Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Music, Musicology Graduate Program
This dissertation examines the powerful influence myths of rural origin wielded in Czech culture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, especially as communicated through opera. By developing a theoretical model I term the village mode, I argue that idealized rural life, ideologically reinscribed by writers, composers, and intellectuals, epitomized normative ideas about gender, class, and society, which in turn influenced the ways in which Czech nationalism developed. Operas playing in the village setting used the concept flexibly, displaying a wide variety of social and communal possibilities. The changing reception of Bedřich Smetana’s Prodaná nevěsta (The Bartered Bride, 1866), as the paradigmatic embodiment of the village mode, forms the main thread across the dissertation. I also examine such operas as Smetana’s Dvě vdovy (The Two Widows, 1874), Antonín Dvořák’s Čert a Káča (The Devil and Kate, 1899), and Leoš Janáček’s Její pastorkyňa (Jenůfa, 1904). I investigate the roles of critical cultural agents, such as the director of the National Theater František Adolf Šubert and the music critic Zdeněk Nejedlý in propagating the village mode through events like the 1892 International Exhibition of Music and Theater in Vienna and the one-thousandth performance of The Bartered Bride in 1927. In addition to offering new insight into the repertoire and cultural backdrop for Czech opera, this dissertation provides fresh perspectives on current discussions about music and empire, cultural diplomacy, and Central European Studies.