The Leitmotif Technique in Puccini's La Bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly

by Ho, Min

Abstract (Summary)
The leitmotif technique has been used extensively in operas. The leitmotif normally represents a person, an emotion, an idea or a dramatic situation. The early form of leitmotif, known as reminiscence motif, occurred notably in Gretry's opera, Richard Coeur de Lion (1784). Later, Mozart and Mehul used the reminiscence motif in their operas. In these works, the reminiscence motif is simply repeated without much change in rhythm and harmony. In the works of Weber and Berlioz, a different leitmotif technique was developed. This leitmotif was altered in subsequent appearances in terms of rhythm, melody and harmony.

Before Wagner, the leitmotif was used independently and was not associated with other motifs. In Wagner's musical dramas, especially in Der Ring Des Nibelungen, the leitmotif technique was given special consideration and emphasis. Several motifs appeared together to present complex emotions or situations. The whole Ring is bound by a web of leitmotifs.

Compared to Wagner's leitmotif technique, Puccini's approach to the leitmotif is simple. In the three operas: La Boheme, Tosca and Madama Butterfly, most of the leitmotifs are used in a manner that is similar to the reminiscence motif. That is, in their reappearances, the motifs retain generally their melodic shape but sometimes there are changes in rhythm, harmony, and tempo. There are a few motifs that resemble Weber's technique. Wagner's treatment of the leitmotif, however, is not found in these operas.

Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Klose, Robert; Thompson, Claud; Gullickson, Garry; Kaplan, David; Howard, Dorothy; Blum, Martha; Johnston, Richard; Forsyth, Louise

School:University of Saskatchewan

School Location:Canada - Saskatchewan

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:09/11/2008

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