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date: 26 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Chapter 5 investigates opera’s concept historically, given a context in which the terms of the individual arts—music, painting, poetry, sculpture, architecture, dance, or ballet—have been contested, often by contests being staged within the artworks themselves. This context is best described as agonistic and paragonal. Connecting opera’s concept to the ancient Greek notion of agôn—contest/debateand to the Renaissance idea of the paragone—comparison/contest—opens up a two-fold path. It leads the concept, via a “fatherly” hand, to its claimed origins in Classical Athens and, via a “maternal” hand, to its claimed birth in Italy. The ancestral discourse of origin and birth begs for serious deconstruction. Yet, its impact on opera’s history is pervasive and undeniable. This chapter thus investigates the discourse critically, to reveal its use and its abuse in the many histories written—pro and contra opera as an art.

Keywords: contest, concept, paragone, agon, painting, poetry, Athens

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