MUS103: Survey of Music History II Dr. Kathleen Bondurant, Ph.D. Musical Theater
Origins of Musical Theater <ul><li>Of course, musical theater began with the ancient Greeks and continued through the centuries with opera, light opera and operettas. However, we begin with two of the greatest writers of all time in the early 1800’s. . . </li></ul>
Gilbert AND Sullivan? Gilbert before Sullivan <ul><li>William S. Gilbert was born in London on 18 November 1836. His father William was a naval surgeon who later wrote novels and short stories, some of which included illustrations by his son. In 1861, the younger Gilbert began to write illustrated stories, poems and articles of his own to supplement his income. Many of these would later be mined as a source of ideas for his plays and operas, particularly his series of illustrated poems called the Bab Ballads . </li></ul>
Gilbert before Sullivan One of Gilbert's illustrations for his Bab Ballad "Gentle Alice Brown" In the Bab Ballads and his early plays, Gilbert developed a unique "topsy-turvy" style, where the humor was derived by setting up a ridiculous premise and working out its logical consequences, however absurd. http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilbert_and_sullivan
Gilbert before Sullivan Ages Ago , during the rehearsals (left) for which Frederic Clay introduced Gilbert to Sullivan. At the time Gilbert began writing, theatre in Britain was in disrepute. Gilbert helped to reform and elevate the respectability of the theatre, especially beginning with his six short family-friendly comic operas, or "entertainments," for Thomas German Reed. http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilbert_and_sullivan
Gilbert before Sullivan <ul><li>In 1869, the composer Frederic Clay introduced Gilbert to his friend, the young composer Arthur Sullivan. Two years later, Gilbert and Sullivan would write their first work together. Those two intervening years continued to shape Gilbert's theatrical style. He continued to write humorous verse, stories and plays, including the comic operas Our Island Home (1870) and A Sensation Novel (1871), and the blank verse comedies The Princess (1870), The Palace of Truth (1870), and Pygmalion and Galatea . </li></ul>
Sullivan before Gilbert <ul><li>Arthur Sullivan was born in London on 13 May 1842. His father was a military bandmaster, and by the time Arthur had reached the age of 8, he was proficient with all the instruments in the band. In school he began to compose anthems and songs. In 1856, he received the first Mendelssohn Prize and studied at the Royal Academy of Music and at Leipzig, where he also took up conducting. His graduation piece, completed in 1861, was a suite of incidental music to Shakespeare's The Tempest . Revised and expanded, it was performed at the Crystal Palace in 1862 and was an immediate sensation. He began building a reputation as England's most promising young composer, composing a symphony, a concerto, and several overtures, among them the Overture di Ballo , in 1870. </li></ul>
Sullivan before Gilbert The Crystal Palace, where several early Sullivan works premiered. http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilbert_and_sullivan
Sullivan before Gilbert <ul><li>His early major works for the voice included The Masque at Kenilworth (1864); an oratorio, The Prodigal Son (1869); and a dramatic cantata, On Shore and Sea (1871). He composed a ballet, L'Île Enchantée (1864) and incidental music for a number of Shakespeare plays. Other early pieces that were praised were his Symphony in E , Concerto for Cello and Orchestra , and Overture in C (In Memoriam) (all three of which premiered in 1866). These commissions, however, were not sufficient to keep Sullivan afloat. He worked as a church organist and composed numerous hymns, popular songs, and parlor ballads. </li></ul><ul><li>Sullivan's first foray into comic opera was Cox and Box (1866), written with librettist F. C. Burnand for an informal gathering of friends. Public performance followed, with W. S. Gilbert (then writing dramatic criticism for Fun ) saying that Sullivan's score "is, in many places, of too high a class for the grotesquely absurd plot to which it is wedded." </li></ul>
W.S. Gilbert AND Arthur Sullivan W. S. Gilbert Arthur Sullivan The Victorian era partnership of librettist W. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900) produced fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which H.M.S. Pinafore , The Pirates of Penzance , and The Mikado are among the best known. http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilbert_and_sullivan
W.S. Gilbert AND Arthur Sullivan <ul><li>Gilbert, who wrote the words, created fanciful topsy-turvy worlds for these operas, where each absurdity is taken to its logical conclusion—fairies rub elbows with British lords, flirting is a capital offence, gondoliers ascend to the monarchy, and pirates turn out to be noblemen who have gone wrong. Sullivan, seven years younger than Gilbert, composed the music, contributing memorable melodies that could convey both humor and pathos. </li></ul><ul><li>Producer Richard D'Oyly Carte nurtured their collaboration. He built the Savoy Theatre in 1881 to present their joint works—which came to be known as the Savoy Operas—and he founded the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, which performed and promoted their works for over a century. </li></ul>
Musical Theater in America <ul><li>It took many years for the American musical theatre to acquire its own identity. Many aspects were borrowed from Britain. </li></ul><ul><li>Ballad Opera-- The first musical production in the Colonies was Flora , a performance that took place in a court room in Charleston, South Carolina, on February 8, 1735. Flora was a ballad opera imported from England. </li></ul><ul><li>Burlesque-- After the Colonies had become a nation, a new kind of stage production began to attract interest: the burlesque. Still strongly influenced by Europe, burlesque consisted of travesties on or parodies of famous plays, performers or dancers--in song, dance, pantomime and dialogue. One of the earliest was Hamlet in 1828, in which John Poole starred; one of the best, La Mosquita in or about 1838, satirized the celebrated Viennese dancer, Fanny Elssler, in her performance in Tarantella . </li></ul>
Musical Theater Burlesque means literally "imitation" - to satirize or parody. Burlesque is a style of live entertainment that encompasses pastiche, parody and wit. The genre traditionally encompasses a variety of acts such as dancing girls, chanson singers, comedians, mime artists and strip tease artistes, all satirical and with an overall saucy edge. www.burlesqueshow.info/images/Gypsy.jpg
Musical Theater (Cont.) <ul><li>Burlesque (Cont.) </li></ul><ul><li>The sensational extravaganza, The Black Crook , produced in New York on September 12, 1866--and the most successful theatrical production put on in America up to that time—was written by Americans. The Black Crook introduced some of the ritual subsequently identifying American musical comedy: chorus girls, ornate production numbers, elaborate costuming, songs provocative with sexual innuendos, large dance numbers and so forth. </li></ul>
Musical Theater (Cont.) <ul><li>Yet all the while that the European influence on the American musical theatre was pronounced and inescapable, tentative efforts were being made to achieve a musical entertainment basically American in style, spirit and format. The minstrel show, first crystallized in 1843, represented such an attempt through the exploitation of the humor, dance and song of the American Negro. But the minstrel show had no plot, characterizations or settings. The first American musical to do so, and at the same time concentrate on American experiences, was The Brook in 1879, book and lyrics by Nate Salesbury. </li></ul>
Musical Theater (Cont.) <ul><li>The American musical comedy, however, did not emerge until after the turn of the twentieth century. Its parent was George M. Cohan--librettist, lyricist, composer. Not only were the settings and characters of Cohan's musicals thoroughly American, but his dialogue, lyrics and melody were colloquial and native. Cohan also established some of the procedures henceforth governing musical-comedy writing. Any plot, however far-fetched and improbable, was serviceable just so long as it could be the frame for songs, dances, routines and humorous episodes. </li></ul>
Musical Theater http://www.lorenzhart.org/img/ratherRight.jpg George M. Cohan. American actor, popular songwriter, playwright, and producer especially of musical comedies, who became famous as the “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
Musical Theater (Cont.) <ul><li>The greatest revolution in the American musical theatre up to that time came in 1927 with Show Boat , by Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern, a completely new genre --the musical play as distinguished from musical comedy. Here, finally, was a musical with a consistent and credible story line, authentic atmosphere and three-dimensional characters. </li></ul>
Musical Theater http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Z2J5JPGRL._AA240_.jpg Jerome Kern , was one of the most important pioneering composers of American Popular Song. Kern was writing for Broadway shows in 1904 (age 19). He wrote his first complete score for a Broadway musical in 191l. The Kern/Hammerstein score for the musical 'Showboat' was a landmark in the Broadway theater. http://nfo.net/cal/hflokern.jpg Here's a photo of ( L-R ) Oscar Hammerstein, Florenz Ziegfeld and Jerome Kern , talking about the play "Showboat".
Musical Theater (Cont.) <ul><li>The musical play made further forward strides with Of Thee I Sing! , the brilliant political satire by George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind and Ira and George Gershwin; with two more musicals by Jerome Kern, Cat and the Fiddle and Music in the Air ; with several more musicals by Rodgers and Hart , most notably On Your Toes and Pal Joey ; and most of all with the first of the Rodgers and Hammerstein masterworks, Oklahoma! , with which the musical play finally became a significant American art form. </li></ul>
Musical Theater http://www.primarysourcelearning.org/teach/lq/013/images/gersh2.jpg Ira (Lyricist) and George Gershwin (Composer) with Fred Astaire (Dancer).
Musical Theater (Cont.) <ul><li>After Oklahoma! , Rodgers and Hammerstein were the most important contributors to the musical-play form--with such masterworks as Carousel , The King and I and South Pacific . The examples they set in creating vital plays, often rich with social thought, provided the necessary encouragement for other gifted writers to create musical plays of their own, men like Lerner and Loewe, Frank Loesser and Leonard Bernstein among others. </li></ul><ul><li>The musical play and musical comedy are today the two major branches of the American musical theatre. Each is a thriving institution, artistically and commercially, because each has its own place and purpose, and each continues year by year to give promise of a still richer and more eventful future. </li></ul>
Musical Theater http://www.marx-brothers.org/watching/covers/dvd/1061_1385.jpg http://www.loc.gov/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/06/rodgers-hammerstein1.jpg Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.
Text Sources: The Complete Book of Light Opera . Mark Lubbock. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1962. pp. 753-756. http://www.theatrehistory.com/american/musical030.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilbert_and_sullivan