Parody as re-use and parody as laughing: three exemplary cases of forgery in the musical theatre

Elisabetta Fava


In the musical field 'parody' means first of all the borrowing of themes or whole compositions in the polyphonic practice (Missa parodia) during the 15th-18th centuries: these re-use is absolutely serious and the new work can be understood without recognizing the parodied object.

The paper focusses on the other meaning of the word: the parody as ironic citation or deformation of a preexistent style, thematic or harmonic idea, which come into being in the second half of the 18th century. This second use presupposes that the listener recognizes the parodic reference and knows the parodied object; it frequently occurres in the musical theatre, particularly in the comic opera: three interesting examples are in Verdi's Falstaff (parody of liturgy), Cornelius' Barbier von Bagdad(parody of belcanto) and Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream (parody on the parody). Analysing these scores on the one hand, basing on Genette's fundamental essay Palimpsestes on the other hand, we try to show the mechanism of the musical parody and to classificate some different typologies.


Parody; Opera; Citation; Interpretation; Irony

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