Liberty in the Theater, or the Emancipation of Words

Kristina Muxfeldt

in Vanishing Sensibilities

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199782420
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919154 | DOI:
Liberty in the Theater, or the Emancipation of Words

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The opening study begins by recalling memorable moments in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, and Beethoven’s Fidelio when words projected through music pierce the imaginary fourth wall of the theater and resonate with matters beyond the stage. Schubert’s opera Alfonso und Estrella, whose characters are drawn from medieval Spanish history, was written in the wake of a devastating police crackdown that had a lasting effect on Schubert and his friends (another response to it is explored in chapter six). The chapter places the opera within the wider culture of Viennese censorship and relates it to a fascination with historical drama, drawing on Grillparzer and Beethoven, Nestroy, Ludwig Tieck’s Die verkehrte Welt and Lope de Vega’s The Star of Seville to show how the opera is one of Schubert’s many contributions to what was an ongoing cultural conversation about the nature of liberty.

Keywords: Schubert; Beethoven; Mozart; Tieck; liberty; opera; Alfonso und Estrella; The Star of Seville; Die verkehrte Welt; censorship; 1820s Vienna

Chapter.  16836 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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