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Scott’s German operetta project secures €1m ERC funding

August 28th, 2013

THE POPULARITY of German operetta in the English-speaking world in the early twentieth-century will form the focus of new research project by Prof Derek Scott – and the European Research Council is backing his study with a €1m award.

The study, entitled ‘German Operetta in London and New York, 1907-1939: Cultural Transfer and Transformation’, will explore a topic that has earned little attention in the academic community to date.

Prof Scott explains: ‘The term “German operetta” in the project title embraces twentieth-century operettas originating in both Austria and Germany. These enjoyed remarkable success in London and New York during the first decades of the century leading up to the Second World War.’

‘Surprisingly, there has been no rigorous scholarly study of the cultural transfer of these operettas to Britain and the USA, despite its taking place in a period that can be demarcated clearly. Academic attention has focused, instead, on America‘s influence on European stage works.’

He adds: ‘Without deeper knowledge of them, and their audience reception, we are sadly lacking in our understanding of what the cultural mainstream was in early twentieth-century Austria, Germany, the UK, and USA.’

The grant success for Prof Scott, a former Head of the School of Music, is particularly notable. Since 2008, only seven ERC Advanced Grants have been awarded to European scholars for music research. Leeds now joins Oxford and King’s College London as the only three British universities hosting such a project.

The awarding body praised the submission, commenting: ‘This is an excellent proposal – the principal investigator is a distinguished musicologist with a major track record of publications in the area.’ The reviewers also made reference to the ‘ground-breaking research’ Prof Scott has pursued previously.

Prof Scott outlines the core of his planned study. ‘After Lehár‘s Die lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow) was produced to great acclaim in London and New York in 1907, the public appetite for German operetta grew rapidly in these cities. Although the First World War brought a temporary diminution of opportunities for new productions, there was an enthusiastic renewal of interest in the 1920s, and operettas from the theatres of Berlin were regularly adapted for the West End and Broadway.’

His project will investigate the changes made for the London and New York productions in the context of cultural and social issues of the period, examining audience expectations, aspirations, and anxieties, and the social, cultural, and moral values of the times in which these works were created.

The research venture will, he states, ‘investigate how the operettas engage with modernity, innovative technology, social change, and cultural difference, seeking findings that will enhance knowledge of cultural transfer and transformation.’

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