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Opera in the Jazz AgeCultural Politics in 1920s Britain$
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Alexandra Wilson

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190912666

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190912666.001.0001

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(p.125) Chapter 5 Repertories
Opera in the Jazz Age

Alexandra Wilson

Oxford University Press

This chapter establishes that different types of opera were classified differently during the 1920s and considers questions of contemporary canon formation. Early opera and some modern operas were acceptable to highbrow tastes; German opera was preferable to Italian. The chapter begins by establishing what the 1920s British operatic repertoire was and considering the ways in which it was perceived to be ossifying into a ‘museum culture’. It considers the repertoire performed by the touring companies and how they adjusted their programming to suit the tastes of different cities. Innovative attempts by Oxford students to revive early opera are discussed. The chapter examines why nineteenth-century Italian opera was deemed so problematic by highbrow commentators, before considering how Wagner’s works cut across highbrow–middlebrow categories in surprising ways. It concludes by considering operatic topics that were deemed particularly well-suited to British tastes, and whether Britain could properly be called an operatic nation at all.

Keywords:   opera, Britain, 1920s, highbrow, middlebrow, Monteverdi, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Strauss

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