We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

(Dis)embodying Myths in Ancien Régime Opera

Multidisciplinary Perspectives

Bruno Forment (ed.)

Publication Year: 2012

Throughout the Ancien Régime, mythology played a vital role in opera, defining such epoch-making works as Claudio Monteverdi's La favola d'Orfeo (1607) and Christoph Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride (1779). The operatic presence of the Greco-Roman gods and heroes was anything but unambiguous or unproblematic, however. (Dis)embodying Myths in Ancien Régime Opera highlights myth's chameleonic life in the Italian dramma per musica and French tragédie en musique of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Written by eminent scholars in the fields of music, literature, theatre, and cultural studies, the six essays in this book address important questions. Through what ideological lenses did the Ancien Régime perceive an ancient legacy that was fundamentally pagan and fictitious, as opposed to Christian and rationalistic? What dramaturgies did librettists and composers devise to adapt mythical topics to altering philosophical and esthetic doctrines? Were the ancients' precepts obeyed or precisely overridden by the age of ‘classicism'? And how could myths be made to fit changing modes of spectatorship? Enlightening and wide-ranging on an essentially multidisciplinary development in European culture, (Dis)embodying Myths in Ancien Régime Opera will appeal to all music, literature, and art lovers seeking to deepen their knowledge of an increasingly popular repertoire.

Published by: Leuven University Press

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (176.5 KB)
pp. 1-4


pdf iconDownload PDF (43.6 KB)
p. 5-5

Music Examples and Illustrations

pdf iconDownload PDF (50.3 KB)
pp. 6-8

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (200.0 KB)
pp. 9-16

Recent decades have seen a remarkable upsurge of interest in what was long declared the “dark ages”1 of opera: the massive repertoire composed between Claudio Monteverdi’s demise (1643) and Christoph Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice (1762). Numerous Baroque operas are currently being rediscovered, recorded, and (re)staged, ...

read more

Lo scherno degli dei: Myth and derision in the dramma per musica of the seventeenth century

pdf iconDownload PDF (83.1 KB)
pp. 17-32

At its creation, near the close of the sixteenth century, opera maintained a narrow and privileged relationship with the realm of mythology. The theory of operatic practice, which was sparked by the experiments of Bardi’s Camerata and aimed at reviving the ideal of Greek tragedy (whether or not sung in its entirety), ...

read more

Helpings from the great banquets of epic: Handel’s Teseo and Arianna in Creta

pdf iconDownload PDF (451.2 KB)
pp. 33-62

The myths that Baroque opera embodied on stage were not abstract, slightly mystical stories transmitted orally from a dim past, nor were they static, codified equivalents of scripture. Early modern Europe had inherited the artistic and self-conscious mythography of Greco-Roman literature mutated by translations, ...

read more

Envoicing the divine: Oracles in lyric and spoken drama in seventeenth-century France

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.1 MB)
pp. 63-96

Despite growing rationalist scepticism regarding the supernatural, divine revelations were not completely renounced in seventeenth-century French drama. The mingling of supernatural and mortal characters was justified to some extent by the favored setting in the mythical world of pagan Greece and Rome, but the dependence on gods was still treated judiciously: ...

read more

Addressing the divine: The ‘numinous’ accompagnato in opera seria

pdf iconDownload PDF (735.9 KB)
pp. 97-116

More than any other art, music has the deep-seated ability to evoke the aura of mystery required for theatrical representations of the mythical. When, for instance, Ferruccio Busoni wondered at what particular moments music was truly “indispensable” on the stage, his conclusion read: “During dances, marches, songs, and – at the appearance of the supernatural in the action.”1 ...

read more

Iphigenia’s curious ménage à trois in myth, drama, and opera

pdf iconDownload PDF (439.9 KB)
pp. 117-138

The desire to assimilate or equate opera and myth seems unstoppable today. We feel that opera and myth have much in common, not only when operas take their plots from classical mythology – such as Orpheus, Ulysses, Iphigenia, or Hypermnestra – but also when the ‘metaphysical’ potential of the genre itself is being invoked. ...

read more

Spectatorship and involvementin Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride

pdf iconDownload PDF (78.5 KB)
pp. 139-154

In an intriguing scene in Dangerous liaisons (1988), Stephen Frears’ superb film version of Christopher Hampton’s homonymous play, Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride is performed at the Paris Opéra. From her box, the wicked Marquise de Merteuil (played by Glenn Close) surveys the public with her binoculars. ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (92.9 KB)
pp. 155-170

Contributors’ biographies

pdf iconDownload PDF (34.4 KB)
pp. 171-172


pdf iconDownload PDF (630.4 KB)
pp. 173-184

E-ISBN-13: 9789461660572
Print-ISBN-13: 9789058679000

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 2012