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Title:Making America Operatic: Six Composers' Attempts at an American Opera, 1910-1918
Author(s):Ziegel, Aaron B.
Director of Research:Magee, Gayle S.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Magee, Gayle S.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Magee, Jeffrey S.; Kinderman, William A.; Syer, Katherine R.
Department / Program:Music
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):American Music
national opera
Charles Cadman
Frederick Converse
The Sacrifice
Henry Hadley
Victor Herbert
Mary Carr Moore
Arthur Nevin
Abstract:This dissertation explores six selected operas written by American composers and librettists from the 1910s, the earliest decade in which this nation supported the widespread and frequent production of operas by native artists. Example works by Charles Wakefield Cadman, Frederick Converse, Henry Hadley, Victor Herbert, Mary Carr Moore, and Arthur Nevin exemplify a shared goal to enact on the operatic stage indigenous stories with American characters, in competition against a field dominated by imported repertoire and singers. The opening chapter examines the nation’s cultural scene at the beginning of the twentieth century, focusing on the position of opera within the broader American music debate. The second chapter outlines the genesis of each project and follows the path of each work leading up to their stage premieres. The central chapters present in-depth analyses of the librettos and musical style of these scores, illustrating the emergence of a distinctively American operatic outlook during the decade. Reception history provides a central point of reference throughout these analytical chapters. The final chapter resumes the narrative of chapter two by highlighting the audience response to the premiere performances and the subsequent production history of these operas following their premieres. Throughout this study, it is apparent that the Americanist motivation more strongly associated with composers of a younger (and more modernist-leaning) generation was indeed a powerful force, even among tradition-bound composers of the 1910s. Despite their adoption of European-inherited musical styles and operatic conventions, the selected composers and librettists still intensely desired for audiences to receive their works as definitively American creations. Thus, a reassessment of the period’s cultural context and a reexamination of the scores themselves yield new insights into an exciting stage in the development of American opera.
Issue Date:2011-05-25
Rights Information:
Copyright 2011 Aaron B. Ziegel
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-25
Date Deposited:2011-05

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