory. This doubleness—the coexistence of historical and ahistorical consciousness, of development and stasis, time and timelessness—is, no doubt, central to Bernhard’s work as a whole; and it is knowingly, indeed pointedly used by Bernhard in this play to both reflect and implicate the history and memory of his...

  9. Musical Theater

    • Introduction: Conflict and Crosscurrents in Viennese Music
      (pp. 141-150)
      Michael Cherlin

      The pre-eminent reference work in English on the history of music,The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, devotes a twenty-nine page article to musical Vienna. In the context of a reference work, a twenty-nine page article is fairly lengthy, yet the article is minuscule in comparison to the numerous separate articles on the musicians and music associated with that city.¹ Even if we were to restrict our comments to Vienna alone, the richness and complexity of that city’s contribution to the world of music could fill a library; a book length treatment could hardly do it justice. If...

  10. Part Three:: The Emergence of the Classical Style

    • Chapter 10 Vienna as a Center of Ballet Reform in the Late Eighteenth Century
      (pp. 153-159)
      Sibylle Dahms

      It is commonly held that France, and in particular Paris, was the leading center in the development of European dance and ballet. To be sure, this is true for most of the Baroque period (the seventeenth and the first half of the eighteenth century). The new intellectual climate of the Enlightenment, however, which brought about a decisive change of social and cultural conceptions and ideas around the middle of the eighteenth century, led among other things to a change of focus in the development of theatrical dance. Because of favorable circumstances in the realm of courtly and public Viennese theater...

    • Chapter 11 The Viennese Singspiel, Haydn, and Mozart
      (pp. 160-178)
      Eva Badura-Skoda

      In Vienna, during the eighteenth century, theater, dance, and music were interwoven to such a degree that they cannot be separated from each other. Dramatic performances without any music apparently never existed, at least not prior to 1850. No doubt, for centuries music as well as dance had been an important integral part of the popular Viennese theater, theVolkskomödie.

      Therefore, as I will demonstrate, it was not at all exceptional for the comedy or operettaDer neue krumme Teufelby Josef Felix von Kurz-Bernardon¹ and Joseph Haydn, performed in the Kärntnertortheater in 1758, to include a pantomime with dances...

    • Chapter 12 Displaying (Out)Rage: The Dilemma of Constancy in Mozart’s Operas
      (pp. 179-224)
      Gretchen A. Wheelock

      All men accuse women, but I excuse them even if they do change their affections a thousand times a day. Some call it a vice, others a habit, but to me it seems to be a necessity of the heart.… Repeat with me: Così fan tutte!”¹ Don Alfonso’s summary, “Così fan tutte,” (all women are like that) has been read by some as simply misogynist and by others as a universalizing statement about the changeable affections of youthful lovers.² Even so, it is the young women in this opera who are shown to be unfaithful when put to the test....

  11. Part Four: Some Major Transformations of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

    • Chapter 13 Karl Goldmark’s Operas during the Directorship of Gustav Mahler
      (pp. 227-236)
      Peter Revers

      During the late nineteenth century, Karl Goldmark was among the most internationally celebrated of Viennese composers. Goldmark’s operaThe Queen of Shebapremiered on 10 March 1875, under the baton of Johann Herbeck, Director of the Viennese Hofoper from 1870 to 1875. The work was a huge success, and performances in many European cities followed. Goldmark’s centrality as a canonic figure seemed secure. Yet today only a few works by Goldmark are still performed with any regularity—exceptions might include the program symphonyLändliche Hochzeitop. 26 (Rural Wedding, 1876), and the Violin Concerto in A, op. 28 (1877).


    • Chapter 14 A Break in the Scenic Traditions of the Vienna Court Opera: Alfred Roller and the Vienna Secession
      (pp. 237-245)
      Evan Baker

      Through Gustav Mahler’s tireless and persistent efforts, by the beginning of the twentieth century the Vienna Court Opera had become the center of operatic production in Europe. Intendants, stage directors, and designers all flocked to Vienna to study the new staging styles and methods of production. However, the progressive aesthetics of the Court Opera did not achieve its full effectiveness until the final years of Mahler’s directorship. Three productions stood out as precursors of new scenic styles that would greatly influence future operatic staging. These wereTristan und Isolde(1903),Fidelio(1904), and, most important, the production ofDon Giovanni...

    • Chapter 15 Schoenberg’s Music for the Theater
      (pp. 246-258)
      Michael Cherlin

      In several respects, Schoenberg was born in one world and died in another. The time and city of his birth, Vienna 1874, places Schoenberg in the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire toward the end of a century celebrated for its achievements in the arts and architecture, science, and commerce. Musically speaking, Vienna in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s was the city of the waltz, and of course, it was also a city whose high musical art was dominated by Johannes Brahms. Brahms, more than any other composer, forged the musical values of Schoenberg’s youth. The time and place of Schoenberg’s...

  12. References
    (pp. 259-270)
  13. Index
    (pp. 271-274)