Contours of Feminist Consciousness in the Musical and Theatrical Life of Vilnius: The Second Half of the Nineteenth Century and the Early Twentieth Century
Keywords: Vilnius, Lithuania, nineteenth century–early twentieth century, music, theatre, feminism, female identity
AbstractFeminism is a broad concept, and its definition is a constant subject of debate. The article is limited to the treatment of feminism as one of the aspects in the development of female identity. The chronological boundaries of feminism discussed in this article cover the period from the second half of the nineteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century. This period is traditionally considered the first wave of feminism as an organized movement. Although primarily associated with the fight for the right of women to vote, this movement also extended to women’s other social and professional fields. Both in Lithuania and other countries, the growing modernisation of society gradually rendered the general attitude towards women’s creative work more liberal: the artistic expression of actresses and female musicians became freer. However, the shift in public consciousness and the transformation of values was not fast enough. Traditions of social life and the stereotypes of gender cohesion resulted in diverse public reflections on these changes for a long period of time: women were often subjected to one set of standards on the stage and another set of standards when off the stage. The theatrical and concert life of Vilnius, Lithuania’s major culture hub, witnessed more and more examples (both local and foreign) that reflected the change in female self-expression. On the theatre stage, actresses demonstrated unusually bold means of acting expression (admittedly, this phenomenon was partly due to the epochal changes in theatre art), dared to play male roles. The number of female soloists in concerts was growing: female singers and pianists had to compete with violinists. Although with caution (triggered by the position of the instrument while playing it), female cellists were admitted to the cultural space. It should be noted that the striving of a woman – an actress or a musician –to break or ignore the deep-rooted public stereotypes would often receive a controversial response from the public and the reviewers of cultural events.