Musical Theatre in America: Papers and Proceedings of the Conference on the Musical Theatre in America

By Glenn Loney | Go to book overview

THE MUSICAL IN THE
NINETEENTH CENTURY

Deane L. Root


OVERTURE

Serious research into American musical theatre of the nineteenth century has been generated largely by tracing the careers of eighteenth-century composers and performers into the new century, and, at the other end of the period, by tracing nascent theatrical practices of our own lifetime. The relative lack of historians' attention to the nineteenth century itself is partly a result of the massive expansion of theatrical activity in mid-century, and partly because the period lies completely beyond active memory. We have only rudimentary information about the factual details--titles of shows; names and careers of performers, writers, and composers; dates and number of performances; contractual arrangements--of the sort that buttress historians' perceptions of the performing arts in society. We are just now engaged in primary efforts to compile catalogs of works, analyze song types and musical genres, sort uninventoried collections of ephemera, and place random bits of information in historical perspective. The papers presented here reflect this condition and offer guidance for future work.

Each presentation in this session focuses on fundamental, though not yet fully understood, factors within nineteenth- century American musical theatre. Robert Winans presents a systematic description of the types of music within a single stage genre, offering a song taxonomy; Irene Comer raises the issue of definition and classification of musical theatre genres and discusses the elevation of performers to "star" status; Leonard Rivenburg discusses the contrast between conservatory traditions and more popularly oriented stage music; Camille Hardy chronicles the creation of a dance style and the career of a dancer in musical theatre; and Helen Armstead-Johnson

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