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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Austin Glatthorn

Glatthorn, Austin (2019). The Legacy of 'Ariadne' and the Melodramatic Sublime. Music & Letters 100(2): 233-270.

Author(s) from Durham


Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos (1775) was an immediate success. By the end of the century, not only was it in the repertory of nearly every German theatre, but it was also one of the few German-language pieces translated for performances across Europe. Central to this melodrama—traditionally defined as an alternation of emotional declamation and pantomime with instrumental music—is its evocation of the sublime. Though scholars have posited Ariadne and its defining aesthetics as a model employed in subsequent Romantic opera, such teleological readings overlook reform melodramas that embraced vocal music and localized sublime moments. I argue that these works, rather than Ariadne, pushed melodrama’s generic boundaries to the verge of opera and in the process provided instrumental music with the power to express the sublime without the aid of text. This exploration offers fresh insight into melodrama’s music–text relations, generic hybridity, and aesthetic entanglements with opera and symphonic music.