Subverted modernism: Korngold's Die tote Stadt
Stringer, Katherine Elizabeth
MetadataShow full item record
Using the 1920 opera Die tote Stadt as its primary case in point, this thesis interrogates the pervasive notion that the Austrian-born composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) refused to acknowledge Modernist trends, dialogues and aesthetics in his works for the stage, and instead held fast to late-Romantic aesthetics and philosophies at the expense of engaging directly with contemporary culture and politics. I show evidence to the contrary, that Komgold was in fact actively involved with the intellectual, artistic and socio-political discourse of his time, and that this engagement is manifest in his opera, which draws parallels between the city of Bruges, setting of Die tote Stadt's source material, Georges Rodenbach's 1892 novel Bruges-la-morte, and Vienna, the composer's hometown, as it was at the close of the First World War. In substantiating this claim, I first of all seek to place the composer in his proper context as a child offin-de-siecle Vienna, and the son of that city's leading conservative music critic, the influential and much-feared Julius Komgold, successor to Eduard Hanslick at the Neue Freie Presse. I also interrogate lingering assumptions about the composer's lack of socio-political engagement owing to his status as a former child prodigy, famous across Europe for his preternatural musical gifts. I also explore the specific, alterations, additions and excisions made by the composer to his source material in translating it to the musical stage, and discuss how those changes reflect his compositional and socio-political ethos. Finally, I analyze portions of Die tote Stadt and discuss how a composer's late-Romantic compositional language can in fact indicate Modernist sympathies, albeit in their own specific strain, before sketching a brief reception history of this opera in particular, the composer's works in general, as well as discussing how this work might be reassessed and rehabilitated into the "art music" canon.
Thesis (M.M.)--Boston University