Viva La Liberta! Politics in Opera

Viva La Liberta! Politics in Opera

Viva La Liberta! Politics in Opera

Viva La Liberta! Politics in Opera

Synopsis

"'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 Liberta! will also be stimulating reading for all those who believe that opera's vitality has been diminished by its traditional guardians." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Politics in opera: one can already hear the groans of despair and cries of outrage that the very idea will evoke in some quarters. Is even music, the purest of the arts, to be pawed over by politicians in search of hidden meanings or sinister significances? Cannot these ideologists leave anything alone?

It is hard to think of any sentiment more likely to raise an easy round of applause in Britain than the appeal 'let's keep politics out of this'. Even professional politicians often seem unwilling to defend their occupation. They are forever telling us that this or that issue 'transcends' politics, or should be 'taken out' of politics. Politics, in short, is a dirty word, and we want as little to do with the reality of it as possible.

This hostility, or distaste, rests upon a particular understanding (or misunderstanding) of what politics is, or rather a set of images of it. One is of the petty squabbling and unscrupulous feuding of men and women who are hungry for one thing only -- power. Or there is the equation of politics with party politics, which provokes resistance since many people are neither members nor supporters of political parties. Or there is the perception of politics as a straitjacket or Procrustean bed into which awkward realities are forcibly fitted, but only at a cost to reality itself. None of these images and impressions is without substance, but none of them corresponds entirely to what I

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