Session/Séance 5g: MusCan Panel 1 Getting Theatrical

Session/Séance 5g: MusCan Panel 1. Friday/vendredi 26 May 2017.  11:00AM-1:00PM, EJB 217.
Getting Theatrical
     Chair: MARIE-HÉLÈNE BENOIT-OTIS (Université de Montréal)


1. Love’s New Weapons: Intersections of Culture, War, and Music Theatre in Early Eighteenth-Century Spain
     Virginia Acuña, University of Victoria

An unprecedented shift in the portrayal of Cupid took place in the Spanish mythological zarzuela during the years surrounding the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14). For the first time ever Cupid was depicted not as a god of chaste or erotic love but as a god at war with other deities. In every battle lost, Cupid lamented his defeat and struggled to regain his power. This paper begins by exploring the cultural understanding of Cupid in early eighteenth-century Spain as articulated by Spanish mythographers of the era (Pérez de Moya, Baltasar de Victoria, and Juan Bautista Aguilar) and described in the earliest representations of Cupid in Spanish theatre. It then explores the intersection of culture, war, and music theatre in one case study – the zarzuela Las nuevas armas de amor (Love’s New Weapons, 1711) – while suggesting that in this work the figure of Cupid functioned as an allegorical representation of the Spanish king, and that the deity’s struggles for power mirrored the monarch’s plight during a time of great political instability. The analysis of this repertory – largely unexplored in both Spanish and Anglo- American musicology – illuminates Spanish musico-theatrical traditions during a little understood period in the history of Spain. More broadly, it contributes to our understanding of eighteenth-century theatrical history.


2. Idéalisme et réalisme dans Don Quixote de Roberto Gerhard
     Judy-Ann Desrosiers, Université de Montréal

La production musicale du XXe siècle compte plusieurs adaptations du Don Quichotte (1605) de Miguel de Cervantès. Les interprétations varient, de la lecture comique à la réflexion philosophique. Dans cette dernière veine, le ballet Don Quixote du compositeur catalan Roberto Gerhard (1896-1970) propose une version en apparence traditionnelle du récit cervantin, mais qui, dans le contexte de l’après-guerre civile espagnole, se révèle riche en allusions politiques. Les études consacrées au Don Quixote de Gerhard discutent la symbolique de ce personnage (Sánchez de Andrés 2013) sans s’attarder aux liens entre l’œuvre littéraire et la partition musicale. Dans cette communication, nous évaluerons la portée politique de Don Quixote en examinant la construction de l’œuvre musicale à la lumière de l’œuvre littéraire de Cervantès. Deux chapitres du premier tome du roman sont retenus par Gerhard dans le scénario du ballet : le chapitre 11, où Don Quichotte exprime son idéal de la chevalerie, et le chapitre 22, où il libère des condamnés aux galères dans une vaine tentative de réaliser ses idéaux. Ces deux épisodes du roman s’enchaînent dans l’œuvre de Gerhard (« The Golden Age » et « Paso doble de los galeotes ») et constituent deux passages contrastés par lesquels Gerhard rend évidente une opposition binaire entre réalisme et idéalisme, rendue audible par des jeux d’orchestration, opposant les vents et les cordes. En comparant l’œuvre littéraire et la partition de Gerhard, nous montrerons qu’il développe un discours politique qui fait écho à la défaite des républicains en Catalogne.


3. Intelligent, Mystical and French: Maurice Bouchor’s Little Wooden Actors at the Petit-Théâtre de la Marionette
     Catrina Flint, Vanier College

Best known today for his poems set to music by various composers of the French mélodie, between 1888 and 1894, Maurice Bouchor produced works for marionette theatre, ranging from adaptations of Greek classics and Shakespeare to original pieces on mystical themes – all set to music by Ernest Chausson or Paul Vidal, and sometimes Casimir Baille. The scant scholarly literature devoted to this repertoire tends to underscore its relationship to symbolism (Branger 2000, Gosselin 2000, Lucet 2003). Indeed, this is borne out to some extent in the reception of his works, in period reviews by Jacques du Tillet, Jean Frollo, Georges Pellissier and others. Symbolism aside, in this paper, I argue that Bouchor’s works also appealed to French audiences for reasons of national pride and due to renewed interests in religion and regional culture. Period writings by Ernest Renan, Henry Fouquier and others position Bouchor’s works in the context of a long line of “lettered” puppets – to borrow Paul Ginisty’s phrase – found in works by Georges Sand, Louis Darthenay and Louis Lemercier de Neuville. But Bouchor’s plays were also deeply connected to folk traditions: already in 1888, Anatole France recognized in Bouchor a, “poétique folie du folklore,” who made use of a specific type of marionnette à claviers modelled on those used in religious crèches from Provence. Finally, some of the music for Bouchor’s works was either borrowed from or came to stand in for the folk repertoire that was being enthusiastically collected and published during this same period of time.


4. The Press Reception of Pelléas et Mélisande and Competing Aesthetic Trends in French Avant-Garde Opera Aesthetics
     François de Médicis, Université de Montréal

Controversial press reviews of the 1902 premiere of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande are often interpreted in the scholarly literature as a sign of disarray toward the radical novelty of the work (Douche, Branger and Herlin 2012). Reception studies have also tackled various political and nationalist issues (Pasler 1987, Kelly 2008, 2012). But these assessments have failed to take into account the political controversies over the aesthetics of the avant-garde which grew up around operatic works that were premiered in the five years leading up to Pelléas. In this paper, I first survey competing aesthetic trends that significantly contributed to the climate in which Pelléas was received: Bruneau and Charpentier’s avant-gardist Naturalism, d’Indy’s French Wagnerism, and the emergence of a third, independent path, characterized by a dreamlike atmosphere, first exemplified by Erlanger’s Kermaria (1897), and later by Debussy’s Pelléas (1902). While important historical studies have shed light on tensions between d’Indy and Bruneau, the position of Erlanger has been largely overlooked (Huebner 1999, Giroud 2010). In the second part of the paper, I show how these aesthetic stakes bring into sharp focus the coded rhetoric used in three 1902 articles in which Debussy defends his opera. The post-Wagnerian style and aesthetics of Pelléas are plain, but the composer’s doggedness in advertising them is a way to position himself within the avant-garde landscape. Moreover, we understand why he insists that his symbolist plot, “despite its atmosphere of dreams, contains much more humanity than those so-called documents of real life.”

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