This chapter explores how the proscenium curtain, previously simply a spatial and temporal frame for the performance, increasingly mediated between sound and sight. In the late eighteenth century, Grétry and other composers had begun to align the curtain’s movements with both music and drama, and during the nineteenth century, the curtain became increasingly expressive. Thus, for example, an early opening curtain might allow for pantomimic scene-setting, while “delayed” curtains could mask diegetic sound. Rossini’s prematurely closing curtain conveyed continuing drama. Novel drop scenes masking mid-act transformations further expanded the curtain’s functions and shapes. In prescribing curtain tempi as atmospheric indictors, Wagner built on such practices, his heightened attention producing the flexible “Wagner curtain” at Bayreuth. Few composers subsequently omitted curtain directions, with Berg’s scores completing the curtain’s musicalization. It was consequential, then, that Brecht dismissed the full-length curtain in his battle against illusionist theater.
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