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Subject: Re: The Odyssey in Opera?
From: [log in to unmask]
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Mon, 5 Mar 2001 07:38:46 -0500

TEXT/PLAIN (47 lines)

On Sun, 4 Mar 2001, [log in to unmask] wrote:

> I'm including the Iliad as well as the Odyssey:
> Les Troyens (Berlioz)
> Il Ritorno di Ulisse in Patria (Monteverdi)
> Elektra (Strauss)
> Iphigenie en Aulide (Gluck)
> Iphigenie en Tauride (Gluck)
> La Belle Helene (Offenbach)
> Ulisse (Dallapiccola)

Even within those parameters, the list is MUCH TOO generous.  There not an
atom of Homer in LES TROYENS which is based (often quite literally)
on Virgil's AENEID, and IPHIGENIE EN TAURIDE also relates to events of
which the blind poet (if there ever was such a man) never knew anything.
Others - like ELEKTRA - are based on events on which Homer knew something
(he refers to them, in this case in the ODYSSEY), but which he does not
deal with properly speaking, and the modern operas have other, more
recent, literary models (e.g. Sophocles, for ELEKTRA). (I am not even sure
that Aeneas is even mentioned in the Odyssey, although he appears as a
character in the Iliad. Iphigenie is known to Homer, but under another
name, as Iphianissa. Operas based on the events surrounding the war of
Troy - a much larger set of events than those covered by the Iliad and the
Odyssey - are innumerable, although few will be based on the Iliad, which
does not easily lend itself to operatic treatment. Chabrier's BRISEIS
might qualify as an exception).

In stricto sensu, the ODYSSEY only deals with Ulysses' sojourn among the
Phaeacians, where he gets to tell the story of his adventures since the
war of Troy, his son Telemachus' visit to the court of Menelaus and Helen
in Sparta looking for information and support in his search for his
father, and, finally, Ulysses' momentous return in Ithaca.

Thus, the operas that do qualify are RITORNO and Dallapiccola's ULISSE,
plus Faure's PENELOPE, which someone else mentioned, and others such as
Bungert's planned cycle (for details check that name in the archives),
Peggy Glanville Hicks' NAUSICAA (which she had composed for Callas),
various 18th century operas entitled TELEMACO (ot TELEMACHO), which,
however, might as easily have been based on a 17th century didactic novel,
by Bishop Fenelon, and others I am sure.

As a sidenote, I think that, in MEIN LEBEN, Wagner mentions reading the
Odyssey when he was a  boy and being very impressed with it.

Pierre M. Bellemare
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