Lehrstück, Opera, and the New Audience Contract of the Epic Theater

Joy H. Calico

in Brecht at the Opera

Published by University of California Press

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780520254824
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942813 | DOI:
Lehrstück, Opera, and the New Audience Contract of the Epic Theater

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This chapter argues that the primary goal of epic theater is the renegotiation of the audience's contract with the theater-going experience. Lehrstücke (learning plays) and opera occupy opposite ends of the continuum for audience experience in musical theater. The social contract in effect for opera audiences is stipulated not only by the fact that participants empathize with characters, suspend disbelief, and submit to emotional manipulation, but they do so under the influence of the powerful narcotic of continuous music. Similar conditions are imposed in nonoperatic theater, but opera is the most extreme example because of its perpetual, manipulative musical presence. Lehrstücke could effectively render attendees a nonaudience by transforming them into participants or prospective participants. It concludes with the fact that epic theater's provenance is musical, as it has emerged from two diametrically opposed musical theater genres i.e., Lehrstück and Opera.

Keywords: epic theater; opera; music; Lehrstücke; musical theater

Chapter.  11154 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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