Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Radio, rubble, and reconstruction: The genre of Funkoper in postwar occupied Germany and the German Federal Republic, 1946-1957
by Oster, Andrew, Ph.D., Princeton University, 2010, 303; 3435974
Abstract (Summary)

Since its origins in the early seventeenth century, opera has been considered the most extravagant of musical genres—a multi-sensory spectacle of artistic, musical, and dramatic performance. With the advent of opera broadcasts in the 1920s, however, the genre was stripped of its most essential and defining characteristic: its visibility. If an opera is performed not on stage, but over the airwaves, does it cease to be opera? This dissertation answers this question through investigating the little-known genre of radio opera ( Funkoper) in postwar occupied Germany and the German Federal Republic. After the wartime destruction of Germany’s opera houses, the technology of radio was a key factor in opera’s survival in the postwar era. Radio freed opera from the monumentality and pageantry that the Nazis had exploited for political ends. Opera was not monumental, but intimate; not communal, but private—to be listened to alone at home. These factors transformed radio opera into a new, uniquely postwar, genre of music drama.

The Introduction charts the history of radio opera from its origins in late-1920s Germany through the Third Reich and into the postwar era. Chapter One provides a general history of radio in Germany from 1922 until 1945, touching on the major historical, dramatic, and musical developments of the medium, as well as the most important aesthetic and social theories on radio. Chapter Two situates radio opera within the history of opera performance in occupied Germany and the Federal Republic. Chapters Three and Four present two case studies, selected because of their differing interpretations of radio’s utility as an operatic medium. Boris Blacher’s Die Flut (The Tide, 1946), composed at a time when Berlin’s opera houses still lay in destruction, is analyzed according to the “rubble” aesthetic endemic to postwar Berlin. In Hans Werner Henze’s Ein Landarzt (A Country Doctor, 1951), the first operatic setting of the writing of Franz Kafka, the medium of radio perfectly realizes the interiorized narrative space of Kafka’s text. Analysis of these important works reveals radio’s historical and aesthetic significance to the composition, performance, and reception of opera in the postwar years.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Burnham, Scott
School: Princeton University
School Location: United States -- New Jersey
Source: DAI-A 72/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Music, Mass communications
Keywords: Berlin, Funkoper, Germany, Opera, Postwar, Radio, Reconstruction
Publication Number: 3435974
ISBN: 978-1-124-35104-9
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