Memory – Dance – Music

The Function of the Viennese Operetta in Establishing Identity

In Cooperation with the Commission for Music Research

The operetta was the most well-received genre of musical theatre during the Habsburg monarchy.  It is the goal of this project to analyse operetta at the musicological and cultural levels, taking equally into account context, function and form. A study of a repertoire of hitherto lesser-known examples (in addition to well-known examples of the genre) will show the affirmative or subversive sentiments expressed within this genre, thereby dealing with political loss or reinforcing emotions related to an identity defined by the awareness of its own hegemony.


Operetta as a genre can be best understood before the backdrop of collective contemporary experiences: the complex reality of the multiethnic Austro-Hungarian state with its national and social tensions, the radical modernisation and technisation of its large cities, and the hothouse of its economy and ideologies, and including as well new branches of science, e.g. psychoanalysis, the  early steps toward the emancipation of women, and sexuality, the practice of which was at the same time  repressive and promiscuous. In operetta, these phenomena could be imitated, paraphrased, sublimated or substituted. Operetta transformed these experiences into codes, standardized representative forms, which were communicated to urban audiences throughout the entire monarchy both verbally and nonverbally, i.e. through speech, discourse, song, music, and dance.

Based on Moritz Csákys Ideologie der Operette und Wiener Moderne it is the aim of this project to show the interdependencies of the relationship between the socio-cultural framework of the monarchy and the discourse-forming constructions of the operetta.