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The Comedies of Opera Seria: Handel's Post-Academy Operas, 1738-1744

Bazler, Corbett

This dissertation explores the ways in which Handel's late operas intersect with other forms of theater in mid-eighteenth-century London. It seeks to explain how certain comic features of these late works--from the lighter subject matter of the libretti to Handel's unconventional musical settings--can be seen to echo the heated criticism leveled at Italian opera seria during this period, criticism usually voiced by satirical pamphlets and operatic parodies. It concludes that so-called "serious opera" was not always taken too seriously by London audiences, or even by Handel himself. Instead, opera reception in eighteenth-century London was much more complex, sometimes even contradictory: avid operagoers were often generous patrons of operatic burlesque, and considered ridicule, disruption, and laughter an integral part of their operagoing experience. By tracing the points of contact between Italian opera and British theatrical life, this dissertation examines the ways in which the "comedies" of opera seria, both as historical phenomena and as potentially fruitful sites for theoretical investigation, offer a new picture of the eighteenth-century dramma per musica.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Music
Thesis Advisors
Henson, Karen
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 20, 2013
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