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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Opera, or the doing of women : the dramatic works of Ingeborg von Bronsart (1840-1913) Boyd, Melinda Jean


In the early 1890s, Ingeborg von Bronsart (1840-1913) was hailed by the German musical press as the "first lady" of the German stage. Her first two extant dramatic works —Jery und Bately (Singspiel, 1873) and Hiarne (grosse Oper, 1891) — had captivated audiences and were met with enthusiasm from critics. By 1904, Arthur Elson noted that Bronsart was "one of the few really great women composers." Yet by the time her last opera, Die Siihne, premiered in 1909, the magic had faded. Critics rejected the work as unimaginative, while audiences stayed away. Bronsart and her works quickly disappeared from the repertoire and from history. Employing manuscript and contemporary published sources, Chapter One examines Bronsart's life and the rich artistic circles in which she lived and worked. Chapters Two, Three and Four are devoted to each of Bronsart's three extant operas. The individual works are considered with respect to their genesis as well as to more general matters of plot and dramatic structure. Because little is known about Bronsart's music, in order to obtain a better understanding of her style a substantial portion of my discussion concentrates on the musical analysis and dramatic interpretation of each opera. Focusing on the specific numbers and scenes that I consider to be of significant interest, I examine the vocal writing, harmonic language, formal structures, unity and continuity. The thesis concludes with an exploration of broader historiographical issues of reception, gender, genre and aesthetic value, laying the foundation for a renewed interest in this unique composer and her works.

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