Viva La Liberta


Word Count: 1685

Politics in Opera Imprint
Information Viva la Liberta! - Politics in Opera by Anthony
Arblaster is published by Verso in 1992 in London, Great
Britain. It was the book\'s first edition and publication. The
book contains 340 pages of text, no illustrations, and
includes a tables of contents, nine main chapters, conclusion,
notes and and an index. The chapters start with the period of
modern politics, the French Revolution in 1789 and with
"Mozart: Class Conflict and Enlightenment" from that period
till modern opera / musicals in "Democratic Opera: Victims
as Heroes". All nine chapters are written by the same author,
Anthony Arblaster. Each chapter tries to concentrate on one
to a few composers from the same period who share similar
political views and actions. Each chapter can be viewed as
an individual work / essay. The nine chapters follow the time
frame sequentially and are respectively: Ch.1 Mozart: Class
Conflict and Enlightenment, Ch.2 Opera and Revolution,
Ch.3 Patria Oppressa: Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and
Risorgimento (Nationalism I), Ch.4 Verdi: the Liberal
Patriot, Ch.5 Wagner: from Revolution to Racism, Ch.6
Russia, Czechoslovakia and a Footnote on England
(Nationalism II), Ch.7 Women in Opera, Ch.8 Interlude -
Opera without Politics: Puccini and Strauss and Ch.9
Democratic Opera: Victims as Heroes. The introduction and
conclusion helps in giving coherence to the vast time frame
of two hundread years and the different emphasis on political
of composers in their works. The detailed index is also
helpful in the cross referencing a particular work or
composer which might be mentioned in different chapters for
comparisons. The notes offer a detailed bibliography with
chance for further reference material on the issue of politics
in opera. General Summary Although the book does not
formally state the meaning of "politics", the definition used
throughout the book is the "beliefs about how a country
ought to be governed" instead of politics as in political
power and actions or activities. The book also presents the
argument of social context at the particular period and place
as "politics" and that if opera lacks the political element
(social context), it lacks a convincing element in which
communication and mutual consensus among composer and
audience would be neglected, that opera cannot be \'pure\'
music. Music and especially opera has to be out of
\'something\', a \'something\' that lies outside and beyond the
music itself and in many instances, political beliefs play are a
major part in it. The book\'s intend is not to illustrate politics
as the major cause or result of opera but that the influence
exist and to refute the common downplay and negligence of
politics in opera from critics. In all chapters, the author
follows a similar pattern in presenting his arguments. First,
the history and beliefs of the composer in various stages of
his life is discussed. Letters and books (in case of Wagner)
of the composer are presented as evidence. The viewpoint
of the composer in that should opera include politics is also
discussed. Individual operas are then discussed, citing
particular portions of the libretto as reference and evidence.
The story lines for the operas are also discussed in detail.
The audience\'s reaction and the popularity at the time of the
initial performance is presented. Critics of different periods
for the interpretation of the work is also quoted to give a
more subjective point of view on the issue. Finally, for each
chapter, a brief conclusion on the period or the composer is
given and the central themes are reiterated. Chapter
Summeries Although Mozart by no means was a political
person, his works were cited as the dawn of modern opera
with its certain political meaning in chapter one. In his
operas, there were the ideas of class and sex conflicts and
war. Class conflicts involved the abuse of aristocratic
position and rise of the common people in both Le nozze di
Figaro and Don Giovanni. The sex war occures in Le nozze
di Figaro and Cosi fan tutte where women should be treated
with respect, rather than assuming in age old chauvinist way
that is the women rather than men who are to be mistrusted
in matters of love and sex. In Die Zauberflote, the moment
of hope and optimism after the French Revolution can easily
be seen where light and wisdom triumph over the Queen of
the Night and superstition. Arblaster in chapter three and six
argues that music, and therefore opera played a central role
in creating a sense of national identity and rallying people to
the national cause in the various European countries. Often
opera provided a forum for the expression of subversive
political sentiments disguised to get around census in
patriotic arias or choruses. In Italy\'s case, the