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IV Dramatic Politics D 199 Introduction BONNIE GORDON The Beggar’s Opera premiered on 29 January 1728. John Gay’s ballad opera satirized Italian opera and offered an eighteenth-century mash-up of sounds from Italian opera buffa, Handel’s most popular arias, the Scottish folk tradition , and more. The satirical slam on aristocratic culture and what we would understand as high art went global very quickly and was adapted as far away as Jamaica and New York, with individual tunes making their way to taverns in the American colonies. The piece is of course well known to scholars of the eighteenth century, and modern audiences may know it through its reincarnation by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht as The Threepenny Opera. This characteristic creation, with its global reach, multimedia production, cross-generic relationships, and ability to incite sympathetic responses in audiences, captures the issues brought forth by the four essays in this section entitled “Dramatic Politics.” The four essays in the section cover a Spanish novelist’s satire of preaching , an Italian marriage drama, the resonances of the American Revolution in a famous Mozart opera, and the spatial metaphors of sympathy that run through various literatures. The immense popularity of the ballad opera reminds us that performance mattered differently in the eighteenth century , the era just before the cult of the genius and the autonomous subject, and in its dramatizing of real people and real events it reminds us that the line between performance and life was almost impossible to draw. And the mixing of popular songs with drama suggests a generic fluidity that characterizes the works discussed by each of the authors in this section. The piece feels emblematic of a field of inquiry that these essays enact: historical performance studies. The authors expand our notion of performance and do away with seemingly artificial distinctions between performance and text and between kinds of texts. They point up that the eighteenth century was global in the literal and metaphoric senses of the word and that to understand the eighteenth century is always to balance between a homogenized long century and specific local works, knowledges, and structures. Bonnie Gordon 200 The section begins with Pierpaolo Polzonetti’s “Mozart and the American Revolution,” which demonstrates immediately that performance could not be bound by emergent nation-states and that just as tunes from The Beggar’s Opera made it to Virginia, so too did the American Revolution have aesthetic consequences on the Continent. Polzonetti offers a rich intertextual reading of Mozart’s latest and most famous operas, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte. He shows the impact of American Revolutionary ideals on Mozart’s Vienna, particularly as they played out on the operatic stage. While Polzonetti writes about the migration of ideas from Europe to the Americas, Adrienne Ward shows readers that performance must be taken seriously as a system for transmitting knowledge and culture and social norms. In “The Drama of Marriage in Eighteenth-Century Venice,” her close reading of La locandiera reveals the play as deeply tied to the crisis in marriage culture that spread through Italy over the long eighteenth century. The play performs the marriage plot, theorizes male violence, and stages contemporary moral dilemmas. The third essay, by Jennifer Reed, “Performances of Suffering and the Stagecraft of Sympathy,” does a remarkable job of unpacking the peculiarly eighteenth-century notions of sympathy and suffering on which the reception of all of these performances depended. Opera, drama, and other creative expressions worked because of a historically specific sympathetic resonance between audience and performer. As is well known in scholarly circles, Enlightenment philosophers were fascinated by sympathy; it was a fascination that some have argued ultimately led to the human-rights claims that undergirded the revolutions that swept across the globe. Reed writes not about the reach of sympathy, as has often been done, but rather about the limits of sympathy. She focuses especially on ocular and spatial metaphors and on the figure of the spectacle. The section concludes with an essay that highlights text as a performative space and that listens carefully to the inherent orality of the eighteenthcentury written word. Casey Erikson, in “The Aesthetics of Excess: Rococo Vestiges of Tartuffe in Isla’s Father Gerundio,” reads The History of the Famed Preacher, Father Gerundio de Campazas, alias Zotes, by the Jesuit writer José Francisco de Isla, as delivering a hyperbolic and satiric critique of preaching . Isla uses a rococo aesthetic to enhance a growing...


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