Operas as graphic novels

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With their dramatic action and vivid characters, operas have inspired a number of graphic novels, including books by P. Craig Russell and a series (now out of print) produced in collaboration with England’s Royal Opera House. The most noteworthy examples of this genre are not just illustrations of libretti; they are autonomous works of art in the graphic novel tradition.

Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is particularly suited to the treatment it receives in The ring of the Niebelung by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane; set in a mythological time, with illustrious characters who can alter their physical forms, defy gravity, and survive without oxygen, it fits naturally into the medium’s world of fantasy and superheroes.

In some cases this drammata in pittura brings a powerful new dimension to Wagner’s drammata in musica—for example, the action that the audience must imagine during the Vorspiel of Die Walküre is fully depicted over the course of four textless pages. The cycle was first published in four installments by DC Comics.

Above, the opening of Act II of Die Walküre (click to enlarge); below, part of the 2011 production by the Metropolitan Opera.

Related article: The Ring recast

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Filed under Dramatic arts, Opera, Publication types, Romantic era, Visual art

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