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The Politics of AppropriationGerman Romantic Music and the Ancient Greek Legacy$
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Jason Geary

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199736119

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199736119.001.0001

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Mendelssohn’s Antigone and the Rebirth of Greek Tragedy

Mendelssohn’s Antigone and the Rebirth of Greek Tragedy

(p.28) Chapter Two Mendelssohn’s Antigone and the Rebirth of Greek Tragedy
The Politics of Appropriation

Jason Geary

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the 1841 Prussian court production of Antigone as a milestone in German theater, focusing in particular on the role of Mendelssohn’s music. It begins by revealing how King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, who commissioned this performance, looked to Greek tragedy as a means of revitalizing Berlin’s cultural life—a project that itself was part of a larger attempt to establish a conservative, Christian-German monarchy. It argues that Mendelssohn tailored his score to meet the demands of the “authentic” re-creation of Greek tragedy envisioned by the king and by Ludwig Tieck, who staged the production. Thus even as Mendelssohn employed a conventional musical style with the aim of connecting modern listeners to an ancient play, he nonetheless employed several strategies meant to suggest certain defining characteristics of Greek tragedy, including its poetic meter and the unison chanting thought to have been characteristic of its delivery.

Keywords:   Mendelssohn, Antigone, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, Prussia, National identity, Authenticity

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