The Matrimonial Anomaly (Schubert’s Opera for Posterity)

Kristina Muxfeldt

in Vanishing Sensibilities

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199782420
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919154 | DOI:
The Matrimonial Anomaly (Schubert’s Opera for Posterity)

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Schubert’s unfinished last opera Der Graf von Gleichen was drafted only after the libretto had been banned by the censors. Based on a popular thirteenth-century legend about a man who had two wives (a happy end sanctioned by the Pope), the story underwent radical alterations in the early nineteenth century, becoming a tragedy in most stage treatments. The chapter shows how Schubert’s opera runs counter to this tendency, insisting on the more typical eighteenth-century lieto fine, which in this case called for a three-way-marriage tableau. Even under Metternich, the theater remained the most public forum available for airing views on controversial subjects (if only obliquely): this story had become a vehicle for debating the legal and conceptual basis of marriage, especially the role of consent, a debate that found its echo on stages everywhere.

Keywords: Schubert; Der Graf von Gleichen; legend (13th century); three-way marriage; censorship; 1820s Vienna; Metternich; marital consent; comedy and tragedy; opera

Chapter.  17198 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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