Opera After Optimism: The Fate of Zeitoper at the End of the Weimar Republic
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CitationGabriel, John. 2016. Opera After Optimism: The Fate of Zeitoper at the End of the Weimar Republic. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractZeitoper – those jazz-infused operas of Weimar Republic Germany, where cars and trains drive across the stage while characters listen to radio, talk on phones, and sing arias in bathtubs about the joys of hot running water – is generally considered a short-lived and inconsequential genre of opera. In this dissertation, I propose that Zeitoper endured beyond its supposed expiration date in modified forms and as a major influence on other genres of opera and music theater. I focus on the genre’s supposed expiration date around 1930. I argue that when the optimism of the Weimar Republic’s heady middle years evaporated, composers and their collaborators continued to pursue topicality, but their operas after optimism necessarily reflected their changed views of the present-day. I analyze discourse from the Weimar Republic that reveals competing ideas about topicality: While some thought airplanes, gramophones, and flappers to be the source of topicality, others considered these mere side effects of a deeper, structural topicality. I then analyze five works. Ernst Toch’s "Der Fächer" and Ernst Krenek’s "Leben des Orest" demonstrate how surface topicality lost its luster but structural topicality remained a driving concern. Erwin Schulhoff’s opera "Flammen" and jazz-oratorio "H.M.S. Royal Oak" demonstrate how surface topicality influenced other genres of opera and new genres of music theater for radio, and Hanns Eisler’s "Die Massnahme" shows the influence of structural topicality on the new genre of the Lehrstück.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:33493362
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