Mahler Revamps the Vienna Court Opera (Great Events from History II: Arts and Culture Series)
Article abstract: Gustav Mahler established a concept of operatic performance with the Vienna Court Opera that has been widely described as the outstanding musical achievement of the era and, in the eyes of many, the last artistic gasp of a great but crumbling empire.
Summary of Event
As the seat of the declining Austro-Hungarian Empire, Vienna had long been a center of musical influence, and nothing held the attention of the Viennese, and the broader musical community in general, more securely than the opera. Performances were built around familiar stars, and the easygoing attitude for which the Viennese were famous carried over to the operatic stage in the form of pleasant, entertaining exhibitions of vocal skill. Gustav Mahler first appeared at the opera in Vienna as assistant conductor in a performance of Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin (1850) on May 11, 1897; his extraordinary musical success with that and subsequent performances led to his appointment as director on October 8. He brought to the royal opera a new concept that saw each work as a complete entity in itself, one in which all operatic elements--orchestra, singers, staging, and scenery--were to be focused toward achieving a unified whole, marked by the most rigorous standards of technical execution. No detail was too small to receive his careful attention. For example, in the “Norns” scene from a production of Wagner’s...
(The entire section is 2316 words.)
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