Opera’s ‘Return to Antiquity’: Adaptation, gender and the illusion of authenticity in Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 9, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1753-6421
  • E-ISSN: 1753-643X



During the early modern period in Europe, a revived interest in Greek tragedy exerted a dominating influence over the forms of new dramatic styles. Yet despite this influence, Greek tragedies, whether in Greek or in direct translation, were virtually never performed publicly. Instead, adapted versions of tragic plots made their way onto Europe’s public stages in a variety of forms. This article interrogates this phenomenon as it is manifested in the ‘return to Antiquity’ in eighteenth-century French opera, using Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide as a case study. Comparing this opera’s use of gender norms in the construction of a single character, Clytemnestra, to her gendered portrayal in both the neoclassical and classical source texts upon which Gluck drew, this article examines the ways in which adaptation may be utilized to erase evidence of cultural difference between source and target contexts, creating the illusion that the target society’s norms merely reflect an objective reality rather than a contingent and changeable cultural construct.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): Clytemnestra; Gluck; Greek tragedy; Iphigenia in Aulis; neoclassicism; opera
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