The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (Caspar David Friedrich, 1818)

Welcome to Part IV of our “Meet the Romantics” series to help you enter into the world of Giselle. In this series of posts you’ll get a taste of what the world of European arts and culture was doing at the time, and how this masterwork ballet fits into the defining movements of its time.  

Read “Part I: Capital-R Romantic” here.

Read “Part II: The Composers” here.

Read “Part III: The Painters” here.

Five Key Characteristics of Romantic Literature

  • The emergence of the subgenre we would call “Gothic,” emphasizing the creepy, horrifying, spooky and suspenseful;
  • What is widely acknowledged as the “Golden Age” of British poetry, with Keats, Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth, Browning, Tennyson and scores of others reaching the peak of their fame;
  • A rediscovery of classical poetic forms like odes and sonnets;
  • A passion for exalting the grandeur and beauties of nature, and the spirit of rustic country living;
  • A glorification of intense emotion and individuality over classical form.

Ten Artists To Know

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1743-1832, German): “When I leave here, let come what must./What do I care about it now, if hereafter/Men hate or love, or if in those other spheres/There be an Above or a Below?”  Read Faust

John Keats (1795-1821, British): “Beauty is truth, truth beauty; that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know . . .” Read “Ode On a Grecian Urn”

Mary Shelley (1797-1851, British): “Oh! No mortal could support the horror of that countenance. A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch. I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived . . .  “ Read Frankenstein

Victor Hugo (1802-1885, French): “She gave anyone who saw her a sensation of April and of dawn. There was dew in her eyes. Cosette was a condensation of auroral light in womanly form . . .Read Les Misérables

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882, American): “If a man would be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and what he touches . . .” Read “Nature”

Hans Christian Anderson (1805-1875, Danish): “Many nights she stood by the open window, looking up through the dark blue water, and . . . could see the moon and stars shining faintly. When something like a black cloud passed between her and them, she knew that it was a ship full of human beings, who never imagined that a pretty little mermaid was standing beneath them, holding out her white hands towards the keel of their ship. . .” Read “The Little Mermaid”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882, American): “This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,/Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,/Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic . . .” Read “Evangeline”

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849, American): “During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher . . .” Read “The Fall of the House of Usher”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892, British): “I hold it true, whate’er befall;/ I feel it when I sorrow most; ‘Tis better to have loved and lost/Than never to have loved at all . . .” Read “In Memoriam”

Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855, British): “May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agonized as in that hour left my lips; for never may you, like me, dread to be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love . . .” Read Jane Eyre

The Chancel and Crossing of Tintern Abbey, Looking Towards the East Window (JMW Turner, 1794)


Thanks for joining us for the “Meet the Romantics” series!

Want to keep the Romance alive?  We’ve got a special deal for you!  Join us Friday March 2nd for Giselle and get 1/2 off your tickets!  Click here and use offer code ADOLPHE to get your discount!  (Areas 1-4.  Limit 4.  Offer expires February 22nd.)

Don’t forget to join us before the show for our special Classical Cocktail Hour, a pre-show conversation in the lobby bar about composer Adolphe Adam, featuring All Classical FM host Edmund Stone and OBT Artistic Director Christopher Stowell!

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