The Production, Reception and Cultural Transfer of Operetta on Early Sound Film
Derek B. Scott investigates the reception of early operetta sound films, asking what meanings audiences drew from them, and what impact they had on social and cultural history. They have elicited contradictory interpretations: for example, Siegfried Kracauer (1947) sensed in them a deluding fantasy that made the Weimar Republic vulnerable to the rise of Nazism; but Richard Dyer (1977) argued that they responded to social needs in a time of depression by offering utopian visions. Scott holds that they rarely disguised their character as entertainment, and sometimes made their artificiality explicit. He then explores the changes made when German operettas became British and American films. It was normal for the music and libretto to be revised to suit the medium of film. These changes illustrate the workings of cultural transfer, especially the need to draw an appropriate emotional response from an audience in a different cultural environment. Hollywood operetta films shaped understandings of European operetta in the USA by relating it to a contemporary American context, and they show how musical meanings change in different media contexts at different times.