Rulers, Ghosts, and Prophets: Romans in Romantic Opera

Erling Sandmo

in Romans and Romantics

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199588541
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741845 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

Rulers, Ghosts, and Prophets: Romans in Romantic Opera

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Roman history was peripheral to what is usually termed ‘romantic’ opera, i.e., works written between c.1830 and 1900. This chapter, however, insists on seeing musical romanticism as contemporary with literary romanticism, thus pushing its beginnings back to the late eighteenth century. In doing so, it analyses how late opere serie such as Mozart's (1791) and Joseph Martin Kraus' Aeneas i Cartago (1791) conformed to romantic aesthetics of the gesamtkunstwerk, and were received by an audience of romantics. Compared with Kraus' innovative, even historicist Aeneas, the greatest Virgilian opera, Berlioz' Les Troyens (1863), was self-consciously neo-classicist, looking back towards ancien régime ideals of sacrifice and civic virtues. In conclusion, the chapter discusses why classical mythology and history in general, and the Roman setting in particular, disappeared from the romantic operatic stage, a result both of the use of Roman history as the imagery of the French Revolution and of the rise of romantic historicism.

Keywords: Aeneas i Cartago; Berlioz; La Clemenza di Tito; French Revolution; gesamtkunstwerk; historicism; J. M. Kraus; Les Troyens; Mozart; neo-classicism

Chapter.  6312 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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