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A Study of Hybridity in the Opera Ariadne auf Naxos by Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Sangwon Ahn 1

1성균관대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The aim of this study is to make an analysis of hybridity in Ariadne auf Naxos (Ariadne on Naxos), an opera by Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal. The collaborations between librettist Hofmannsthal and composer Strauss were very important for both of them. Hofmannsthal was able to escape from the ‘magical lyrical world’ in which he was immersed in his youth after his encounter with Strauss. And Strauss’s encounter with Hofmannsthal was also a great opportunity to enhance his reputation as an opera composer. Hofmannsthal planned Ariadne auf Naxos as ‘a play-within-a-play’ in Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme by 17th-century French playwright Moliere. Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme as a ‘comédie-ballett’, which mixes a spoken play with music and dance, was also a precedent of the hybrid style. Following the failure of the premiere in 1912, Hofmannsthal removed the complete portion of the Moliere’s play in the 1916 revision. Instead, he created the ‘prologue’ with music, which would explain why the opera combines an heroic myth with a comedy performed by a commedia dell’arte group. In this final edition, hybridity of the work is complicatedly exposed. Opera seria and opera buffa are played at the same time, classical heroes and contemporary comedians come on the same stage, and noble asceticism comes into conflict with vulgar hedonism and is mixed with it. This bizarre form, in which serious music and frivolous comedy are mixed, is the result of being coerced by a rich and vulgar sponsor. The ‘composer’ in the drama, who succumbs to money power, implies more or less the artist existing in all societies at all periods. But the opera has not become a meaningless jumble, but has formed a complete whole, in which the contradictory elements found a suitable combination. This whole is not the synthesis of oppositional elements in a classical sense, but means hybridity, in which each element represents a diversity. The completed opera demonstrates the victory of the composer in the drama, and the victory also belongs to Hofmannsthal and Strauss.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.