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Article

Erich Schwandt, Fredric Woodbridge Wilson, and Deane L. Root

(Fr.; It. burlesca; Ger. Burleske)

A humorous piece involving parody and grotesque exaggeration; the term may be traced to folk poetry and theatre and apparently derived from the late Latin burra (‘trifle’). As a literary term in the 17th century it referred to a grotesque imitation of the dignified or pathetic, and in the early 18th century it was used as a title for musical works in which serious and comic elements were juxtaposed or combined to achieve a grotesque effect. In England the word denotes a dramatic production which ridicules stage conventions, while in 19th- and 20th-century American usage its principal meaning is a variety show in which striptease is the chief attraction.

Burlesque: Instrumental music

Burlesque: English theatrical burlesque

Burlesque: American burlesque

ESMGG2 (‘Burleske’; M. Struck) [incl. list of instrumental works]NicollHT.F. Dillon Croker and S. Tucker, eds.: The Extravaganzas of J.R. Planché, Esq. (Somerset Herald, 1827–1871) (London, 1879)W. Davenport Adams...

Article

Fredric Woodbridge Wilson and Deane L. Root

In the USA, burlesque followed the English form until the 1860s. From the late 1830s burlesques of operas and romantic plays were presented in New York, and the English émigré John Brougham wrote and acted in numerous burlesques from 1842 to 1879. Brougham’s Po-ca-hon-tas (1855, after Longfellow’s narrative poem) is peopled with ‘Salvages’, its dialogue is a string of doubles entendres and its songs were selected from such popular tunes as Widow Machree and Rosin the Bow and Tyrolean melodies. Several minstrel troupes presented such satires; in the 1860s the Kelly & Leon Negro Minstrels performed burlesques of Offenbach (La Belle L.N., Grand Dutch S.) throughout the north-eastern states, and Sanford’s Minstrel Burlesque Opera Troupe advertised a ‘change of programme every night’. From about 1860 burlesque often provided the framework for elaborate spectacles, beginning with those produced in New York by Laura Keene, who employed ballet troupes of women whose costumes exposed their legs; nearly all New York theatres presented shows that relied less for their effect on dramatic elements, wit or satire than on female beauty, and the term ‘burlesque’ gradually shifted in meaning from the ridicule of stage conventions to an emphasis on women in various degrees of undress, with striptease elements prominent by the 1920s. The burlesque was banned in New York in ...

Article

Fredric Woodbridge Wilson and Deane L. Root

Burlesque was related to and in part derived from Pantomime and may be considered an extension of the introductory section of pantomime with the addition of gags and ‘turns’ such as traditionally accompanied a transformation scene. But whereas pantomime most often took its subject matter from stories familiar to children – fairy tale, nursery rhyme, folk story, familiar fiction or exotic tales – burlesque tended to employ more elevated and serious models: mythology, classical or historical legend (Medea, Ivanhoe), literature, Shakespearean drama and history (Guy Fawkes, Lucrezia Borgia). Among the objects of ridicule were the conventions of serious theatre and melodrama. Burlesques followed the appearance of virtually every major opera, as for example J. Halford’s Faust and Marguerite (1853) after Gounod’s Faust.

Like pantomime, burlesque became a largely seasonal entertainment, appearing in legitimate theatres at Christmas and Easter in place of more serious bills. Occasionally a burlesque appeared as a companion piece to other works. Whereas pantomime entertained all classes and all ages, the burlesque and extravaganza tended to appeal to a relatively educated and sophisticated audience. In both genres dialogue was cast in rhymed couplets of iambic pentameter verse (less often in blank verse). Music was an essential if often a minor feature, consisting chiefly of arrangements of songs and incidental music to underscore the action or for comic effect. In operatic burlesques, numbers were appropriated from the model, with new words and often with humorous touches; additional numbers were interpolated from a variety of familiar sources (such as music hall and minstrel songs). Rarely was there any attempt at musical parody....

Article

Erich Schwandt

J.G. Walther (1732) described burlesque music as ‘jocular’ and ‘amusing’ (‘schertzhafft’, ‘kurzweilig’) and referred to ‘burleske Ouvertüren’ as pieces in which ‘laughable melodies, made up of 5ths and octaves, appear along with serious melodies’. This probably referred to the comic effects achieved by composers of Italian opera buffa in the early 18th century, effects that doubtless helped to set a standard of musical humour for the ‘burlesca’ movements sometimes included in contemporary suites. The example in Bach’s Partita bwv827, which is called a minuet in Anna Magdalena’s Notebook (1725), has nothing particularly jocular about it, although it displays some striking harmonies, as well as a passage in parallel octaves. J.L. Krebs placed a ‘bourlesca’ between the saraband and the minuets of his Partita no.2 in B♭; the movement is not a dance, but rather a small-scale sonata form with a few melodic and harmonic surprises. François Couperin subtitled some of his harpsichord pieces ‘dans le goût burlesque’; two examples are ...

Article

Hugo Cole

Since medieval times children have participated in musical dramas, whether such involvement originated within a church, a school or, later, a theatrical context. This article primarily discusses the history and development of operas for children to perform, rather than works that are particularly suitable for children to watch, such as Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel or Menotti’s Help, Help, the Globolinks! Because of the very close links between school music education and the writing and performing of operas for children, especially from the end of the 19th century onwards, much of the article is concerned with the later history of the genre.

At certain medieval festivals, choirboys in France and England would elect their own boy bishops and might enact their own ludi theatrales. Thus, church records of 1497 tell us that at St Martin of Tours, on the second day of Advent, masked ‘innocentes’ would go into the city, where farces, moralities and miracles would be played – certainly with music. In Tudor times, choristers’ masques were often played at court, the Children of Paul’s appearing before Queen Elizabeth more often than any other company. In the mid-16th century, they and the Children of the Chapel Royal began to give regular performances in private theatres, and occasionally to visit the provinces, forming what were virtually professional companies. Many of the boys were also skilled instrumentalists and music played a vital part in their plays. The more elaborate were almost little operas, with songs, dramatic musical interludes, entr’actes and sometimes a final choral prayer. The last boys’ company was dissolved in ...

Article

M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet

(Fr.)

A type of 18th-century play or opéra comique almost always in one act and using characters from the commedia dell’arte tradition (such as Pierrot, Columbine and Cassandre). In keeping with this the humour is broad and very close to farce. As opéras comiques, comédies-parades could either re-use pre-existing music in vaudeville fashion (for example, Les docteurs modernes by J.-B. Radet and P.-I. Barré, 1784) or be newly set (such as Champein’s Les amours de Colombine, 1785). They were popular at the fair theatres in the mid-century and at the Comédie-Italienne (later called the Opéra-Comique) up to the 1780s. By the 1790s the genre had virtually disappeared, although old favourites like Grétry’s Le tableau parlant (to a libretto by L. Anseaume, 1769) were sometimes revived and there was the occasional new one, such as Méhul’s L’irato, ou L’emporté (to a libretto by B.-J. Marsollier des Vivetières, 1801)....

Article

Ian Bradley

English comic-opera collaborators. The impact of the comic operas of the librettist W.S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and the composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900) in the United States was immediate and lasting. H.M.S. Pinafore, the team’s second significant collaboration, established its transatlantic reputation. In the absence of international copyright agreements, a pirate production opened in Boston on 25 November 1878, exactly six months after the London first night. Within a few months Pinafore mania was sweeping the country. The opera was at one point being performed simultaneously in eight New York theaters within five blocks of each other. By the time the “authorized” version opened at the Fifth Avenue Theater in New York on 1 December 1879, more than 150 productions had played across the United States.

It was a mark of the instant and intense popularity of the first of the major Savoy operas, as Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas became known, that the next work in the canon, ...

Article

Julian Budden

(It.: ‘introduction’)

A title often given to the opening number of an opera when it involves more than two characters. An early example is ‘Che lieto giorno’ (La finta giardiniera, Mozart, 1775), which parades the whole cast. Sometimes it may consist merely of a chorus with or without the intervention of a minor character, as in Tancredi (Rossini, 1813), I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Bellini, 1830) and Maria Padilla (Donizetti, 1841); but already in Il barbiere di Siviglia (1816) Rossini had evolved a more complex structure incorporating a tenor cavatina and ending with a stretta. A still more elaborate scheme is found in Semiramide (1823), proceeding from an initial recitative through a trio and quartet interspersed with brief choral movements to a headlong ‘stretta dell’introduzione’. The commonest formula during the first half of the 19th century, however, is that of the ‘Introduzione e cavatina’, consisting of an opening chorus, a recitative and ‘cantabile’ for the soloist, a ...

Article

M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet and Thomas Bauman

Both universalist and emphatically humanist in outlook since its founding in 1540, the Society of Jesus has always functioned as one of the principal educational arms of the Catholic Church and the papacy. This role developed most fully in the colleges and seminaries established by the Jesuits in Catholic lands. Here instruction stressed not only theology and philosophy but also literature. As early as the 16th century, dramatic representations were staged at these institutions, drawing together elements from the humanist theatre, medieval mystery plays and Shrovetide entertainments. The Bible served as the basic source material, but secular and often local subjects were used too, invariably with a strong emphasis on the allegorical and symbolic, and music often had an important role.

Early examples of Jesuit drama with music are recorded from the Low Countries (Josephus by Georg Maropedius, given in 1544 in Antwerp and published in Utrecht, 1552–3), Spain (...

Article

Elisabeth Cook and Stanley Sadie

The term is used in opera to signify a number of devices which have in common that they make reference to pre-existing material, and thereby make some specific effect through the relationship with the parodied model. The word can thus stand, for example, for an entire work based in some way (by drawing on the music, the characters or the text) on an existing one, or for one that alludes to aspects of an existing one, or for such devices as the quotation of themes that are familiar in themselves or evocative of a different milieu. The objective is to create a special effect, humorous, ironic or satirical; it may often involve ridiculing either the work that is drawn upon (or parodied) or some element within the work that itself embodies the parody.

Elements of parody appear in early Venetian opera through the juxtaposition of comic scenes with ones where serious characters express themselves in elevated fashion; they serve to ridicule those who take themselves over-seriously. This tradition persisted into the comic intermezzos of the early 18th century where, very often, their plots ran in parallel in some way with those of the parent, serious opera within which they were performed. Their characters, closely linked with those of the ...

Article

Susan Feder

revised by Michael Mauskapf

[Pop, Promenade]

Orchestral programs modeled after European promenade concerts of the 19th century, in which light classical music was played while the audience was served refreshments. The development of pops concerts in America reflected an emerging emphasis on the audience and an explicitly articulated division between so-called serious and light classical music propagated by conductor Theodore Thomas and others. Such concerts were traditionally structured in three parts, in which lively pieces—overtures, marches, and galops—were played in the outer sections while the middle section typically included waltzes and occasionally more serious works; encores were a regular feature. These concerts often took place in outdoor venues during the summer season, and featured audience promenades during the intermissions. Initially, works by European composers such as Rossini, Grieg, Liszt, and J. Strauss dominated the programs of pops concerts, but excerpts from musicals and operettas by De Koven and Herbert, among others, soon became a significant component. In general these concerts were understood as a vehicle to reach new audiences and broaden the appeal of orchestras and orchestral music....

Article

Article

Julian Budden

[closed number]

Any piece of music within an opera that forms a self-sufficient unit, marked off from its surroundings by a recognizable beginning and end. From about 1680 operas consisted, generally speaking, entirely of numbers linked by passages of recitative or, in opéra comique, Singspiel and other vernacular genres, spoken dialogue. In tragédie lyrique the boundaries were generally more fluid. During most of the 18th and 19th centuries set pieces (each followed by applause for performers and composer, except where composers specifically avoided it for dramatic reasons), formed the staple of operatic construction, first losing their identity in the music dramas of Wagner, extracts from which, when given in the concert hall, have to be furnished with special endings. Elsewhere the rule of set pieces within a continuous texture remained in force, although they decreased in number as operas increasingly came to be organized in whole acts. By the 20th century they are exceptional outside operetta, being confined mostly to the occasional aria, for example ‘Un bel dì vedremo’ (...

Article

Stephen C. Fisher