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Ron Alexander Memorial Lectures in Musicology: Larry Wolff

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Event Details:

Topic: Die Frau ohne Schatten: Fairy-Tale Opera and the End of the Habsburg Monarchy

Abstract: This lecture will consider Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal's fairy-tale opera Die Frau ohne Schatten (currently being performed at the San Francisco Opera) in relation to the period of its creation before, during, and after World War I, with its premiere in 1919, at the time of the Paris Peace Conference and the end of the Habsburg monarchy.  In particular, the lecture will address the leading roles in the opera— a fairy-tale emperor and empress— in relation to the last Habsburg emperor and empress, Karl and Zita, who departed from Austria in 1919, the same year that their fairy-tale counterparts took the stage in Vienna.  The lecture further considers the afterlives— after 1919— of the real and operatic empresses across the post-imperial European twentieth century.  Musically, the lecture will consider the Wagnerian aspects of Die Frau ohne Schatten, the deployment of its dual orchestration, the significance of the children's chorus of unborn children, and the question of what constitutes operatic modernism. 

Larry Wolff works on the history of Eastern Europe, the Habsburg Monarchy, the Enlightenment, and on the history of childhood. He tends to work as an intellectual and cultural historian and has been most interested in problems concerning East and West within Europe. Professor Wolff has analyzed Western perspectives on Eastern Europe as a sort of "demi-Orientalism," negotiating a balance between attributed difference and acknowledged resemblance. In books about Venetian perspectives on Dalmatia (Venice and the Slavs, 2001) and Habsburg perspectives on Galicia (The Idea of Galicia, 2010), he has attempted to explore the meaning of "Eastern Europe" within imperial frameworks and the ideology of empire. Most recently he published Woodrow Wilson and the Reimagining of Eastern Europe (2020). His research on the history of childhood has included books on child abuse in Freud's Vienna (Postcards from the End of the World, 1988) and child abuse in Casanova's Venice (Paolina’s Innocence, 2012). His book, The Singing Turk (2016), concerns Turkish subjects on the European operatic stage during the long eighteenth century, and analyzes musical and dramatic representations in the context of European-Ottoman relations. Professor Wolff also writes music and opera criticism.

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