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

  • Elisabetta Fava Università degli Studi di Torino
Keywords: Parody, Opera, Citation, Interpretation, Irony


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.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Elisabetta Fava, Università degli Studi di Torino
Elisabetta Fava is researcher at the University of Turin, where she taught History of Music. Her main fields of study are Romantic Opera and German Lied; on these topics she also wrote the essays Paesaggi dell'anima. I Lieder di Hugo Wolf, 2000; Ondine, vampiri e cavalieri. L'opera romantica tedesca, 2006; Voci di un mondo perduto. Mahler e Il corno magico del fanciullo, 2012. She is working at a project about the fantastic in the German music during the 19th century.


d'Angelo, Emanuele, “Falstaff 'dans les jardins du Decameron'. Boito mediterraneizza Shakespeare”, La vera storia ci narra. Verdi narrateur, Ed. Camillo Faverzani, Lucca, LIM, 2015: 331-350.

Aristotele, Poetica, trad. it. di Diego Lanza, Milano, Rizzoli, 1987.

Austin, William W., “Debussy, Wagner, and Some Others”, 19th Century Music, 6.1 (1982): 82-91.

Bachtin, Michail, Estetica e romanzo, trad. it. di Clara Strada Janovic, Torino, Einaudi, 1979.

Coletti, Vittorio, “Riuso e citazione nell'opera lirica”, E 'n guisa d'eco i detti e le parole: studi in onore di Giorgio Bàrberi Squarotti, Alessandria, Dell'Orso, 2006: 555-564.

Cooke, Mervyn, “Britten and Shakespeare: Dramatic and Musical Cohesion in A Midsummer Night's Dream”, Music & Letters, 74.2 (1993): 246-268.

Dapelsen, Georg von, et al., “Parodie und Kontrafaktur“, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG), Bärenreiter, Kassel, 1997, VII, coll.1394-1416 (“Opernparodie“: 1411).

Daub, Adrian, “Mother Mime: Siegfried , the Fairy Tale, and the Metaphysics of Sexual Difference”, 19th-Century Music, 32.2 (2008): 160-177.

Genette, Gérard, Palimpsestes. La Littérature au second degré, Paris, Seuil, 1982.

Grout, Donald J., “Seventeenth-Century Parodies of French Opera – Part I”, The Musical Quarterly, 27.2 (1941a): 211-219.

Grout, Donald J., “Seventeenth-Century Parodies of French Opera”, The Musical Quarterly, 27.4 (1941b): 514-526.

Holloway, Robin, Debussy and Wagner, Eulenburg, London, 1979.

Kristeva, Julia, Séméiotiké, Paris, Seuil, 1969.

Luisi, Francesco, “Parodia”, Dizionario Enciclopedico Universale della Musica e dei Musicisti (DEUMM), Torino, UTET, 1989, III: 547-552 (552: "Parodia operistica").

Maehder, Jürgen, “Il Settecento fittizio nel ‘Capriccio’ di Richard Strauss e l'estetico metateatrale di questo tombeau dell'opera”, Richard Strauss. Capriccio, Venezia, Edizioni del Teatro La Fenice,2002: 165-185.

Robert, Jörg, “Nachschrift und Gegengesang. Parodie und parodia in der frühen Neuzeit”, 'Parodia' und Parodie, Ed. Reinhold F. Glei, Berlin, Niemeyer, 2006: 48-66.

Satragni, Giangiorgio, Richard Strauss dietro la maschera. Gli ultimi anni,Torino, EDT, 2015.

Tilmouth, Michael, “Parody 2”, in The New Grove, London, Macmillan, 2001, IXX: 147-148.

Tilmouth, Michael – Sherr, Richard, “Parody 1”, in The New Grove, London, Macmillan, 2001, IXX: 145-147.

Further bibliography

Fava, Elisabetta, “Zwischen Schauspiel und Literaturoper: "Dantons Tod" in der Vertonung von Gottfried von Einem“, Büchner-Rezeptionen : interkulturell und intermedial, Eds. Marco Castellari, Alessandro Costazza, Bern, Peter Lang, 2015: 167-185.

Hein, Hartmut (ed.), Musik und Humor: Scherz, Satire, Ironie und tiefere Bedeutung in der Musik : Wolfram Steinbeck zum 60. Geburtstag, Laaber, Laaber Verlag, 2010.

Hortschansky, “Klaus, Parodie und Entlehnung im Schaffen Christoph Willibald Gluck“, Analecta Musicologica, 13 (1973): VIII; 340.

Hunter, Mary, “Some Representations of opera seria in opera buffa”, Cambridge Opera Journal, 3 (1991): 89-108.

Partsch, Erich Wolfgang, “Scherz, Parodie und tiefere Bedeutung: Die Gesangsszene in Richard Strauss' Oper 'Die schweigsame Frau'“, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, 153. 7/8 (1991): 50-51.

Richards, Sam L., “From Quotation, through Collage, to Parody: Postmodernism's Relationship with Its Past”, Perspectives of New Music, 53.1 (2015): 77-97.

Schneider, Herbert, "Die Parodie als Verfahren der Opernkomposition. Tanz - Oper - Oratorium", Beiträge zur Musik des Barock, Ed. Hans Joachim Marx, Laaber, Laaber Verlag, 1998: 117-142.

Scott, Derek B., “Mimesis, Gesture, and Parody in Musical Word-setting”, Words and Music, 3 (2005): 10-27.

How to Cite
Fava, E. (2016). Parody as re-use and parody as laughing: three exemplary cases of forgery in the musical theatre. Between, 6(12).
Sometimes they come loose. Parody and satire through the codes