Joy H. Calico
This chapter considers three trends evident in recent research on opera in the period 1900–1945. Scholars tend to situate the genre, as well as individual works and composers, in relation to Wagner’s influence; they challenge and expand received wisdom about modernism, either admitting previously marginalized repertoire to that canon or proposing multiple modernisms; and they pursue nuanced analyses of the relationship between opera and Nazi/Fascist regimes. Precisely how one might define opera in a period of such great experimentation is also discussed. Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny is presented as a case study in which all of these approaches are fruitful.
This chapter examines the issue of censorship in the British Broadcasting Corporation’s controversial decision to ban the final track, “A Day in the Life,” from the Beatles’ album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967 due to its oblique reference to drug use. More specifically, it analyzes the factors underlying the BBC ban within the context of the cultural environment in which company executives interpreted the recording. The chapter also discusses the BBC mission and its “Green Book,” the BBC Variety Programmes Policy Guide for Writers and Producers, which establishes Britain’s standards for taste in broadcasting.
Elizabeth Titrington Craft
This chapter looks at the musical biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy. George M. Cohan was still alive when the movie about his life was made and his influence is seen on how it depicts aspects of his life to suit his own account of it. But the chapter also explores how the movie is a self-reflexive backstage musical and how its attention to theatrical authenticity served to deflect scrutiny from the lack of veracity in Cohan’s biography. Examples include the changing of details in scenes from the stage musicals George Washington, Jr and I’d Rather Be Right to serve the movie’s hagiographic depiction of Cohan’s life, as memorably played by James Cagney. But on the whole, the chapter reveals that fidelity was the byword in the treatment of Cohan’s musical oeuvre and the staging of musical numbers. James Cagney also took great care to capture Cohan’s renowned, distinctive dancing style; his instructor Johnny Boyle had even performed in Cohan shows and staged dances for Cohan.
This chapter deals with sexuality in the much-maligned film adaptation of Lerner and Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon, the least popular of the team’s three 1960s film adaptations (My Fair Lady and Camelot are the others). Situating the movie in the sexual revolution and second-wave feminism of the 1960s, the chapter examines the characterization of Elizabeth and her only song, ‘A Million Miles Away Behind the Door,’ as well as her polyandrous marriage to Ben and Pardner. The chapter also reflects on not only how adaptations change the source but—due to changing social conventions and expectations—why they must. In the case of Paint Your Wagon, the film matches Lerner’s depiction of triangular relationships in My Fair Lady and Camelot, deletes Jennifer and Julio, the principal romantic couple of the stage version, omits the Mexican American perspective represented by Julio, adds the new character Pardner, and places Ben Rumson into a polyandrous relationship with Pardner and Elizabeth. Thanks to the shift from the Production Code to the Ratings System in 1968, Paint Your Wagon could portray a more liberal sexual situation than would have been the case over a decade earlier when the stage version appeared, and the screenplay exploits this possibility in a variety of ways, thereby reflecting its time.
Acting and singing have often been considered incompatible activities, but most successful operatic performances depend in part on successful acting. Acting in opera is, however, different from acting in spoken drama. Realistic characterization is often difficult to achieve when acting with music, and often the formal gestures of a more rhetorical representation are more appropriate. A more vivid style of acting was initiated with the bel canto opera early in the nineteenth century, and later verismo opera required acting that brought out the unconscious motivation of characters. Wagner, Stanislavski, and Felsenstein all developed a style of acting that reflected the psychology of the character and encouraged ensemble. Modern operatic performance incorporates a variety of styles, but a combination of realism and minimalism may be most effective on stage. Callas’s performance in Act 2 of Tosca and Nicholas Lehnhoff’s production of Parsifal are analyzed.
John M. Clum
The article points out various aspects of acting in a musical theater. The acting was not always a primary concern in the history of musical theater. Stars of musical comedy were either singers or comedians who could sing competently or who couldn't sing at all. Traditional musical comedy was a hybrid performed by specialists. The chorus was split into singers and dancers. Serious actors usually avoided the musical entirely since there was enough serious drama on Broadway to keep them busy. Operetta, extremely popular in the 1920s, was built on stock characters that include the exotic romantic leading soprano and baritone, the comic mezzo and bass, the wistful tenor, and the perky soubrette. These same characters appeared again and again in different settings and costumes. Acting was definitely secondary to quasi-operatic singing. A singing star such as Ethel Merman was expected to sing and wisecrack with the comics, which she did in a succession of musicals in the 1930s and early 1940s.
This chapter on the liberal movie adaptation of Rodgers and Hart’s Pal Joey situates the musical in the context of postwar America, when traditional forms of gender and domesticity were being challenged and replaced by something more sexually ‘progressive.’ In the film, Joey is now a singer rather than a dancer, vulnerable rather than a heel, and he gets the girl in the end. The chapter explores how the film’s promotion of a set of emerging gender archetypes that defy traditional, middle-class, suburban constructions of masculinity and femininity is reflected in a new treatment of the score, which is reworked, repurposed, and in some cases eviscerated in order to promote the ethos of the film. A good example is the film’s presentation of the song ‘The Lady Is a Tramp’ (an interpolation from Babes in Arms), which, in Sinatra’s version, emphasize[s] that he is offering his body to her. The chapter concludes that despite the lyrics, it is Joey who plays the part of the ‘tramp.’
The late 1950s saw an astonishing emergence of iconoclastic and modernistic approaches to the genre of the British musical. Directors like Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop company produced a number of dark, cynical, and experimental musicals in the late 1950s that provided British theatre professionals and audiences alike with an alternative to the dominant American style. Many attempted to bring this new and particularly British voice to the West End. An investigation of the musical, dramatic, and cultural context of the exceptional and important ‘Soho’ shows, which include Expresso Bongo, The Crooked Mile, Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be, and Make Me an Offer, reveals these works as microcosms of their cultural environment as well as marking new directions in British musical theatre. Culminating in Oliver!, arguably the best-known British musical of this era, this development heralded a time of experimentation, social commentary, and modernism.
Jessica Sternfeld and Elizabeth L. Wollman
The article focuses on some of the more important developments that have affected the American musical over the years. The amount of money needed to produce a musical has increased since the onset of the depression, but especially since the 1960s. The cost of production, coupled with the introduction of several cheaper, more widely accessible entertainment forms, has forced the musical to struggle financially and aesthetically at various periods during the postwar era. Periods of high inflation, such as during the 1930s, affected the criteria for hit status, for example shows had to run for longer stretches to be profitable. The marketing for the show at that time was particularly intense, and the spectacle aspect was strongly promoted by producer Garth Drabinsky, under the auspices of his Canadian production company, Livent. The longer average runs of Broadway musicals depended in part on an increasingly international audience, which was seen as transitory and ever renewing. Since the advent of rock, amplification has become increasingly common and this was for several reasons. Many actors needed microphones to protect their voices and to be heard above the electric instruments that accompanied them. Film and sound recording technologies exerted significant influence on the stage musical and advances in sound design have allowed theatrical productions to offer cleaner, more balanced sound from the orchestra pit and stage.
Can opera as drama save classical music? Pierre Boulez famously proposed “blowing up all the opera houses” in 1967, and the relationship between the avant-garde and opera has been adversarial for most of the twentieth century. But in recent years interest in contemporary opera has exploded, leading critics like Joseph Kerman to proclaim that music drama proves the continuing vitality of the classical music canon. A study of the two major US productions of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic shows the pitfalls of relying on literature and drama to “sell” twenty-first-century opera as classical music: weaknesses in the libretto and staging led many intellectuals who attended the opera to dismiss it—and opera as a genre—in the harshest possible terms, reopening questions about the propriety of setting dramatic texts to music that composers had thought settled in their favor by the end of the seventeenth century.
Michael P. Steinberg
This article discusses the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a musical group composed of various musicians from Palestine and other Middle Eastern countries. They show how music is a thing of the world, through their performances of works by various composers, such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The article takes a look at the double agenda of the Divan, its pedagogical transformations, and their translations, techniques, and use of melancholy.
This chapter examines how Alban Berg plotted to survive as a composer during the Third Reich. Berg’s opera Wozzeck premiered in Berlin on December 14, 1925, and achieved undisputed success eight years later. When Adolf Hitler became the leader of Nazi Germany, the works of many atonal composers, whether Aryan or not, were banned from performance in the country. Drawing on Berg’s personal documents held in the Austrian National Library, including musical sketches and drafts of letters, this chapter considers how Berg repackaged Wozzeck and his other opera Lulu in order to survive as a composer amid the harsh political environment during Hitler’s reign. It also comments on Berg’s desperation as a result of the Nazi government’s censorship of performances of Wozzeck. Finally, it considers Berg’s anti-Semitic tone in his opera, as well as his self-promotion to the point of aligning himself with Nazi Germany.
Nichole Guillory and Seneca Vaught
Constructions of black mothers and fathers are often complicated intersections of gender, race, class, sexuality, and place. This chapter seeks to examine the contested representations of black mothers, black fathers, and the black family in hip hop discourses and offers a typology of hip hop families. Specifically, the chapter focuses on the ways in which hip hop texts are in conversation with historical discourses on the black family and the ways in which hip hop has challenged traditional notions of family, kinship, and familial love. The chapter examines representations of hip hop fathers and hip hop mothers, complicates notions of the “modern” American family, and frames new trajectories for how black families are imagined in hip hop discourses.
This chapter considers the topical competency of late eighteenth-century amateur players and listeners. Focus is on selected string quartets by Haydn, Mozart, and Pleyel. The analytical strategy is comparative, and therefore the analyses are limited to movements governed by clearly defined topics. The troping of learned and galant elements is the focus of discussion of three minuet movements, all of which incorporate contrapuntal techniques to varying structural and expressive ends. Parametric density is the focus of discussion of four chasse movements. In both sets of examples, issues considered include topical content and syntactical function, topical dissonance, and social and cultural associations.
Charles Edward McGuire
Between 1810 and 1835 the British musical audience expanded from the nobility and the gentry to include members of the middle classes. Using the contemporary musical festival as a case study, this chapter examines how the accommodation of this larger, more intellectually diverse audience led to an early manifestation of the modern concert-listener. This development is explored in terms of factors that aided in the creation of a physical or intellectual “listening space.” These aspects include physical structures (stages, galleries), educational structures (histories of musical festivals, commentaries for training listeners), and linguistic structures (new terms to describe listening processes). As this chapter reveals, these structures solidified a common listening experience for the larger audience, while reinforcing class distinctions within it.
Rachel S. Vandagriff
This essay provides an overview of American private foundational support for American contemporary music between 1952 and 1983. Beginning in the early 1950s during the Cold War, the Rockefeller, Ford, and Fromm Music foundations began giving grants to symphony orchestras, opera houses, colleges and universities, chamber music ensembles, and composers to create and perform more contemporary American music, thus playing the traditional role of patrons of music updated for the twentieth century. The Ph.D. degree in composition was established, significantly altering American composers’ careers and the new music scene such that the academy became patron of American composers. This essay seeks to merge these two narratives. First summarizing tax incentives for American charitable organizations such as private foundations, it gives an overview of the Rockefeller and Ford Foundation grants to music, discusses the Fromm Music Foundation’s activities, and relates all of their work to the increasing academicization of composition.
This chapter considers the impact of ‘the American invasion’: a slew of Broadway musicals led by Oklahoma! and Annie Get Your Gun that captivated and shocked audiences when they opened in 1947 in London. Arriving in a country mired in post-war rationing and rehabilitation, they offered a sharp contrast to the typical material on the British musical stage. To understand the transatlantic dynamics that are its context, it is useful to consider how contemporary America projected itself, and how the British perceived Americans. With Hollywood images of virile action heroes, and with American GIs stationed on British soil, Brits encountered a new and forceful sexuality that the energy of the post-war Broadway imports evoked. As the staid morals of the pre-war era gave way to the excitement of the new, the British musical responded with the punchy riposte of a new Novello show: Gay’s the Word.
The history of the American musical is framed by spectacular successes driven by Faustian elements: The Black Crook (1866, running for decades, based loosely on Weber’s Der Freischütz [The Freeshooter]) and The Phantom of the Opera (1988; still running as of 2019). Yet, straightforwardly Faust-based musicals are rare, with Damn Yankees (1955) being the single obvious example. A discussion of Damn Yankees relates it to other treatments in popular culture, including the film version of The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), as a basis for a wider discussion of Faustian elements deployed in American musical theater, including magic, striving, earning, idealism, temptation, and sexuality, leading to a consideration of the Faustian bargain of the genre itself, which uses the magic of music, dance, sex, and spectacle to seduce audiences and achieve commercial success, but at the apparent price of its artistic soul.
The opening decades of the twentieth century saw painters renounce mimetic representation for the formal rigors and spiritual transcendence of visual art divorced from reproduction of the visible world. That they chose to do so in no small measure resulted from a profound shift in aesthetic values: music became the paradigm for visual art. While the concept of visual music gained international currency, this seductive aesthetic model had particular resonance in the United States. Between 1910 and 1930, leaders of the American avant-garde, such as Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Max Weber, experimented with musical ideas to forge a new abstract art. A comparative case study of the music pictures of these painters and the inter-media installations of contemporary artist Jennifer Steinkamp will illuminate the transformation of the modernist ideal of visual music in the postmodern era.
Different issues challenged the screen adaptation of Finian’s Rainbow, which was one of the most successful Broadway musicals of the 1940s but took more than twenty years to be released as a film. Using archival research, this chapter reveals the frustrated early attempts to make Finian’s into an animated film musical, partly blighted by the blacklisting of lyricist E. Y. Harburg in 1951. Ex-Disney animator John Hubley was hired to work on the film and created more than 400 storyboard sketches, designs, and character drafts for the movie. By 1954, ten key songs had been recorded by leading artists such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong; indeed, in an attempt to make the project as commercial as possible, Sinatra was assigned a part in nearly all the songs. A new prologue was added and changes were made to the story to soften its vigorous political message, but for a mixture of political and financial reasons the production was abruptly closed down; Finian’s Rainbow would not reach the screen until late the following decade.