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date: 11 November 2019

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

  • 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.

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 ...

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A. Nicoll: The History of English Drama, 1660-1900 (Cambridge, 1952-9)
Enciclopedia dello spettacolo
Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart
Musical Quarterly