Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Walton, Mathew. “Issues of Narrativity in the Romantic Piano Opera Paraphrase.” M.A. thesis, University of Ottawa, 2012.

Romantic piano works based on operatic paraphrase have largely been ignored by scholars and performers because of a current emphasis on composer originality. Because composers chose to paraphrase only a few themes of an opera rather attempt a summary of all themes in an opera, comparison of different settings and analysis of the themes chosen reveal narratives unique to each composer’s setting. Comparison of seven different paraphrased settings of Mozart’s Don Giovanni demonstrates that different narratives and meanings result from selecting different themes and from arranging them in particular orders. William Vincent Wallace’s Souvenir de Mozart: Fantasie de Salon sur l’opera Il Don Giovanni, is little more than a piano reduction of selected themes, which are presented in the same order as they appear in the opera, with the exception of “Il mio Tesoro intanto” and “Finch’ han dal vino,” which are reversed. This reversal is likely due to Wallace’s desire to end his work with a more exhilarating number. Sydney Smith’s Grand Fantasy uses five distinct themes from Don Giovanni, but only one of these themes involves a female character, a decision that may reflect the Victorian atmosphere in which Smith performed and composed. Although Smith’s setting retains the original narrative by using the themes mostly in their original order, the setting of themes, manners of modulation between sections, elimination of female (Zerlina’s) vocal lines, and arrangement of arias all reinforce Victorian ideals. Joachim Raff divides his Reminiscenzen aus “Don Juan” into three sections in an act of deliberate re-organization of thematic material that highlights literary themes and interactions between pairs of characters. Raff’s choice of themes highlights social struggles in society and wanton desires, while offering commentary on the social themes of Don Giovanni. Ignace Leybach’s Fantasie Brillante is less clear in its organization, as a lengthy introduction features its own potpourri of themes and motives drawn from throughout the opera in addition to original material by Leybach that is similar in style to nocturnes by Field and Chopin. Most notable of Leybach’s piece is his decision to transpose many of the selections, his inclusion of “Batti Batti, o bel Masetto,” and the omission of both “Finch’ han dal vino” and the Commendatore’s “Di rider finirai”; these details suggest that Leybach eschewed virtuosity in favor of a more restrained aesthetic and romantic narrative. The versions by Thalberg and Ignacy Feliks Dobrzynski, both of which are constructed as sets of variations, are notable for their virtuosity but offer little insight into Mozart’s narrative. Unlike the two variation-based paraphrases, the most famous of the Don Giovanni paraphrases, Liszt’s Réminiscences de Don Juan, offers great insight into Mozart’s opera. Through both his selection and setting of arias, Liszt depicts the progression of lust over love and Don Giovanni’s defiance, ultimately presenting him as a misguided hero rather than a chauvinistic fool.

Works: William Vincent Wallace: Souvenir de Mozart: Fantasie de Salon sur l’opera Il Don Giovanni (22-25); Sydney Smith: Grand Fantasy (25-37); Joachim Raff: Reminiscenzen aus “Don Juan” (37-49); Ignace Leybach: Fantasie Brillante (49-65); Thalberg: Fantaisie sur la Sérénade et le Menuet de l’Opera: Don Juan de Mozart (65-76); Ignacy Feliks Dobrzynski: Hommage à Mozart (76-78); Liszt: Réminiscences de Don Juan, S. 418 (78-131).

Sources: Mozart: Don Giovanni.

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Christine Wisch

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