Handwritten layers of operatic practices – The reception of Richard Wagner at the Neue Deutsche Theater in Prague (1888–1938)
This project performs a material-related investigation and systematization of the handwritten tradition of operatic practices. The approach is methodologically significant because of the fact that historical performance practice can be reconstructed almost only by means of (handwritten) annotations. Essentially, the handwritten supplements, eliminations and alterations represent fragmentary evidence of former practices. The project focuses on a pivotal period of time, namely between the establishment of music drama by Richard Wagner and the outbreak of the Second World War.
The opera archive of the renowned Neue Deutsche Theater in Prague (1888–1938) will serve as a model source collection, as it offers completely unexplored material in its original constitution. The project will analyse the various handwritten notes within the printed performance material (conductor’s scores, piano reductions, parts, stage and light directions), and consider the sources’ quality as well as their relation to each other. On this basis, the interdependencies between handwritten marks within the performance material and the aesthetic ideals of the operatic practice will be exemplarily described, and related to the public reception of Wagner in Prague. The point is less to publish a critical edition of the works concerned, but to identify, collect and digitize the annotations related to performance practices. The handwritten markings will be displayed in their relation to the notated (resp. printed) ‘original’ layers of the works. Another aim of this project is to compile a digital presentation of the handwritten notations which illustrates them as substrates of an historic operatic practice. The project plans to closely cooperate with the Archive of the Czech National Theatre, the Nationalarchiv der Richard-Wagner-Stiftung Bayreuth, as well as with research field A Artefact Profiling and the research unit Data Linking within the Cluster.