In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

404Comparative Drama (or operas within operas, as in the case of Richard Strauss' Capriccio) and additionally exhibit a tendency toward set speeches or scenic types —e.g., brindisi or preghiera). The last hundred pages of the book, given over to discussion of operas that have been made of Shakespeare's plays, provide a particularly valuable section because Schmidgall examines in great detail little-known Shakespearian operas such as Aribert Reimann's Lear as well as canonical works such as Verdi's Otello. Shakespeare and Opera is a very substantial book that will prove to be of value to those interested in Shakespeare, in opera, or in both. Although ample endnotes are provided, one wishes for a bibliography. But that is perhaps the fault of the publisher, not the author, and in no way diminishes the cogency and strength of Schmidgall's arguments. WILLIAM E. GRIM Worcester State College Elizabeth Hale Winkler. The Function ofSong in Contemporary British Drama. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1991. Pp. 363; 35 musical examples. $48.50. From the premise that song in drama is a genre to itself, standing separate from either song or drama, Elizabeth Hale Winkler has constructed a theory to account for the effect created when a playwright intrudes a song into the dramatic context. While she touches on several approaches to analyzing the effect of song or music, including semiotics and various psychological avenues, her preferred analytical mode is "agonistic" or "dissociative," based on "alienating functions and devices" derived from the dramatic theories of Bertolt Brecht and those who followed or were influenced by him. She says that "many contemporary dramatists, whether or not they follow Brecht in theory, seem to create plays in which the various elements such as song and spectacle are not totally fused, and in which the audience can, and should, remain aware of ironies, discrepancies, and incongruities" (p. 30). Of particular importance for the "new" genre of dramatic song is Winkler's observation that music carries cultural resonance (as do, for example, national anthems, nursery songs, hymns) that can and will be evoked apart from the text of a song as soon as the music starts to sound. Composers, it would seem, have always known this: Renaissance composers must have recognized this effect in constructing entire masses or motets on a liturgical chant or even a secular song; in the socalled "parody mass," with a new text fit to existing music, composers must have counted on some capacity of music to connect the sacred with another realm; and more modern composers like Charles Ives have shown us just how far our ability to recognize musical quotation can Reviews405 affect perception of the new musical work that includes it. The impact on drama, however, is especially notable, and Winkler has ably demonstrated that it is an important facet that we may overlook in passing lightly over the songs that often punctuate the drama. Contemporary British playwrights, she notes, seem unusually skilled at drawing upon this dimension of music's effectiveness, even complicating matters by pairing culturally evocative music with mismatched texts for ironic or political impact. The playwrights who have especially attracted Winkler 's interest have also been quite explicit in this regard: she quotes John Arden and Margaretta D'Arcy to the effect that the songs in their plays evoke "collective experience" (p. 58); but many others have clearly called upon the effect without conscious or public statements of intent to do so. Winkler's discussion thus helps promote an analytical approach that will be useful for many other playwrights as well. Many aspects of The Function of Song in Contemporary British Drama, however, are disappointing. The structure of Winkler's book is logical but imperfectly balanced. With her theoretical model in place, Winkler produces first a whirlwind "Historical Survey of Song in Drama" (for my taste too sketchy to be useful); then two very long and comprehensive chapters on the work of John Arden and Margaretta D'Arcy, and Edward Bond, respectively; and finally two more summarizing chapters which organize the plays of many other contemporary British playwrights according to the musical sources they prefer: "The Dominance of Popular Song: Music Hall to Rock" (Peter...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 404-406
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.