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Burlesque is a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects. The word derives from the Italian burlesco, which, in turn, is derived from the Italian burla – a joke, ridicule or mockery.
Burlesque overlaps in meaning with caricature, parody and travesty, and, in its theatrical sense, with extravaganza, as presented during the Victorian era. "Burlesque" has been used in English in this literary and theatrical sense since the late 17th century. It has been applied retrospectively to works of Chaucer and Shakespeare and to the Graeco-Roman classics. Contrasting examples of literary burlesque are Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock and Samuel Butler's Hudibras. An example of musical burlesque is Richard Strauss's 1890 Burleske for piano and orchestra. Examples of theatrical burlesques include W. S. Gilbert's Robert the Devil and the A. C. Torr – Meyer Lutz shows, including Ruy Blas and the Blasé Roué.
A later use of the term, particularly in the United States, refers to performances in a variety show format. These were popular from the 1860s to the 1940s, often in cabarets and clubs, as well as theatres, and featured bawdy comedy and female striptease. Some Hollywood films attempted to recreate the spirit of these performances from the 1930s to the 1960s, or included burlesque-style scenes within dramatic films, such as 1972's Cabaret and 1979's All That Jazz, among others. There has been a resurgence of interest in this format since the 1990s.
- 1901: Six Burlesques, Op. 58 for piano four hands by Max Reger
- 1904: Scherzo Burlesque, Op. 2 for piano and orchestra by Béla Bartók
- 1911: Three Burlesques, Op. 8c for piano by Bartók
- 1920: Burlesque for Piano, by Arnold Bax
- 1931: Ronde burlesque, Op. 78 for orchestra by Florent Schmitt
- 1932: Fantaisie burlesque, for piano by Olivier Messiaen
- 1956: Burlesque for Piano and Chamber Orchestra, Op. 13g by Bertold Hummel
- 1982: Burlesque for Wind Quintet, Op. 76b by Hummel
Abrams, M. H. (1999) A Glossary of Literary Terms. Seventh edition. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College Publishers
- Adams, William Davenport (1904) A dictionary of the drama London: Chatto & Windus
- Allan, Kirsty L. 'A Guide to Classical Burlesque – Funny Ha Ha or Funny Peculiar?'
- Allan, Kirsty L. and Charms, G. 'Diamonds From the Rough – The Darker Side of American Burlesque striptease'
- Allen, Robert Clyde (1991). Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
- Baldwin, Michelle. Burlesque and the New Bump-n-Grind
- Briggeman, Jane (2009) Burlesque: A Living History. BearManor Media, 2009.
- DiNardo, Kelly. "Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique"; Archive of articles, video, pictures and interviews about neo-burlesque.
Frye, Northrop. (1957) Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. Princeton: Princeton University Press
- Hedin, Thomas F. (2001) The Petite Commande of 1664: Burlesque in the gardens of Versailles, The Art Bulletin
Hollingshead, John. (1903) Good Old Gaiety: An Historiette & Remembrance London: Gaity Theatre Co
Kennedy, Michael (2006), The Oxford Dictionary of Music, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Kenrick, John. A History of The Musical Burlesque
- Sanders, Andrew (1994). The Short Oxford History of English Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Stanton, Sarah and Banham, Martin (1996). Cambridge Paperback Guide to Theatre, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Warrack, John and West, Ewan (1992), The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Wilson, Frederic Woodbridge (1992), 'Burlesque' in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, ed. Stanley Sadie (London)
- Zeidman, Irving: The American Burlesque Show. Hawthorn Books, Inc 1967, OCLC 192808, OCLC 493184629.
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