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Simón BolívarTravels and Transformations of a Cultural Icon$
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Maureen G. Shanahan and Ana María Reyes

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780813062624

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813062624.001.0001

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Bolívar on the Operatic Stage

Bolívar on the Operatic Stage

Enlightenment Hero and Tyrannical Failure

Chapter:
(p.115) 6 Bolívar on the Operatic Stage
Source:
Simón Bolívar
Author(s):

Maureen G. Shanahan

Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813062624.003.0007

Despite his dramatic life, Bolívar has been the subject of only a handful of operas, notably Darius Milhaud’s Bolívar (1943), which premiered in Paris in 1950 with set and costumes by Fernand Léger, and Thea Musgrave’s Bolívar (1992), which permiered in Norfolk, Virginia in 1994. Milhaud’s version, which cast Bolívar as part populist hero and part Enlightenment luminary, was an expensive state-sponsored production with hundreds of performers; some saw its populist music and designs as a critique of ongoing French colonialism. Musgrave, whose other operas include one on Harriet Tubman, interprets Bolívar as a liberator who betrays his youthful ideals to turn dictatorial. Yet in both the representations of the slave and the subjugated raise questions about “nation” and “liberation” contingent upon the shifting historical contexts: France’s waning colonial empire in the 1950s; Latin American authoritarian regimes in the 1980s; and the United States’ expanding militarism in the 1990s.

Keywords:   Darius Milhaud, Thea Musgrave, Fernand Léger, Opera, liberation, France, Virginia, Colonialism, slave

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