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CH1. European Forms in Early A merica. 段馨君 Iris Hsin-chun Tuan Associate Professor Department of Humanities and Social Sciences NCTU.

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CH1. European Forms in Early A merica

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CH1. European Forms in Early America

段馨君 Iris Hsin-chun Tuan

Associate Professor

Department of Humanities and Social Sciences


  • Audience are the lifeblood of the theater, and we are that audience. It matters less that we disagree, than that through argument, research, and participation, we continue to care.

Broadway: The American Musical . Hello, Broadway! | PBS

  • Director-choreographer Bob Fosse described as an evening in the theater when ”everybody has a good time--- even in the crying scenes.”

  • I hope this book gives everybody a good time, reawaken the joy of remembered musical, and leads to more enlightened appreciation of this popular American art.

Bob Fosse

Introduction: A philosophy of musical theater

  • Scholarly speculation about that primitive theater of ritual aside, the idea of the deliberate union of drama and song in opera.

  • Audience have enjoyed such alternatives to the spoken drama as operetta, ballet, pantomime, minstrelsy, vaudeville, burlesque, extravaganza, revue, musical comedy, and musical play.

  • All musical theater embodies the spirit and philosophy of the theater of romance.

  • Romantic love meant an ideal love: selfless, spiritual, eternal, without human fetters.

  • It endows its adherents with an emotional ascendancy not unlike feeling the weight of mortality melt away while knowing one is mortal.


  • To measure a work accurately means to weigh the contributions of librettist, composer, lyricist, director, choreographer, actors, singers, dancers, and lighting.

  • Has not the lesson of Rodgers and Hammerstein been that the skilled integration of musical-dramatic elements that reveal optimistic content promotes consistent success in the popular musical theater?

Movement, Song & Dance

  • The process of musical theater is life-affirming as well.

  • Identify the principal tools of its craftsmen.

  • Movement. Song. Dance.

  • Each distinguishes moments when we are truly alive.

  • Most American musical theater was popular theater, entertainment created for the majority of people.

  • Now, the quantitative measures of popularity and success long runs, box-office receipts, film sales, cast albums and media spinoffs apply customarily to revivals and Andrew Lloyd Webber properties.

Andrew Lloyd Webber

  • Musical stage knows that all musical theater is presentational.

  • Presentationalism means more than a style of presentation.

  • Finally, musical theater requires a strict acceptance of the conventions unique to it.

  • The history of musical theater in America has been an uninterrupted march toward the crafts that particularize experiences in sound and movement so popular and so universal

  • as to make the American musical the nation’s most visible modern contribution to world theater.

CH1. European Forms in Early America

  • Since the first recorded musical theater performance in the colonies was of a ballad opera, Flora(1735).

Giuseppe Verdthe comoposerFlora

  • Although the olio originated as a practical response to some technical problem like diverting the attention of the audience while stagehands shifted cumbersome scenery,

  • the public so enjoyed and demanded these interludes that the custom persisted until late in the nineteenth century when the severe disciplined theater practices associated with the theater realism washed away all entertainment excesses in a tidal wave of reform.



The ballad opera

  • The ballad opera is not a true opera. Traditionally the word opera defines a dramatic theater piece with continuous music as the dominant artistic feature.

  • Where early opera uses recitative between arias, the ballad uses spoken dialogue.

  • Spectacular achievement in 1728 of

  • John Gay’s Beggar’s opera.

Beggar's Opera (1728) - Cold and Raw

The Beggar’s Opera.

Painting based on The Beggar's Opera, Scene V,William Hogarth, c. 1728, in the Tate Britain

  • This was the special point of the work: crime is less an affront in a world of poverty than is official corruption.

Comic opera

  • The comic opera of the English tradition contained spoken dialogue rather than recitative, and resembled the French opera bouffeand the German operetta in spirit and temperament. However, one major distinction did prevail.

Opéra "bouffe"

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