Music and Narrative in the Eighteenth Century: Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide as Dramatic Tableau

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    Abstract

    This article puts forward a new theory for discussing eighteenth-century music as narrative by combining literary theories of narrative with an analytical and historical exploration of the eighteenth-century opera overture. Through a consideration of how the overture to Iphigénie en Aulide prepares spectators for the ensuing drama and through a reconsideration of the role of (often ignored) devices such as musical repetition, this article shows how theories of theatre, drama, and narrative can inform our understanding of how music can be thought of in narrative terms and how eighteenth-century music was able to express a dramatic argument akin to that of a literary narrative. A hermeneutic approach is taken throughout that combines a (structuralist) analysis of the overture with a (poststructuralist) investigation into the overture’s reception history and of eighteenth-century literary and dramatic theory. By proposing that music has a narrative potential, rather than an explicit structural narrative, the article seeks to provide a theoretical bedrock for future studies that place the ‘reader’ or listener as participant.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalOpen Library of Humanities
    Volume5
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2019

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