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Fri, 30 Sep 2016 09:57:42 EDT by webmaster, 5364 views
Music/Folklore paper by Milliman, Zachary (all papers)
The Opera Erkel Should Have Written: Decolonizing Bánk bán
Composed in 1861 by Ferenc Erkel, Bánk bán is widely considered the greatest example of nineteenth-century Hungarian national opera. In this syncretic work, Erkel amalgamated Western operatic topoi with indelible national musical elements. Based on the once-banned play by Jozsef Katona, Bánk bán had powerful political implications with its heavy allegorical representation of Hapsburg domination. The fact that Hungary’s position had shifted from colonial subject to duel monarchy in the mid nineteenth century made performance of such politicized content possible. In the early twentieth century, however, its standing as the opera of the people was challenged in the wake of the polemics surrounding Hungarian music in general and Erkel’s music in particular. Ideas of national identity were strengthened and rearticulated during the brief period of interwar independence, and Bánk bán became mired in a position of being an established Hungarian national symbol that was not considered Hungarian enough. In response, dramaturge Kálmán Nádasdy and composer Nándor Rékai drastically revised the work in 1940. Their version usurped the place of the original in the repertoire. With a goal of making Bánk bán the ultimate expression of Magyarság (Hungarianess), they brought opera’s libretto closer to the original play. The revision also undermined the putatively colonial “intrusions” of Western operatic norms, as well as anything antithetical to Magyarság. Bánk bán emerges as an example of what scholar Christopher Balme has identified as the triadic progression from imperialism to colonization and ultimately to decolonization, highlighting what was a troublesome search for an autochthonous artistic voice.
Brief Professional Bio:
Musicologist Zachary Milliman was first trained as an opera singer, attaining a Bachelors of Music and a Master of Music from Brigham Young University and the University of Utah respectively. His research has been featured in several conferences, including one he created called Opera Periphereia, and has been published in the Journal of IAWM. From 2013-2015, Zachary taught at the Univeristy of Alaska, Anchorage, and in 2015 he co-founded the non-profit firm The Composer Discovery Initiative. That same year he was awarded a Fulbright Research Fellowship to the Hungarian Musicological Institute in Budapest. Zachary is currently working toward a PhD in historical musicology at McGill University.