Beyond the Silver Moon: Exploring the Lost Tradition of Dvorak's Operas through a Study of Myth, Music, and Nationalism
Holland, John Christopher
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When one examines the compositional oeuvre of Antonn Dvok, one bears witness to a catalogue of well-known works, and critical successes, in every genre except one, opera. Dvoks Cello Concerto, Op.104 is regarded as the pinnacle of the repertoire. The chamber works follow the pedigree of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms. The symphonic and orchestral works are held in the highest regard, and his grand choral works in Latin experienced critical successes in England and abroad. The question then arises, What happened to Dvok the opera composer? With ten operas to his credit, which span his life, Dvok was no stranger to the genre. Why is it that a composer who was known as a master of melody, and put the whole of his artistry into his operas, has so long been silent on the operatic stages of the world? While some of Dvoks operas have remained popular at home, the majority of them are lost in obscurity. Only Rusalka has begun to break onto the international opera scene, and only within the last thirty years. This research will examine Dvoks operas, specifically Jakobn and Rusalka, from a critical standpoint, focusing on such criteria as tonal structures, thematic material and motives, subject matter, Czech folklore and musical influences, textual language, nationalism, characters, compositional history, performance history, and reception. What was Dvoks role as an opera composer for the fledgling National Theatre in Prague, and how did his operas fit into the aesthetic, artistic, and political climates of his day? Why is Dvoks catalogue of operas still rarely heard today, even in Prague? The intent of this research is to vindicate and validate Dvok as an opera composer; to show him to be an overlooked master in Nineteenth Century opera and the bridge between the Verdi and Wagner traditions. The direction of this research is the concept of Czechness and what it meant to Dvok. While contemporaries such as Wagner wrote heavily on their political, social, and patriotic views, Dvok used his music as an outlet for his beliefs and national pride.