Music Council of Australia
Faculty of Education and Arts
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)
This article examines the music theatre work Mr Barbecue (2002) composed by Elena Kats-Chernin, based upon a libretto by Janis Balodis. It looks at the work within the context of her two previous music -theatre works Iphis(1997) and Matricide: The Musical (1998), which I argue express a feminine aesthetic. I refer particularly to Eva Rieger’s theories on the “restricted aesthetic” outlined in her article “’I recycle Sounds’: Do Women Compose Differently?”. With the commissioning of Mr. Barbecue, Kats-Chernin was required to set a libretto which expressed the new wave of masculinist thinking that emerged in the 1990’s as a backlash against feminism. I hypothesise that Kats-Chernin engaged in this commission for the career opportunities it provided rather than for her interest in the subject matter resulting in a work that demonstrates superior compositional expertise, but, to a lesser extent, an aesthetic engagement by the composer. I examine her background and training as a composer and how Kats-Chernin is particularly suited to the writing of music with comic twist. I also argue that in setting the songs she resorts to a very familiar mode of expression to her, i.e. cabaret. I also examine the music al setting of the text and her particularly post-modern approach of incorporating an eclectic array of ideas drawn from a wide variety of musical sources. I conclude that Mr. Barbecue is an effective musical composition given the limited instrumental and vocal resources available to the composer for which it could be demonstrated that the work falls within the paradigm of Rieger’s “restricted aesthetic”.