Aspects of Period-Turns

  • Helen GeyerEmail author
Part of the Nordic Wittgenstein Studies book series (NRWS, volume 6)


We begin with the portrayal of the elderly in European opera. Five case studies are examined, each of which raises first a conflict between an older generation and a younger, and second a pattern of political and moral commentary more subtle and varied than we might have expected. Our first example, Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea (1642/1931) explores the conflict between the philosopher, Seneca, and his protégé, the Roman Emperor, Nero. Seneca is executed for defending reason and republicanism, by a wilful tyrant who indulges his personal and idiosyncratic whims. Four other examples from the history of opera display the great range of moral and political conflicts that can be discovered in such works of theatre. Musical subtleties are shown to play important and revealing roles in the different stories, but all of the plots also highlight the generational confrontations that are revealed by asking the title question: how is old age treated on the opera stage?


Monteverdi Mozart Cherubini Wagner Benjamin Britten Opera Ethics, Old-age 


  1. Bach, S. (2016). Von Metastasio zu Marmontel. Demophon am Übergang vom italienischen zum französischen Opernschaffen Cherubinis. In I. H. Geyer & M. Pauser (Eds.), Cherubini Studies (pp. 145–176). Sinzig: Studio-Verlag.Google Scholar
  2. Britten, B. (Composer), Forster, E. M., Crozier, E. (Librettists), & E. Stein (Vocal score). (1951/1961). Billy Budd: An Opera in Two Acts, Opus 50 (Revised version). London: Boosey & Hawkes.Google Scholar
  3. Carapezza, P. E. (1974). Figaro e Don Giovanni—due folli giornate. Puncta 2. Palermo: SF Flaccovio.Google Scholar
  4. Dallapiccola, L. (1950). “A propos d’un trait ‘expressionniste’ de Mozart.” Polyphonie—quatrème cahier: le système dodecaphonicque 4, 72–79.Google Scholar
  5. Geyer, H. (1996) “Billy Budd. Ein Moderner Mythos. Überlegungen zu Brittens Allegorie von Gut und Böse”. In P. Ackermann, U. Kienzle & A. Nowak (Eds.), Festschrift für Winfried Kirsch zum 65. Geburtstag (pp. 511–527). Tutzing: Schneider.Google Scholar
  6. Geyer-Kiefl, H. (1987). Die heroisch-komische Oper ca. 1770–1820 (Vol. 1). Tutzing: Hans Schneider.Google Scholar
  7. Geyer, H. (2001). “Tritonus—Grenzstein des ‘Jenseits’.” In H. Geyer, M. Jabłonski & J. Stęszewski (Eds.). Music in the World of Ideas (pp. 103–122). Poznag: Ars Nova.Google Scholar
  8. Monteverdi, C. (Composer), & Busenello, G. F. (Libtrettist). (1642/1931). L’Incoronazione di Poppea (SV 308) [The Coronation of Poppea]. In G.F. Malipiero (Ed.), Claudio Monteverdi: Tutte le opere. Vienna.Google Scholar
  9. Monteverdi, C. (Composer), & Busenello, G. F. (Libtrettist), Schulz, H. (Ed.). (1642/2017). L’Incoronazione di Poppea (SV 308). Kassel: Bärenreiter.Google Scholar
  10. Osthoff, W. (1960). Das dramatische Spätwerk Claudio Monteverdis [Claudio Monteverdi’s Late Dramatic Works]. In T. Georgiades (Ed.), Münchener Veröffentlichungen zur Musikgeschichte [Munich Publications in Music History], Volume 3. Tutzing: Schneider. (2 volumes.)Google Scholar
  11. Reid, L. (2019). The ethical and the political in the dilemma of Winch’s Vere. In B. de Mesel & O. Kuusela (Eds.), Ethics in the Wake of Wittgenstein (pp. 256–276). Routledge: NY.Google Scholar
  12. Rogers, N. (1984). Translation for Monteverdi. L’Orfeo. Chiaroscuro, London Baroque, London Cornett and Sackbutt Ensemble. Nigel Rogers and Charles Medlam. EMI CDS 7 47142 8. Compact Disc.Google Scholar
  13. Siegert, C. (2008). Cherubini in Florenz: Zur Funktion der Oper in der toskanischen Gesellschaft des späten 18. Jahrhunderts (= Analecta Musicologica, 41). Laaber: Böhlau Verlag.Google Scholar
  14. Wagner, R. (1876/1964). Siegfried [Pocket Score] (W. Mann, Trans.). London: The Friends of Covent Garden, London.Google Scholar
  15. Winch, P. (1972). Ethics and Action. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  16. Winch, P. (1987/1992). Trying to Make Sense. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Versuch zu Verstehen (J. Schulte, Trans.). Frankfurt am Main.Google Scholar
  17. Yeld, D. (2010). Translation for Monteverdi. L’Incoronazione di Poppea. Concerto Vocale. René Jacobs. Harmonia Mundi (Monteverdi Opera Edition, HML 5901330.32). Compact Disc. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hochschule für Musik FRANZ LISZT WeimarWeimarGermany

Personalised recommendations