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  • Death in Venice and the Aesthetics of Sublimation

    Christopher Chowrimootoo

    Chapter from the book: Chowrimootoo, C. 2018. Middlebrow Modernism: Britten’s Operas and the Great Divide.


    The sixth chapter considers the ways in which Death in Venice (1973) responded to the fraught discourse surrounding opera in the twentieth century. If the genre threatened to fall on the wrong side of aesthetic oppositions, early critics translated this opera’s musical and visual spectacle into rarefied terms. After identifying an “aesthetic of sublimation” in contemporaneous criticism, this chapter explores how Britten’s operatic swansong resists the suppressions that it incites. Drawing on Adorno’s anti-operatic diatribe from 1955, Death in Venice is cast as a “bourgeois opera,” an operatic version of the middlebrow. In staging and confounding oppositions at the heart of anti-operatic discourse, this chapter illustrates the ways in which composers, directors, critics and audiences overcame twentieth-century opera’s supposedly terminal illness.

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    Chowrimootoo, C. 2018. Death in Venice and the Aesthetics of Sublimation. In: Chowrimootoo, C, Middlebrow Modernism. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.57.f

    This is an Open Access chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (unless stated otherwise), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s).

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    Published on Oct. 8, 2018