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Introduction With the nine contributions comprising this issue, Comparative Drama addresses itself to the relative neglect of European drama and opera from 1640 to 1800, a period whose unfortunate eclipse has been recently noted in the pages of this journal.1 The scholars presented here bring a rich variety of experience to the task of reassessing conventional views of these dramatic worlds of Enlightenment Europe and advance new and productive paths of enquiry. Some interpret literary, musical, and cultural texts within contexts familiar to traditional historicist and humanist research; these writers explore the dynamics by which those texts become part of their contexts and change them in the process.2 And those contributors who are conversant with neoteric theories of analysis eschew the infatuation with theory for its own sake so common elsewhere in the academy. It is pleasant to be including scholars working in collégial openness to the plurality of critical sensibilities available in our time. The focus upon both opera and drama illustrates a second working assumption: Enlightenment scholars distort their theater history by separating drama and opera too sharply. Literary scholars rarely read the work of musicologists, nor do the latter often give attention to the former. Thus they perpetuate a divorce far removed from the artistic realities of the early modern theater world.3 A more synoptic view, like that of J. Douglas Canfield (University of Arizona), might focus on the vital intercourse between drama, opera, and sociopolitical systems of power and oppression. In "The Classical Treatment of Don Juan in Tirso, Molière, and Mozart: What Cultural Work Does It Perform?" Canfield examines three "classical" (i.e., non-heroic) presentations of the Don Juan myth as a trope of the late feudal aristocracy , "a necessary negation that affirms the very code it denies. Locked in the avenging Statue's handshake, [Don Juan] paradoxically reaffirms a system of shared power between men—at the expense of women and oppressed classes." Canfield analyzes the cultural work performed by Don Juan on several tiers: the defiance of feudal patriarchy and the word-as-bond; the audience's complicity with male bonding and implicit misogyny; the male fear of female reproductive capacity; the attempt to achieve ac1 2 Introduction commodation between the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. By shifting the ground from psychological and poststructural interpretations of Don Juan, Canfield's analysis compels us to reexamine cultural assumptions on the most profound level: can men ever speak for women? Two authors focus on the opera with particular emphasis. Marita Petzoldt McClymonds (University of Virginia) demonstrates the vitality of late-eighteenth-century opera seria in her contribution entitled "Bianca de'Rossi as Play, Ballet, Opera: Contours of 'Modern' Historical Tragedy in the 1790s." McClymonds charts the shift in opera seria libretti based on mythology and classical history to libretti plots with "modern" medieval and Renaissance settings, a ground-breaking trend which ruptured centuries-old rules of verisimilitude and decorum in the presentation of tragic action. Her essay centers upon the story of Bianca de'Rossi, a thirteenth-century narrative of steadfast conjugal fidelity and theatrically shocking suicide. Three treatments share intertextual links: Vittorio Trento's opera, a tragedy by Pierantonio Meneghelli, and a bailo pantomimo by Giuseppe Trafieri. McClymonds's detailed structural analyses of these little-known works are of enormous value to scholars interested in the vibrant theatrical history of a period once considered moribund and stagnant . Yvonne Noble, an independent scholar who lives and works at Canterbury, presents a startling reconsideration of both the phenomenon of the castrato and contemporary structuralist theory in "Castrati, Balzac, and BartheS/Z." Much of the attention devoted to castrati among twentieth-century critics is due to the French structuralist Roland Barthes, who in his 1970 book SIZ analyzed Balzac's novella Sarrasine, a frame tale in which the inner and outer narratives are linked by the figure of a castrato. With a deft and comprehensive attention to Balzac's text and contextual cultural materials, Noble refutes Barthes's association of the castrato with repellent qualities of emptiness, coldness, and social death. Her historicist analysis restores to this institution the positive values which Balzac's novella draws upon, wittily reconfigures Sarrasine as a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 1-6
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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