Synopses & Reviews
To what extent do operas express the political and cultural ideas of their age? How do they reflect the composer's view of the changing relations among art, politics, and society? In this book John Bokina focuses on political aspects and meanings of operas from the baroque to postmodern period, showing the varied ways that operas become sensuous vehicles for the articulation of political ideas. Bokina begins with an analysis of Monteverdi's three extant operas, which address in an oblique way the political and ideological dualities of aristocratic rule in the seventeenth-century Italy. He then moves to Mozart's "Don Giovanni," which he views as a celebration of the demise of a predatory aristocracy. He presents Beethoven's "Fidelio" as an example of the political spirit of a revolution based on republican virtue, and Wagner's "Parsifal" as a utopian music drama that projects romantic anticapitalist ideals onto an imagined past. He shows that Strauss's "Elektra" and Schoenberg's "Erwartung" transform the traditional operatic depiction of madness by reflecting the emerging Freudian psychoanalysis of that era. And he argues that operas by Pfitzner, Hindemith, and Schoenberg explore the political roles of art and the artists, each couching contemporary conditions in an allegory about the fate of art in a historical period of transition. Finally, Bokina offers a reappraisal of Henze's "The Bassarids" as a political opera that confronts the promise and limits of the sensual-sexual revolt of the twentieth-century.
In this book Bokina focuses on political aspects and meanings of operas from the baroque to the postmodern period, showing the varied ways that operas become sensuous vehicles for the articulation of political ideas. "What fascinates Bokina about opera in this gratifying and overdue inquiry is not its soprano rivalries nor its musical particularities, but its political commentary and social function. Indeed, the author raises many new questions about some of the most frequently studied masterpieces of the genre. . . . At least a dozen operas figure into this provocative and original analysis, and Bokina is unfailingly lucid in his attempt to capture 'the intentional, shared, and transcendental levels of political meaning' he searches for in opera."-Virginia Quarterly Review