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A modern melodrama is a dramatic work wherein the plot, typically sensationalized and for a strong emotional appeal, takes precedence over detailed characterization. Melodramas typically concentrate on dialogue that is often bombastic or excessively sentimental, rather than action. Characters are often drawn and may appear
stereotype Police officers buying doughnuts and coffee, an example of perceived stereotypical behavior in North America. Social psychology Social psychology is the Science, scientific study of how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of individu ...
d. Melodramas are typically set in the private sphere of the home, focusing on morality and family issues, love, and marriage, often with challenges from an outside source, such as a "temptress", a scoundrel, or an aristocratic villain. A melodrama on stage, filmed, or on television is usually accompanied by dramatic and suggestive music that offers cues to the audience of the drama being presented. In scholarly and historical musical contexts, ''melodramas'' are Victorian dramas in which orchestral music or song was used to accompany the action. The term is now also applied to stage performances without incidental music, novels, films, television, and radio broadcasts. In modern contexts, the term "melodrama" is generally pejorative, as it suggests that the work in question lacks subtlety, character development, or both. By extension, language or behavior which resembles melodrama is often called ''melodramatic''; this use is nearly always pejorative.


Etymology

The term originated from the early 19th-century French word ''mélodrame''. It is derived from
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
μέλος ''mélos'', "song, strain" (compare "melody", from ''μελωδία melōdia'', "singing, song"), and French ''drame'', drama (from
Late Latin Late Latin ( la, Latinitas serior) is the scholarly name for the written Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, kn ...
''drāma'', eventually deriving from
classical Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek (modern , romanized: ''Elliniká'', Ancient Greek, ancient , ''Hellēnikḗ'') is an independent branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European family of languages, nati ...
δράμα ''dráma'', "theatrical plot", usually of a Greek tragedy).


Characteristics

The relationship of melodrama compared to
realism Realism, Realistic, or Realists may refer to: In the arts *Realism (arts), the general attempt to depict subjects truthfully in different forms of the arts Arts movements related to realism include: *Classical Realism *Literary realism, a movem ...
is complex. The protagonists of melodramatic works may be ordinary (and hence realistically drawn) people who are caught up in extraordinary events or highly exaggerated and unrealistic characters. With regard to its high emotions and dramatic rhetoric, melodrama represents a "victory over repression." Late Victorian and Edwardian melodrama combined a conscious focus on realism in stage sets and props with "anti-realism" in character and plot. Melodrama in this period strove for "credible accuracy in the depiction of incredible, extraordinary" scenes. Novelist
Wilkie Collins William Wilkie Collins (8 January 1824 – 23 September 1889) was an English novelist and playwright known especially for ''The Woman in White (novel), The Woman in White'' (1859), and for ''The Moonstone'' (1868), which has been proposed as the ...

Wilkie Collins
is noted for his attention to accuracy in detail (e.g. of legal matters) in his works, no matter how sensational the plot. Melodramas were typically 10,000 to 20,000 words in length. Melodramas put most of their attention on the victim. A struggle between
good and evil In religion Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion. Different religions may o ...
choices, such as a man being encouraged to leave his family by an "evil temptress".Hayward, Susan. "Melodrama and Women's Films" in ''Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts'' (Third Edition). Routledge, 2006. p.236-242 Other stock characters are the "fallen woman", the single mother, the orphan, and the male who is struggling with the impacts of the modern world. The melodrama examines family and social issues in the context of a private home, with its intended audience being the female spectator; secondarily, the male viewer can enjoy the onscreen tensions in the home being resolved. Melodrama generally looks back at ideal, nostalgic eras, emphasizing "forbidden longings".


Types


Origins

The melodrama approach was revived in the 18th- and 19th-century French romantic drama and the sentimental novels that were popular in both England and France. These dramas and novels focused on moral codes in regards to family life, love, and marriage, and they can be seen as a reflection of the issues brought up by the
French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) was a period of radical political and societal change in France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily located in Western Europe, consi ...

French Revolution
, the
industrial revolution The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe Continental Europe or mainland Europe is the contiguous continent A continent is any of several large landmasse ...
and the shift to modernization. Many melodramas were about a middle-class young woman who experienced unwanted sexual advances from an aristocratic miscreant, with the
sexual assault Sexual assault is an act in which one intentionally sexually touches another person without that person's consent Consent occurs when one person voluntarily agrees to the proposal or desires of another. It is a term of common speech, with spe ...
being a metaphor for class conflict. The melodrama reflected post-industrial revolution anxieties of the middle class, who were afraid of both aristocratic power brokers and the impoverished working class "mob". In the 18th century, melodrama was a technique of combining spoken recitation with short pieces of accompanying music. Music and spoken dialogue typically alternated in such works, although the music was sometimes also used to accompany
pantomime Pantomime (; informally panto) is a type of musical theatre, musical comedy stage production designed for family entertainment. It was developed in England and is performed throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland and (to a lesser extent) in other ...

pantomime
. The earliest known examples are scenes in J. E. Eberlin's Latin school play ''Sigismundus'' (1753). The first full melodrama was
Jean-Jacques Rousseau Jean-Jacques Rousseau (, , ; 28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778) was a Republic of Geneva, Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer. His political philosophy influenced the progress of the Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment throughout Europe, as w ...

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
's '' Pygmalion'', the text of which was written in 1762 but was first staged in
Lyon Lyon or Lyons (, , ; frp, Liyon, ) is the third-largest city and second-largest urban area of France. It is located at the confluence of the rivers Rhône The Rhône ( , ; german: Rhone ; wae, Rotten ; it, Rodano ; frp, Rôno ; oc, ...

Lyon
in 1770. Rousseau composed the overture and an Andante, but the bulk of the music was composed by
Horace CoignetHorace Coignet (13 May 1735 – 29 August 1821) was a French amateur violinist, singer and composer. He was active in Lyons as a pattern-designer and dealer in embroidered goods, as an official clerk and as musical director of the city from 1794. He ...
. A different musical setting of Rousseau's ''Pygmalion'' by
Anton Schweitzer Anton Schweitzer (6 June 1735 in Coburg Coburg () is a Town#Germany, town located on the Itz (river), Itz river in the Upper Franconia region of Bavaria, Germany. Long part of one of the Thuringian states of the Ernestine duchies, Wettin line, ...

Anton Schweitzer
was performed in Weimar in 1772, and Goethe wrote of it approvingly in ''
Dichtung und Wahrheit ''Aus meinem Leben: Dichtung und Wahrheit'' (''From my Life: Poetry and Truth''; 1811–1833) is an autobiography by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832) was a German poet, playwright, novel ...
''. ''Pygmalion'' is a
monodrama A monodrama is a theatrical or opera Opera is a form of theatre in which music is a fundamental component and dramatic roles are taken by Singing, singers, but is distinct from musical theatre. Such a "work" (the literal translation of the ...
, written for one actor. Some 30 other monodramas were produced in Germany in the fourth quarter of the 18th century. When two actors were involved, the term
duodramaA duodrama is a theatrical melodrama for two actors or singers, in which the spoken voice is used with a musical accompaniment for heightened dramatic effect. It was popular at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. Closely relat ...
could be used.
Georg Benda Georg Anton Benda ( cz, Jiří Antonín Benda, italic=no, link=no), (30 June 17226 November 1795), was a Czech composer A composer (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-Eu ...

Georg Benda
was particularly successful with his duodramas ''
Ariadne Auf Naxos (''Ariadne Ariadne (; el, Ἀριάδνη; la, Ariadne) was a Cretan princess in Greek mythology. She was mostly associated with mazes and labyrinths because of her involvement in the myths of the Minotaur and Theseus. The ancient Rome, anc ...
'' (1775) and ''
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'' (1778). The sensational success of Benda's melodramas led Mozart to use two long melodramatic monologues in his opera ''
Zaide ''Zaide'' (originally, ''Das Serail'') is an unfinished Opera in German, German-language opera, Köchel catalogue, K. 344, written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1780. Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, Emperor Joseph II, in 1778, was in the proces ...
'' (1780). Other later and better-known examples of the melodramatic style in operas are the grave-digging scene in Beethoven's ''
Fidelio ''Fidelio'' (; ), originally titled ' (''Leonore, or The Triumph of Marital Love''), Op. 72, is Ludwig van Beethoven Ludwig van Beethoven (, ; baptised 17 December 177026 March 1827) was a German composer A composer (Latin wikt:com ...

Fidelio
'' (1805) and the incantation scene in Weber's ''
Der Freischütz ' (Friedrich Wilhelm Jähns, J. 277, Opus number, Op. 77 ''The Marksman'' or ''The Freeshooter'') is a German List of operas by Carl Maria von Weber, opera with spoken dialogue in three acts by Carl Maria von Weber with a libretto by Johann Friedr ...
'' (1821).Apel, Willi, ed. (1969). ''Harvard Dictionary of Music'', Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. . . After the
English Restoration The Restoration of the Stuart monarchy The House of Stuart, originally Stewart, was a dynasty, royal house of Kingdom of Scotland, Scotland, Kingdom of England, England, Kingdom of Ireland, Ireland and later Kingdom of Great Britain, Gre ...
of in 1660, most British theatres were prohibited from performing "serious" drama but were permitted to show
comedy Comedy (from the el, κωμῳδία, ''kōmōdía'') is a genre of fiction that consists of discourses or works intended to be humor Humour (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English is a West Germanic la ...

comedy
or plays with music. Charles II issued
letters patent Letters patent ( la, litterae patentes) ( always in the plural) are a type of legal instrument ''Legal instrument'' is a legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act acco ...
to permit only two London theatre companies to perform "serious" drama. These were the
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, commonly known as Drury Lane, is a West End theatre West End theatre is mainstream professional theatre Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, usually ...
and
Lisle's Tennis Court Lisle's Tennis Court was a building off Portugal Street in Lincoln's Inn Fields in London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom. The city stands o ...
in
Lincoln's Inn Fields Lincoln's Inn Fields is the largest public square in London. It was laid out in the 1630s under the initiative of the speculative builder and contractor William Newton, "the first in a long series of entrepreneurs who took a hand in develop ...

Lincoln's Inn Fields
, the latter of which moved to the
Theatre Royal, Covent Garden The Royal Opera House (ROH) is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply Covent Garden, after a previous use of the site. It is the home of The Royal ...
in 1720 (now the
Royal Opera House The Royal Opera House (ROH) is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply Covent Garden, after a previous use of the site. It is the home of The Royal Ope ...

Royal Opera House
). The two patent theatres closed in the summer months. To fill the gap, the
Theatre Royal, Haymarket The Theatre Royal Haymarket (also known as Haymarket Theatre or the Little Theatre) is a West End theatre West End theatre is mainstream professional theatre Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that uses l ...
became a third patent theatre in London in 1766. Further letters patent were eventually granted to one theatre in each of several other English towns and cities. Other theatres presented dramas that were underscored with music and, borrowing the French term, called it melodrama to get around the restriction. The
Theatres Act 1843 The Theatres Act 1843 (6 & 7 Vict., c. 68) (also known as the Theatre Regulation Act) is a defunct Act of Parliament Acts of parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation, are texts of law passed by the Legislature, legislative body of a ...
finally allowed all the theatres to play drama.


19th century: operetta, incidental music, and salon entertainment

In the early 19th century, opera's influence led to musical overtures and
incidental music Incidental music is music Music is the of arranging s in time through the of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the aspects of all human societies. General include common elements such as (which governs and ), (and i ...
for many plays. In 1820,
Franz Schubert Franz Peter Schubert (; 31 January 179719 November 1828) was an Austrian composer of the late Classical Classical may refer to: European antiquity *Classical antiquity, a period of history from roughly the 7th or 8th century B.C.E. to the ...

Franz Schubert
wrote a melodrama, ''Die Zauberharfe'' ("The Magic Harp"), setting music behind the play written by G. von Hofmann. It was unsuccessful, like all Schubert's theatre ventures, but the melodrama
genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category of being, category of literature, ...

genre
was at the time a popular one. In an age of underpaid musicians, many 19th-century plays in London had an orchestra in the pit. In 1826,
Felix Mendelssohn Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (3 February 18094 November 1847), born and widely known as Felix Mendelssohn, was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic Romantic may refer to: Genres and eras * The ...

Felix Mendelssohn
wrote his well-known
overture Overture (from French language, French ''ouverture'', "opening") in music was originally the instrumental introduction to a ballet, opera, or oratorio in the 17th century. During the early Romantic era, composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven, Beet ...

overture
to
Shakespeare's William Shakespeare (bapt. 26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English playwright, poet, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and one of the world's greatest dramatists. He is often called England' ...

Shakespeare's
''
A Midsummer Night's Dream ''A Midsummer Night's Dream'' is a comedy Comedy (from the el, κωμῳδία, ''kōmōdía'') is a genre of fiction that consists of discourses or works intended to be humor Humour (Commonwealth English The use of the Eng ...

A Midsummer Night's Dream
'', and later supplied the play with incidental music. In
Verdi Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi (; 9 or 10 October 1813 – 27 January 1901) was an Italian composer best known for his opera Opera is a form of theatre Theatre or theater is a collaborative form of performing art that u ...

Verdi
's ''
La Traviata ''La traviata'' (; ''The Fallen Woman'') is an opera Opera is a form of theatre in which music is a fundamental component and dramatic roles are taken by Singing, singers, but is distinct from musical theatre. Such a "work" (the literal tra ...

La Traviata
'', Violetta receives a letter from Alfredo's father where he writes that Alfredo now knows why she parted from him and that he forgives her ("Teneste la promessa..."). In her speaking voice, she intones the words of what is written, while the orchestra recapitulates the music of their first love from Act I: this is technically melodrama. In a few moments, Violetta bursts into a passionate despairing aria ("Addio, del passato"): this is opera again. In a similar manner, Victorians often added "incidental music" under the dialogue to a pre-existing play, although this style of composition was already practiced in the days of
Ludwig van Beethoven Ludwig van Beethoven (, ; baptised 17 December 177026 March 1827) was a German composer A composer (Latin wikt:compono, ''compōnō''; literally "one who puts together") is a person who writes musical composition, music, especially class ...

Ludwig van Beethoven
(''
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'') and
Franz Schubert Franz Peter Schubert (; 31 January 179719 November 1828) was an Austrian composer of the late Classical Classical may refer to: European antiquity *Classical antiquity, a period of history from roughly the 7th or 8th century B.C.E. to the ...

Franz Schubert
(''
Rosamunde ''Rosamunde, Fürstin von Zypern'' (''Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially called the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island nation in the eastern Mediterranean Sea The Mediterranea ...

Rosamunde
''). (This type of often-lavish production is now mostly limited to film (see
film score A film score is original music written specifically to accompany a film A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art The visual arts are art forms such as painting Painting is th ...
) due to the cost of hiring an orchestra. Modern recording technology is producing a certain revival of the practice in theatre, but not on the former scale.) A particularly complete version of this form, Sullivan's incidental music to '' The Foresters'', is available online, complete with several melodramas, for instance, No. 12 found here. A few
operetta Operetta is a form of theatre and a genre of light opera. It includes spoken dialogue, songs, and dances. It is lighter than opera in terms of its music, orchestral size, length of the work, and at face value, subject matter.Williams, S (2003). Op ...
s exhibit melodrama in the sense of music played under spoken dialogue, for instance,
Gilbert and Sullivan Gilbert and Sullivan refers to the Victorian-era In the history of the United Kingdom The history of the United Kingdom began in the early eighteenth century with the Treaty of Union and Acts of Union. The core of the United Ki ...
's ''
Ruddigore ''Ruddigore; or, The Witch's Curse'', originally called ''Ruddygore'', is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It is one of the Savoy Operas and the tenth of fourteen comic operas written togeth ...
'' (itself a parody of melodramas in the modern sense) has a short "melodrame" (reduced to dialogue alone in many productions) in the second act;
Jacques Offenbach Offenbach in the 1860s Jacques Offenbach (, also , , ; 20 June 18195 October 1880) was a German-born French composer, cellist and impresario An impresario (from the Italian ''impresa'', "an enterprise or undertaking") is a person who organize ...
's ''
Orpheus in the Underworld ''Orpheus in the Underworld'' and ''Orpheus in Hell'' are English names for ''Orphée aux enfers'' (), a comic opera with music by Jacques Offenbach Jacques Offenbach (, also , , ; 20 June 18195 October 1880) was a German-born French composer ...

Orpheus in the Underworld
'' opens with a melodrama delivered by the character of "Public Opinion"; and other pieces from operetta and musicals may be considered melodramas, such as the "Recit and Minuet" in Gilbert and Sullivan's ''
The Sorcerer ''The Sorcerer'' is a two-act comic opera, with a libretto by W. S. Gilbert and music by Arthur Sullivan. It was the British duo's third operatic Gilbert and Sullivan, collaboration. The plot of ''The Sorcerer'' is based on a Christmas stor ...
''. As an example from the American musical, several long speeches in
LernerLerner is a German and Jewish family name. Its literal meaning can be either "student" or "scholar". It may refer to: Organizations * Lerner Enterprises, a real estate company * Lerner Newspapers * Lerner Publishing Group, a publisher of childre ...
and Loewe's ''
Brigadoon ''Brigadoon'' is a musical Musical is the adjective of music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time through the elements of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the universal cultural aspects of all human societies. ...
'' are delivered over an accompaniment of evocative music. The technique is also frequently used in Spanish
zarzuela () is a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre that alternates between spoken and sung scenes, the latter incorporating operatic and popular songs, as well as dance. The etymology of the name is uncertain, but some propose it may derive from the name of ...
, both in the 19th and 20th centuries, and continued also to be used as a "special effect" in opera, for instance
Richard Strauss Richard Georg Strauss (; 11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a German composer, conductor, pianist, and violinist. Considered a leading composer of the late Romantic Romantic may refer to: Genres and eras * The Romantic era, an artistic, l ...

Richard Strauss
's ''
Die Frau ohne Schatten ' (''The Woman without a Shadow''), Op. 65, is an opera Opera is a form of theatre in which music is a fundamental component and dramatic roles are taken by Singing, singers, but is distinct from musical theatre. Such a "work" (the literal tr ...
''. In Paris, the 19th century saw a flourishing of melodrama in the many theatres that were located on the popular
Boulevard du Crime The Boulevard du Crime was the nickname given in the 19th century to the Boulevard du Temple in Paris because of the many crime melodramas that were shown every night in its many theaters. It is notorious in French history for having lost so many ...
, especially in the Gaîté. All this came to an end, however, when most of these theatres were demolished during the rebuilding of Paris by Baron Haussmann in 1862. By the end of the 19th century, the term melodrama had nearly exclusively narrowed down to a specific genre of salon entertainment: more or less rhythmically spoken words (often poetry) – not sung, sometimes more or less enacted, at least with some
dramatic structure Dramatic structure is the structure of a drama Drama is the specific Mode (literature), mode of fiction Mimesis, represented in performance: a Play (theatre), play, opera, mime, ballet, etc., performed in a theatre, or on Radio drama, rad ...
or plot – synchronized to the accompaniment of music (usually piano). It was looked down on as a genre for authors and composers of lesser stature (probably also why virtually no realizations of the genre are still remembered). Probably also the time when the connotation of cheap overacting first became associated with the term. As a cross-over genre-mixing narration and chamber music, it was eclipsed nearly overnight by a single composition: Schoenberg's '' Pierrot Lunaire'' (1912), where
Sprechgesang (, "spoken singing") and (, "spoken voice") are expressionist Expressionism is a modernist , Solomon Guggenheim Museum 1946–1959 Modernism is both a philosophy, philosophical movement and an art movement that arose from broad transform ...

Sprechgesang
was used instead of rhythmically spoken words, and which took a freer and more imaginative course regarding the
plot Plot or Plotting may refer to: Art, media and entertainment * Plot (narrative), the story of a piece of fiction Music * The Plot (album), ''The Plot'' (album), a 1976 album by jazz trumpeter Enrico Rava * The Plot (band), a band formed in 2003 O ...
prerogative.


Opera

The great majority of operas are melodramas. The emotional tensions are both communicated and amplified by the appropriate music. The majority of plots involve characters overcoming or succumbing to larger than life events of war, betrayal, monumental love, murder, revenge, filial discord, or similar grandiose occurrences. Most characters are simplistically drawn with clear distinctions between virtuous and evil ones, and character development and subtlety of situations is sacrificed. Events are arranged to fit the character's traits best to demonstrate their emotional effects on the character and others. The predominance of melodrama in Donizetti's bel canto works, Bellini, and virtually all Verdi and Puccini is clear with examples too numerous to list. The great multitude of heroines needing to deal with and overcome situations of love impossible in the face of grandiose circumstances is amply exemplified by Lucia, Norma, Leonora, Tosca, Turandot, Mimi, Cio-Cio-San, Violetta, Gilda, and many others.


Czech

Within the context of the
Czech National Revival The Czech National Revival was a cultural movement which took place in the Czech lands during the 18th and 19th centuries. The purpose of this movement was to revive the Czech Czech language, language, culture and national identity. The most pro ...
, the melodrama took on a specifically nationalist meaning for Czech artists, beginning roughly in the 1870s and continuing through the
First Czechoslovak Republic The First Czechoslovak Republic ( cs, První československá republika, sk, Prvá česko-slovenská republika), often colloquially referred to as the First Republic ( cs, První republika), was the first state that existed from 1918 to 1938, d ...
of the interwar period. This new understanding of the melodrama stemmed primarily from such nineteenth-century scholars and critics as Otakar Hostinský, who considered the genre to be a uniquely "Czech" contribution to music history (based on the national origins of
Georg Benda Georg Anton Benda ( cz, Jiří Antonín Benda, italic=no, link=no), (30 June 17226 November 1795), was a Czech composer A composer (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-Eu ...

Georg Benda
, whose melodramas had nevertheless been in German). Such sentiments provoked a large number of Czech composers to produce melodramas based on Czech romantic poetry, such as the ''
Kytice ''Kytice z pověstí národních'' (''A Bouquet of Folk Legends''), also known by the short title ''Kytice'' (Czech Czech may refer to: * Anything from or related to the Czech Republic The Czech Republic, also known by its short-form name ...

Kytice
'' of . The romantic composer Zdeněk Fibich in particular championed the genre as a means of setting Czech declamation correctly: his melodramas ''Štědrý den'' (1874) and ''Vodník'' (1883) use rhythmic durations to specify the alignment of spoken word and accompaniment. Fibich's main achievement was ''Hippodamie'' (1888–1891), a trilogy of full-evening staged melodramas on the texts of Jaroslav Vrchlický with multiple actors and orchestra, composed in an advanced Wagnerian musical style. Josef Suk's main contributions at the turn of the century include melodramas for two-stage plays by
Julius Zeyer Julius Zeyer (26 April 1841 – 29 January 1901) was a Czechs, Czech prose writer, poet, and playwright. Personal life Zeyer was born in Prague, the son of Elisabeth Eleonora (née Weisseles) and French nobleman Jan Zeyer, a carpenter and timber ...

Julius Zeyer
: ''Radúz a Mahulena'' (1898) and ''Pod Jabloní'' (1901), both of which had a long performance history. Following the examples of Fibich and Suk, many other Czech composers set melodramas as stand-alone works based on the poetry of the National Revival, among them Karel Kovařovic, , Ladislav Vycpálek, Otakar Jeremiáš, Emil Axman, and Jan Zelinka. included portions of melodrama in his 1923 opera ''Lucerna'', and Jaroslav Ježek composed key scenes for the stage plays of the Osvobozené divadlo as melodrama (most notably the opening prologue of the anti-Fascist farce ''Osel a stín'' (1933), delivered by the character of
Dionysus Dionysus (; grc-gre, Διόνυσος) is the god of the grape-harvest, winemaking, fertility, orchards and fruit, vegetation, insanity, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theatre in Religion in ancient Greece, ancient Greek rel ...

Dionysus
in
bolero Bolero is a genre of song A song is a musical composition Musical composition can refer to an piece or work of , either or , the of a musical piece or to the process of creating or writing a new piece of music. People who create ...

bolero
rhythm). Czech melodramas' practice tapered off after the .


Victorian

The
Victorian Victorian or Victorians may refer to: 19th century * Victorian era, British history during Queen Victoria's 19th-century reign ** Victorian architecture ** Victorian house ** Victorian decorative arts ** Victorian fashion ** Victorian literature ...
stage melodrama featured six
stock character A stock character is a stereotypical Police officers buying doughnuts and coffee, an example of perceived stereotypical behavior in North America. Social psychology Social psychology is the Science, scientific study of how the thoug ...
s: the hero, the villain, the heroine, an aged parent, a sidekick, and a servant of the aged parent engaged in a sensational plot featuring themes of love and murder. Often the good but not very clever hero is duped by a scheming villain, who has eyes on the
damsel in distress The damsel in distress is a recurring narrative device (or trope) in which one or more men must rescue a woman who has either been kidnapped or placed in general peril. Kinship, love, or lust gives the male protagonist the motivation or compuls ...
until fate intervenes at the end to ensure the triumph of good over evil.Williams, Carolyn. "Melodrama", in ''The New Cambridge History of English Literature: The Victorian Period'', ed. Kate Flint, Cambridge University Press (2012), pp. 193–219 Two central features were the coup de théàtre, or reversal of fortune, and the claptrap: a back-to-the-wall oration by the hero which ''forces'' the audience to applaud. English melodrama evolved from the tradition of populist drama established during the Middle Ages by
mystery Mystery, The Mystery, Mysteries or The Mysteries may refer to: People * Mystery (pickup artist) Erik von Markovik (born September 24, 1971), more popularly known by his stage name, Mystery, is a Canadian pickup artist who developed a system of ...
and
morality play The morality play is a genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it normally describes a Category o ...
s, under influences from Italian
commedia dell'arte (; ; ) was an early form of professional theatre, originating in Italy, that was popular throughout Europe between the 16th and 18th centuries. It was formerly called Italian comedy in English and is also known as ''commedia alla maschera'', ' ...
as well as German ''
Sturm und Drang ''Sturm und Drang'' (, ; literally "storm and drive", though usually translated as "storm and stress") was a proto- Romantic movement in German literature and music Music is the art of arranging sounds in time to produce a composition t ...
'' drama and Parisian melodrama of the post-Revolutionary period. A notable French melodramatist was Pixérécourt whose ''La Femme à deux maris'' was very popular. The first English play to be called a melodrama or 'melodrame' was ''A Tale of Mystery'' (1802) by
Thomas Holcroft Thomas Holcroft (10 December 174523 March 1809) was an English dramatist, miscellanist, poet and translator. He was sympathetic to the early ideas of the French Revolution and helped Thomas Paine publish the first part of ''The Rights of Man''. ...

Thomas Holcroft
. This was an example of the
Gothic Gothic or Gothics may refer to: People and languages *Goths or Gothic people, the ethnonym of a group of East Germanic tribes **Gothic language, an extinct East Germanic language spoken by the Goths **Crimean Gothic, the Gothic language spoken by ...
genre, a previous theatrical example of which was '' The Castle Spectre'' (1797) by Matthew Gregory Lewis. Other Gothic melodramas include ''The Miller and his Men'' (1813) by Isaac Pocock, ''The Woodsman's Hut'' (1814) by Samuel James Arnold, Samuel Arnold and ''The Broken Sword'' (1816) by William Dimond. Supplanting the Gothic, the next popular subgenre was the nautical melodrama, pioneered by Douglas Jerrold in his ''Black-Eyed Susan'' (1829). Other nautical melodramas included Jerrold's ''The Mutiny at the Nore'' (1830) and ''The Red Rover'' (1829) by Edward Fitzball (Rowell 1953). Melodramas based on urban situations became popular in the mid-nineteenth century, including ''The Streets of London'' (1864) by Dion Boucicault; and ''Lost in London'' (1867) by Watts Phillips, while prison melodrama, temperance melodrama, and imperialist melodrama also appeared – the latter typically featuring the three categories of the 'good' native, the brave but wicked native, and the treacherous native. The sensation novels of the 1860s, and 1870s not only provided fertile material for melodramatic adaptations but are melodramatic in their own right. A notable example of this genre is ''Lady Audley's Secret'' by Elizabeth Braddon adapted, in two different versions, by George Roberts and C.H. Hazlewood. The novels of Wilkie Collins have the characteristics of melodrama, his best-known work ''The Woman in White (novel), The Woman in White'' being regarded by some modern critics as "the most brilliant melodrama of the period". The villain is often the central character in melodrama, and crime was a favorite theme. This included dramatizations of the murderous careers of Burke and Hare, Sweeney Todd (first featured in ''The String of Pearls'' (1847) by George Dibdin Pitt), the murder of Maria Marten in the Red Barn and the bizarre exploits of Spring Heeled Jack. The misfortunes of a discharged prisoner are the theme of the sensational ''The Ticket-of-Leave Man (play), The Ticket-of-Leave Man'' (1863) by Tom Taylor. Early silent films, such as ''The Perils of Pauline (1914 serial), The Perils of Pauline'' had similar themes. Later, after silent films were superseded by the 'talkies', stage actor Tod Slaughter, at the age of 50, transferred to the screen the Victorian melodramas in which he had played a villain in his earlier theatrical career. These films, which include ''Maria Marten or Murder in the Red Barn'' (1935), ''Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936 film), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street'' (1936) and ''The Ticket of Leave Man (1937 film), The Ticket of Leave Man'' (1937) are a unique record of a bygone art-form.


Generic offshoots

* Northrop Frye saw both advertising and propaganda as melodramatic forms which the cultivated cannot take seriously. * Politics at the time calls on melodrama to articulate a world-view. Thus Richard Overy argues that 1930s Britain saw civilization as melodramatically under threat - "In this great melodrama Hitler's Germany was the villain; democratic civilization the menaced heroine"; - while Winston Churchill provided the necessary larger-than-life melodramatic hero to articulate back-to-the-wall resistance during The Blitz.


Modern

Classic melodrama is less common than it used to be on television and in movies in the Western world. However, it is still widely popular in other regions, particularly in Asia and in Hispanic countries. Melodrama is one of the main genres (along with romance, comedy and fantasy) used in Latin American television dramas (telenovelas), particularly in Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil, and in Asian television dramas, particularly in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, Pakistan, Thailand, India, Turkey and (in a fusion of the Hispanic and Asian cultures) the Philippines. Expatriate communities in the diaspora of these countries give viewership a global market.


Film

Melodrama films are a subgenre of Drama (film and television), drama films characterised by a plot that appeals to the heightened emotions of the audience. They generally depend on stock character, stereotyped character development, interaction, and highly emotional themes. Melodramatic films tend to use plots that often deal with crises of human emotion, failed romance (love), romance or friendship, strained familial situations, tragedy, illness, neuroses, or emotional and physical :wikt:hardship, hardship. Victims, couples, virtuous and heroic characters or suffering protagonists (usually heroines) in melodramas are presented with tremendous social pressures, threats, repression, fears, improbable events or difficulties with friends, community, Employment, work, lovers, or family. The melodramatic format allows the character to work through their difficulties or surmount the problems with resolute endurance, sacrificial acts, and steadfast bravery. Film critics sometimes use the term pejoratively to connote an unrealistic, pathos-filled, campy tale of romance or domestic situations with stereotypical characters (often including a central female character) that would directly appeal to feminine audiences."Dirks T
Melodrama Films
' filmsite.org website opinion
Melodramas focus on family issues and the themes of duty and love. As melodramas emphasize the family unit, women are typically depicted in a subordinate, traditional role. The woman is shown as facing self-sacrifice and repression. In melodramas, men are shown in the domestic, stereotypically female home environment; as such, to resolve the challenges presented by the story, the male must learn to negotiate this "female" space. Since men who are learning to operate in the domestic sphere appear "less male...and more feminized", this makes melodramas appealing to female viewers. Melodramas place their attention on a victim character. Since melodramas are set in the home and a small town, it can be challenging for the filmmaker to create a sense of action given that it all takes place in one claustrophobic sphere; one way to add in more locations is through flashback (narrative), flashbacks to the past.The sense of being trapped often causes challenges for children, teens, and female characters. The sense of being trapped leads to obsessions with unobtainable objects or other people, and inner aggressiveness or "aggressiveness by proxy". Feminists have noted four categories of themes: those with a female patient, a maternal figure, an "impossible love", and the paranoid melodrama. Most film melodramas from the 1930s and 1940s, known as "weepies" or "tearjerkers", were adaptations of women's fiction, such as romance novels and historical romances. Melodramas focus on women's subjectivity and perspective and female desire; however, due to the Hays Code, this desire could not be explicitly shown on screen from the 1930s to the late 1960s, so female desire is de-eroticized. During the 1940s, the British Gainsborough melodramas were successful with audiences. A director of 1950s melodrama films was Douglas Sirk who worked with Rock Hudson on ''Written on the Wind'' and ''All That Heaven Allows'', both staples of the genre. Melodramas like the 1990s TV Moment of Truth movies, ''Moment of Truth'' movies targeted audiences of American women by portraying the effects of alcoholism, domestic violence, rape and the like. Typical of the genre is Anjelica Huston's 1999 film ''Agnes Browne''.Levy, Emanuel (31 May 1999
"Agnes Browne (period drama)"
''Variety''
In the 1970s, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who was very much influenced by Sirk, contributed to the genre by engaging with class in ''The Merchant of Four Seasons'' (1971) and ''Mother Küsters Goes to Heaven'' (1975), with sexual orientation and codependency in ''The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant'' (1972) and with racism, xenophobia and ageism in ''Fear Eats the Soul'' (1974). More recently, Todd Haynes has renewed the genre with his 2002 film ''Far from Heaven''.


See also


References


External links

{{Authority control Melodramas 19th-century theatre Drama genres Film genres Opera terminology Theatrical genres Tragedies (dramas)