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Opera, Tragedy, and Neighbouring Forms from Corneille to Calzabigi

University of Toronto Press

Since the nineteenth century, some of the most influential historians have portrayed opera and tragedy as wholly distinct cultural phenomena. These historians have denied a meaningful connection between the tragedy of the ancients and the efforts of early modern composers to arrive at styles that were intensely dramatic.

Drawing on a series of case studies, Opera, Tragedy, and Neighbouring Forms from Corneille to Calzabigi traces the productive, if at times rivalrous, relationship between opera and tragedy from the institution of French regular tragedy under Richelieu in the 1630s to the reform of opera championed by Calzabigi and Gluck in the late eighteenth century. Blair Hoxby and his fellow contributors shed light on "neighbouring forms" of theatre, including pastoral drama, tragédie en machines, tragédie en musique, and Goldoni’s dramma giocoso. Their analysis includes famous masterpieces by Corneille, Voltaire, Metastasio, Goldoni, Calzabigi, Handel, and Gluck, as well as lesser-known artists such as Luisa Bergalli, the first female librettist to write for the public theatre in Italy. Opera, Tragedy, and Neighbouring Forms from Corneille to Calzabigi delves into a series of quarrels and debates in order to illuminate the history of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century theatre.

About the Author

Blair Hoxby writes on the literature and culture of England, France, Italy, and Spain from 1500 to 1800.  His recent research has focused on the theory and practice of tragedy during that period – which differed sharply from the idea of tragedy that most of us now take for granted.  He also writes on the poetry and prose of John Milton, John Dryden, and their Augustan heirs.  He teaches English poetry from the Renaissance to Romanticism, tragedy and tragic theory from Aristotle to the present, theater history, and performance theory.

He is the author of What Was Tragedy? Theory and the Early Modern Canon (Oxford: OUP, 2015) and Mammon’s Music: Literature and Economics in the Age of Milton (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002).  He is the editor of Milton in the Long Restoration (Oxford: OUP, May 2016), a collection of twenty-nine original essays that analyze the way authors writing from 1650 to 1750 interpreted, imitated, and parodied Milton.

Recent selected articles include:

■ “Technologies of Performance,” in A Cultural History of Theatre, ed. Chris and Tracy Davis.  Vol 3, The Renaissance, ed. Robert Henke.  London: Bloomsbury Academic, forthcoming 2017.

■ Politics and Aesthetics in European Baroque and Classicist Tragedy, ed. Jan Bloemendal and Nigel Smith.  Leiden: Brill, forthcoming.

■ “The Richardsons, the Sublime, and the Invention of Aesthetic Theory,” in  Milton in the Long Restoration, ed. with Ann Baynes Coiro.  Oxford: OUP, forthcoming May 2016.

■ “Passions,” in 21st-Century Approaches: Early Modern Theatricality, ed. Henry Turner.  New York: OUP, 2013.

■ “What Was Tragedy?  The World We Have Lost, 1550-1795,” Comparative Literature 64 (2012):  1-32.

■ “Allegorical Drama,” in The Cambridge Companion to Allegory, ed. Rita Copeland and Peter Struck. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

■ “The Function of Allegory in Baroque Tragic Drama: What Benjamin Got Wrong,” in Thinking Allegory Otherwise, ed. Brenda Machowsky.  Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009.

■ "Areopagitica and Liberty," in The Oxford Handbook of Milton, ed. Nicholas McDowell and Nigel Smith. Oxford: OUP, 2009.

■ "All Passion Spent: The Means and Ends of a Tragédie en Musique," Comparative Literature 59 (2007): 33-62.

■ "The Wisdom of Their Feet: Meaningful Dance in Milton and the Stuart Masque," English Literary Renaissance 37.1 (2007): 74-99.