Medieval subjects have played a significant role in the history of opera and musical theater. Since 1945 over 350 works have been set in the Middle Ages or demonstrate a reception of medieval topics or events. These are catalogued with a detailed description that includes title, composer, librettis, source material and content. Four works from the recent past are treated for their reception of the Middle Ages and the image of the Middle Ages they provide.
The reception of the Middle Ages has played a significant role in staged music productions from the very beginning, especially in the world of opera. Medieval literature, history and art provide the foundation for countless opera libretti, and medieval subjects also fulfil a meaningful role in the realm of operetta and musical. For the period of 1945-2007 alone, over 350 works can be named whose plot takes place in the Middle Ages or are derived from a medieval source. In this study, these works are catalogued by title and designation, information about the composer, librettist, debut performance, cast of characters and content. An analysis of the catalogue is undertaken with consideration for the chronological distribution, the source (e.g. literature, history) and subject, as well as forms of primary and secondary reception. This catalogue provides the various disciplines – history, art-history, philology, musicology etc. – with the information necessary for case studies, holistic evaluations of the field, or to focus on individual aspects for detailed study.
The following works are treated in detailed case studies: “Gregorius auf dem Stein” (Theater der Klänge / Estampie; Düsseldorf 2004), “Wolkenstein. Eine Lebensballade” (Wilfried Hiller / Felix Mitterer: Nürnberg 2004), “König Rother” (Doreen Rother; composed in 2006) and “Der Parzival” (Wang Fei et. al. / Simon Werle; Gießen 1998). With the selection of these four works, a representative profile of the reception of the Middle Ages in (German) opera and musical theater of the recent past is provided. Whereas “Gregorius auf dem Stein” is a reception of the medieval tale of Gregorius, it is derived from Thomas Mann’s novel “Der Erwählte” (eng. The Holy Sinner) and is thus a form of secondary reception. In “König Rother” the medieval text itself (in abridged form) provides the libretto. In the opera of Hiller and Mitterer, the historical figure of Oswald von Wolkenstein serves as the main character, whereas Parzival in Werle’s work presents one of the best known figures in medieval literature.
The focus of this study is the treatment of the medieval sources and the role of the Middle Ages within the new products of reception. Additionally, the musical realization will be considered in conjunction with the respective forms of text reception; in contrast to earlier works, contemporary scores frequently focus on the historical musical tradition or medieval techniques of music composition.
In a closing synopsis of the catalogue and the individual case studies, a classification of the reception of the Middle Ages in opera and musical theater is presented within the framework of the reception of the Middle Ages at the turn of the millennium.
subjects: German Language and Literature, Dramatics and Musical Education (University of Erlangen, University of Bamberg); Magister Artium; since 2005 assistant at the Lehrstuhl für Deutsche Philologie des Mittelalters, Otto-Friedrich-University of Bamberg
This series, which will comprise doctoral and professorial dissertations and other monographs as well as collective volumes, aims at highlighting and promoting interdisciplinarity in Medieval Studies even more than is currently the case. Works from all branches of Medieval Studies will be accepted, provided they emphasise the aspect of interdisciplinarity, i.e. they attempt to transgress the boundaries of any single subject.