Abstract

The preponderance of gothic themes in Italian operas of the early nineteenth century is often cited as one of the few ways essentially conservative Italian composers flirted with the Romantic revolution sweeping the rest of Europe. By 1838, the very ubiquity of these tropes led the Venetian reviewer of Donizetti's gory Maria de Rudenz to plead ““exhaustion”” with the ever-present ““daggers, poisons, and tombs”” of the contemporary stage. Based on the French melodrama La Nonne sanglante, Donizetti's sensational opera is almost a litany of gothic tropes. The most disturbing of these is the female body that refuses to die: Maria herself, who rises from the dead to murder her innocent rival. This fleshy specter is musically rendered as a body that is too receptive to emotion, particularly to (imaginary) cries of longing or grief. Significantly, Donizetti's foray into the gothic was also distinguished by a spate of self-borrowing; his 1838 revision of the earlier Gabriella di Vergy borrows material from Maria de Rudenz. Exploring the connections between the trope of gothic resurrection and Donizetti's borrowings highlights how the two works represent a characteristic approach to the gothic, one that mingles a corporeal orientation with more familiar themes of ghostly immateriality.

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