Cover image for Verdi's theater : creating drama through music
Verdi's theater : creating drama through music
Van, Gilles de.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Verdi, un théâtre en musique. English
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
ix, 424 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Subject Term:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML410.V4 V2313 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In this innovative study, Gilles de Van focuses on an often neglected aspect of Verdi's operas: their effectiveness as theater. De Van argues that two main aesthetic conceptions underlie all of Verdi's works: that of the "melodrama" and the "musical drama." In the melodrama the composer relies mainly on dramatic intensity and the rhythm linking various stages of the plot, using exemplary characters and situations. But in the musical drama reality begins to blur, the musical forms lose their excessively neat patterns, and doubt and ambiguity undermine characters and situations, reflecting the crisis of character typical of modernity.

Although melodrama tends to dominate Verdi's early work and musical drama his later, both aesthetics are woven into all his operas: musical drama is already present in Ernani (1844), and melodrama is still present in Otello (1887). Indeed, much of the interest and originality of Verdi's operas lies in his adherence to both these contradictory systems, allowing the composer/dramatist to be simultaneously classical and modern, traditionalist and innovator.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Originally published in French in 1992, this compelling analysis of the dramaturgy of Verdi's operas appears in a most readable English translation, somewhat shortened and revised. Two essential ideas run the length and breadth of this excellent study: first, that Verdi was in all respects not just a composer but a man of the theater, and, second, that his primary inspiration came from the texts he chose to develop into operas. De Van brings wide reading and original synthesis to the task. After positing a melodramatic tradition in 19th-century Italian opera, he explores in a thematic rather than chronological course the modifications Verdi effected in that tradition during his long life. On the way, de Van provides fascinating discussions of aesthetics, the grammar and syntax of operatic music, and overall form. Though de Van's keen analyses of seemingly disparate works refer to modern analytical systems, he eschews the obscure jargon of current critical theory. The result is a book that conveys the reality and the essence of Verdi as a true music-dramatist. De Van's insights come thick and fast, but the rewards of undivided attention are great indeed. For every library serving upper-division undergraduates through professionals. K. Pendle; University of Cincinnati

Table of Contents

1 Verdi, Dramatist
2 Aesthetics
3 Working on the Libretto
4 Melodrama
5 Metamorphoses I
6 Metamorphoses II
7 Music Drama
8 Unity
Index of Names
Index of Verdi Operas