Volksstück

Definition

Theater

  • (German: popular drama) An often scurrilous form of Viennese dialectcomedy popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. The most famous exampleis Mozart and Schikaneder's opera The Magic Flute (1791). Thegenre developed from the improvisational works of two Austrian actors - Joseph Anton Stranitzky (1676 - 1726), who created thecomic figure of Hanswurst, and Gottfried Prehauser (1699 - 1769),who inherited and refined the stock character. Philipp Hafner (1731 - 64)was a leading exponent of the Volksstück, his most notablework being Megära, the Terrible Witch (1755). Althoughthe Austrian censors banned improvisation in 1768, some playwrights,such as Joseph Felix von Kurz (1715 - 84), continued the tradition.Kurz, who created the popular character of Bernadon, andwrote more than 300 plays.

    During the 19th century, the Volksstück producedtwo offshoots. The Zauberstück (Ger. magic play) usedmusic and spectacle to create a fairytale atmosphere; Ferdinand Raimund(1790 - 1836) wrote and acted in many of these farces. The morerealistic Lokalstück satirized Viennese manners; JohannNestroy (1801 - 62) produced the best of these caustic works.The Volksstück declined at the end of the 19th centuryand was absorbed into either operetta or broader-based comedy.

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