Operas Based on Myths and Legends

GENINT 731.395

Osher (50+). In this course, we listen to and discuss excerpts from operas that are based on myths and legends.


About this course:

It could be argued that myth is the perfect source material for opera because it speaks at a psychological and emotional depth that music is uniquely equipped to reach. In this course, we look at various myths and legends and their musical representations, including versions of the Faust legend in the hands of Gounod, Boito, Busoni and even Mahler, whose symphonies could reach operatic dimensions. We examine the baroque taste for stories from Greek and Roman myth, and trace the appeal of the Orpheus myth up to the present day. We consider operas based on Arthurian legend, and even touch on fairytales—including versions of Cinderella in the hands of Gioachino Rossini, Jules Massenet and Pauline Viardot and assess Wagner’s reconstruction of Nordic and Scandinavian myths in his celebrated Ring cycle. We also explore other cultures’ indigenous forms of music-drama out of their myths, specifically Vietnam and India. Finally, we consider whether operas based on historical events, such as those of Verdi, reach a mythic dimension and how we might detect mythic qualities in current events that would lend themselves to operatic treatment.

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