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Ibsen engaged with many of the dominant scientific ideas of his time, especially those in the natural sciences, such as evolution and heredity. This chapter explores such scientific contexts and shows how and why Ibsen oscillated between respecting science, medicine and technology’s role in humanity’s progress and disparaging their destructive capabilities. The discussion also points out how science underpins some of Ibsen’s revolutionary innovations in theatrical form and content: his explorations of Zola’s naturalism, his dramatization of Darwin’s ideas, his foregrounding of the family unit as the subject of drama, his depiction of the constant tension between the twin forces of heredity and environment, and his radical scenographic vision of nature and landscape.
Chapter 14: This chapter explores advances in stage technology from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that profoundly shaped and influenced both theatrical performance and playwriting, particularly in the domain of stage lighting. Opening with the mid-twentieth-century example of Josef Svoboda, the chapter then goes back to the invention of limelight and its behind-the-scenes manipulation, which leads into a consideration of other kinds of technologically oriented off-stage labor. The discussion then turns to theatrical patents of the late nineteenth century, building on recent scholarship on backstage labor with a view to considering how scientific, technological, and theatrical work merge and often share this status of invisibility. The conclusion proposes a model for approaching and teaching theatre history based on a greater recognition of the role of technology, especially in our understanding of ‘science on stage’.
In 1902, the Théâtre royal de la Monnaie presented a new Carmen in replacement of its original production of 1876. Though the Monnaie’s managers, Kufferath and Guidé, officially aimed at a ‘reconstruction’ (reconstitution) of Bizet’s classic, stage manager Charles De Beer radically updated the mise en scène through such naturalistic features as multiple-level platforms and asymmetrical, panoramic stage sets. An instant hit, the staging enjoyed revivals until 1949 and transferred to four other Belgian venues. This chapter seeks to explain that remarkable success. Focusing on the scenography by Albert Dubosq, the author first outlines the Belgian background against which the new version made its mark. Analytical observations on the 1902 Carmen are then drawn, not just from historical photographs and newspaper reviews, but also from life-size replicas of Dubosq’s flats and drops surviving in Courtray. The essay concludes by contradicting a tenacious master-narrative, according to which operatic staging became stagnant in the naturalistic era; instead, numerous innovations were introduced within a traditional, illusionistic framework.