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date: 23 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter suggests that operetta served as the genre of the nouveau riche compared with the old money of opera proper at the end of the nineteenth century. For its audiences in Paris, Vienna, and London, operetta was the height of chic, offering a happier and more glamorous—if also more ridiculous—version of what they saw in their own lives. Yet a transformation occurred as the genre became less predicated on ephemeral topicality and its most admired early works came to be seen as historical, indeed canonic. Thus, Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus, Franz Lehár’s Die lustige Witwe, and Emmerich Kálmán’s Die Csárdásfürstin are today among the top fifty most frequently performed operatic works worldwide. Along the way, a critical and creative evolution has occurred in the comparison of new and canonic works. This chapter is paired with Raymond Knapp’s “Canons of the American musical.”

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