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The Renaissance Epic and the Oral Past$
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Anthony Welch

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780300178869

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300178869.001.0001

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Epic Opera

Epic Opera

(p.172) Five Epic Opera
The Renaissance Epic and the Oral Past

Anthony Welch

Yale University Press

This chapter shows how one early European opera, Nahum Tate's and Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, reflects the period's growing discomfort over epic mythmaking. Taking up the chaste Dido tradition, Dido and Aeneas explores the Virgilian epic's lost voices. It exposes the mechanics of political myths, the process by which both artists and their political masters recast history in their own ideological image. It finds charismatic authority not in the figure of the ancient bard but in a heroine whose good name has been suppressed by Virgil's imperial fiction. But in transferring the ancient mystique of the epic poet's voice to that of his slandered queen, Dido struggles to come to grips with the meaning of this shadowy figure from the past and her enigmatic vocality.

Keywords:   European opera, Dido and Aeneas, epic mythmaking, Virgilian epic, epic poet, Nahum Tate, Henry Purcell

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