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The Prophetess and the Vampire

The Duet Between Past and Future in Dana Gioia’s Opera Libretto Nosferatu

Chiara Grilli    Università degli Studi di Macerata, Italia    



In 2001 the renowned American poet Dana Gioia brought to life a work in which the centuries-old myth of the vampire, the richness of the operatic phrase, and the vague echoes of the poet’s Italian heritage dialogued with the modern taste of the American public. The aim of this paper is to investigate the dialogue between past and future, which is innovatively expressed in both the content and form of Nosferatu. Inspired by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922), Gioia’s work merges the Gothic with Opera, thus renovating and giving new strength to the art of the Opera libretto. Moreover, Gioia’s vampire eludes Hollywood’s unforgettable stereotypes and is endowed with an emotional and psychological insight that the German movie lacked. Line after line, the poet develops the drama of the undead creature, whose humanity is enhanced by the controversial confrontation with the libretto’s female protagonist. No longer a victim, Gioia’s heroine recalls the omniscient figure of the prophetess, dear to both classical and Christian heritages. Further, in the play between the immortal past of the vampire and the visionary future of the prophetess, lies the dramatic present of the first Italian immigrants, the nightmare of misery, the hope for a better life, and the ever-present traces left by Catholicism.

Sept. 28, 2017
April 24, 2017
March 7, 2017

Keywords: SibylNosferatuDana GioiaLibretto

Copyright: © 2017 Chiara Grilli. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.