Disponible à / Available at permalink :

216  Download (0)

Texte intégral


- - -

- - -

Dépôt Institutionnel de l’Université libre de Bruxelles / Université libre de Bruxelles Institutional Repository

Thèse de doctorat/ PhD Thesis Citation APA:

Truman, P. A. (1981). Stravinsky's approach to opera (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Université libre de Bruxelles, Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres, Bruxelles.

Disponible à / Available at permalink : https://dipot.ulb.ac.be/dspace/bitstream/2013/213948/1/c06f73dd-3566-4fc6-bbf3-3b4a0c3a242d.txt

(English version below)

Cette thèse de doctorat a été numérisée par l’Université libre de Bruxelles. L’auteur qui s’opposerait à sa mise en ligne dans DI-fusion est invité à prendre contact avec l’Université (di-fusion@ulb.ac.be).

Dans le cas où une version électronique native de la thèse existe, l’Université ne peut garantir que la présente version numérisée soit identique à la version électronique native, ni qu’elle soit la version officielle définitive de la thèse.

DI-fusion, le Dépôt Institutionnel de l’Université libre de Bruxelles, recueille la production scientifique de l’Université, mise à disposition en libre accès autant que possible. Les œuvres accessibles dans DI-fusion sont protégées par la législation belge relative aux droits d'auteur et aux droits voisins. Toute personne peut, sans avoir à demander l’autorisation de l’auteur ou de l’ayant-droit, à des fins d’usage privé ou à des fins d’illustration de l’enseignement ou de recherche scientifique, dans la mesure justifiée par le but non lucratif poursuivi, lire, télécharger ou reproduire sur papier ou sur tout autre support, les articles ou des fragments d’autres œuvres, disponibles dans DI-fusion, pour autant que :

Le nom des auteurs, le titre et la référence bibliographique complète soient cités;

L’identifiant unique attribué aux métadonnées dans DI-fusion (permalink) soit indiqué;

Le contenu ne soit pas modifié.

L’œuvre ne peut être stockée dans une autre base de données dans le but d’y donner accès ; l’identifiant unique (permalink) indiqué ci-dessus doit toujours être utilisé pour donner accès à l’œuvre. Toute autre utilisation non mentionnée ci-dessus nécessite l’autorisation de l’auteur de l’œuvre ou de l’ayant droit.

--- English Version ---

This Ph.D. thesis has been digitized by Université libre de Bruxelles. The author who would disagree on its online availability in DI-fusion is invited to contact the University (di-fusion@ulb.ac.be).

If a native electronic version of the thesis exists, the University can guarantee neither that the present digitized version is identical to the native electronic version, nor that it is the definitive official version of the thesis.

DI-fusion is the Institutional Repository of Université libre de Bruxelles; it collects the research output of the University, available on open access as much as possible. The works included in DI-fusion are protected by the Belgian legislation relating to authors’ rights and neighbouring rights.

Any user may, without prior permission from the authors or copyright owners, for private usage or for educational or scientific research purposes, to the extent justified by the non-profit activity, read, download or reproduce on paper or on any other media, the articles or fragments of other works, available in DI-fusion, provided:

The authors, title and full bibliographic details are credited in any copy;

The unique identifier (permalink) for the original metadata page in DI-fusion is indicated;

The content is not changed in any way.

It is not permitted to store the work in another database in order to provide access to it; the unique identifier (permalink) indicated above must always be used to provide access to the work. Any other use not mentioned above requires the authors’ or copyright owners’ permission.



Paculté: Philosophie et Lettres

Philip A. Truman


Volume One

Dissertation présentée à

l'Université Libre de Bruxelles pour l'obtention du grade de Docteur en Philosophie et Lettres

Section; Histoire de l'Art et Archéologie Sous-section; Musicologie

1981 Directeur de thèse;

Monsieur le Professeur Robert ITangermée


. Philip A. Tirunan


Volume One

Dissertation présentée à

l'Université Libre de Bruxelles pour l'obtention du grade.de

Docteur en Philosophie et Lettres

Section: Histoire de l'Art et Archéologie Sous-section: Musicologie

Bruxelles, 1981 Directeur de thèse;

Monsieur le Professeur

■ Robert Wangerrnée .



Of the many people in different parts of the world vTiio, in varions ways, hâve assisted with the research and préparation of this study, spécial debts of

gratitude are eipressed to:

Monsieur le Professeur Robert, Wangermee who, as director of this dissertation, has, given invaluable advice, conments and suggestions;

the music library staffs of the Bibliothèque Royale and of the Conservatoire Royal: de Musique in Brussels, of the University of California (especially the

campuses at Los Angeles and Riverside) in the U.S.A., and of the Universities of Birmingham and London in England;

and finally, to two friends, Kuguette Brassine and Jack Dollman, whose support and encouragement throughôut this undertaking hâve been unfailing.



Volume One

Acknowledgements ii

Abbreviations v

Introduction 1

PART ONE: The Nature of Stravinsky's Approach to Opéra Section I: Reactions and Influences

1. Reactions -18

2. Influences (l): Stravinsky's Russian Opératic Eackground 27 3. Influences (2): The ’Retum to.the Past' 41 4. Influences (3): Ballet and the Russian Ballet . 63

5. Stravinsky's-Opéras: An Introduction 76

Section II: Aesthetics

5. Aesthetics (1) .96

7., Aesthetics (2): Stravinsky the Russian 150 8. Aesthetics'(3): Stravinsky and Neoclassicism 185 9. Aesthetics (4):■Stravinsky and Seriaiism 203

Volvime Two Section III: Stravinsky's î.Iusical, Language

Introduction 210

10. - Karmony and Tonality 212

11. Melody . 264

12. Rhythm . . 278

13. Porm .295

14. Orchestration 3.10

15. Stravinsky's Treatment of the Tezt ■331

Postscript 348



PART TiYO: The Effect of Stravinsky's Approach to Opéra Section IV: The Opéras

Introduction 350

16. The Nightingale 353

17. Renard 408

18. The Soldier’s Taie 447

Volume Pour

19. Mavra . 495

20. Oedipus Rex 552

21. Perséphone ô33

Volme Pive

22. The RakeVs Progress 687

23. The Plood 824

24. Conclusion; The ’’7hat' and the 'Hov;’ of Stravinsky’s Opéras 876

Volume Six

Musical Examples 588

Bihliography 1065



Throughout this study, in the footnotes and in the later . Bibliography, references to certain joumals and periodicals hâve been abbreviated; their full titles are as follows:




Atlantic Monthly (Boston) The Chesterian (London)

Canadian Music Journal (Toronto) The English Review (London)

High Fidelity Magazine (New York) International Musician (St.Louis)

Journal of Music Theory (New Haven, Connecticut) Juillard Review (Nev/ York)

Melos (Mainz)

Musik der Zeit (Bonn)

Music Educators Journal (V/ashington) Die Musik (Stuttgart)

Music and Letters (London).

Modem Music (London) Musical Opinion (London) Musical Quarterly (New York) Music Survey (London)

Musical Times (London) Musica (Paris)

Music and Musicians (London)

Notes of the. Music Library Association (Washington) La Nouvelle Revue Française (Paris)

The New Statesman (London)

Neue Zeitschrift ftir Musik (Leipzig) Osterreichische Musikzeitschrift (Vienna)

Perspectives■of New. Music (Princeton, New Jersey) Partisan Reviev/ (New York)

Rassegna musicale (Turin) La Revue Musicale. (Paris) The Score (London)

The Score and International Music Association (London) Schweizerische Musikzeitung (Zlîrich)

Saturday Review (New York) Tempo (London)

The titles of a number of Stravinsky's published writings hâve also been shortened; Autobiograohy. Poetics, Conversations.' Mémories.

Expositions. Dialogues - their full titles appear in Section 1 of the Bibliography.



Stravinsky belonged to tne theatre by birth, breeding and sustained activity.1

Stravinsky's background 7/as, indeed, that of the theatre. His father was a leading bass singer of the Impérial Opéra in St.Peters- burg, and in several of his published texts.Stravinsky recalls the compelling images of the times when, as a child, he was taken to tne Maryinsky Theatre to éxperience, 'live', ballets and opéras with which, exther as a pianist or through his cultural background, he was already familiar. Later on he studied composition with the leading Russian composer of opéra at the time, Rimsky-Korsakov. Then, as a composer himself, he was drawn into Diaghilev's company., the Ballet Russe, where the chief thrust of his work was, naturally, for the theatre, and for which he wrote the tremendously acclaimed ballets The Firebird, Petrushka. and The Rite of Soring; with these three Works alone, Stravinsky had given- convincing proof of his ability to

treat a dramatic subject in music.

In view of this auspicious background, it is surprising that Stravinsky tackled the medium of opéra only hesitantly; even more surprising, perhaps, when, in his many statements on music, he gives ample evidence that he has always been concemed with the ’problems' of opéra. Even as late as 1962, his remark;

If I live to Write another opéra, i expect it will be for the electronic glass tube and the Idiot Box, rather than for tne early Baroque stages of the world's present-day opéra-houses.2

suggests that at the âge of eighty he was still searching for an answer to those probleras, Yet, in a period of over fifty years, a period in which he created numerous and acknowledged masterpieces for the theatre, only one of these créations was, in the conventional sense of the term, a fully-fledged opéra - The Rake's Progress.

The reasons for Stravinsky's hesitancy are manifold and complex.

They concern, basically, his reaction to the State of drama in music


as it was at the end of the 19th- and beginning of the 20th-centuries, his attitude towards pure and abstract forms of music, and his approach

to the fusion of the arts Cwhich should not be confused with Wagner’s 'Gesamtkunstwerk’ or ’Synthesis of the Arts’). Perhaps this latter reason is the most cogent of ail, for in Stravinsky’s intimate rela-

tionship with the musical theatre - in both sung and danced forms - as creator (which includes his total involvement with libretti, action, choreography, etc.,), and as spectator ( to ’see’ a perforrasince was

important to Stravinsky), it seems that he had little desire to distin—

guish between one fonn Copera) as opposed to ■ the other (ballet). As a resuit, of the twenty-one compositions he intended for performance in the theatre, few of them belong to any clearly defined categorj'’. This 3 is particularly true of those. compositions which may be designated as opéras, only two of which, in fact, were given such a label by the composer.

If, for the purposes of this study of Stravinsky’s approach to opéra, therefore, a définition of opéra as a drama whose argument or plot is conveyed mainly through music, singing and acting may be accepted, then it is proposed to examine the following works; The Nightingale. Renard. The Soldier*s Taie. Mavra. Oedipus Rex.

Perséphone. The Rake’s Progress. and The Flood. In view of this

définition, and broad as it is, it may be questioned why The Soldier’s Taie is included amongst the ranks of Stravinsky's opéras when not one syllable of the text is actuaily sung, whilst Pulcinella and The

Wedding. in which sung texts are part of the total organization, are not.

In a sense, ail three works may be considered as typically Stravinskyan ’flirtations’ with opéra, but thin as the dividing line between his opéra and ballet forms is, Pulcinella and The Wedding seem more closely related to ballet than to opéra, Taking the défini­

tion of opéra given above as a starting point in justification of this daim, neither of these two works appear to fit that définition since, in their theatre forms at least ÇPulcinella is also known and more frequently performed as an orchestral ’Suite’ . and The Wedding is almost exclusively performed as a ’Cantata’), dancing plays a very


significant rôle in expressing their drainas and actions.

In the case of Pulcinella. even though its characters (.evolved out of the ’commedia dell' arte’) are Neapolitan opera-like, and even though its sung numbers are taken primarily from actual opéras by Pergolesi, the singers .(.who are placed with the orchestra) are not 4 identified with the stage characters, and their songs (five out of a total of some eighteen numbers in the work) hâve little to do with the course of the action - the libretto, or "argioment** for this "action dansante", Stravinsky remarks in Expositions and Develooments. "does not corne from the same source as the texts of the songs....They the singers) sing 'in character* songs - serenades, duets, trios - as interpolated numbers," and hé adds that one of his problems in

"recomposing" an 18th-century work was to "convert operatic and concert pièces into dance pièces,"^ Pulcinella. moreover, was conceived, or, at least, commissioned by Diaghilev as a ballet, and the final org- ganization bf the plot and dances were the joint effort of Diaghilev, Stravinsky and the choreographer Leonide Massine.

The Wedding;- also aliénâtes the voices from any character rôles (that, at least, was the intention), and similarly, the singers are placed with the orchestra, Purthemore, it seems unjust to regard

this work as a drama, since there is no plot in the normal sense of the term - Roland-Manuel says, quite simplyt"There is no plot";^

rather, these ’Russian choreographic scenes', as The Wedding is

subtitled in the score, présent a 'Suite' comprising four épisodes of a typical Russian peasant wedding ceremony, the text of which is derived from typical wedding sayings, related in song (virtually incessantly, and primarily choral in nature), and expressed through dance. As his conception of this "dance-cantata” fo.rm developed, Stravinsky says in Expositions, he began to see that "it did not indicate tne dramatization of a wedding or the accompaniment of a staged wedding spectacle with descriptive music";*^ indeed, Paul Collaer believes that its destination is not even for the theatre since it is really like an oratorio or cantata;"Like the Passions of Bach or Paradise and the Péri of Schumann." he says, "The V/edding consista of an assemblage of songs."O


Before proceeding to the justification of The Soldier's Taie as an opéra, two points may be interpolated here. First, the hybrid forms of both The Wedding - as a dance-cantata/oratorio - and

Pulcinella - as a suite of dance movements that also includes songs - were to hâve more ’operatic’ realizations in two of Strâvinsky's later Works, respectively, the opéra-oratorio Oedipus Rex, and the 'melodrama' Perséphone. Second, though Renard also places its singers v/ith the

orchestra and also aliénâtes the vocal from the acting rôles, its plot is described and conveyed primarily through music, singing and I acting; Stravinsky's coniment in Expositions (p,138) that Renard should

not be çonfounded with opéra, moreover, suggests that it does bear a relationship to that form,

At the time of its création, The Soldier's Taie was, and was conceived as, a new form of musical theatre,typical, if not the pro- genitor of many a 20th-century work for the musical theatre (The ; Threepenny Opéra, or Façade. for examplej that did not fit snugly into the conventional conception of the term opéra. In every respect but that of song, however, The Soldier’s Taie is représentative of that broader définition of opéra, co-ordinating, as it does, music, Word, plastic art and action in a form of narrative theatre that is half-pantomimic-, and in view of Strâvinsky's approach to the word and his attempts to solve the problem of recitative, half-recitative- drama, Admittedly, the music can be heard, appreciated and compre- hended indépendant of the text (as was intended) - as a concert suite, in fact; at the same time, the music is so carefully dovetailed into the action and, in the passages where the Narrator and the Devil speak freely above the music, into the narration as v/ell, that it is more than merely incidental music when heard in its theatre form;

indeed, the drama is conveyed through and heightened by the music.

This extraordinary document of musical theatre - to be read, played and danced - then, may be looked upon, if one were seeking conventional

terminology, as a chamber opéra, or, at the least, a melodrama, that is, a form of theatre intermediate between play and opéra. In this latter sense, The Soldier's Taie does not appear so extraordinary, for it has an ancestry not only in the melodrama as a form in its ovm right, but also in those melodramas contained within such 'established'


opéras as Beethoven* s Fidelio l,the gravediggers* scenej and Weber* s Der Freischütz (the incantation scene), as well as conteraporary

counterparts in such works as Richard Strauss* Enoch Arden, Debussy*s Le Martyre de Saint Sebastien . and Schoenberg*s Erwartung. The Soldier*s

Taie. of course, was the resuit of but one of Stravinsky*s approaches to opéra, and each of the other seven *operas* is just as individual- istic in its solution.

This investigation of Stravinsky*s approach to opéra does not attempt to justify or to consider the *correctness* of his views on opéra but to détermine the nature and effect of those views on his opéras. For this reascn the study is divided into two main parts:

i. the nature of his views - v/hich encompasses brief examinations of his and his contemporaries* reactions to late-rômantic

opéra, especially Wagnerian music drama, and of his aesthetics and compositional techniques,


ii. the effect of those views - analyses of Stravinsky's opéras.

In order to accomplish this aim a number of different sources hâve been utilized, and these may be divided roughly into five categories. To the first belong tne reviews and criticisns of Stravinsky's music that hâve appeared in aimost every journal con- cerned with music and musicians of the 20th-century, and amongst whicn the contemporary accounts of Stravinsky's early compositions by such authors as Jacques Rivière, Boris de Schloezer, Henri Prunières, and André Schaeffner in such joumals as La Nouvelle Revue Française and La Revue Musicale must be singled out not only for their inform­

ative commenta on spécifie Works but also for their many astute and often prescient judgements concerning the nature of Stravinsky*s music.

Jacques Rivière, for example, though not a musician himself, saw in Petrushka and The Rite the very qualities of clarity, control and .simplification that were to characterize the whole of Stravinsky*s

aesthetic (an aestnetic, it may be noted, that Rivière*s journal La Nouvelle Revue Française itself advocated), whilst Boris de

Schloezer wrote (for the same journal) in similar terms of the later


Renard. Symphonies for Wind Instruments, Oedipus Rex and Apollon, drawing particular attention to the purity of the sound and formai structures of these works. To such reviews must be added those of authors, too numerous to mention here, who hâve contributed articles in journals which hâve devoted a 'spécial issue' to Stravinsky, notably La Revue Musicale (1923 and 1939), Cahiers de Belgique (1930), the

Dance Index (1945) - which formed the basis of the book Stravinsky in the Theatre (1949 - edited, Minna Lederman. - Tempo (1948 and 1957), The Score and I,M.A.Magazine (1957), and Perspectives of New Music (1971); these and other sources are given full récognition in the bibliography which appears at the end of this study.

In the second category belong the many monographs on Stravinsky and his music. Of spécial value to this study, principally because of their insightful and often detailed discussion of Stravinsky's compositions, were the early but. important books by de Schloezer, Paul Collaer and André Schaeffner which examine Stravinsky's music and ideas up to approximately 1930 (the works after Mavra receiving but summary statements in Collaer's Strawinsky). and the more recently published books by Eric Walter V/hite - whose mammoth tome Stravinsky.

the Composer and his Works (an extension of his earlier Stravinsky's Sacrifice to Apollo. 1930, and Stravinsky. a Critical Survey. 1948) - not only takes the investigation of Stravinsky and his music up to

1965, but includes an invaluable sélection of Stravinsky's writings and letters and other source information in the form of five Appendices - and Francis Routh, whose Stravinsky (1975), though lacking in-depth discussion (natural in such a small volume covering the whole of the composer's output), contains succinct summaries of the relationship between Stravinsky's aesthetics and musical language; and to these 'monographs' may be added, perhaps, the collection of essaya by various authors in the Librairie Hachette édition of Stravinsky

(1968), in which André Boucourechliev's 'Stravinsky un et multiple', v/ith its examinaticn of the 'ritual' and 'collective' language of Stravinsky's music has been of particular value to parts of this study.


The third category consista of commentaries, réminiscences and other literature concerning Stravinsky written by the artists with whom he came into contact through his work with them; and if some of

the literature is not especially about music - for example, the Souvenirs of Ramuz, Cocteau's Le Coq et l'Arlequin and several of his articles dealing with objectivity, neoclassicism and the rébellion

in the early 20th-century against Wagner's 'Gesamtkunstwerk', Serge Lifar's books on Diaghilev and the Russian Ballet (in La Revue Musicale, 1939, Lifar wrote an important article pertaining to Stravinsky's music and its relationship to the dance), André Gide's Joumals and Ainsi soit-il.. or Nicholas Nabokov's réminiscences about

the composer in Old Friends and New Music - they provide, nonetheless, valuable portraits and eye-witness accounts of Stravinsky's approach or attitude to music and the effect this had on them as collaborators/

friends and on others, There are also, of course, commentaries from his 'musical' collaborators - for example, Copland and Ansermet

Cespecially the latter- in sevèral articles and in his book Les Fondements de la Musique dans la Conscience Humaine) - who do the same on a much more specifically musical level, and, moreover, with first-hand, practical knowledge of Stravinsky's music and the music of others, penetrate the 'meaning' of his music and its relation to the general musical climate. Robert Craft must also be included in this category, for although he is associated largely with the recording of Stravinsky's own réminiscences and views on music, he is a musician in his own right and he, too, has written disceming studies and souvenirs of Stravinsxy's music and musical habits,

especially since 1948 wnen he became Stravinsky's amanuensis; it was Craft, moreover, who was the principal extemal factor - that is, outside the actual music and Stravinsky's own convictions - in influencing Stravinsky's adoption of serial procedures. As White comments, in the German text of The Flood. God says to Noah, "Ich geb' dir Kraft.

By far the most frequently consulted of literary sources were those belonging to the fourth category, the published texts of Stravinsky himself, Because these were so invaluabie to this study and also because of their own inhérent and multifarious qualities.


they deraand a proportionally greater part of this introduction,

First, and by way of general observation, Stravinsky's published texts were written under various stimuli, in various formats (almost as varied as the formats of his compositions/, and, in a sense, by various authors, since they were nearly ail produced in collaboration with, or through, other writers, which, in tum, makes them open to

the question of their credibility or authenticity, They were, moreover, written during a period covering some fifty years, and the opinions expressed were, naturally, subject to modification; at the same time, it is worth remembering that the majority of these texts appeared in print when tne composer was well past fifty and few of them, therefore, may be looked upon as the proauct of inexpérience or immaturity,

The earliest of these texts appeared in the 1920s - the early stages of his ’neoclassic' phase, it is important to remember - in the form of 'warnings’ and explanations of his own faith in certain aesthetic standards and of his own music, both of which, he felt, had

been or could be misinterpreted and misunderstood, Thus, in his open letter to Diaghilev ilO October 1921), a translation of which Cby Edwin Evans J was printed in The Times eight days later, he expressed

the notion that "Muscovite picturesqueness” (alluding principally to the music of the ’Five’ but also, no doubt, to his own earlier

'picturesque', 'Russian' scores), was not the only source of Russian

"freshness, inventiveness, ingenuity, vigour," but that these qualities could also be found in the more cultivated Russianness of Tchaikovsky, and it was this ’purer’, ’classical' quality of Tchaikovsky that the public should expect from his recent orchestrations of previously un- performed numbers of The Sleeping Beauty; in the same letter he also makes barbed attacks on what he calls the German manufacturing of music with thèmes and leitmotives (the reference to Wagner is obvious,

but throughout his life he remained generally anti-19th-century

German music), A few years later, in an article for The Arts (January 1924), he makes a similar explanation and defence of the non-romantic, objective and self-sufficient music of his Cctet. Then, in December

1927 (in The Dominant. p.13), appeared his famous manifeste which.


entitled 'Avertissement’, cautioned those who somewhat superficially judged the current retum to classicism as a mere imitation of so- called classical idioms rather than by its real characteristics, its

"constructive values"; and again, in his article 'Igor Strawinsky nous parle de Perséphone' (fixcelsior. 29 April 1934), he wams that he has not exteriorized any element in his 'melodrama', neitHer the orchestral sonorities (he has, he says, a horror of "orchestral effects" and

"seductive sonorities"), nor André Gide's words which, though beauti- fully poetic, he admits, were treated for their syllabic value - in other words, ail éléments of his composition were, in 'classical' fashion, subject to a rigorous, purely musical ordering,

It was the subséquent misrepresentation of such remarks as these, along with his desire to make a wider public explanation of them and of his career which prompted Stravinsky in 1935 to write (through Walter Nouvel - of Russian origin, member of thè éditorial board of Diaghilev's provocative Mir Isskustva (V/orld of Art)' magazine, and erstwhile secretary to Diaghilev) his Chroniques de ma Vie, or, as it is known in its English translation, his Autobiography. This work, written in a straightforward narrative style, provides a useful record of selected events in his musical career (up to his fifty- second yeair) interspersed with some vignettes of the more important of his acquaintances (primarily those with whom he had corne into contact through the Russian Ballet or through his years in Switzer- land) and further expression of his aesthetic standards (order, unity, objectivity, constructional values, etc.,), of his alignment with Westem-orientated Russian music (as opposed to the 'ethnographie' music of the Pive), and of his preference for the purer, 'classical'

values to be found in the music of such composers as Gounod; it also includes, significantly, an account of his visit to Bayreuth with Diaghilev in 1912 to hear Wagner’s Parsifal - a somewhat disdainful account cohsiJering that Stravinsky had expressed a certain Wagnerian influence in his Symphony in Eb. the Scherzo fantastique, and also in the more recent ballet The Firebird (1910), and even though the date of his Autobiography is 1935, it raust be assumed that by 1912 he had already overcome this allegiance to 19th-century romanticism and that Wagner's music had ceased to attract him (an assumption supported by


the sharper-edged music and objectivity of Petrushka. 1911); his scorn- ful description of Parsifal. of course, is of particular redevance to StravinsKy’s approach to opéra which, throughout his life, remained strongly anti-V/agnerian.

The Autobiography. however, does omit a great deal, deliberately in some cases, since, as Stravinslcy says, it is difficult to recall what were his feelings that animated a work some twenty years earlier, and yet, he also omits discussion, in any depth, of his most recent composition, Persephone. because, he says, this was too recent a work to discuss with the necessary detachment. Also, the Autobiography does not, on the whole, offer any intensive investigation of the nature of music or its composition*

Such an investigation, however, is the very substance of his next literary effort, the Poetics of Music. the contents of which were first discussed with Pierre Souvtchinsxy, who also helped to draft them into Russian, and then revised in collaboration with the critic- composer Roland-Manuel, who also helped with the Prench translation;

Paul Valéry, similarly, helped with certain phrase and v/ord ordering of the Prench manuscript and, as Stravinsky remarks (in the later Mémories and Commentaries. p.205), gave his unreserved approval to

the contents. The format of Poetics - tctally different from his earlier texts - is that of six ’Lessons', in effect, the six Charles Norton Eliot Lectures which he had given (in Prench) at Harvard University between October 1939 and May 194-0 - the published édition of which appeared in Prench in 1942, and in English in 1945 (for the

sake of convenience, 1940 will be used as their date in future réf­

érencés to this work), Stravinsky illustrâtes these lectures of his rationalizations and spéculations of the créative and interprétative processes with examples drawn from both his own and other composers' Works; and in his coraments on other composers’ music are found some of his most controversial statements: he says, for exaraple, that the

’brio' of Berlioz's orchestra disguises his "poverty of invention,"

(p.72), and that Verdi's "many authentic masterpieces" v/ere, in Falstaff. regrettably infected with vVagnerism, (p.6l), and it is for V/agner and his ’Synthesis of the Arts.', ' of course, that he reserves


heavy criticism. On tne other hand, his text is not ail invective, and as in his Autobiography. he défends the music and standards of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and other 'classicists’, as well as those of the Renaissance and Middle Ages' artisans, and of those 19th- century composers who subscribe to what (in borrowing Gide's expres­

sion) he terms "subjugated romanticism," (p.79), mentioning such composers as Chabrier, Gounod and Bizet as typical; thus (as in his Autobiograph.v), he is recording his current allegiance with Prench musical culture to which, in spirit, Apollon Musagête (1928) and Perséphone (1934) belong, Equally, he défends the use of traditional forms, the right to utilize and 'borrow' (providing they bear fruit) the formulas and conventions of the past, and afaove ail, the idéal of 'objectivity’ and of music organized upon purely musical considéra­

tions, in short, what he calls an 'Apollonian' aesthetic as opposed to the 'Dionysian' aesthetic of romanticism. Thus, like his earlier

’warnings' and his A.utobiograDhy. his Poe tics defend his own

'classicism'; indeed, he describes his 'Lessons' as an 'apology' -

"in the sense of a Justification and defence" (p.5) - of his own ideas and personal viev/s. Ail of these texts, it need hardly be recalled, were written during his so-called 'neoclassical period'.

It was in 1958, almost twenty years later, when his next volume appeared in print, and yet again, in a different format, a sort of neo-Platonic 'dialogue', entitled Conversations with Stravinsky and comprising the composer's responses to a sériés of questions posed by his amanuensis Robert Craft. It was a format that, to a large extent, was also to form the basis of subséquent volumes (again,

written through Craft):' Mémories and Commentaries (I960), Expositions and Developments (1962). Dialogues and a Diary (1963) , whilst Thèmes

and Episodes ( 1966) and Rétrospectives and Concliusions ( 1969).are basically réminiscences, interviews and commentaries (both books, re- vised and expanded, are combined in Thèmes and Conclusions. 1972), and Avec Stravinsky (1958), a collection of articles by StravinsKy, Craft and others,

The content of this 'dialogue' format, however, is much the same


as in previous texts, that is, although they take Stravinsky's musical career several stages further and, because of their larger bulk, they offer a greater range of opinions and explanatory-analytical-background notes on several of Stravinsky's works (notably, for this study, almost ail of his opéras), as well as a number of letters between Stravinsky and his friends and colleagues, they are still évocations, meraories, judgements and assessments on music and musiciahs in general,

and on his own musical activities in particular. And though in these later volumes his earlier opinions are sometimes modified - in

Expositions (pp.114-115), for example, he says that he still stands by his earlier remark that music is essentially powerless to express anything at ail (see Autobiography. p,53), but would now put it the other way,round:"music expresses itseif" - and though his musical horizons are extended to include generally favourable remarks on sérialisa and particularly on Webem; he comments, for example, that.

the resoürces of serialism hâve "enlarged the présent language and ohanged our perspectives on it," (Conversations. p.l44),^*^ and that Webem is "a perpétuai Pentecost for ail who believe in his music,"

(Mémories. p.232), he still expounds the aesthetics he postulated in earlier texts, He also remains faithful and respectful towards süch

’old friends' as Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and many others, but, at the same time, he makes an astonishing about-tura in his

assessments of several others whom he had previously, and often

effulgently, praised, most notably Diaghilev and his protégés (.scenic artists and ballet-masters as well as composers), but aise Glazounoy, Rachmaninov, Frokofiev sind others, even Gounod, whose music, he says in Dialogues (p.117), is generally insipid; he also criticizes certain performers (Rubinstein, for example), and èspecially conductors such as Klemperer and Toscanini, indeed, in Expositions (p,99), he suggests

that only composers are competent to conduct and déridés most others as "those pathetic people, the career conductors"; ail of these

barbed references reflect, no doubt, Stravinsky's irritation with

those performers v/ho hâve frequently abused the directions in his scores,

These revised portrayals and assessments are not, of course, of immédiate redevance to StravinsKy's approach to opéra but for the


i'act that they suggest that a personality-change had occurred îji the septua- and octogenarian composer, and when one considers other factors - the dual authorship of the books, the occasional contrasting interp- pretations for the same events, the modified musical judgements, or,

for exaraple, that the analyses of works and the press reviews included in Rétrospectives and Conclusions probably ovve more to Craft than to Stravinsky, or that, as in Poetics. his frequent references to, and reverence for, the society, the order, the objectivity and the artisans of the Middle Ages, and his citation of Jacques Maritain (whom, admit- tedly, he knew, and whose books he had read) in this respect: that the médiéval artisan*s "individualism was forbidden any sort of anarchie

development, because a natural social discipline imposed certain limitative conditions upon hlm from without," bear a remarkable sim- ilarity with what Ansermet had to say about this 'médiéval aesthetic*

(he even cites Jacques Maritain; with regard to Stravinsky’s music in his article for La Revue Musicale, 'L'Oeuvre d'Igor Strawinsky', in 1921,"'"* - or when one reads, as in Craft's introductory note to the

’Diary' part of Dialogues and a Diary (p.146), that his conversations with Stravinsky were "originally recorded in the logbooks of concert tours" and that the Casual remarks made by Stravinsky and which could not be. presented in dialogue form or separated from their circumstances

"expose a different aspect of the man," (the !Diary', of course, is Craft's record), or, in Expositions (p.153), from Stravinsky himself

(soraewhat incidentally, since the remark occurs in a footnote correc- ting a location named in his Autobiography} that.both the Autobiography and Poetics "are much less like me, in ail my faults, than my

Conversations," - these 'révisions' point not only to a personality- change but also to the question of the reality, the credibility, of the remarks expopuided in these books.

In attempting a response to the question of credibility in Stravinsky's texts, several factors should be taken into account,

First, and most simply, why shouldn't Stravinsky be permitted a change of opinion?

The second factor - the sort of image of Stravinsky that emerges from his texts taken as a whole - requires rather more élaboration. In


ail of these texts Stravinsky displays a seemingly unending curiosity for and knowledge of ail that concems art, literature, architecture, philosophy and religion (religion, as will be seen, being a particular- ly potent factor in both his aesthetic and his music), an ' intellectual cosmopolitanisra* that is matched by a more ’worldly cosmopolitanism' in his love of travel, new places and, of course, in his various

résidences. And whatever he describes or depicts is done v/ith concentra­

tion, economy, trenchancy, and frequently, with hiunour: in Conversations (p.llO), for example, in his vignette of Bakst (the name being a Jewish Word for 'umbrella')t be amusingly recounts how Roerich, who was

caught in a shower in Minsk, heard people asking for ’Baksts’)»

Prom a more musical perspective the two groups of texts, the 'Prench' group up to 1940 (originally published in Prench)', and the 'American' group, from 1958-1969 (originally published in English) , présent the picture of a man reflecting, often with great insight.and cohérence, upon the whole of musical création and particularly that of the 20th-century, including techniques he himself had not employed - elec'tronic music, aléa tory music, stereophony, quarter-tones,etc.

Even more importantly, they présent Stravinsky's views (even if they are those of others, they correspond, he says, to his own) on his own créations, methods of création and créative standards. Both groups of texts, moreover, are Con the wholej remarkably consistent in the nature of the views expressed, they even give the impression of the constant renewal of a single cell, for both are, essentially, explana- tions and justifications of those views which, whether concerning neoclassic or serial works, traditional or innovative idioms, belong

to an 'Apollonian' and instinctive love for the raw materials of music, a profound belief in the importance of order and discipline, and a sincere humility before his art which, he says in the final sentence of Poetics, is "a form of communion with our fellow man - and with the Suprême Being,"

Pinally, there is little conclusive evidence that the statements and ideas presented are not Stravinsky's, or, as mentioned above, do not correspond v/ith his own. On the other hand, there is some evidence which suggests that they are, for in his article 'Neoclassicism


Reexamined’, Arthur Berger says that in 1957 he received a letter from Craft telling him that a dialogue with Stravlnsky was in préparation

(a dialogue which gave birth to the sériés of Stravinsky-Craft books^

and that the statements made by Stravinsky, he assured Berger, were the composer's ovm.

If, then, as Robert Wangermée suggests, the image one gets of Stravinsky from these texts is the one that Stravinsky wants to give of himself, that image reflects a very human personality who is at 13 once consistent in his views yet occasionally apt to modify them; a man who constantly sought order and discipline in his life as in his Creative work but whose compositions never lost the feeling of earthi- ness or physical gesture that also characterized his personality; a cohérent, tranchant, and often witty writer; a profoundly religious man; a 'cosmopolitan' or 'universalist* in his intellectual, domestic and Creative outlook, yet at heart and in habits, basically Russian.

As subséquent pages of this study will démonstrate, these are the very qualities that characterize his music; even the 'subjective' Judgements he passes find their parallel in his music, for despite its overall

'objectivity', it contains many 'expressive' moments (one thinks, for example, of the 'apothéoses' that conclude a number of his scores - theatrical and non-theatrical^, and it is, moreover, always (subjec- tively) Stravinskyan; similarly, his 'borrowing' of the ideas and expressions of others - as, for example, in his (acknowledged) use of Souvtchinsky's ideas on musical time (Poetics. pp.30-31), or Beethoven's approach to the subject of 'music and words* (Mémories. p«206). or

the (unacknowledged) 'borrowing' of Anserraet's comparison between Stravinsky's attitude to music and that of the médiéval artisan (see above) - were these instances of 'conscious' or 'xmconscious' mera- ories of a literary or philosphical past use d in the ssime way in which his 'love-affairs' with various musical pasts - folklore, Pergolesi, serialism, and so forth - were consciously or unconsciuosly assim- ilated into his own vocabuiary and made undeniably Stravinskyan?

This musical attestation would appear to be the strongest of any evidence supporting the credibility of Stravinsky's texts.

In any event, Stravinsky's written and recorded words are


in this study dealing with StravinsJcy* s music and musical ideas are headed, interspersed, and concluded with quotations from those texts, it.is not to imply, as so frequently happens, that Stravinsky*s music has been composed to *fit' the varions verbal polemics in which he has indulged or that his compositions should be ’interpreted' in terms of what he has written about music. In other words» his aesthetic spéc­

ulations are really rationalizations of his créative procedures; and if the rationalization does not always seem to 'fit' the musical

création, then it is the latter which must take precedencej "As for my philosophy," Stravinsky says in Expositions (p.177), “that is my music, of course."


Pootnotes to Introduction

1. Isl.Ledermann (éditer), Stravinsky in the Theatre (New York;

Pellegrini and Cudahy, 1949), p.3.

2. I.Stravinsky and R.Craft, Dialogues and a Diary (London: Paber and Paber, 1968), p.80.

3. These include The Pirebird, Petrushka. The Rite of Spring.

The Nightingale (together v/ith The Song of the Nightingale), Renard.

The Soldier’s Taie. Pulcinella. Liavra. Oedipus Rex. Apollon L'usagète.

The Pairy's Kiss. Perséphone. Gard Game. Danses Concertantes. Circus Polka. Scenes de Ballet. Orpheus. The Rake’s Progress. The Plood.

4. The opéras by Pergolesi are; the comic opéras Lo Prate ’nnamorato (1734) and II Plamino (1735), and the opera-seria, Adriano in Siria (1734). According to Helmut Kucke, the soprano aria, 'Si tu m'ami*, in scene 5 of Pulcinella cornes from Paolo Rolli's Ganconette e cantate (1727); the other vocal numbers, however, appear to be genuine

Pergolesi - see H.Hucke, "Die musikalischen Vorlagen zu Igor

Strawinsky's Pulcinella." in Helmut Osthoff zu seinem 70 Geburtstag (Prankfurter musikhistorische Studien), edited by Hans Schneider (Tutzing, 1969), p.247.

5. I.Stravinsky and R.Craft, Expositions and Developments (New York:

Doubleday, 1962), pp.127-128.

6. A.Roland-Manuel, "Stravinsky's Les Noces." The Chesterian. 33 (1923), 2.

7. Stravinsky, Expositions. op.cit.. p,130.

8. P.Collaer, Strawinsky (Brussels: Editions 'Equilibres',1930),p.95.

9. E.ïï.White, Stravinsky. the Composer and his Works (London: Paber and Paber, 1965), p.113.

10. These and future references to the Stravinsky-Craft Conversations and Memories are to be found in Stravinsky in Conversation with

Robert Craft (London; Penguin Books, 1962).

11. E.Ansermet, "L'Oeuvre d'Igor Strawinsky," La Revue Musicale. 9








12. A.Berger, "Neoclassicism Reexamined," Perspectives of New Music.

9/2 (1971), 63.

13. R.ïïangermée, "Miroirs de Stravinsky," Revue de l'Université de Bruxelles (1971/2), 349.


In his Poetics of Music Stravinsky says:

Richard Wagner*s music is more improvised than constructed, in the spécifie musical sense. Arias, ensembles, and their reciprocal relationships in the structure of an opéra confer upon the whole work a cohérence that is merely the external and visible manifestation of an internai and profoiuad order....

Wagner* s work corresponds to a tendency that is not, properly speaking, a disorder, but one which tries to compensate for a lack of order, The principle of the endless melody perfectly illustrâtes this tendency. It is the perpétuai becoming of a music that never had any reason for starting, any more than

it has any reason for ending, Endless melody thus appears as an insult to the dignity and to the very function of melody

.... Under the influence of V/agner the laws that secure the life of song found themselves violated, and music lost its mélodie smile. Perhaps this method of doing things answered a need; but this need was not compatible with the possibilities of musical art, for musical art is limited in its expression in a measure corresponding to the limitations of the organ that perceives it. A mode of composition that does not assign itself limits becomes pure fantasy;


I am not v/ithout motive in provoking a quarrel with the notorious Synthesis of the Arts. I do not merely condemn it for its lack of tradition, its nouveau riche smugness. V/hat makes its case much worse is the fact that the application of its théories has inflicted a terrible blow upon music itself....

I never saw any necessity for music to adopt such a dramatic System, (Purthermore) I hold that this System, far from having raised the level of musical culture, has never ceased to under- mine. it in the most paradoxical fashion....Prom music shame-

lessly considered as a purely sensual delight, we passed with- out transition to the murky inanities of the Art-Religion, v/ith its heroic hardware, its arsenal of warrior mysticism and its vocabulary seasoned with an adulterated religiosity, .. ( tuming) drama into a hodgepodge of symbols, and music itself into an object of philosophical discussion;

and: Wagnerian music drama reveals continuai bombast."*

These attacks on Wagnerian music drama - for its lack of tradi­

tion, its unrestraint and disorder, its infinité melody, its leit- motives, its deemphasis of the single lyric or dramatic moments by means of a continuai flux of life, its violation of music in its synthesis of the arts and * Art-Religion*, and for its treatment of


music as an object of philosophical discussion - are représentative of an attitude to Wagnerian opéra that is to be found throughout the texts of Stravinsky and central to an understanding of his approach to opéra; indeed, the very opposite of what Stravinsky sees as the prin- ciples of Wagner's works would seem to define Stravinsky's own concept of opéra. But Stravinsky was not alone in his criticism of the music drama, and his remarks are characteristic of the attitude of many composera at the beginning of the 20th-century to the form of opéra, and symptomatic of an era in which the fundamental principles of music were called into question, and in particular, the question of opéra.

In the light of such criticism it would not be inappropriate to briefly examine the position of music drama as it stood at the end of the 19th- and beginning of the 20th-centuries.

Prom the very beginning, opéra, or 'dramma per musica*, in its attempts to weld together text, décor, production and music into a unified whole, posed problems, the greatest of which concemed the balance between music and text, and the question of form, that is, whether the composer should résolve his ideas in dramatic forms or

self-contained musical numbers; the solutions, of course, need not be mutually exclusive. Regarding the problem of form, for instance, many composera felt that they had found an answer by using contemporary musical forms as a foundation for the larger musico-dramtic one; thus Konteverdi, for example, utilized the forms from a variety of musical genres of the Cinquecento, whilst Mozart's operatic techniques fre- quently reflected his own and current symphonie styles, and their opéras are far from being undramatic. Similarly, Wagner, in his music dramas, called upon a formai idéal of romantic music, that of an organic unity according to the principles of the symphony, an idéal which had found its expression in the programmatic symphonies of Berlioz, the symphonie poems of Liszt and Richard Strauss, and the cyclic symphonies of Franck.

Into such a 'symphonie' mould Wagner cast his music dramas, but in that, particularly in the case of the Ring, they could last up to four successive evenings, Stravinsky was perhaps justifie! when, in


Poetics (p.6l), he said that the "Wagner dramas...inflate tde symphony beyond ail proportion." The structural aspect of the music drama,

however, was by no means the only element which its adversaries attacked the contents of this mould were also rejected.

The main sources of dissatisfaction appeared to be that the music drama assigned to music tasks outside its real function of articulating the drama, and that its music was overburdened with literary associa­

tions, Fundamentally, this may be seen as a rejection of two essentials of Wagnerian music drama - the leitmotivs technique, with its résultant shift of emphasis from the voice to the orchestra, and the Wagnerian narrative.

In wanting to allow the. individual characters of the drama to stand out from the mass as sharply as possible, Wagner transferred the rôle of the chorus - its interprétation of the characters on stage, its reflections and explanations of events, etc., - to the orchestra.

He did this by means of the leitmotivs which the orchestra used to communicate to the audience ideas and events germane to the drama.

Necessary, central, and ’organic’ as it was to Wagner's musical form, 2 the leitmotivs technique was frequently used to arrogant lengths, especially by Wagner*s followers, and often resulted in the overall sameness of the musical language of an act or even an entire work.

Still more prominence was given to the orchestra by the insertion of musical .(orchestral) interludes. Originally intended to express what was beyond the power of words - for example, the importance of the meeting of Siegmund and Sieglinde in Act. I of Die Walküre - such interludes often acquired an exaggerated significance. In Parsifal.^

for instance, in addition to expressing the verbally inexpressible, it seems that whenever the action pauses an orchestral interlude is to be found. In the hands of Wagner's successors, the interludes occurred in disproportionately extreme lengths, tending to concentrate attention on certain details of the drama and increasingly ceding interest and mélodie invention to the orchestra; thus the structure, and even the sense of the full drama became less and less apparent.


Also contributing to this loss of formai direction was the ’V/agner narrative’, the essentiel function of which was to intensify the drama in préparation for the climax - for exemple, Isolde's long account of her first meeting with Tristan in Act I where, with the assistance of leitmotives, this plot résumé serves the purpose of exposition. Later, at the beginning of Act III, where the Shepherd asks Kurvenal to ex- plain Tristan's illness, the taie (somewhat monotonously) is repeated.

Such a narrative (or endless melody) was also intended to serve the very important dramatic purpose of reinterpreting a past action in the ligbt of new expérience. In the Ring, the narrative served a slightly different purpose - to keep the audience informedof circumstances which cannot be understood from the action on stage - and occurred in large numbers. This exception was excusable, perhaps, if only for the reason that a cycle of related dramas lasting four evenings needed such explanations.

The narrative for Wagner's followers/imitators, however, became the central part of the music drama and an element which considerably weakened the dramatic effect. Hans Pfitzner's first opéra. Per arme Heinrich (1895), exemplifies this weakening effect of the narrative. In Act I, Dietrich, squire to the sick knight Heinrich, has travelled from Germany to Italy to tell his master that he can be saved only by a girl’s readiness to sacrifice herself for him. Instead of high- lighting either of the two main dramatic moments - the knight's

despair at not being able to bear arms again or the resolution of the girl (Anne) to sacrifice herself - a long, poetic and passionate narra­

tive of Dietrich* s joumey over the Alps and his first view of the plains is heard; and this forms the first climax of thework. The knight's desperate situation is given only a secondary importance, whilst Anne's resolution has to wait for the next scene, and conse-' quently, the dramatic effect is reduced. In Pfitzner's later opéra

Palestrina (1907), the lure of Wagner is again évident in the 'symphonie' movements of deteriorating tonality that préludé each act and in a still greater excess of narrative.

Pfitzner was but one of the many composera influenced by V/agner.


D'Indy, for example, in his opéras Fervaal and L'Etranger, alludes to Parsifal and The Fl.ying Dutchman. respectively; similarly. Chausson, in Le Roi Arthus. èvokes Tristan. But the most imitative of V/agner's successors is surely August Bungert whose Homerische Welt is not only Wagnerian in technique but 'super-Wagnerian' in proportions, for this Work is a cycle - two cycles, in fact, Pas Ilias and Die Qdysee - of no less than seven opéras; Bungert, moreover, requested his own Pestspielhaus (a request that was enthusiastically denied).

The Wagnerian music drama, then - a drama of ideas and primarily symbolical personages, with extra-musical aind 'expressive' structures, with vocal lines of declamatory or arioso character, with a continuons orchestral web of Sound, amd in which, idealistically at least, ail the constituent parts sacrifice their individual identity and some of their spécial characteristics for the larger concept of a universal art form - placed, for those who considered opéra as an essentially musical conception, too much emphasis on non-musical factors. But the 20th- century had also inherited another type of serions opéra, simply stated, and as opposed to 'Wagnerian' drama, the 'Verdian' drama whose pré­

dominant characteristics were musical forms of primarily self-contained n\imbers, a texture that was essentially vocal melody (often highly

emotionally expressive) sustained by an orchestral accompaniment, and a comparatively simple dramatic element with more typically human characters.

In Verdi's last two opéras (Otello. 1887, and Falstaff. 1893):in particular, however, his desire to balance a more even, literary flow with the lyric demanda of the classical Italian tradition is clearly

évident in the greater continuity of the music throughout each act, for though the divisions between the numbers are still there, they are somewhat less distinct, the self-contained forms being loosened and blended into the rest. The musical structure was loosened still further by composera (often considered as the legitimate heirs to the Verdian drama) of 'verismo' opéra, in which the coloratura arias and other features of early Italian opéra were replaced by a melodramatic recitative that was more naturalistic, and where, rather than the earlier, generally 'idealistic' libretto, plots favoured 'realistic'


subjects from everyday life, frequently embellished with violent and theatrical sensationalism. Mascagni’s Cavalliera rusticana (1890), Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (1892), and Puccini’s (somewhat modified and more lyrical ’verismo') La Bohème (1896) and Tosca (1900) are early représentatives of veristic opéra.

Verismo opéra was also a reaction against the complex symbolism of Wagnerian music drama, and in France a roughly parallel situation was to be found in the realism of subject matter and the simplicity of musical material in Bizet’s Cannen (1875), in the naturalism of

Bruneau’s Messidor (1897), Charpentier's Louise (1900), and Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande (1902). Ail of these antidotes, however, and

particularly Pelléas et Mélisande - where, with almost no modification, the whole of Maeterlinck’s play is set in a foimi of vocal monody that naturalisticaliy mirrors the speaking voice whilst the orchestra

provides a discreet but continuons support - manifested, at least for those who sought an opéra govemed primarily by musical considérations, still other instances of imbalance in the musico-dramatic form, for the tendency of opéra to adapt itself to the form of a play or the text (the formai fluidity of Verdi’s Otello and Falstaff. it may be noted, reflects the influence of its literary models) resulted in a close correspondence between the structural details of the music and the literary effects and devices of the drama, thus further contributing to the idea that music was weighed down with literary and dramatic associations. For the ’dissenters’ of the early 20th-century, opéra had become, to use Joseph Kerman’s descriptions, either a "symphonie poem" (V/agnerian) or a "sung play" (Debussyan).4

Opéra, they felt, was moribund. It had lost its characteristic self-contained form; its music had been destroyed by too much detail and its emphasis had been shifted from the voice to the orchestra and an accompanying rôle; and in being over-burdened with literary associ­

ations and in functioning outside its real pur^ose, music had become the "scullion of a transcendental super-art." Most xmportant of ail, 5 perhaps, was that the distance between composer and public, begun in

the *subjectivism’ of romantic music and enhanced by the music drama, had assumed even larger proportions. In addition to giving their


attention to the stage, the characters and their émotions, and the musical invention associated with what it saw, the public had to notice orchestral motives which were constantly recurring in dis- guised forms in order to follow the drama. They were also expected to understand something of symphonie technique. Part of the blâme must rest with the audience itself, however, for spurred on by the orches­

tral sounds from grand opéra sind the orchestral ’delights' of the symphonie poem, the public demanded an orchestral fascination and did not want to attend only to the stage. Richard Strauss was particularly popular in this respect; in Elektra (iy09), for example, he had pro- vided two climactic and brilliantly orchestrated dances, the ’visionary dance' of Elektra and her final 'dance of triumph'. In relation to what has been discussed earlier, the first 'visionary dance' is approached by long narratives, and provides a magnificent climax, but in that the second 'triumphal dance' contains no new material and is, in any case, eclipsed by the first dance, it is the visionary dance that is the major but prématuré climax of the opéra, Both dances, of course, provide examples of attention being diverted from the voice to the orchestra. The average opera-goer, therefore, had to be something of a musical 'superman'.

If, however, as many composers thought, 19th-century opéra (especially music drama) had replaced, if not destroyed certain tra- ditional concepts of form, it had, at the same time, undeniably contributed towards an enlargement and enrichment of the musical language (the boundaries of haimony, métré and rhythm, for example, had become more 'elastic'), of the dynamic and expressive power of

the orchestra, and, of course, of the scope and representational potentiality of opéra itself. And considering the excesses of the post-Wagnerian music drama alongside the successes of the music draraas of V/agner himself, or those of Mussorgsky and Debussy, for example, it was felt, perhaps, that little more could be achieved within the boundaries of that form.

Opponents of late 19th-century opéra, therefore, in order to substantiate their beliefs and criticisms, had to find alternative forms, Many of these alternatives were to hâve their foundations


already laid in the solutions to operatic form provided by composers of previous eras (including those of the 19th-century music draina) - resulting, often, in a fusion of past and présent - whilst other composers looked for stimulus in chamber opéra and the ballet (here,

the Russian Ballet played a very significant rôle).

The young composer Strayinsky, coraing from a country largely eut off from Western currents, was thrust into the milieu of these experiments. Perhaps he was fortunate in that he entered a world in which some composers were seeking, whilst others already had the

ingrédients for a crystallization of an alternative operatic style;

indeed, after his first opéra, The Nightingale (composed between 1908 and 1914), many of his opéras, it may be noted, engendered such alter­

native solutions. Moreover, his own Russian, ’isolated' background undoubtedly prepared him for that world. Ail of these factors - his Russian, operatic background, the ’retum to the past', chamber opéra,

the ballet, and the Russian Ballet in particular - were to hâve a

direct and lasting effect on Stravinsky's approach to the opéra. Though the following pages examine these factors individually, their presence in Stravinsky's music was one of mutual interdependence,


Footnotes to Chapter 1

1. The three quotatiohs are from Stravinsky's Poetics. pp. 62-63, 59-60, and p.6l, respectivèly.

2. A leitmotive is a short, flexible fragment of music (usually melody) suggestive of a character, an event, an idea, or a mood that frequently recurs, reorchestrated, reharmonized, rephrased and devel- oped. Its organic effect in the symphonie web of a music drama is an an example of Wagner's use of the musical forms of his time mentioned earlier in the text. Many 19th-century composera (Berlioz, Liszt, R.

Strauss, for example) used a sort of leitmotive technique - whether it be called 'idée fixe', rthematic metamorphosis', etc., - in their Work with similar symbolic and organic significance to the musical, or musico-dramatic organization,

3. Parsifal occasioned a spécial attack from Stravinsky on the grounds of its "unseemly and sacrilegious conception." (Autobiography. p.39).

4. Joseph Kerman, Opéra as Drama (New York: Vintage Books, 1956), chapters 6 and 7.

5. Nicholas-Nabokov, "Stravinsky and the Brama," in M.Ledennann, editor. Stravinsky in the Theatre (Nev/ York, 1949), p.105.


INFLUENCES (1) Stravinsky’s Russian Operatic 3ackground

Russian opéra (as opposed to opéra fron the West imported into Russia) did not begin to emerge until the middle of the 19th century;

and although, towards the end of that century, there existed in the Russian musical world the rival factions of the 'ethnographie' and the

' traditionalists* (a division vvhich, as will be seen, had important repercussions in Stravinsky's aesthetic principles), because Russia was, to a large extent, isolated from the West, it remained generally unaffected by the ’war’ of opéra aesthetics in the West. Nevertheless, in the v/ork of the two leading protagoniste of Russian opéra at the end of the 19th century, Mi^ssorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov (both members of the 'Five* - the ethnographies), is evidence of much that is

pertinent to the évolution of 20th-century opéra in general, and to Stravinskyan opéra in particular.

In the dramatic music of the 20th century, terseness is one of its principal factors, a factor that may appear, perhaps, as somewhat incompatible with an art form in which amplification, through such devices as répétition or development, for example, is an important eleraent. Though Mussorgsky had died (1881) before this element had become a characteristic of 20th-century opéra, his (and the ’Five's') anti-Wagnerism and rejection of the principles of formai and elaborate development (symphonie 'working-out') are early signs of future atti­

tudes to dramatic and lyric music. He expressed this creed, perhaps more succinctly than any other composer-author-spokesman, in the state ment, "Plain truth, however unpalatable, and nothing more. No half- measures. Ornamentation is a superfluity,"!' and his last songs and the opéra Boris Godunov are testimonies to that creed. Ail that is not absolutely essentiel to direct expression in these works is eliminated Death's Lullaby - a moving dialogue betv/een a grief-stricken mother and the skeleton (Death) who cornes to take away her sick child - for example, ends dramatically, but abruptly, v/ith Death's final utterance

"Look ye! My singing has lull'd him to slumber. Lullaby, lullaby-bye,"

(Ex.1) - a conventional coda or retum to the main key would hâve been superfluous to Mussorgsky's way of thinking; the same is true for his


song The Orphan which ends equally dramatically but abruptly and sus- pensively on a chord of the dominant. In Boris Godunov. terseness is a characteristic of the entire score: quite unlike the préludés and orchestral interludes of V/agnerian music drama, the orchestra in Mussorgsky's opéra (apart from the very brief Préludésthe Polonaise and the March that axinounces the arrivai of the usurper) is rarely heard alone; indeed, transitions between utterances, even between

scenes, are reduced to an absolute minimiim; and, like the two songs referred to above,, the work (in its authentic version) ends on a suspensive chord that lacks any suggestion of a cadence at ail,

Such terseness and *abbreviation’ are the very life-blood of Stravinsky's scores; but there are other features of Boris Godunov (and other Mussorgsky scores) which also find a place in Stravinsky's musical language: Mussorgsky's fondness for the mere sound of certain note formations in his harmonies which, moreover, like Stravinsky's, are basically consonant and strongly rooted to a tonal/modal foundation, but rarely 'academie'; or Mussorgsky's mélodie idiom which, more than any other element perhaps, betrays the considérable influence of the Russian folk melos on his music - irregular phrases of persistently reiterated patterns that xinfold within an 'archaic', frequently modal framework; or the formai structure of Boris -■ dramatically, a sériés of detached scenes rather than a coherently balanced plot, is matched, to a large extent, by the cumulative impact of many separate musical épisodes rather than a conventional 'development'; there is also in the opéra the spirit of objectivity and collectivity which characterizes Stravinsky's output - when Boris speaks, the voice of an entire people, not an individus! is heard, and ail the other figures, similarly, seem

to represent a collective body, the Russian people; and though ap- proached from different angles and with different purposes in mind, Mussorgsky's treatment of the word-music relationship (expandiûg.

upon Dargomisky's song-speech experiments) developed-a .mélodie s"tyle created from human speech - resulting in an indissoluble fusion of the two éléments, not unlike that which occurs in Stravinsky's music where, however, music (sonority) was the governing factor. (Por Wagner, it may be noted, music generally commented, clarified or even psycho- analyzed the text, whilst for Debussy, the music tends to intervene'





Sujets connexes :