Title page for ETD etd-07112005-183504

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Easley, David Bradley
Author's Email Address deasle1@lsu.edu
URN etd-07112005-183504
Title Tonality and Drama in Verdi's "La Traviata"
Degree Master of Music (M.M.)
Department Music
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Robert Peck Committee Chair
Andreas Giger Committee Member
David Smyth Committee Member
  • la traviata
  • tonality
  • drama
  • expressive tonality
  • associative tonality
  • recurring themes
  • reactive shifts in tonality
  • double cycle
  • large-scale tonal plans
  • verdi
  • reductive analysis of opera
  • tonal coherence
Date of Defense 2005-06-28
Availability unrestricted
Scholars hold opposing views concerning the importance of large-scale key relations in Verdi's operas. Julian Budden states that, since Verdi often allowed transpositions of his music in performance, one must take care in assigning structural importance to Verdi's key schemes. Others, including David Lawton, place much significance on Verdi's choice of keys. Lawton describes methods by which Verdi intensifies dramatic situations through associative tonality and recurring musical themes. In La Traviata, several recurring musical themes undergo transposition, a device that Wagner scholar Robert Bailey calls expressive tonality, which is the repetition or recall of a passage transposed by semitone or tone, either up or down to underscore dramatic intensification or relaxation. Similar in dramatic value are reactive shifts, which are abrupt modulations or tonicizations, depicting a direct response to a statement or thought.

This thesis will show how Verdi uses tonality on a local and global scale to support and intensify dramatic situations throughout La Traviata. Locally, he uses reactive shifts in tonality and recurring themes to propel immediate music and dramatic action. Globally, Verdi uses expressive tonality to intensify or relax dramatic situations, which works in conjunction with a referential use of keys as well as large-scale harmonic successions to unify the work as a whole. I begin with a detailed exposition of the aforementioned analytical tools and then apply those tools to La Traviata. I will close the thesis with a discussion of the revisions made to La Traviata after its initial performances and explore some results of the musical changes Verdi made.

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