Prospero's death: modernism, anti-humanism and Un re in ascolto

Heile, B. (2016) Prospero's death: modernism, anti-humanism and Un re in ascolto. In: Le Théâtre Musical de Luciano Berio: De Un re in ascolto à Cronaca del Luogo. L'harmattan: Paris, pp. 145-160. ISBN 9782336303871

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In his own comments, Luciano Berio has consistently rejected the term ‘opera’ for his Un re in ascolto (‘A King, listening’, 1979-84), instead insisting on calling it a ‘musical action’ (azione musicale). This dismissal of opera as a genre contrasts with most other commentators’ views, according to which the work represents the closest engagement with the conventions and traditions of opera in Berio’s oeuvre. In this chapter, I discuss the reasons behind and sources for Berio’s negative appraisal of opera and proceed to analyse the work’s musical dramaturgy on that basis, focussing particularly on the palimpsest of texts, by Shakespeare, W. H. Auden and Italo Calvino among others, that the composer employed. My conclusion is that, despite Berio’s criticism of the genre, Un re derives its fascination and attraction from the pleasures of formalised spectacle that opera uniquely provides. While the work and Berio’s stance are thus somewhat contradictory, this may in itself be characteristic of the aporias of a genre that has become inherently problematic. If the work represents one of the most substantial and successful attempts at reinvigorating opera, this is therefore arguably because of, not despite of, its critical interrogation of the genre.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Heile, Professor Bjorn
Authors: Heile, B.
Subjects:M Music and Books on Music > ML Literature of music
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Music
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 L'harmattan
Publisher Policy:Reproduced with permission of publisher
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