visegradThe Network of the Musical Theatre Companies in the Multilingual East-Central Europe

Visegrad Grants 2017–2018


About the project

The official contacts among the main musicological institutions of the V4 area are facing difficulties; the number of international projects is insignificant, while historical musicology in these countries examines topics centred on the common history of the region. The research on the decisive period of nation-building and on one of its central institutions, the musical theatre, is confronted with negative stereotypes that often turn the self-contained national narratives against one another. The collaboration of the leading research institutes could lead to a dialogue that would break down the walls built by previous generations, and prepare the ground for a more comprehensive music historiography transcending the national borders and hallmarked by a regional approach.

The project focused on the most important decades of cultural nation-building. The discourse on this subject – due to national sensitivities – is usually closed into itself, and therefore it encounters difficulties in addressing the regional or a wider scholarly community. To make steps in the direction of an opening is perhaps not a totally original idea, but its implementation had to wait for a change of generations in scholarly  life and a paradigm shift in the international discourse of historical sciences. The methodological coordination of the research on the period 1870–1920 carried out currently by the institutes participating in the project and the establishment of a common scholarly database was a unique initiative within the practice of historical musicology in our region.

The musical theatre of the region developed its national versions by adapting European models, its agents were companies and artists orbiting on path spanning the current (and former) borders of countries and languages. The inventory of the sources for the repertoire of the individual companies is done at a local level by the research facilities of the individual countries, but the source processing is more efficient if we manage to coordinate our research projects, whereas the evaluation of the repertoire itself is only conceivable within the context of an international comparative study. In addition to presenting the West-European models, the time has come for discovering the common regional specialties as well, given that local adaptations were often made in a similar manner.

The co-operation carried out in this project led to the creation of an important common knowledge base concerning the regional music and theatre history and it also transmitted easily accessible factual information to the wider circles of cultural consumers. During the project, five decades of music theatrical repertoire from the turn of 19th and 20th centuries became available for the first time both to the academic community and the wider audience through common surfaces (databases) and further publications (brochure, volume, website).

The main objective of the project was to elaborate multilingual databases on the East-Central European musical theatre: (1) the regional database of the music theatrical secondary literature contains reference works, books, studies, and contemporary press material related to the theme of the project; (2) the regional database of the sources of musical theatre (1870–1920) accounts for locations and larger source units of the theatrical industry of the researched period and it also contains descriptions of some of the larger inventories. The two databases are meant to combine scattered research results so far and to add new ones; it makes the results accessible to the professional and the wider public, and also introduces them into education. Up to this day, no similar databases has been compiled in any of the V4 countries from the years we are researching.

The historiographies of the region still do not transcend the national boundaries. The project facilitated the cognition of the common cultural heritage. Understanding the common cultural traditions also contributes to the acceptance of cultural differences, thus the knowledge material to be published as a result of this project might inspire further scholarly and cultural collaboration. We consider this project the first step in a long-term institutional cooperation. Our short-term plans were formulated accordingly (databases of bibliography and sources, workshop, research trips, lectures, publications, concert). The participating institutions have already applied with their research activities in progress to this project which would enable them to unify the results of their ongoing work and a continuation according to a common methodological basis. Our most important long-term goal was the creation of a complex regional musical theatrical website and database as well as the popularization of the content appearing in it as widely as possible. The participating institutes are central research facilities from each country; a survey of their publications connected to previous projects and to the present one as well as the involvement of further external partners was expected to generate a research team strong enough to meet the demands of a major international project in order to achieve the common long-term goal. In addition to the research institutes, the following project would also involve the cultural institutions preserving the sources, because some parts of the source materials are hosted apart from the National Libraries by a number of institutions not specialized in the archiving of music historical sources (theatres, art museums, church archives). It is a duty of the research institutes to take care of these historical music collections in a project-financed way (cataloguing, digitization, professional communication), thus enriching the cultural life of a given city. In addition, the knowledge and awareness of the activity of national theatrical companies operating within an international theatrical network contributes to the recognition of the region’s uniform cultural profile as well as to the acceptance of the differences.