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Recognition in Mozart's Operas

Jessica Waldoff

Published in print May 2006 | ISBN: 9780195151978
Published online May 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199870387 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195151978.001.0001
Recognition in Mozart's Operas

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Since its beginnings, opera has depended on recognition as a central aspect of both plot and theme. Recognition — or anagnôrisis, Aristotle's term in the Poetics — is a moment of new awareness that brings about a crucial reversal in the action. Employing both literary and musical analysis, and drawing on critical thought from Aristotle to Terence Cave, this book explores the ways in which the themes of Mozart's operas — clemency, constancy, forgiveness, and other ideals cherished by late 18th-century culture — depend for their dramatization on recognition. Several of the operas culminate in a moment of climactic recognition, many involve the use of disguise, and all include scenes in which characters make significant realizations of identity, feeling, or purpose. Many turn explicitly on themes of knowledge, themes that possess a special resonance in an age that named itself the Enlightenment. A critical understanding of recognition in Mozart's operas reveals the late 18th-century culture of sensibility as an influential but uneasy presence in the age of enlightenment. At the same time, it opens up new ways of thinking about questions of cultural identity, conventions of ending, and the representation of cultural values in these works. Theoretical chapters are devoted to the concepts of recognition and plot; analytical chapters are devoted to Die Zauberflöte, La finta giardiniera, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, and La clemenza di Tito. Idomeneo, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Le nozze di Figaro, and other works of Mozart and his contemporaries are also considered.

Keywords: anagnôrisis; enlightenment; sensibility; themes of knowledge; Aristotle; Poetics; plot; Terence Cave

Book.  320 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Opera

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Table of Contents

Introduction in Recognition in Mozart's Operas

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Recognition Scenes in Theory and Practice in Recognition in Mozart's Operas

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Reading Opera for the Plot in Recognition in Mozart's Operas

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Recognition Denied in <i>Don Giovanni</i> in Recognition in Mozart's Operas

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Fiordiligi: A Woman of Feeling in Recognition in Mozart's Operas

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Afterword in Recognition in Mozart's Operas

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