Szenarien des Kurzweiligen. Zeitökonomien im populären Theater des 19. Jahrhunderts
The numerous efforts to reform the theatre undertaken all-over Europe in the late eighteenth century left their mark on the stages of popular theatre as well as on the higher genres of opera and drama. The most critical interventions addressed temporal regimes of drama and led to opposing reconfigurations of comedy, tragedy and opera seria.
While the prohibition of extemporization – literally speaking »out of moment« – demanded stricter discipline of the cast and prevented the wasteful expenditure of time by the use of farce and harlequinade, the serious genres were liberated from the chains of rhetorical discipline. They were allowed to abandon both the ritualized rigidity of operatic aria and the metric corset of baroque alexandrine verse, instead exploring the dynamics of inner movement, even at the risk of standstill of the external action. These innovations produced a variety of theatrical forms that linked drama and music, prose and poetry, speech and song, which achieved greater popular success on the stages of the nineteenth century than mere spoken dramas. Instead of observing the unity of time, place and plot they aim at their proliferation. They owe their ascendancy to the amusing diversion with which they captured the fascination of the urban crowd. Striking – and so far only scarcely researched – is the multimedial repertoire in these plays. This not only allows for a virtuoso play of abbreviation and acceleration, extension and compression, but also opens up a space for continuous reflections on time in the mode of songs, changes between prose and verse, or leaps in time.
The complex ways in which these theatrical practices lend form to temporal modalities is at the center of this research project. The analysis focuses on the first half of the nineteenth century. Taking the European melodrama and the Wiener Volkstheater as the core subject matter, this project focuses on two paradigmatic stage genres, allowing for a complementary examination of the temporal dramaturgies in popular theatre. Besides the most formative formal elements of these genres – the Couplet as tamed ex tempore in the case of the Volkskomödie; the rhythmical word-music-montages in the case of the melodrama – the main focus is on the a priori of a scarcity of time, which in both genres constantly produce turbulent effects. In economic terms, this is also characteristic of the play’s mode of production. The project examines, on the one hand, the modeling of contemporaneity that arises from this theatrical engagement with the ephemeral and, on the other, the specificity of a popular Geschichtswissen constituted in the many patterns of repetition, so frequently employed in the plays.