From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Travesty is an English word used to denote generally (a) an absurd or grotesque misrepresentation, (b) a parody or stylistic imitation, (c) (pejorative) a grossly inferior imitation.
A travesty, also known as a Burlesque prior to Burlesque Theatre becoming associated with striptease, is a form of musical parody in which a piece is re-arranged into a style very different from that for which it was originally known. This usually takes the form of a serious work (e.g. opera) being presented in a more populist style such as ragtime.
Travesty originated in the 1840s, early in the Victorian Era, when the social rules of established aristocracy and working-class society clashed. The genre often mocked such established entertainment forms as opera, musicals, and ballet.
Well known ragtime travesties include The Russian Rag, by George L. Cobb, which is based on Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-sharp minor, and Felix Arndt's Lucy's Sextette based on a sextet from Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti.
Etymology of the word travesty
The term travesty dates from the 17th century and combines the Latin words trans-, meaning "across, over" and vestere, "to dress or to wear". These two Latin words also form the etymology of the 20th-century term transvestism. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word travesty originally meant "to disguise by changing costume", then "to dress ridiculously", but soon came to mean "a parody or burlesque", as in the theatrical productions discussed here, and finally added to that its modern meaning of "disgraceful imitation".
- Travesti (theatre) (also spelled travesty), the portrayal of a character in a play, opera, or ballet by a performer of the opposite sex
- Burlesque, 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
- Victorian burlesque, a genre of theatrical entertainment popular in Victorian England and New York theatre in the mid-19th century
- Travesti, a term used in South American cultures for a person who was born male but has a feminine gender identity
- Travesties, a comedy by Tom Stoppard (1974)