Revealing Masks

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Overview

W. Anthony Sheppard considers a wide-ranging constellation of important musical works in this fascinating exploration of ritualized performance in twentieth-century music. Revealing Masks uncovers the range of political, didactic, and aesthetic intents that inspired the creators of modernist music theater. Sheppard is especially interested in the use of the "exotic" in techniques of masking and stylization, identifying Japanese Noh, medieval Christian drama, and ancient Greek theater as the most prominent exotic models for the creation of "total theater."

Drawing on an extraordinarily diverse—and in some instances, little-known—range of music theater pieces, Sheppard cites the work of Igor Stravinsky, Benjamin Britten, Arthur Honegger, Peter Maxwell Davies, Harry Partch, and Leonard Bernstein, as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Madonna. Artists in literature, theater, and dance—such as William Butler Yeats, Paul Claudel, Bertolt Brecht, Isadora Duncan, Ida Rubenstein, and Edward Gordon Craig—also play a significant role in this study.

Sheppard poses challenging questions that will interest readers beyond those in the field of music scholarship. For example, what is the effect on the audience and the performers of depersonalizing ritual elements? Does borrowing from foreign cultures inevitably amount to a kind of predatory appropriation? Revealing Masks shows that compositional concerns and cultural themes manifested in music theater are central to the history of twentieth-century Euro-American music, drama, and dance.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

W. Anthony Sheppard is Assistant Professor of Music at Williams College.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
Preface xi
Part I Introduction: Drawing Connections in the Margins
1 Defining Music Theater 3
2 The Multiplicity of the Exotic 10
3 Ritual and Performance 15
Part II Borrowed Masks: Greek, Japanese, and Medieval
4 The Masks of Modernism 25
5 Freedom in a Tunic versus Frieze-Dried Classicism: Hellenism in Modernist Performance 42
6 The Uses of Noh 72
7 Medievalism and the French Modernist Stage 96
Part III The Mysteries of British Music Theater; or, Dressing up for Church
8 The Audience as Congregation 115
9 Britten's Parables 126
10 Later British Mysteries 155
Part IV The Varieties of Ritual Expression and Criticism in American Music Theater
11 Orientalists and a Crusader 169
12 Partch's Vision of "Integrated Corporeal Theater" and "Latter-Day Rituals" 180
13 Bitter Rituals for a Lost Nation: Partch and Bernstein 204
14 God in Popular Music(al) Theater 231
Part V Conclusion: Removing the Masks
15 Masking the Human and the Misogyny of Masks 243
16 Music Theater Now 252
Appendix 263
Notes 269
Selected Bibliography 323
Index 339
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