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Opera After the Zero HourThe Problem of Tradition and the Possibility of Renewal in Postwar West Germany$
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Emily Richmond Pollock

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190063733

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190063733.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 24 June 2021

Italy, Atonally

Italy, Atonally

Hans Werner Henze’s König Hirsch

(p.70) 3 Italy, Atonally
Opera After the Zero Hour

Emily Richmond Pollock

Oxford University Press

In König Hirsch, Henze imagined operatic tradition primarily as an Italian inheritance consisting of vocal beauty, formal artificiality, and emotional expression. König Hirsch mediated Henze’s experiences living and listening in Italy through the musical modernism in which he had been trained immediately following the war. Tributes to conventional operaticism included stylized incantations, moments of hysterical coloratura, a villainous Credo, and several instances of folk-music pastiche. A close reading of Henze’s characterization of the musician figure Checco, who expresses himself partly through diegetic “Neapolitan” song, shows the collision between Henze’s modernism and his newfound italianità. The opera’s arias later became emblems of the opera’s expressive excesses; the conductor of the premiere, Hermann Scherchen, subjected them to severe cuts, setting off a fight over the artistic status of traditions of vocalism and emotion that ensured Henze’s definitive break with the avant-garde.

Keywords:   Hans Werner Henze, König Hirsch, bel canto, Neapolitan song, sketch studies, Hermann Scherchen

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