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- Meaning of "Charmeur" in the German dictionary
- ISPO Digitize for Journalists
- Translation of «Techtelmechtel» into 25 languages
- Herzens-Geschichten: Erinnerungen und Briefe (Autobiography) | Sophie
The sources of the essays and the acknowledgments of permissions for reprint are found at the end of the volume. Graz, June All the greater is the challenge posed for the literary critic of the libretto. By some sort of tacit agreement, the dramatic aspect of opera is generally considered to be the domain of musicologists, the more catholic of whom Edgar Istel, Edward J. Dent, and a few others have honestly striven to restore the dignity of the music drama. This cannot be left to the librettist; the dramatist is the composer. The translations are my own unless otherwise indicated. When asked to furnish the names of the most prominent librettists in operatic history, even the most enthusiastic opera fan will find his knowledge restricted to Metastasio, Da Ponte, Scribe, Boito, Hofmannsthal and perhaps W.
Their librettos are offered for sale in the lobby of the Metropolitan, in Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, and wherever there is an operatic stagione; but who bothers to read them from beginning to end? Most of the operas in the standard repertory have been heard so often that almost everybody knows their plots.
II, p. Even in the mid-twentieth century it requires courage to come to the rescue of that much maligned and self-effacing individual, the librettist. The first two works reveal a loftiness not only of purpose for such was certainly present in the plays of Bouilly and Schikaneder but also of expression masking the triteness of the poetry.
Senesino is the chief male character, and his part must be heroic; the other three male parts must proceed by degrees with three arias each, one in each act. The duet should be at the end of the second act, and between the. If the subject has in it three ladies, it can serve because there is a third singer here. It is this curious practice, as well as many others indulged in by the makers of late Baroque operas, which Benedetto Marcello scorns in Il teatro alla moda8. But even in our own age operatic arias are often detached from their context for the sake of recordings, recitals, and concerts.
Every drama is a Gesamtkunstwerk whose printed text resembles a musical score in that it merely suggests the theatrical possibilities which are inherent in it. Soliloquy, aside, and chorus — which are a thorn in the flesh of the Naturalistic playwrights — still remain within the realm of language, the difference between them and ordinary discourse being quantitatively determined at least by common consent, since it is wholly a matter of definition where to place the exact point at which the qualitative leap begins.
The use of different meters to indicate different levels of consciousness is a more strictly musical device, however.
It is illustrated by T. But what are the specific conventions, at first strictly observed but later modified in the direction of greater realism, employed in the preclassical-classical-Romantic type of opera? The convention most likely to shock the naive observer derives from the principle of simultaneity which, negatively applied in the spoken drama, forbids the use of several individualized speakers at the same time — the chorus con-.
Musical Quarterly, July, In opera, contrasting moods may be rendered simultaneously with an entirely pleasurable effect upon the listener. This rationalistic approach is exemplified by Calvin S. For a very practical, but nonetheless superficial, reason this observation holds true with regard to the literary side of opera; for one cannot read several lines of poetry at once. Hence the awkwardness in the arrangement of the text in the printed versions of most librettos. Beginning with Mozart, however, the great melodramaturgists have intuitively modified this procedure by combining action and reflection in their ensembles, something Gluck had not yet dared to do.
Like the reiterated shifting of levels of consciousness, the musical momentum required for increasing and decreasing emotional tensions seriously affects the structure of the lyrical drama. While affecting the listener much more directly than the spoken word hence the empathic mode of reception presupposed in preExpressionistic operas , music is somewhat slower than language in reflecting the evolution of a feeling whose breadth is audibly manifested.
Composed of arbitrary signs and primarily intended as a vehicle for thoughts and ideas, language denotes specific objects rather than picturing or reproducing them. It also has the advantage of knowing how to indicate rapid shifts of opinion and quick changes in attitude. But its very wealth points to its basic deficiency. Music, according to Schopenhauer, does not express the phenomenon itself but only the inner nature of all phenomena not joy, sorrow, horror and pain themselves but their rhythmic substratum Language, however, names the emotions.
The merger of music and words, the temporal and the spatial, the general and the particular, should theoretically result in a more satisfactory image of the mental universe than is furnished by either in isolation. But, alas, so great are the difficulties to be overcome in the process of unification that the desired effect is rarely achieved. Returning to the musical momentum and its exigencies, we should take note of the fact that whereas in the spoken drama mood is usually the means to an end the end being action , operatic action is commonly regarded as a point of departure, a hard core around which emotions may crystallize.
The pyramidal scheme presented by Gustav Freytag in his Technik des Dramas has no place in pre-Expressionistic melodramaturgy. Instead of stressing the progression from scene to scene and from act to act with the necessary retardations , the makers of opera concentrate on the act itself as their basic unit. Hence the need for intermissions at the conclusion of each act.
Within this larger. Similar to the symphonic development, where a theme may be shifted from major to minor and otherwise played upon, the operatic action moves in a wavelike rhythm that is peculiar to the lyrical drama. Since music lacks the speed and verbal dexterity of language, fewer words are needed in opera than would be required in a play of comparable length.
Librettos are usually shorter than the texts of ordinary dramas, and often to the point of embarrassing the listener or reader Repetitions are frequently called for if the librettist has failed to leave sufficient space for the music. This drastic reduction in the quantity of text, in conjunction with the highly sensual nature of music, necessitates a simplification of both action and characters, the emotions expressed in the closed musical numbers occupying a large segment of the time normally reserved for the dramatic events. The poet in E. All our attempts to conceive or portray this or that passion, in weighty language are in vain; for everything has to be settled in a few lines which, in addition, have to lend themselves to the ruthless treatment which you inflict upon them.
Opera seems often absurd because its characters are poorly motivated. Passion being the operatic coin of the realm, everything is seen in relation to it, even to the point where it becomes impossible sensually to distinguish between good and evil characters. Kierkegaard asserts that music is ethically indifferent and W. In the closed number, mood seems to lead an existence apart from character.
But in spite of this transformation of individuals into mouthpieces of generalized emotions types , every surge of passion appears to be fresh and personal. As far as their feelings are concerned, operatic figures are individuals because the listener identifies himself with the emotions they radiate.
They revert into types in the very moment in which their action falls short of the expectations aroused by these emotions Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni. Taken by itself or in the melodramaturgical context, music is hard pressed when urged to represent falsehood, irony, or ambiguity. Nor is music capable of being humorous, at least not in the usual meaning of the word. Since humor results from the awareness of incongruity it is a form of mental detachment , it cannot be rendered by music except indirectly. It is, after all, an intellectual rather than an emotional category.
Perhaps the most ingenious way of expressing that incongruity in opera consists in the introduction of unmusical characters such as Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger. At its worst, the music of the durchkomponierte Oper will endeavor to illustrate even the minutest variations in speech and action. By thus trying to operate on too narrow a basis it will often defeat its own musical purpose. Used more discreetly, the music of the durchkomponierte Oper will seek to refine upon that which the spoken word expresses unsatisfactorily; but in contrast with the Nummernoper it will do so contemporaneously with language rather than biding its time until an occasion for crystallization arises.
Adding a new dimension to speech, it brings to the surface what the characters cannot or will not utter. It is a mirror of the unconscious. If Tristan, intended for composition, is also a piece of literature, the same can be said with even greater veracity of the librettos fabricated by the Symbolists. See his Entwurf einer neuen Aesthetik der Tonkunst of Another concept of melodramaturgy evolved with a view toward granting drama equal status within the Gesamtkunstwerk a term sometimes inappropriately used in this connection prevails among the Expressionists.
In their epic operas, the constituent parts are meant to live a life of their own, each being asked to comment upon the other. Geoffrey Bles. Such is the fate of many experimental works that have since become classics. It takes considerable effort and self-denial on the part of the composer to create the kind of musical arabesque which Verdi uses in his Falstaff and Strauss in his conversational operas Such misuse may refer to single words and phrases as well as to entire scenes or situations depending on whether the composer is stimulated by language, character, or action.
A Travers Chants Paris. Here the counter-sense is understood to have originated in the literary substratum of opera, this being a parodistic view of the libretto as literature. Two further observations may help to clarify the Romantic point of view with regard to the libretto. One would normally expect the libretto to form the basis of an opera, i. But theatrically-minded composers have occasionally reverted to the unorthodox practice of demanding words for a piece of music already completed. Nobody should be so imprudent as to read the entire libretto.
They have their moment of glory, the moment in which they suggest to him a certain melody; when that is over, they are as expendable as infantry is to a Chinese general; they must efface themselves and cease to care what happens to them Because he wished to introduce a piece of instrumental music whose theme is Hungarian. He would have sent him anywhere if he had found the slightest musical [Italics mine] reason for doing so This much for the historical side of a critique of the libretto as literature. To those who object to this approach because it violates the spirit in which many librettos were conceived i.
It may well be that in the case of the libretto the percentage of literary failures is exceptionally high and that much time would be required to separate the grain from the chaff. But why be discouraged by such a prospect?
Meaning of "Charmeur" in the German dictionary
Chances are that the student of the libretto as literature will get a fair return for his investment in time and effort. Le Coq furnishes a convenient summary of the artistic aims pursued by the group of French composers known as Les Six and consisting of Honegger, Milhaud who joined the group after his return from South America , Poulenc, Auric, Georges Durey, and Germaine Tailleferre. Les Six had grown out of a nucleus of musicians whom Erik Satie, their patron saint, had dubbed Les Nouveaux Jeunes and who had made their first collective appearance in January, Both schools were largely concerned with writing music conceived along national lines, freed, wherever possible, of foreign influence.
Cocteau, who is not a professionally trained musician but is known to possess an uncanny talent for grasping the aesthetic significance of musical phenomena, was ideally suited to become the spokesman of Les Six. As for the aesthetic of the group, it was a direct outgrowth of their anti-Romanticism, of their rebellion against Wagner including his followers and the Impressionists , and of the Germanophobia which swept France at the outbreak of the global conflict.
Indeed, as early as , in Carte Blanche, he com-. But in it was the Frenchman Cocteau who came to the rescue of Classicism, as in his own way the German-Italian composer Ferruccio Busoni had done ten years earlier in his Entwurf einer neuen Aesthetik der Tonkunst. He rejected Romantic music and painting because they involved the emotions rather than the intellect, because he thought them to be eclectic, and because, in his opinion, they sacrificed form to content5. Future reference to this work will be noted in the text by volume and page number.
Cocteau, of course, was never afraid of contradicting himself. How much would I give not to have them exist. Crosland and S. Road New York, , p. Was Le Coq one of the books he regretted having written? The anti-Wagnerism of Les Six was most poignantly expressed in their feelings about the theater. Was geht mich das Theater an? It was for similar reasons that subsequently Brecht encouraged the male members of his audience to take out their cigars and smoke them, so as to gain distance from the events portrayed on stage9.
Stravinsky, too, whom Cocteau accused of having succumbed to theatrical mysticism in his Sacre, was soon to develop a dislike to music to which one must listen as if in a trance. It was this shutting out of the world, this act of concentration and forced identification which Cocteau signified by the phrase quoted at the beginning of this paragraph. Erik Satie, in whose name the war against the Wagnerian tribe was waged, has sometimes been called the Ingres of music. Instead of simply omitting such designations from his own compositions, Satie furnished many of his scores with titles totally unrelated to or, at best, ironically reflecting upon the music.
Ils excitent comme les machines, les animaux, les paysages, le danger. Templier and Rollo S. Myers Erik Satie, London, The plan miscarried; but Satie and Cocteau became inseparable. But the spirit of revolt which it breathes, and the reaction provoked by the adverse criticism which was levelled against it, strongly contributed to the rapid evolution of that genre in the hands of Igor Stravinsky. Musically speaking, 13 R. But when writing his opera, Debussy had long abandoned Wagner and turned toward a characteristically French manner of composing Nevertheless, Cocteau, Satie, and Les Six manifestly wronged the composer who, belated Wagnerian though he was without fully realizing it, clearly foreshadowed some of the tendencies that were to crystallize almost immediately after his death.
Edward Lockspeiser Debussy [London, ], p. Stravinsky, after all, had grown up with a decided penchant for rich orchestral palettes suffused with local color. By , Stravinsky had become sufficiently inured to neoclassicism to think of writing his opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex on a Latin text. It was no other than Cocteau whom he commissioned to write the original French version of the libretto.
Craft New York, , p. He was discovering the beauty of that music. The form he had given to his soul suffered from another form which did not match it. But exactly when was it that Stravinsky began to shake off the tyranny of Romanticism-Impressionism? Around the Russian composer went to Bayreuth at the invitation of Diaghilev.
He came away from a performance of Parsifal as a declared foe of Wagner. The overall impression he had received was one of sense-numbing boredom which made it impossible for him to concentrate on the music. He was equally appalled by the ritual and suprasensible element introjected into the operatic production. Trained primarily as a composer of music for the ballet, he subsequently embarked on a reform of the musical theater considered as a visual medium. This gave the modern composer a free, comparatively easy field for experiment and invention. It relieved him of the obligation to follow a poetic text and by its very nature worked against the principle of the mixture of the genres.
Instead, it directed the composer toward the harmonious fitting together of the three arts, each one complete in itself It was in his second opera, Reynard, that Stravinsky began to destroy the much detested synthesis of the arts21; but only in the subsequent Histoire did his reformatory zeal lead to a systematic application of the epic principle. Ledermann New York, , p. If produced in a theatre, it should be played in front of the curtain.
The players do not leave the stage. White on p. All music created or composed demands some exteriorization for the perception of the listener. The first epic opera thus did not result from purely aesthetic considerations but was partly conditioned by economic exigencies. Histoire was to be a story presented in a threefold manner, namely read, played, and danced. He was beginning to realize the advantages to be gained by renunciation which, in many of his neo-classical works, became the cornerstone of his aesthetic The instrumental parts, moreover, are not consistently integrated throughout the opera; but each solo instrument is encouraged to develop an independent linear existence.
For Stravinsky it was also a foregone conclusion that his music should be so far detached from the underlying action that it could be performed as an orchestral suite. A few words, finally, about the astounding variety of ways in which Ramuz designed each part of the action to operate both by itself and in conjunction with, or contrast to, the others. But five performers are needed to fill their roles, since that of the devil is split up into a dancing and an acting part. In short, the unity of character is persistently denied to the major figures.
Russian folktale The introduction of Jazz into the score offers perhaps the most striking instance of this deliberate rejection of local color. The plot upon which Ramuz and Stravinsky fastened was well suited to their non-Aristotelian dramaturgy since, in the course of its unfolding, the unity of the space-time continuum is disrupted and time treated in terms of spatial progression.
Having been lured into extratemporal territory, the soldier, upon his return to the real world, finds himself regarded as a revenant. He finally manages to outwit the devil and to win the princess whom, with the help of his recovered instrument, he has cured of melancholy. But the devil strikes promptly back when the soldier, crossing the border in order to enter his native country, finds himself deprived of the protection offered to him by the timeless realm.
Bertolt Brecht needs no special introduction as a writer. Yet it is relatively little known that he was also a practicing musician and that, in the early stages of his career, he composed the music for his own Balladen. Some of these songs made their appearance in his plays as well as in the Hauspostille, in which certain of the tunes are also reprinted. In his early plays, the young playwright, by his own confession, used music in the conventional manner by providing dramatic occasions for it Brecht defied the so-called reforms of the musical theater under way in the twenties and aimed at modifying the outward form of opera without changing its apparatus.
Analogously, the Dreigroschenoper mocks the Handelian Renaissance in post-war Germany, which the generation of Neue Sachlichkeit and the Bauhaus came to view as a sign that the bourgeoisie was beginning to reconstitute itself, for the rise of opera had long been associated with the emergence of that class. Generically, the Dreigroschenoper stands halfway between the Singspiel and the Jazz Revue, traditional forms being consistently used with ironic overtones.
The Wagnerian orchestra is replaced by a small jazzband, the set form of the aria by Moritat and Song Like Stravinsky, Brecht wants the musicians to be visible during the whole performance of the work On the whole, however, the German writer is more consistent in his use of alienating devices, which he deploys programmatically. Where Stravinsky totally eliminates the singers, Brecht retains them, but insists on neatly separating the various levels of verbal expression. Nor is the sequence of levels regarded as signifying an increase in emotional intensity.
Music and action, though not always running a parallel course, never clash or look at each other ironically. Weill on the expanded Mahagonny, his interest in the Schuloper, and his later theoretical writings. This is a far cry from the relentless pursuit of alienation which characterized the author of the Dreigroschenoper. Introduction to The Essence of Opera The editor of a collection like the present one, which aims at acquainting the reader with as wide as possible a variety of views on opera broached by composers, librettists, and aestheticians during the last three hundred and fifty years, cannot possibly hope to unite all the important statements bearing on that subject in a single volume.
It will rather be his task to proffer the most significant samples of each of the four basic approaches to opera which evolve in the course of the history of the form. The undertaking seems doubly justified by the fact that it has no precedent and that a considerable portion of the material appears for the first time in translations from the German, French, and Italian. He wrote innumerable librettos for composers like Bononcini, Galuppi, Hasse, Porpora, and the Scarlattis. His letters in six volumes were published in Venice: Sansoni.
Black, edited by W. Drake New York: Knopf, , contains many interesting details and anecdotes about his experiences with managers and composers, especially with Baldassare Galuppi. But a line had to be drawn at some point and repetition would have been unavoidable. The number of first-rate and second-rate composers slighted in our anthology is naturally legion. Some of those whose works are still in the repertory Donizetti, Bellini, Smetana, etc.
Evidence from the pen or mouth of older masters Purcell, Hasse, Telemann, Alessandro Scarlatti either does not exist or is extremely hard to come by. Nor did it seem desirable to burden the collection with views on comic opera. On the whole it is evident that unless they are conscious innovators or reformers, the makers of operatic music are not overly inclined to theorize about their art, except spontaneously during the creative process.
Of the great masters in the field who are still acknowledged as such, Handel is the only one not directly quoted in the anthology, since his letters shed little light on his conception of opera as an art form. One cannot help but notice that this anthology is largely composed of programmatic and quasi-programmatic statements, even though some of the selections appear to be of a strictly descriptive nature. In spite of the many disparities between intention and execution, no attempt has been made — except briefly as part of the introductory matter — to evaluate the material critically, i.
Their correspondence, edited by G. Tosi, was published in An excellent analysis of the relationship between music and drama and its effect on operatic history, theory, and criticism is made by Joseph Kerman in his stimulating though one-sided book Opera as Drama. So far nobody has written a history of the libretto, a task we consider to be a prerequisite for that history of melo-dramaturgy for which our anthology might serve as a tentative basis and for that poetics of opera which Beaumarchais envisaged in his preface to Tarare and which a latter-day Algarotti should perhaps be encouraged to create.
The pieces assembled on the following pages are extremely diverse. Some constitute private, some semi-private documents, while others were intended for publication. Letters exchanged between individuals engaged in creating a symbiosis of music and drama are especially valuable insofar as their content directly reflects the creative process and acquaints us with the actual intentions of librettists and composers. Other epistles, such as St. Prefaces to, and dedications of, specific works represent a rather formal type of communication between an artist and his patrons or his audience.
Gluck used his dedication of Alceste to Grand Duke Leo-. Although it is quite impossible and perhaps undesirable to reduce the manifold views on opera to a set of clearly delimited, mutually exclusive categories, four basic approaches to melo-dramaturgy suggest themselves, with numerous intermediary positions completing the spectrum. A fifth approach — that which posits the absurdity of the.
The first approach, which is essentially that embraced by the classicists and neoclassicists of all nations and ages, rests on the assumption that in opera music must always remain a modest handmaiden. Rinuccini, Caccini, Peri and their contemporaries agreed that the musical ingredient should underscore, perhaps enhance, but never overshadow the spoken word. From Corneille to Beaumarchais this was the position held, with a few notable exceptions, by one generation of French critics after another.
Rousseau and the Encyclopedists never ceased to think of music — or, at any rate, of song — as a kind of language; and the venerable Pietro Metastasio, reminding us of the fact that Aristotle listed music as the fifth of the six constituent parts of drama, proudly reported that his dramas — the famous Didone abbandonata among them — were more frequently seen as plays than as operas. Philosophically, the neoclassical theory of opera finds support in the writings of Kant, for whom reason is the supreme guide in human affairs and who, judging the arts according to the degree in which reason partakes in their execution and reception, finds fault with music on account of its sensuousness.
The Romantic theory of opera, radically opposed to its classical antecedents, celebrates the triumph of music over drama. Stepping out of the role assigned to it by the classically minded aestheticians, music now regards literature as its slave. Romantically inclined composers — but, understandably, not only those — are at times so carried away by their inspiration that they compose the music for numbers whose text has not as yet been written.
This paradox, bearing out the contention Prima la musica e poi le parole the title of an opera by Salieri , is mentioned in the letters of Mozart, Verdi, Strauss, and Puccini. The two radical positions just outlined are duly complemented by two others, which hinge on the conviction that the two principal ingredients of opera are equally valuable and that neither of them should be exalted at the expense of the other.
Wagner proclaimed the union of music and drama in terms of a perfect marriage contracted and consummated between male and female, whose copulation renders the Gesamtkunstwerk possible, whereas, breaking away from the Wagnerian style, the founders of Epic Opera were determined to provide equal but separate facilities for music and drama.
Both elements are thus assured their independence. Stravinsky, Brecht, and to a certain extent Claudel are fond of alienation, whereas Alban Berg, in his.
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Wozzeck, alienates music from drama sub rosa while emphasizing the expressive quality of his music. Chronologically, the neoclassical view predominated in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries except when opera gave itself frankly as a baroque spectacle , whereas the Romantic concept prevailed in the first half, and the Wagnerian in the second half, of the following centennium. Twentieth-century melo-dramaturgy, when it avoids the charge of being conservative or reactionary, centers in the fourth approach.
Apart from the basic, and hence constantly repeated, question concerning the true nature of the relationship between music and drama or poetry , a limited number of topics of a more specialized nature are intermittently discussed in our anthology. Those who affirm the role of opera as an important ingredient of the aesthetic universe are naturally eager to explain what makes it a form sui generis.
What can opera do, they ask, that the exclusively literary or musical genres find themselves barred from achieving? Those who want to undermine the foundations of opera, on the other hand, seek to prove that it can never rid itself of its inherent flaws. The champions of opera are only too quick to point out that what the spoken drama lacks most of all is the ability to handle several strands of action or emotion simultaneously.
What is more, considerable depth is gained in opera by the interplay between the singers and the orchestra, since the latter may be advantageously used to comment upon the action on stage, just as it can serve to reveal the subconscious motives and urges of the protagonists. Wagner even wants it to perform the role of historian and prophet. Music being a mood-building art, its presence often adds a totally new dimension to the drama: the sensuousness which language, that arbitrary system of counters, lacks.
In the spoken drama, mood can only be expressed negatively, for instance by means of significant pauses. Stanislavsky, I think, was right when treating it symphonically. A further advantage enjoyed by opera, and repeatedly touched upon in our anthology, derives from the use of several levels of expression, and hence consciousness, which that art form renders feasible. The operatic composer commands a variety of means of expression — from the conversational to the symphonic, from ordinary speech via Sprechstimme, melodrama of the type encountered in Fidelio , recitativo secco and accompagnato to full-fledged arias, ensembles, and purely instrumental music — that is unparalleled in regular drama.
At best this wealth can be approximated in a poetic play like T. This stratification, however, also has its disadvantages: for how is the composer to proceed from one level of discourse to another without breaking the continuity? Wagner in-. What the critics of opera most violently object to in the genre is the artificiality of the conventions which gave rise to it and which make its existence possible. But, as Wieland points out astutely, the conventions of the spoken drama and of art in general, are hardly less constraining, and the difference is, at best, one of degree.
Many champions of opera, anticipating this common objection, sought to assign to it a realm sufficiently remote from ordinary life to make these conventions tolerable. Dryden, Wieland, Busoni, Hofmannsthal and, in part, Beaumarchais share this view; and Schiller, in a letter to Goethe of December 29, , goes so far as to express the hope that a rejuvenation of drama might be effected by way of opera.
These factors surely contribute to the failure of many a music drama and help to account for the excruciatingly small number of operatic masterpieces. All the more reason for us to ponder these questions anew and to sharpen our awareness of the hurdles any team of composer and librettist has to clear before it can proceed to the finish. Reflections on a Golden Style: W. Auden has been regarded as the most representative English writer or, at least, the most representative British poet of the generation following that of T.
Its growth and scope have been surveyed in essays by Edward Callan and Cleanth Brooks2. As a playwright, too, Auden has found himself in the critical limelight, notably regarding his contributions to the repertory of the British Group Theatre in the thirties The Dog Beneath the Skin and The Ascent of F 6, both written in collaboration with Christopher Isherwood.
As a sheer artifice, that is to say, opera is not ashamed of the rhetoric from which the modern playwright shies away. The great Mozart operas might just do because Mozart was Mozart, but Wagner in one way and Verdi in another were considered vulgar; as for Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti, they were simply beyond the pale.
Judging by some articles I have read, this prejudice still survives in certain English quarters. Auden Princeton, , Spears discusses it on the basis of information furnished by Daniel G. Those literary critics who presume to do so act in ignorance and demonstrate, once again, the dire consequences which an arbitrary fragmentation of the arts entails. Elegy for Young Lovers Mainz, , We hardly need apologize for the omission of some particulars and details which — the standard fare of melo-dramaturgy — would only clutter up the pages.
In keeping with our announced purpose, we do not intend to analyze any of the original librettos Auden wrote jointly with Chester Kallman11, except where the nature or evolution of such texts has a bearing on the subject of operatic theory, which constitutes the focus of our essay. Auden himself has admitted his skepticism with regard to the translatability of librettos. In , for instance, he put himself on record as believing:. The New Republic, May 15, , Spears was informed by Auden that seventy-five per cent of the text of Elegy for Young Lovers must be credited to Kallman.
It is precisely because I believe that, in listening to song as distinct from chant , we hear, not words, but syllables, that I am violently hostile to the performances of opera in translation. Wagner in Italian or Verdi in English sounds intolerable, and would still sound so if the poetic merits of the translation were greater than those of the original, because the new syllables have no apt relation to the pitch and tempo of the notes with which they are associated. In song, poetry is expendable, syllables are not If within a few years following this pronouncement Auden had embarked on doing exactly what, in theory, he did not regard as being worth the trouble, this can be explained in a very pragmatic manner.
However, if audiences demand them in their own, they must accept the consequences. Obviously, the texture and weight of the original words set by the composer are an element in his orchestration and any change of the words is therefore an alternation of the music itself. Yet the goal of the translator, however unattainable, must be to make audiences believe that the words they are hearing are the words the composer actually set, which means that a too-literal translation of the original text may sometimes prove a falsification New York Times, January 8, , section 2, 9.
Taken as a whole, these attitudes form a frame of reference in which all artistic media occupy their assigned stations and are judged according to a carefully drawnup scheme of values. That Auden was relatively slow in arriving at this grand conception of a harmonia artium and that, nevertheless, this development was a natural one, is proved by the notions — however tentative — which the young author of the Group Theatre harbored.
These notions which must have found a sympathetic ear in T. Eliot, the author of the Agon, Sweeney Agonistes in some ways clearly foreshadow the final epiphany. In a paradigmatic utterance published in a program of the communal enterprise, Auden sought to establish the superiority of the poetic drama over any branch of dramatic realism.
It is not in its nature to provide an ignorant and passive spectator with exciting news. Dramatic speech, like dramatic movement, should possess a self-confessed, significant and undocumentary character. Faith is essentially invisible. Spears discusses Paul Bunyan on pp. The most successful heroes and heroines in opera are mythical figures. That is to say, whatever their historical or geographical setting, they embody some element of human nature or some aspect of the human condition which is a permanent concern of human beings irrespective of their time and place First of all, we are surprised that a man who tends to emulate what we might call the Romantic view of opera should so brazenly insist on a neat separation of genres, or rather on assigning to each genre its uniquely proper function.
The practical applica-. Times Literary Supplement, November 2,, Those areas often overlap but never coincide, for if two media could do the same thing equally well one would be unnecessary. When someone, like myself, after years of working in one medium, essays another for the first time, he should always, I believe, try to discover its proper principles before starting work. Otherwise he is in danger of carrying over assumptions and habits of mind which have become second nature to him in a field where, as a matter of fact, they do not and cannot apply In light of this cautionary note, we justly expect Auden to strive for a systematic exploration of the arts in terms of their interrelationship.
Although, for reasons which will soon become apparent, he pays relatively little attention to the plastic arts, he does not, on the whole, disappoint us in this respect. His discontent with the visual arts stems primarily from his awareness of their stationary and hence essentially passive character. Auden seems to regard the plastic arts as being mimetic and representational — a rather old-fashioned view regarding the predominance of abstract painting in the first half of the twentieth century.
What really irks him, however, is the circumstance that, lacking the temporal dimension, painted characters are unable to choose or assert their wills in any recognizable way. They thus invariably appear to be products of their environment or victims of fate. This was the chief handicap with which Auden and Kallman found themselves saddled. When we look at a picture of a couple embracing, we know for certain that they are interested in each other, but are told very little about what each is feeling; when we listen to a love duet on the opera stage, it is just the other way round; we are certain that each is in love, but the cause of that love will seem to lie in each as subject not as an object Kierkegaard certainly would have given his placet, for what mattered to him in his search for the most perfect expression of sensuous-erotic genius was the suitability of a given artistic medium for that purpose: The most abstract idea conceivable is sensuous genius.
But in what medium is this idea expressible? Solely in music. It cannot be expressed in sculpture, for it is a sort of inner qualification of inwardness, nor in painting, for it cannot be apprehended in precise outlines; it is an energy, a storm, a passion, and so on, in all their lyrical quality, yet so that it does not exist in one moment but in a succession of moments, for if it existed in a single moment it could be modeled or painted As we move with Auden from painting to cinematography, we find some satisfaction in entering an ambit of temporal progression in a visual art.
Swenson, rev. DH, Had he used a fat middle-aged couple, the effect would have been ridiculous because the snatches of language which are all the movie permits have not sufficient power to transcend their physical appearance. Moving to the level of literature, we can confine ourselves, with Auden, to a brief consideration of the drama which, unlike epic poetry or fiction, retains little of the material dross — the documentary values and environmental factors — which weighs so heavily on the visual arts.
As for the nature of the relationship between lyrical poetry and music — chant and song — Auden discusses it at some length in his introduction to An Elizabethan Song Book Poets at Work, ed. Abbott New York, , Auden finds literature to be superior to painting because it is, first and foremost, a temporal art. Albanian, Albanian woman Albanisch: 1. Albanian, Albanian language Album: 1. Algeria Algerier: 1. Algerian Alibi: 1.
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