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Literaturoper

Literaturoper (literature opera, plural “Literaturopern”), a term coined by the German music critic Edgar Istel, describes a genre of opera that emerged during the late 19th century. When an existing play for the legitimate theatre is set to music without major changes and without the intervention of a librettist, a “Literaturoper” is the result. Although the term is German, it can be applied to any kind of opera, irrespective of style or language. (In that sense it can be regarded as a term rather than a genre as such.)

The former, much broader usage of the term “Literaturoper” for opera libretti on the basis of dramas, novels and short stories of undoubted literary renown, which was still common until around 1980, has been made obsolete by recent research on the history of the opera libretto. Since opera libretti have relied on subject matter from the history of literature since the very origin of the genre of opera, a broader usage of the term would cover the entire history of opera, regardless of the underlying libretto structure.[1]

Current definition

According to a seminal publication by Peter Petersen, the term means „a special form of music theater in which the libretto is based on a literary work whose linguistic, semantic and aesthetic structure remains recognizable in the musical-dramatic work as a structural layer.“[2]

History

The tradition of literaturoper only became established in European opera culture when, with Richard Wagner and the "through-composed dramatic form" he developed, the conventions of verse metrics for the opera libretto had faded. At the same time, the personal union of libretto poet and composer appeared as the new norm of opera production. Especially in the area of the Romance languages, the allitterating verse in Wagner's Ring des Nibelungen was perceived as prose text, since the use of allitteration as basis for the poetry in the Ancient Germanic languages had always been alien the syllable-counting verse systems in the French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese poetic tradition.[3]

Since the production of literaturopern possessed the potential to make the function of the opera librettist redundant, the genre was first able to assert itself in those opera cultures in which professional libretto-writing had not been able to develop a centuries-long tradition (Russia, Germany). The first examples of this dramaturgical process can be found in the history of French and Russian music in the second half of the 19th century.[4]Early Russian literaturopern include Alexander Dargomyzhsky’s opera The Stone Guest (after Alexander Pushkin) and Modest Mussorgsky’s opera fragment The Marriage and his Boris Godunov (also after Pushkin).[5]

In French and Italian opera, which had possessed an established libretto tradition for centuries, the introduction of the literaturoper took place parallel to the discussions about the possibility of writing opera libretti in prose..[6] Since the Italian tradition of operatic verse proved to be particularly resistant to the introduction of prose libretti, the first Italian literaturopern were crerated on the basis of Gabriele d'Annunzio’s verse dramas (Alberto Franchetti, La figlia di Iorio (1906), Pietro Mascagni, Parisina (1913), Riccardo Zandonai, Francesca da Rimini (1914), Ildebrando Pizzetti, Fedra (1915).[7]

The first composers to directly set plays include Charles Gounod,[8] Pietro Mascagni, Claude Debussy, Richard Strauss and Alban Berg. After the Second World War, the genre flourished, especially in Germany, and composers often resorted to setting plays from previous centuries or from Greek Antiquity. The production of literary operas continues to this day.

Literaturopern based on plays

Literaturopern based on novels and short stories

References

  1. ^ Albert Gier: Das Libretto. Theorie und Geschichte einer musikoliterarischen Gattung. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1998, ISBN 3-534-12368-9. (Second edition: Insel, Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-458-34366-0)
  2. ^ Peter Petersen: Der Terminus "Literaturoper" – eine Begriffsbestimmung. In Archiv für Musikwissenschaft vol. 56, 1999, pp. 52–70.
  3. ^ Jürgen Maehder, Erscheinungsformen des Wagnérisme in der italienischen Oper des Fin de siècle, in: Annegret Fauser/Manuela Schwartz (edd.), Von Wagner zum Wagnérisme. Musik, Literatur, Kunst, Politik, Leipziger Universitätsverlag, Leipzig 1999, pp. 575–621.
  4. ^ Jürgen Maehder: »Salome« von Oscar Wilde und Richard Strauss ─ Die Entstehungsbedingungen der sinfonischen Literaturoper des Fin de siècle, in: Jürgen Kühnel/Ulrich Müller/Sigrid Schmidt (Hrsg.), Richard Strauss, »Salome«: Stofftraditionen, Text und Musik, Müller-Speiser Anif/Salzburg 2013, S. 55–107.
  5. ^ Richard Taruskin: Realism as Preached and Practiced – The Russian Opera Dialogue. In: The Musical Quarterly vol. 56, 1970, pp. 431–454; Jürg Stenzl: Heinrich von Kleists Penthesilea in der Vertonung von Ottmar Schoeck. In Günter Schnitzler: Dichtung und Musik – Kaleidoskop ihrer Beziehungen. Klett-Cotta, 1979, p. 224 ff.
  6. ^ Hugh Macdonald: The Prose Libretto, In: Cambridge Opera Journal 1, 1989, pp. 155–166.
  7. ^ Jürgen Maehder: The Origins of Italian »Literaturoper« ─ »Guglielmo Ratcliff«, »La figlia di Iorio«, »Parisina« and »Francesca da Rimini«, in: Arthur Groos/Roger Parker (edd.), Reading Opera, Princeton University Press, Princeton 1988, pp. 92–128
  8. ^ Hugh Macdonald: The Prose Libretto, In: Cambridge Opera Journal 1, 1989, pp. 155–166.

Bibliography

  • Vincenzo Borghetti/Riccardo Pecci, Il bacio della sfinge. D'Annunzio, Pizzetti e »Fedra«, EDT, Torino 1998.
  • Literaturoper by Julian Budden, in 'The New Grove Dictionary of Opera', ed. Stanley Sadie (London, 1992) ISBN 0-333-73432-7
  • Carl Dahlhaus: Vom Musikdrama zur Literaturoper. Aufsätze zur neueren Operngeschichte. Überarbeitete Neuausgabe. Piper u. a., München u. a. 1989, ISBN 3-7957-8238-4 (Serie Piper 8238).
  • Swantje Gostomzyk: Literaturoper am Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts. Eine interdisziplinäre Studie am Beispiel der Opern von Detlev Glanert. Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2009.
  • Adriana Guarnieri Corazzol, Musica e letteratura in Italia tra Ottocento e Novecento, Sansoni, Milano 2000.
  • Hugh Macdonald: The Prose Libretto, In: Cambridge Opera Journal 1, 1989, pp. 155–166.
  • Jürgen Maehder: The Origins of Italian »Literaturoper« ─ »Guglielmo Ratcliff«, »La figlia di Iorio«, »Parisina« and »Francesca da Rimini«, in: Arthur Groos/Roger Parker (edd.), Reading Opera, Princeton University Press, Princeton 1988, pp. 92–128.
  • Jürgen Maehder: Drammaturgia musicale e strutture narrative nel teatro musicale italiano della generazaione dell'Ottanta, in: Mila De Santis (ed.), Alfredo Casella e l'Europa. Atti del Convegno internazionale di Studi a Siena, 7-9 giugno 2001, Olschki, Firenze 2003, pp. 223–248.
  • Jürgen Maehder: »Salome« von Oscar Wilde und Richard Strauss ─ Die Entstehungsbedingungen der sinfonischen Literaturoper des Fin de siècle, in: Jürgen Kühnel/Ulrich Müller/Sigrid Schmidt (edd.), Richard Strauss, »Salome«: Stofftraditionen, Text und Musik, Müller-Speiser Anif/Salzburg 2013, pp. 55-107.
  • Peter Petersen: Der Terminus „Literaturoper“ – eine Begriffsbestimmung. In: Archiv für Musikwissenschaft 56, 1999, pp. 52–70.
  • Olaf Roth: Die Opernlibretti nach Dramen d'Annunzios, Peter Lang, Bern/Frankfurt/New York 1999.
  • Richard Taruskin: Realism as Preached and Practiced – The Russian Opera Dialogue. In: Musical Quarterly, 56, 1970.
  • Jürg Stenzl: Heinrich von Kleists Penthesilea in der Vertonung von Ottmar Schoeck. In Günter Schnitzler (Hrsg.): Dichtung und Musik – Kaleidoskop ihrer Beziehungen. Klett-Cotta, 1979, p. 224 sqq.
  • Almut Ullrich: Die „Literaturoper“ von 1970–1990. Texte und Tendenzen. Noetzel, Wilhelmshaven 1991, ISBN 3-7959-0617-2 (Veröffentlichungen zur Musikforschung 11).
  • Sigrid Wiesmann (ed.): Für und Wider die Literaturoper. Zur Situation nach 1945. Laaber-Verlag, Laaber 1982, ISBN 3-921518-67-9 (Thurnauer Schriften zum Musiktheater 6).

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