Germanic Languages | German Culture In Translation
G364 | unknown | Weiner
G364 German Culture in Translation (3 cr.)
Professor Marc A. Weiner
Topic: Opera and German Culture
If there’s one thing people think of when they think of Germany,
Austria, and Switzerland (aside from the Oktoberfest,
Neuschwanstein, and the best chocolate cake anywhere), it’s the
prominent role music has played in those foreign countries’
culture. It’s a cliché that the pomp and elegance of the German and
Austrian aristocracy were accompanied by works of the greatest
composers in history, but it’s also true that classical music
continues to play a role in these countries quite unlike anything
found elsewhere. And while the symphony, chamber music, and the art
song still comprise an important part of the cultural life of German-
speaking Europe, it’s the opera that most dramatically demonstrates
a central position with long-standing roots in the vibrant cultural
life and history of these countries. It’s no coincidence that
Germany alone still has over eighty opera houses that are, for the
most part, state funded, and that their performances remain well
attended and are often sold out well ahead of time, because since it
moved from the exclusive domain of the court theater into the more
public arena, opera always was, and continues to be, at the heart of
the cultural imagination of German-speaking Europe.
The goal of this course will be to examine in what ways the most
celebrated operatic works of the past 200 years demonstrate the
close connection between the interests of their time and the
aesthetic material of which they are made. We will engage with a
number of the most famous German and Austrian operas from the late
18th century to the 1970s, and will discuss them within their given
cultural context. In addition to analyzing some of the major works
of (in this order) Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Strauss, Pfitzner,
Berg, Weil, and Reimann, we will also read some of these composers’
fiction and essays, examine various (and often competing) approaches
to critical interpretation (biographical, psychoanalytical, symbolic-
epistemological, culturally reconstructivist, modernist vs.
postmodernist, and feminist), discuss current debates concerning how
one may legitimately make arguments about a given culture based on
analysis of a given opera, and we will also examine the various
assumptions at stake in the staging practices of different times.
No knowledge of German, Music Theory, or the ability to read music
is required. The only prerequisite is a willingness to participate
actively in a dialog with the group and the instructor on the texts
and the cultural issues against which they can be read. In lieu of
a paper, students will be asked to present to the class in the final
week of the course, preceding exam week, the results of an
independent research project, the subject of which will have been
agreed upon by the student and the instructor, and to lead the class
in a following discussion (altogether ca. 30-35 minutes). There
will be one midterm exam (on April 7) and one final exam. Grades
will be based on, in equal parts, the two exams, the report to the
class, and participation.
3/8 Tuesday Mozart, The Magic Flute
3/10 Thursday Subotnik
3/21 Monday Beethoven, Fidelio
3/23 Wednesday Wagner, “A Pilgrimage to Beethoven”
3/24 Thursday Wagner, “Art and Revolution” & “Jewishness
3/28 Monday Wagner, Das Rheingold
3/29 Tuesday Donington & Stagings
3/30 Wednesday Oedipus chapter from Opera and Drama & Die Walküre I
3/31 Thursday Die Walküre II & III
4/4 Monday Siegfried I
4/5 Tuesday Recent Wagner Debates
4/6 Wednesday Siegfried II & III
4/7 Thursday Midterm
4/11 Monday Salome
4/12 Tuesday Gilman’s Article on Strauss & Jewish Audience
4/13 Wednesday Palestrina
4/14 Thursday Lulu
4/18 Monday Feminist Reading & Gilman on Turn-of-the-
4/19 Tuesday Mahagony
4/20 Wednesday Brecht, “Notes to Mahagony”
4/21 Thursday Reimann, Lear
4/25 Monday Student Reports
5/x Final Exam
Beethoven, Ludwig van. Fidelio.
Brecht, Bertolt. The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagony and The
Seven Deadly Sins.
Arcade Publishing, 1996
Donington, Robert. Wagner’s Ring and its Symbols.
Faber & Faber, 1984
Fischer, Burton D. Richard Strauss, Salome.
Opera Journeys Publishing, 2002
Schikaneder, Emanuel & Wolfgang A. Mozart. The Magic Flute.
G. Schirmer; 1986
Strauss, Richard. Salome and Elektra.
Calder Publications, 1988
Wagner, Richard. Pilgrimage to Beethoven and Other Essays. Trans.
William Ashton Ellis.
Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1994.
-----. The Ring of the Nibelung. Trans. Andrew Porter.
W. W. Norton & Company, 1977
Wedekind, Frank. The First Lulu. Trans. Eric Bentley
Applause Theatre Book Publishers, 1993