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Ancient Drama in Music for the Modern Stage$
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Peter Brown and Suzana Ograjenšek

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199558551

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199558551.001.0001

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Greek Tragedy and Opera

Greek Tragedy and Opera

Notes on a Marriage Manqué*

(p.31) 2 Greek Tragedy and Opera
Ancient Drama in Music for the Modern Stage

Michele Napolitano

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the relationship between opera and fifth-century Greek tragedy, asking why the pairing of the two genres revealed itself in large part to be a marriage manqué. In contrast, twentieth-century music drama has been rich in musical adaptations of tragedies written by the great Greek tragedians of the fifth century. What circumstances, in the twentieth century, produced a situation that allowed the celebration of a union which in the three preceding centuries had borne only sporadic and isolated fruits? The chapter discusses how Greek tragedy and opera were destined from the start to come together only in exceptional circumstances due to their great temporal divide and their very different functions and characteristics. It also describes how the marriage manqué between opera and tragedy finally found a space in which it could be celebrated precisely at the moment in which the traditional socio-historical coordinates of the form of opera entered definitively into crisis.

Keywords:   Greek tragedy, opera, music drama, marriage manqué

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