The Image of Byzantium in Sonnenflammen

Ideology in Libretto and Music Reception
  • John Williamson


Operas on Byzantine themes are plentiful enough in the Baroque tradition of historical drama that includes works such as Alessandro Scarlatti’s La Teodora augusta, Handel’s (and Legrenzi’s) Giustino, Antonio Lotti’s Teofane, Francesco Navarra’s Basilio, re d’ Oriente, Albinoni’s Zenone, imperator d’Oriente, and Francesco Gasparini’s Costantino. Less than half a century before Siegfried Wagner’s birth, Donizetti’s Belisario made an honourable attempt to infuse this postlude to the Greco-Roman historical opera with the spirit of Italian Romanticism. In none of these works, however, is the Byzantine milieu of paramount interest save as the setting for characteristic plots of intrigue, honour, betrayal, and reconciliation (the Antonina of Donizetti’s opera who fails to gain her husband’s forgiveness before his death is perhaps the most identifiably Romantic figure in that work). Siegfried Wagner’s Sonnenflammen is thus something of a historical curiosity whose significance was apparent to writers at the time, even if only in contrast to the world of his earlier operas.


Fairy Tale Popular Image Lost Paradise Paramount Interest Byzantine Empire 
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© Centaurus Verlag & Media UG 2003

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  • John Williamson

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