National identity and comedy in Antonín Dvořák's comic operas
O'Toole, Julia Rose
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation examines five distinctly different comic operas by Antonín Dvořák, composed over a period of almost thirty years. I demonstrate ample evidence of their reflecting Dvořák's national identity as well as that of the Czech nation at a time of rising nationalism. I also demonstrate how Dvořák's compositional choices reveal his capacity as a musical dramatist of comic opera. I have examined and analyzed the libretti, full scores, and piano/vocal reductions of the five operas for references to national identity and for comedy. Musical elements such as dance rhythms, orchestral dudy (bagpipe) drone, the ascending interval of a fourth, and familiar folk tunes are interpreted as Slavic, Czech, or Bohemian. I have considered Dvořák's musical illustration of stereotypical stock characters and situations, and musical exploitation of social conventions and norms. Comic effects of recurrence, reversal, and pre- and post-outcome responses are achieved through acoustic signals such as unexpected tempo, dynamic, rhythmic, and harmonic shifts, and repetition in excess. I address the limited scholarship regarding Dvořák's operatic contributions — particularly as regards comic opera — in the field of opera studies, and challenge the argument that while there may be a generic "folk-tone," there is very little musical evidence of his national identity. Dvořák's ability to communicate far more to the audience than what is contained in the libretti alone is demonstrated not only in the broad scope of these five distinctly different operas, but also in the depth of musical support, including rhythm, melody, motivic development, and rich orchestration.