Essay: OPERA: Con Amore

THE lady was suffering from a broken heart, and her doctor knew just what to prescribe: opera. He ordered an alcove constructed in her bedchamber, and there artists nightly performed excerpts from the operatic works of the great French composer Lully. Before long (as a music historian during the reign of Louis XIV tells it) the patient was cured of severe melancholia, which she had originally contracted when her lover jilted her.

Perhaps the treatment worked because it showed her that she was not alone; in opera, as in life, lovers frequently jilt their...

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