Being both, a demand as well as a chance of the present age of information technology for cultural preservation and continuation, public databases possess an immense importance for providing a comprehensive access to cultural material as far as their contents and also their clientele of users are concerned. Therefore, an exemplary completely preserved stock of primary sources as the one of the Weimar theatre is no less than an invaluable piece of luck, possibly just due to the manageable local conditions of this small (former courtly) town in the middle of German language area. In this English version, first this rare cultural-historical phenomenon and its sources are described. Furthermore, the data- and metadata-contents within the Weimar theatre- and music-ephemera database are presented. Finally, the principal opportunities of searching this (meta-)data pool are explained, where presumed to be necessary supported by screenshot images from the internet platform.
The current, improved presentation platform (supported by the German Research Foundation, DFG) with an enhanced access for rather generally interested, non-academic users too has been online since January 2016; the project itself has been running since July 2009 on a former website. Step by step, the Weimar playbills and other theatre- and music-ephemera material (program booklets, posters) have been digitized, enriched through scientifically sustained metadata and provided to the public in a meta-database for the periods of the (already pre- and) Goethe era (impresario 1791–1817), the post-Goethe Grand Ducal Court Theatre until 1918 (with even private ducal material) and the 20th century German National Theatre (DNT, Weimar Republic, National Socialism) up to the end of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in summer 1990. This offer is not restricted to scholarly study in sciences analyzing theatre (drama and incidental music, opera, ballet) and music (concert) performances. On the contrary, there are two different search modes for queries by what may be called non-expert versus expert users to be dealt with.
2 The Weimar theatre during the last quarter millennium
2.1 A unique cultural phenomenon and its unique consistent ephemera material
There is no second theatre in the German language area a symbolic place of German culture and at the same time reflecting the ambivalent German history in a thus high degree than the theatre of Weimar, today a town of less than 65.000 inhabitants. From Christoph Martin Wieland’s and Anton Schweitzer’s Alceste (1773) as the first nationally perceived German opera, the era of the Weimar Classical literature, foremost drama (i.e. the first ‘fully musical’ Faust in 1829) that widely emitted to the German language area and beyond it, the initial ignition for the international adoption of Wagner released by Liszt (i.e. the premiere of Lohengrin in 1850) up to the abuse of this particular theatre as a model stage of the current political system by the National Socialists and the varying theatrical (and politico-cultural) ideals of the GDR – Weimar has up to now been one of the foci of theatre in Germany.
While the importance of the Weimar theatre for the subjects of literature and drama as well as of German intellectuality has been extensively examined by the research, only in attempts, conclusions have been drawn from the knowledge that the Weimar theatre climbed up in the 19th century as an artistic venue for musicians of ray strength throughout Europe (i.e. Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Franz Liszt and Richard Strauss) to an opera stage of rank. The material bases for a scientific investigation of this development had not been available up to now. In particular basic questions on the complete repertoire and the staging and performance practices of this theatre have not been investigated yet. Therefore, the playbills of the Weimar theatre are a central source: They deliver important proof of the works and their versions, of composers, authors, translators and editors as well as of performing artists (actors, singers, touring virtuosi, dancers, conductors etc.) who have worked in Weimar.
The investigation of the period from 1933 to 1990 is of the highest interest for cultural-historical research, in particular in view of political and historical aspects of music and drama/literature. Thanks to the farsighted circumspection of the librarians and archivists of the DNT Weimar, the ephemera stock from the aforesaid period (containing beside scenery and costume sketches from estates even protocols about each and every performance and incidents within during the later GDR period from 1969 to 1988) as well as from the preceding periods (beginning with the daily records of plays on the Weimar and Gotha Court Theatres by Conrad Ekhof) has been preserved in a nearly consistent unity and may hence claim – probably not only among German stages – uniqueness. Not least therefore, this stock was handed over to the Head State Archive Weimar (only minor material is held among others foremost by the Duchess Anna Amalia Library Weimar and the Goethe and Schiller Archive Weimar), even though the predominantly printed documents contained therein are actually rather library sources.
2.2 The Weimar Playbill Database – juridical problems of displaying digitized theatre-ephemera material online and approaches to their solution
Databases as the one for the Weimar theatre that document complete repertoires based on playbills, program booklets and posters provide for the first time the opportunity to investigate more comprehensively program and repertoire politics. It has in the meantime become even an indispensable medium for the current season planning and further development of the present Weimar theatre repertoire, so to speak as a digital stage archive. The Weimar database (developed in cooperation with JUSTORANGE, Agency for Information Aesthetics in Jena) does first not separate the various theatre sections, but discloses the entire repertoire and in this respect is not only an invaluable source for musicology and the research on opera, ballet, (‘spoken’) drama and literature and their various genres, but also provides precious information to cultural and historical questions. Its comfortable user interface is available for mobile devices as tablets and smartphones, too.
Up to now, playbills (including manuscripts not publically issued for the audience, but for internal use only) and segments of program booklets for more than 61.000 performances (i.e. during the top year 1986 close to 750) have been digitized and uploaded to the internet presentation platform (as well as to DDB, Archivportal-D and EUROPEANA). As a result, predictable juridical problems have occurred about the contents of the program booklets – foremost thousands of program texts, graphics and photographs – and posters as far as copyright law of the less than seventy years old material of 1945 and later is concerned. For the DNT Weimar functioned as a model stage for the GDR too, it was in every regard faced with a front position amidst the cultural rivalry between East and West Germany in the context of Cold War (in particular true for guest performances in the West as a representation of the GDR regime). Since this time, pure playbills have been almost entirely replaced by more or less extensively and quite ambitiously designed program booklets, into which the contents of the former playbills (i.e. any performance dates, authors, titles, cast lists of the dramatis personae, other performers, directors, conductors, soloists) have been integrated in case the playbills have not been simply inserted into them.
This dilemma for providing full information about all ephemera contents online could immediately neither have been solved by (hopelessly) investigating any copyright holding authors of program booklets (not to mention their heirs) nor by a ‘Moving Wall’, since latest contents of 1990 would have been free of copyright only by the year 2060. Thus, as for the material of before 1945 the later one though has been completely digitized in order to conserve the entire stock, but any copyright contents have been described in full detail in a remark (see below, 3.1.2) instead of providing it online. So, the user of the internet platform is enabled to decide whether he shall see the material itself or order copies of it for legitimized research purpose provided by the very archive/other institution holding it. Forthcoming, this solution will be applied for graphics and photographs within posters, too.
3 The Weimar Playbill and ephemera material Database – from digitizing sources to presenting data and disclosing metadata
3.1 Types of (meta-)data sets and their contents
3.1.1 Performance data sets
The performance data sets for all theatre sections contain (prepared all categories are given by the source) as follow in the left column:
title of performance according to source, form/s according to source, head of playbill (or other primary performance source, excluding cast list of dramatis personae; with correction of objective mistakes indicated as metadata), date of performance (yyyy-mm-dd), date (temporal classification, 5-year segmentation), place of performance, number of acts, state of performance (as here: first in Weimar; world premiere, broken off, canceled, damaged, late), number of order (relating to the very place of performance at this very day), author/s (of all theatre section performances), composer/s (also of incidental music), director/s, conductor/s, editor/s (of text and music).
Below the number of acts, foremost for spoken drama, but for any other theatre sections too, (if given) the existence of incidental music/inserted music or dance not originally belonging to the work is indicated.
Below, in a full text field, any details of incidental music/inserted music or dance resulting from the playbill or any other primary sources (i.e. author/s, composer/s, editor/s, title/act of inserted work-/segment/s) are given.
Below, in a full text field, any review reference on the performance is given or additionally, the review itself is even quoted (fully/partially).
Below the conductor/s, foremost for ballets, but for any other theatre sections too, the choreograph/s are contained.
Below the choreograph/s, foremost for concerts, but for any other theater sections too, other persons, in particular vocal, instrumental and dancing soloist/s or speaker/s are contained.
Below, in a full text field, any additional remarks referring to the performance resulting from the playbill or other primary sources (i.e. morning performance/matinée, guest performance, explanation of the state of performance, indication and reference of other than playbill source) are given.
Below, in a further full text field, any additional comments/corrections/references are given by the editors of the database.
3.1.2 Playbill/other source data sets
The playbill/other source data sets are attached at the end of performance data sets and contain (prepared all categories are given by the primary source) as follow in the middle column beside the scaled down image (performance sample above continued):
type of source, storage location » stock, shelf mark, number/s of folio/s, number/s of file/s of the digitized object/s.
Below this data, in a full text field, any additional remarks referring to the playbill or other primary source (i.e. copyright remarks and copyright contents of program booklets described in full detail instead of providing it online, metadata as authors of texts and images/graphics scientifically investigated, see above, 2.2) are given.
3.1.3 Work (opus) data sets
Below the playbill/other source data sets, the work (opus) data sets are also attached at the end of performance data sets and contain (prepared all categories are given by the source or could be scientifically investigated) as follow in the left column (performance sample above continued):
title of work (standardized according to author’s/composer’s work list authority files and opus numbers), title variations according to (any) source (for this work in the database), author/s (of text), composer/s, theatre section (opera, ballet, spoken drama, incidental music/inserted music or dance as an autonomous performance with its own number of order (i.e. as an overture or interlude), concert, lecture, ceremony, diverse not to be classified as one of the above), form/s according to (any) source (for this work in the database), standardized number of acts, scientifically (based on aforesaid authority files) proofed remarks on the work, links to all performance data sets (with their quantity indicated) of this work.
For spoken drama, due to established results of international research in incidental music over the last thirty years, each performance without incidental music/inserted music or dance, each one with incidental music/inserted music or dance and each one with a new/a different incidental music/inserted music or dance is presumed to be a different work (opus).
For ballet, concert, ceremony and diverse (symphony concerts and chamber/other matinées/soirées with number of track in a series within one year), the entire program of the performance (no matter how often performed/repeated) is presumed to be a work (opus) in order to preserve the performative context. Their titles are ‘synthetically’ defined according to their contents: main works, author/s, composer/s, other person/s, occasion/s (i.e. anniversaries), institution/s or location/s.
Thus in this database, all very data of/from any primary sources are understood to be the data. On the contrary, all scientifically (by means of musicology, research on dance, literature and drama, cultural and general history) investigated data are understood to be the metadata. So, while performance data sets and playbill/other source data sets are predominantly data sets, work (opus) data sets are predominantly meta-data sets.
3.1.4 Person data sets
All persons as described in the performance- and work categories above are linked to their own data sets that contain (prepared all categories are available for current investigation) as follow in the left column (from performance sample above continued):
surname, first name/s (date of birth, date of death), ID number of and link to GND (description of OGND following below), name (syntax as before), further name variations (according to authority files as OGND, international musicological and other biographical encyclopedias), profession/post/position titles, places of working (with years and positions), biographical data (date and place of birth and death), links to all work (opus) data sets and performance data sets (with their quantity indicated) where the person appears as described in the categories above.
The GND is the Joint Authority File (Gemeinsame Normdatei; formerly Personennamendatei, PND) of the German National Library (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, DNB), based on the Online Joint Authority File (OGND). Herein, every person is registered by her/his (mostly one single) ID number that functions in the person data set above as a link to the authority file of the German National Library.
Herein following below gender and other names, all publications by and about this person offered by the German National Library are listed and so available for investigation via the GND-link from the person data set (see grey image above, line 2) as a pure meta-data set.
3.2 Multiple linking of various data sets to entire data units
Links to person (meta-)data sets are the most frequently applied ones within the Weimar Playbill Database, integrated already into the list of entries (with their quantity indicated) through a quite plain Classic Search (see chapter 4.2 below) query for performances of Idomeneo and (edited by Richard) Strauss (performance sample above continued):
Furthermore, person data sets can be attained via links from the aforesaid categories within performance data sets (see above, 3.1.1) and work data sets (see above, 3.1.3).
To the opposite direction, links at the end of person data sets (see above, 3.1.4) generate a list of entries of all work data sets and performance data sets (with their quantity indicated) where the person appears as described in the categories above. This list contains even further links to more of such categorized persons within these aforesaid data sets (similar to the list of entries through a search query for performances of Idomeneo and Strauss in the image above). Moreover, as true also for the list of entries through this search query above, beside the links to person data sets, a folio-like button leads to the listed work data sets and performance data sets.
From work data sets, a link at their end generates a list of links to all performance data sets (with their quantity indicated) of this work (see above, 3.1.3).
3.3 Data fields to be indexed
Through a plain and easy full text Fuzzy Search (see chapter 4.1 below) query simply for Idomeneo, first the total number of entries is indicated. Below, their types of data sets are differentiated (into works and performances, 1 plus 5). Below this, the number of entries within a year can be displayed hovering (screen tips by pointer resting over; 2, red) plus is linked (“show me”, red) to them on a chronological ray:
Below the time ray, there are three indices via symbolic buttons available: the latter lead to indices of persons, places of performance and works. Within each index (in the image above the one of places), bold letters indicate and lead to the corresponding entries, here in Weimar the German National Theatre after 1919 and the Court Theatre before. These place entries themselves are links to the list of entries (with their quantity indicated) of the performances there (and further links, see above, image in 3.2).
The indices of persons and works function the same way as far as the list of entries (and further links) is concerned (see above, image in 3.2). They generate their own time rays, too.
4 General versus specialized queries – the two search modes of the Weimar Playbill Database
4.1 Fuzzy Search – a plain full text search
The plain and easy Fuzzy Search is aimed at users generally interested in the topic who enter non categorized search queries or even do not know yet what exactly they are looking for, apart from single keywords (they, so to speak, are ‘googling’ the database). Hereby, data in each end every field of all datasets can be investigated by entering a single search term, no matter if this one is recorded in a categorized or full text field of a data set. So, a fan of Yehudi Menuhin may be generally tracing him in the historical Weimar theatre material:
As a result of this query, in line 5 is stated that (first) there are no time units to be fixed, but a list of entries of all person data sets (with their quantity indicated and links to them) where the term appears is generated: The person data set of George Enescu names the latter as a violin teacher of Yehudi Menuhin and is linked to a time ray and list of entries of all work data sets and performance data sets (with their quantity indicated and links to them) where Enescu appears as a composer (1962, 1984/85). Exactly that way, Gidon Kremer is named as successor of Menuhin as artistic director of the Gstaad Festival and as the violin soloist in a Weimar symphony concert in 1979. Maurice Gendron is named as a co-founder of a piano trio together with Yehudi and Hephzibah Menuhin and as the editor of a work in a Weimar symphony concert in 1986. However, the user is led through the entire data contained in the database by the so called ‘snowball system’.
4.2 Classic Search – a search for persons, works and performances
On the contrary, the (meta-)data sets of persons, works and performances (see above, 3.1.4, 3.1.3, 3.1.1) can be searched based on certain categorized fields for a more or less complex query. This search mode is called the Classic Search regarding the aspect of (historically grown) usual and familiar catalogue-like and thus categorized ‘search machines’ for professionally specialized (‘knowing’) expert users that investigate i.e. in the domains of scientific or archival research. The search for performances is the most complex one among the three Classic sub-search modes. Here are their query tools and fields (that can be displayed hovering when filled, too) for entering/selecting search terms (that are presumed to need no images at this point):
Search for persons: name, place, PND/GND.
Search for works: title, form variations, theatre section (selection), number of acts, person, full text.
Search for performances: title, date (yyyy-mm-dd), year, date (temporal classification, 5-year segmentation), with/without incidental music/inserted music or dance, place of performance (selection), state of performance (selection), person, theatre section (selection), number of acts, full text.
5 Features for data processing
5.1 Generating a PDF from digitized sources
5.2 Exporting search results to Excel
Within all lists of entries, beside the folio-like button leading to the data set/s, there is another, shopping basket-like button (performance sample above continued, see 3.2). This one generates the feature “My Search Data”, preserved only for the current browser session or to be deleted at any time. Hereby, all columns, their contents and a direct link to any type of data set can be exported for further data processing into an Excel file:
The theatre- and music-ephemera meta-database Theater und Musik in Weimar 1754–1990 is aimed at providing the unique complete and meanwhile in a great measure digitized Weimar theatre material of playbills, program booklets, posters and later on even private ducal material, scenery and costume sketches as well as protocols about each performance during the latter half GDR period online – as far as covered by juridical conditions. Moreover, it is attempted by the project’s scientists to enrich each performance-, playbill/other source-, work- and person-data set through further historical data respectively scientifically investigated metadata. For generally interested as well as for professionally specialized users, there shall be presented both, as much and as reliable as possible information in order to offer a platform online that covers the growing demand for a possibly comprehensive basis for further investigation and research.