Viva la Libertà!: Politics in Opera
Verso, 1992 - 340 sider
'Keep politics out of opera' has long appeared to be the maxim of most music critics, who present the art-form as essentially exotic and escapist, or as a vehicle for emotions which are purely individual. And despite ever-widening new audiences, and many innovative productions, such willful ignorance of history and music remains dominant. Almost incredibly, operas from Fidelio to William Tell, Rigoletto to Parsifal, Aida to The Bartered Bride, have been stripped of their political context and resonance. In this ambitious and wide-ranging book, Anthony Arblaster shows that such attempts to disregard or disparage opera's politics are at best delusory, at worst a political ploy. Writing with passionate enthusiasm, both for opera and for the ideals of freedom and justice it has so often represented, he uncovers the political dimension of a vast range of works, from The Marriage of Figaro to Nixon in China, including many of the most popular in the repertory. Beginning with an investigation of opera in revolutionary France, Arblaster goes on to analyse Mozart's enigmatic politics, and to explore the work of Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and, above all, Verdi, in the context of the Risorgimento. Further chapters examine Wagner's early radicalism and notorious anti-Semitism, nationalism in Russian, Czech and English opera, and the weaknesses of Puccini and Strauss. Arblaster also discusses women in opera, and concludes with a fascinating survey of the treatment of everyday life in opera and musicals, from Dallapiccola to Sondheim. An erudite and provocative contribution to musicology, Viva la Libertà! will also be stimulating reading for all those who believe that opera's vitality has been diminished by its traditional guardians.
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