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MELODRAMA (a coined word from Gr. µEX...

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Originally appearing in Volume V18, Page 96 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MELODRAMA (a coined word from Gr. µEXos, music, and Spaµa, action), the name of several species of dramatic composition. As the word implies, " melodrama " is properly a dramatic mixture of music and action, and was first applied to a form of dramatic musical composition in which music accompanied the spoken words and the action, but in which there was no singing. The first example of such a work has generally been taken to be the Pygmalion of J. J. Rousseau, produced in 1995. This is the source of romantic dramas depending on sensational incident with exaggerated appeals to conventional sentiment rather than on play of character, and in which dramatis personae follow conventional types—the villain, the hero wrongfully charged with crime, the persecuted heroine, the adventuress, &c. At first the music was of some importance, forming practically a running accompaniment suitable to the situations—but this has gradually disappeared, and, if it remains, is used mainly to emphasize particularly strong situations, or to bring on or off the stage the various principal characters. Such plays first became popular in France at the beginning of the lgth century. One of the most prolific writers of melodramas at that period was R. C. G. de Pixericourt (1773-1844). The titles of some of his plays give a sufficient indication of their character; e.g. Victor, ou l'enfant de la foal (1799); Carlina, ou l'enfant du mystere (18ot); Le Monastere abandonne, ou la malediction paternelle (1816). Another form of melodrama came from the same source, but developed on lines which laid more emphasis on the music, and is of some importance in the history of opera. Probably the first of thistype is to be found in Georg Benda's AriadneaufNaxos (1y74). The most, familiar of such melodramas is Gay's Beggar's Opera. In these the dialogue is entirely spoken. In true opera the spoken dialogue was replaced by recitative. It may be noticed that the speaking of some parts of the dialogue is not sufficient to class an opera as a " melodrama " in this sense, as is proved by the spoken grave-digging scene, accompanied' by music, in Fidelio, and the incantation scene in Der Freischiitz. To this the English term " declamation " is usually applied;- the Germans use Melodram. But see OPERA.
End of Article: MELODRAMA (a coined word from Gr. µEXos, music, and Spaµa, action)
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