Indiana University Bloomington
Central Eurasian Studies >> Courses >> Course List
Examining Operetta
Catalog number CEUS-U 320/520
Lynn Hooker

In the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, operetta flourished around Europe and in every outpost of European culture around the world. It found audiences not only in theaters but also in ballrooms, cafés, salons, and through film and recording. Whether in spite of or because of its popularity, it was and is frequently dismissed as kitsch by serious writers and composers. This course takes this unserious genre seriously: while its overriding goal was popular entertainment, its tuneful music and more-or- less gently satirical plots also offer a window into the societal and political questions of its time.

We will begin the course by considering standards of “serious” art and definitions of kitsch. Then we will survey selected examples of operetta from France (Offenbach), Britain (Gilbert & Sullivan), Austria and Hungary (Strauss, Lehár, Kálmán), and the United States (Romberg, Friml, Kern).

Some issues to consider: operetta’s predecessors; genre boundaries; the development of the genre in France and its transformation in Vienna; the use of operetta excerpts as popular music beyond the theater; exoticism; nationality issues on stage; operetta on film; and the depiction of minorities, particularly Jews and Gypsies.

Both music students and those who do not read music are welcome in this course. Students will be directed to research topics appropriate to their interest and background.