Socialism and feminism in East German opera [electronic resource] : the cases of director Ruth Berghaus and composer Ruth Zechlin
- Johanna Frances Yunker.
- Physical description
- 1 online resource.
- The focus of this dissertation is the two most prominent female figures in the German Democratic Republic's musical community, opera director Ruth Berghaus (1927--1996) and composer Ruth Zechlin (1926--2007). In particular, it explores how their status as women and as East Germans informed their creative output, as well as their self-image as artists, the creative opportunities available to them, and expectations and responses to their art. Like all artists, they were required to adhere to the tenets of socialist realism. As women, they were expected to reject gender differences, in accordance with the gender-neutral worldview set forth by the GDR's constitution. Drawing on a large amount of archival material, I reconstruct Berghaus's and Zechlin's relationships to GDR cultural and gender politics, showing how these changed through time. In doing so, my dissertation provides an in-depth examination of how political and gender tensions animated the musical environment and, more generally, the arts in the GDR. My study is divided into three parts, each of which contains two chapters. Part I centers on Zechlin's and Berghaus's works from the 1960s and 1970s. Chapter one examines Zechlin's opera "Reineke Fuchs" (1968) and chapter two Berghaus's stagings of Paul Dessau's "Einstein" (1974) and Wagner's "Rheingold" (1979), both with an emphasis on Zechlin's and Berghaus's relationships with socialist politics. In these works and their reception, gender issues did not play a central role, since Berghaus and Zechlin, as well as their audiences and critics, subscribed to state-supported view of gender equality. Part II focuses on the 1980s, a decade that saw a new generation of female artists who began to critique both the failings and the unintended consequences of state-mandated gender equality and the erasure of difference between masculine and feminine values and social roles. This strain of GDR "feminism" appeared namely in East German literature, particularly the works of renowned novelists Christa Wolf and Irmtraud Morgner. In the two chapters of this section, on Zechlin's ballet "La Vita" (1985) and Berghaus's stagings of Berlioz's "Les Troyens" (1983) and Mozart's "Don Giovanni" (1984, 1985), I show how Zechlin and Berghaus responded to the rise of this new, difference-validating type of feminism in GDR literature, in part by foregrounding themes of women's sexual repression and exploitation, vulnerability to male violence, and motherhood in their works. In fact, Berghaus went so far as to borrow from Wolf's novels. Reviewers situated both Berghaus and Zechlin in this new trend and started emphasizing their gender. Part III addresses selected works from the post-Wende period, namely Berghaus's staging of Wolfgang von Schweinitz's "Patmos" (1990) and Zechlin's operas "Die Reise" (1998) and "Elissa" (2005). In this section, I illustrate how GDR politics and tensions between gender-neutral and feminine worldviews continued to shape their production and reception even after German Reunification.
- Publication date
- Submitted to the Department of Music.
- Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2012.