Contextualizing Melodrama in the Czech Lands: In Concert and on Stage, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Contextualizing Melodrama in the Czech Lands

In Concert and on Stage, 1st Edition

By Judith A. Mabary


312 pages | 56 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780367479220
pub: 2020-08-31
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The mention of the term melodrama is likely to evoke a response from laymen and musicians alike that betrays an acquaintance only with the popular form of the genre and its greatly heightened drama, exaggerated often to the point of the ridiculous. Few are aware that there exists a type of melodrama that contains in its smaller forms the beauty of the sung ballad and in the larger-scale works, the appeal of the spoken play. This category of melodrama is one that surfaced in many cultures but was perhaps never so enthusiastically cultivated as in the Czech lands. The melodrama varied greatly at the hands of its Czech advocates. While the works of Fibich and his contemporary Josef Bohuslav Foerster, a composer best known for his songs, remained closely bound to the text, those of conductor/composer Otakar Ostrčil reveal a stance that privileged the music and, given their creator’s orchestral experience, are more reminiscent of the symphonic poem. Fibich in his staged works and and Josef Suk, composer/violinist and Dvořák’s son-in-law, in his incidental music reflect variously late nineteenth-century Romanticism, the influence of Wagner, and early manifestations of Impressionism. In its more recent guise, the principles of the staged melodrama reside quite comfortably in the film score. Judith Mabary’s important volume will be of interest not only to musicologists, but those working in Central and East European Studies, Voice Studies, European Theatre and those studying music and nationalism.

Table of Contents

1. The Musical Melodrama: Rationality Overruled

a. Defining Melodrama

b. The Popular Theatrical Melodrama

c. The Musical Melodrama as a Target for Criticism

d. The Place of Melodrama in the Rehabilitation of Czech Culture

e. Tracing Melodrama in Bohemia from Benda to the Present

2. The Path to Benda’s Melodramas: From the Jesuit Schuldrama through Rousseau’s Experiment in Pygmalion

a. The Jesuit Schuldrama

b. Rousseau, Pygmalion, and the Object of Desire

3. A Place in the Theatre: The Impact of Jiří Benda and the Seyler Company on Melodrama

a. Schweitzer’s Pygmalion

b. Point: Ariadne auf Naxos and Actress Charlotte Brandes

c. Counterpoint: Medea and Actress Sophie Seyler

d. Benda’s Preparation for a Revised Genre

e. Ariadne auf Naxos (1774)

f. Medea (1775)

g. The Path Continues

h. Philon und Theone (1779), Revised as Almansor und Nadine

i. Pygmalion (1779)

j. The Immediate Aftermath

4. The Sacred and the Profane: Melodrama in Prague

a. The Profane: Praupner’s Circe (1789)

b. The Sacred: Škroup’s Bratrovrah (1830)

5. From Paris and the Boulevard du Crime to Prague’s Estates Theatre: Tracing the Popular Melodrama

a. The Early History

b. The Characters and Plots through Pixérécourt’s Le Chien de Montargis

c. Animals and Actors in Popular Theatre

i. The Dog

ii. The Actors

iii. The Other Animals

d. Character Evolution in the Popular Melodrama: Drei Tage aus dem Leben eines Spielers and Yelva, oder die Stumme

i. Characters, Plots, and Performers

ii. The Music

6. Zdeněk Fibich and the Revitalization of the Classical Melodrama

a. Personal Intersections and Progressive Trends: Collaborator Jaroslav Vrchlický and the Lumírovci

b. The Making of the Concert Melodrama

7. Fibich’s Concert Melodramas: A Closer Look

a. Štědrý den (Christmas Day, 1875)

Performance History

b. Pomsta květin (The Revenge of the Flowers, 1877)

Performance History

c. Věčnost (Eternity, 1878)

Performance History

d. Vodník (The Water Sprite, 1883)

Performance History

e. Královna Ema (Queen Emma, 1883)

Performance History

f. A Brief Summation

g. A Continuation

h. Hakon (1888)

Performance History

i. Comparative Analysis

i. Fibich’s Selection of Suitable Texts

1. The Intrusion of the Supernatural

2. The Predominance of Darker Emotions

ii. Fibich as the Interpreter of the Text

1. Formal Structure

2. Incorporating Small-scale Musical Forms

3. Recurring Motives as Identifiers

4. Conveying Personality in Minor Characters

5. Conveying Suspense and Depicting Mood

6. Musical Descriptions of Physical Action

7. Translating Nature to Music

8. Instrumentation as Informant

iii. Performance Considerations

1. Methods of Setting the Text

2. Assisting the Reciter

j. Conclusions and Projections

8. Fibich’s Hippodamie: Melodrama for the Dramatic Stage

a. Accepting the Challenge and Making History

b. Hippodamie through the Text and Music

9. Epilogue

a. Josef Bohuslav Foerster (1859–1951)

b. Otakar Ostrčil (1879–1935)

c. Josef Suk (1874–1934)

d. The State of Czech Melodrama in the Late Twentieth and Early Twenty-First Centuries

About the Author

Judith Mabary is associate professor of musicology at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Her research interests center on Czech music of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, namely the life and works of Antonín Dvořák, Zdeňek Fibich, Bohuslav Martinů, and Vítězslava Kaprálová, as well as the genre of Czech melodrama.

About the Series

Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera

Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera
The Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera series provides a centralized and prominent forum for the presentation of cutting-edge scholarship that draws on numerous disciplinary approaches to a wide range of subjects associated with the creation, performance, and reception of opera (and related genres) in various historical and social contexts. There is great need for a broader approach to scholarship about opera. In recent years, the course of study has developed significantly, going beyond traditional musicological approaches to reflect new perspectives from literary criticism and comparative literature, cultural history, philosophy, art history, theatre history, gender studies, film studies, political science, philology, psycho-analysis, and medicine. The new brands of scholarship have allowed a more comprehensive interrogation of the complex nexus of means of artistic expression operative in opera, one that has meaningfully challenged prevalent historicist and formalist musical approaches. The Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera series continues to move this important trend forward by including essay collections and monographs that reflect the ever-increasing interest in opera in non-musical contexts. Books in the series are linked by their emphasis on the study of a single genre - opera - yet are distinguished by their individualized and novel approaches by scholars from various disciplines/fields of inquiry. The remit of the series welcomes studies of seventeenth century to contemporary opera from all geographical locations, including non-Western topics.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General
MUSIC / History & Criticism
MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Opera