Stage Fright: Politics And The Performing Arts In Late Imperial Russia

Paperback | January 4, 2013

byPaul Du Quenoy

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In June 1920, assessing the international significance of the revolutionary era that had brought him to power in Russia, Vladimir Lenin adopted a theatrical idiom for one of its most important events, the Revolution of 1905. “Without the ‘dress rehearsal’ of 1905,” he wrote, “the victory of the October Revolution in 1917 would have been impossible.” According to Lenin’s statement, political anatomy borrowed in a teleological sense from the performing arts.

This book explores an inversion of Lenin’s statement. Rather than question how politics took after the performing arts, Paul du Quenoy assesses how culture responded to power in late imperial Russia. Exploring the impact of this period’s rapid transformation and endemic turmoil on the performing arts, he examines opera, ballet, concerts, and “serious” drama while not overlooking newer artistic forms thriving at the time, such as “popular” theater, operetta, cabaret, satirical revues, pleasure garden entertainments, and film. He also analyzes how participants in the Russian Empire’s cultural life articulated social and political views.

Du Quenoy proposes that performing arts culture in late imperial Russia—traditionally assumed to be heavily affected by and responsive to contemporary politics—was often apathetic and even hostile to involvement in political struggles. Stage Fright offers a similar refutation of the view that the late imperial Russian government was a cultural censor prefiguring Soviet control of the arts. Through a clear picture of the relationship between culture and power, this study presents late imperial Russia as a modernizing polity with a vigorous civil society capable of weathering the profound changes of the twentieth century rather than lurching toward an “inevitable” disaster of revolution and civil war.

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In June 1920, assessing the international significance of the revolutionary era that had brought him to power in Russia, Vladimir Lenin adopted a theatrical idiom for one of its most important events, the Revolution of 1905. “Without the ‘dress rehearsal’ of 1905,” he wrote, “the victory of the October Revolution in 1917 would have bee...

Paul du Quenoy is Professor in the Department of History and Archaeology at the American University of Beirut.Paul du Quenoy is Professor in the Department of History and Archaeology at the American University of Beirut.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.69 inPublished:January 4, 2013Publisher:Penn State University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0271058781

ISBN - 13:9780271058788

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Contents

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1. “An Aspiration to Novelty”: Contours of the Performing Arts in Late Imperial Russia

2. “Such a Risky Time”: Arts Institutions and the Challenge of Politics

3. “Politics Are Death”: Imperial Theater Performers

4. “Our Theater Will Not Strike!”: Private and Popular Theater Performers

5. “You Dare Not Make Sport of Our Nerves!”: The Audiences

6. “A New Bayreuth Will Save No One”: Russian Modernism and Its Discontents

“Art Must Be Apolitical”: A Conclusion

Bibliography

Index

Editorial Reviews

“Grounded in extensive research in archival, primary and secondary sources, Stage Fright is an important contribution to recent studies of Russian theatre and its conclusions will spark fruitful debate. It should be read by anyone interested in the relationship of politics and the arts.”

—Anthony Swift, Revolutionary Russia