The Urbanization of Opera: Music Theater in Paris in the Nineteenth Century
Why do so many operas end in suicide, murder, and death? Why do many characters in large-scale operas exhibit neurotic behaviors worthy of ... Show synopsis Why do so many operas end in suicide, murder, and death? Why do many characters in large-scale operas exhibit neurotic behaviors worthy of psychoanalysis? Why are the legendary "grands opé ras" so seldom performed today? Anselm Gerhard argues that such questions can only be answered by recognizing that daily life in rapidly urbanized mid-nineteenth-century Paris introduced not just new social forces, but also new modes of perception and expectations of art. Attempting to provide a realistic portrayal of life in a metropolis, librettists and composers of "grand opé ra" developed new forms and conventions, as well as new staging and performance practices--for instance, the "tableau," in which the chorus typically plays the role of a destructive mob. These larger urban and social concerns--crucial to our understanding of nineteenth-century opera--are brought to bear in fascinating discussions of eight operas composed by Rossini, Auber, Meyerbeer, Verdi, and Louise Bertin. This unique look at nineteenth-century European culture through the opera glass will appeal to both opera fans and scholars.