“Staging the Past: Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Divided Germany during the 1970s and 1980s.” Ph.D. Diss., Columbia University, 2015.
[Writing sample (dissertation chapter)]
[Link to complete dissertation]
Abstract: The staging of Richard Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen provides an ideal site to examine representations of the German past in the opera house and the broader cultural world surrounding it, in particular how these representations reveal different conceptions of the past in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). By looking at three different productions of the Ring cycle in divided Germany during the 1970s and 1980s, I will show how Wagner stagings both reflected and contributed to historical debates about the Nazi past and discussions about cultural and national identity.
The introduction considers why stagings of Wagner’s Ring cycle are so important for understanding national identity and the process of coming to terms with the Nazi past (Vergangenheitsbewältigung) in the two German states. Along with describing my own methodology, I give an overview of the different approaches to opera staging in recent musicological scholarship. Chapter One provides contextual information on divided Germany during the 1970s and 1980s, and it also introduces three historical debates that appear in the case studies. Chapter Two begins by looking at the Leipzig Ring (1973–1976), directed by Joachim Herz, as a parable about nineteenth-century class conflict. I then consider what the Leipzig production has to say about the relationship between the GDR and the Nazi past, particularly with respect to Herz’s depiction of the Gibichung court as a fascist state. Chapters Three and Four investigate the Bayreuth centennial Ring (1976), staged by Patrice Chéreau and conducted by Pierre Boulez, each of whom had a different vision of Wagner. In spite of their differences, both Chéreau and Boulez treat Wagner’s work as an opportunity to reflect on their own experiences of the 1968 student protest movement. Both artists articulate a sense of unease about revolutionary activity, which mirrors the growing anxiety in both West Germany and France about the radical left. Chapter Five examines the multiple views of Wagner in Ruth Berghaus’s Frankfurt Ring (1985–1987). While the director Berghaus interprets the work in terms of a tradition of epic theater and historical materialism, the dramaturge Klaus Zehelein focuses on aspects of language, textuality, and representation. I also discuss how the reception of the Frankfurt Ring in West German newspapers reflects the re-intensification of the Cold War in the 1980s.
Advisors/committee: Walter Frisch, Giuseppe Gerbino, George E. Lewis, Lydia Goehr, Mark Anderson
“Myth, Matriarchy, and Feminism in Ruth Berghaus’s Ring Cycle (1985-1987).” (Under Review)
“Rethinking Postwar History: Munich’s Musica Viva during the Karl Amadeus Hartmann Years (1945-63).” Musical Quarterly 90, no. 2 (2007): 230-274. [Link to article]
Abstract: Munich’s post-World-War-II concert series Musica Viva was a contemporary music series founded by the composer Karl Amadeus Hartmann in 1945. The series was initiated under the auspices of the American occupation government and was to embody the ostensible goals of reeducation, artistic freedom, and reintegration with a larger community of contemporary music. This postwar period is often referred to as Zero Hour, a broader cultural and political tendency that stressed a clean break with the past and that was manifested in a musical ideology of autonomy (both from political uses and from other arts forms.) Given his previous experience as a concert organizer during the Weimar years and as a politically engaged composer, Hartmann was in the unique position to implement and to also question these ideals. In addition to giving an outline of the Musica Viva’s early history, this article explores how Hartmann’s creative programming and his juxtaposition of past and present musical works were able to present the forum for an active dialogue and critical confrontation with the past. Further, through the active commissioning of visual artworks for the Musica Viva program booklets and through innovative stagings, Hartmann effectively placed contemporary music within a larger artistic and cultural community. Here, special attention is also given to the function that the series performed vis-à-vis postwar Bavarian politics, an emerging radio culture, and Munich’s ambivalent history. Together, these facets distinguish Musica Viva (literally meaning, living music) from other contemporary music festivals in Darmstadt and Donaueschingen; and, a musical paradigm is presented that contrasts and reevaluates conventional accounts of postwar music history centered around Darmstadt that often uncritically propagate Zero Hour discourses of formal autonomy and radical progressivism.
“The Problematic Nature of Hindemith’s ‘Das Unaufhörliche’: A Critical Response.” Tempo 61, no. 240 (2007): 40-50. [Link to article]
Abstract: This article, written while I was an undergraduate at Northwestern, explores the cultural and political background of the collaboration between Paul Hindemith and Gottfried Benn.
“Minor mode.” In Columbia University Sonic Glossary. Last modified August 2011. https://www1.columbia.edu/sec/itc/music/sonic/minor_mode.html [requires Columbia login]
Abstract: This entry on the minor mode was written for Columbia University’s Sonic Glossary, an electronic resource that helps students learn the basic concepts of music appreciation.
“Karl Amadeus Hartmann.” In OREL Foundation Website. Last modified August 1, 2008. http://orelfoundation.org/index.php/composers/article/karl_amadeus_hartmann/
Abstract: This is an online encyclopedia entry on the composer Karl Amadeus Hartmann. Along with biographical details, special attention is given to the concept of inner emigration and to Hartmann’s position in the postwar musical landscape. The entry also includes a bibliography, a list of Hartmann’s works, a discography, and media links.
“On the Bildungsroman and the Dramaturgy of the Avatar in George Lewis’s Afterword.” Program Notes for Ojai Music Festival. Ojai, CA: Libbey Bowl, June 9, 2017. [Link to program notes]
“J.S. Bach’s Six Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin.” Program Notes for Miller Theatre Lunchtime Concert Series. New York: Miller Theatre, September 28, 2009.