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Volume 3, Issue 1 (Winter 2007)


EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION

Richard Begam


LAUGHING AT THE REDEEMER: KUNDRY AND THE PARADOX OF "PARSIFAL"

Matthew Wilson Smith

Matthew Wilson Smith discusses Wagner's "Parsifal" in relation to emerging discourses of psychology and aesthetics, and suggests that the work becomes in the process a proto-modern opera that dramatizes the increasingly problematic nature of both the self and representation.

Matthew Wilson Smith is Assistant Professor of English at Boston University.


TRUTH AND LIES IN THE STRAVINSKYAN SENSE: "OEDIPUS REX"

Daniel Albright

Daniel Albright argues that Stravinsky’s opera "Oedipus Rex" is about the subjugation of Dionysus by Apollo. Stravinsky accomplishes this subjugation through a kind of thanatography that extends the logic of death to the opera’s words, music and drama. Albright situates his analysis of "Oedipus Rex" against Adorno's disparaging comments about Stravinsky, finding within the logic of Adorno's critique that Stravinsky has given us the death-head of opera itself.

Daniel Albright is Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature at Harvard University.


MODERNISM AS DEGENERACY: SCHOENBERG’S "MOSES UND ARON"

Richard Begam

Richard Begam’s essay considers Arnold Schoenberg’s "Moses und Aron" (1932) as an extended response to the National Socialist discourse on 'entartete Musik' or 'degenerate music.' For Begam, Schoenberg asserts that moral degeneracy results not from the rejection of mimesis but precisely from its opposite: the fetishistic and idolatrous worship of the image.

Richard Begam is Professor of English at The University of Wisconsin-Madison.


THE HANDSOME SAILOR AND THE MAN OF SORROWS: "BILLY BUDD" AND THE MODERNISM OF BENJAMIN BRITTEN

Allen J. Frantzen

Allen Frantzen’s essay examines Benjamin Britten’s "Billy Budd" (1951) in relation to the Festival of Britain, treating the opera as an example of a more conservative “mid-century modernism.” Frantzen analyzes in depth the changes Britten’s librettists, E. M. Forster and Eric Crozier, made to the novella by Melville, in order to conclude that Britten’s opera offers an art that seeks to establish itself within English society and culture, but that nevertheless makes clear, both in its music and text, that change is on its way.

Allen J. Frantzen is Professor of English at Loyola University Chicago.


‘MUDDYING THE WELLS’: MODERNIST LITERARY INSTINCTS AND THE OPERATIC IDEAL

Irene Morra

Irene Morra shows how the conflict between words and music that was contested in "Billy Budd" can be extended to almost all modern British opera. Morra argues persuasively that a number of modernist writers came to view the libretto “as an alternative literary genre, one that would allow for the expression of literary ideals of musicality”.

Irene Morra is Lecturer in English Literature at Cardiff University.


TOWARDS A CHARACTERIZATION OF MODERN OPERA

Herbert Lindenberger

Herbert Lindenberger regards the modern canon as "not quite opera" in its resistance to the theatricality of traditional opera, its forays into popular musical forms, and its use of imitation and parody to quote opera of the past. In his view, modern opera divides itself into two kinds: the "hard" and the "soft." Lindenberger goes on to consider the question of postmodern opera, but he is less persuaded now than he was previously that this is a useful term, especially given the extent to which one can find so-called "postmodern" elements in "modernist" operas.

Herbert Lindenberger is Avalon Foundation Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Stanford University.