Communication of Narrative in Minimalist Operas by Philip Glass: Setting and Characters in Les Enfants Terribles (1996) and Waiting for the Barbarians (2005)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Minimalist music has a repetitive nature and is well-known for its non-narrativity. However, Philip Glass’s operatic oeuvre shows both influences from his minimalist style and a narrativity that is in part due to libretti that are frequently based on novels. An analytical, musico-literary approach to minimalist operas that considers both music and libretto shows how minimalist music too creates narrative potential. The analysis is intermedial and uses narrative concepts that are illuminating in the field of literature, but also in music. The specific focus of this analysis is on minimalist music’s communication of settings and characters – two elements considered as part of the essential plot elements that make up narrative (see M.-L. Ryan, 2004). Specifically, this paper takes examples from Glass’s operas that are based on literary works by Coetzee and Cocteau.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusic as Communication: Perspectives on Music, Image, and Performance
EditorsAlberto Nones
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)978-88-6551-308-0
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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