‘What means this wild, this allegorick Mask?’: British Anticipations of Romantic Opera c. 1740

  • David Chandler


Although the interdisciplinary art form par excellence, opera often has the air of being the elephant in the Romantic saloon: the one thing most Romanticists will not look at despite their peripheral awareness of its massive historical presence. Literary scholars especially, although they may have invested heavily in certain notions of Romanticism, often (at least in the Anglophone world) have no corresponding interest in the development of music in the Romantic period, however that period is defined, or the union of word with music. Even when opera is discussed, there is often a great hesitation about using the R-word, despite that adjective being freely bandied around in discussions of literature and instrumental music. A 2005 Praxis Series volume, promisingly entitled Romanticism and Opera, is thus principally concerned with showing that Italian opera was important in late Georgian Britain: the matter of Romanticism in opera is barely touched. Gillen D’Arcy Wood’s introduction refers, successively, to ‘the Romantic age’, the ‘Romantic werk’, ‘the romantic period’, ‘Romantic literature’, ‘romantic authors’ and ‘Romantic theater’ as though these are all clearly defined entities.


Romantic Period Musical Theatre Instrumental Music Musical Treatment Romantic Literature 
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© David Chandler 2015

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  • David Chandler

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