Interlude (theater)

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An interlude in the theater (also called intermedia until around 1700 ) is an insert between the acts or images of a drama . The interlude mostly belongs to the genre of comedy , whereas the drama in which it is inserted belongs to the genre of tragedy .

The insert served as a break for the actors to rest and to change their clothes and to change the set. Therefore it often took place on the front stage in front of the main curtain . In addition to the interludes, there were preludes and aftermaths that were not necessarily related to the main game in terms of content.


In ancient Greece, recitations or chants by the theater choir divided the dialogical parts ( epeisodion ) of the dramas. In Roman times these choir passages became pantomime interludes.

Burlesque episodes were often inserted into the religiously instructive mystery games of the late Middle Ages . Since then, interludes have often differed from the main game not only in terms of comedy, but also in language: The drama was written in the educational language, i.e. Latin and later Italian or French, while the interludes were written in vernacular and often in dialect . The Spanish stage developed the interlude into a poetic genre of its own, the entremés , which was followed by the sainete . In Germany there were spoken interludes in the drama of Renaissance humanism . It culminated again in the 17th century. A prominent example of musical performances from this period is the Abdelazer Suite from 1676 by Henry Purcell . In the 18th century the interlude was gradually replaced by such ( interlude ). This music was danced to above all in the French tradition. This kind of interlude was called divertissement .

Interludes were popular, while the serious three- or five-act drama in which they were inserted, with its often political significance, was a representative duty for the court . A special case were the main and state actions , in which comical interludes were the main thing, behind which the serious drama became a template that merely regulated the process.

From the sung comic interludes in the opera ( intermezzo ), the opera buffa emerged at the beginning of the 18th century . One of the best-known interludes that was able to detach itself as an independent unit from the drama to which it originally belonged was Pergolesi's La serva padrona (1733). Strictly speaking, it consisted of two connected interludes that were given between the three acts of an opera seria . The detachment of the short scenic interludes from the great, serious dramas in the 18th century was symbolic of the emancipation of the bourgeois " folk theater " from the court theater . This social emancipation still appears in the naturalistic theory of the one-act play by August Strindberg .

The variety of interludes in the late 18th and 19th centuries included not only the scenic one-act plays and the musical entractes , but also extensive recitations of poems, living pictures , pantomimes and acrobatic numbers. There was seldom a clear separation between spoken, sung and facial interludes (cf. Vaudeville ). In the vaudeville and music hall after 1850 the whole program consisted of interludes. Theaters with artistic aspirations, such as those that emerged from entertainment theaters at the end of the century (such as the Deutsches Theater Berlin ), often tried to distance themselves from this denomination. Since the late 19th century, theatrical interludes have tended to either be left out or claim artistic independence. They are either firmly integrated into a larger piece or belong to the sphere of entertainment theater.

As a countermovement, the tradition of interludes in the “serious” theater was revived at the beginning of the 20th century. One of the most famous (dance) interludes from this period is Vaslav Nijinsky's L'Après-midi d'un faune (1912). The composer Richard Strauss experimented again with the genre of the interlude, for example in Ariadne auf Naxos (1912) or Intermezzo (1924).

See also