The Dramatic Structure of Zemlinsky’s Eine florentinische Tragödie


  • Prof. Michael Ewans Discipline of Drama University of Newcastle


Oscar Wilde, Alexander Zemlinsky, Max Meyerfeld, A Florentine Tragedy, Eine florentinische Tragödie


This article discusses Zemlinsky’s opera Eine florentinische Tragödie, based on an unfinished play by Oscar Wilde. After the Introduction and a brief note on leitmotifs, the paper analyses the nine challenges that the fabric merchant, Simone, sets to Prince Guido Bardi. The emphasis is on how the text and music show the development of Simone’s thoughts and feelings. The cumulative results of the first eight challenges convince Simone that Guido is having an affair with his wife Bianca. He challenges Guido to a duel, wins it and kills him.
Husband and wife are then reconciled. But this conclusion to the opera has been controversial since the first performances. The discussion concludes by evaluating two ways of improving on Wilde and Zemlinsky’s ending, both of which have been seen on stage in twenty-first century productions.

Author Biography

Prof. Michael Ewans, Discipline of Drama University of Newcastle

Michael Ewans is Professor of Drama and Music, and Drama Performance Co-ordinator, in the School of Drama, Fine Art and Music at the University of Newcastle, Australia. He specializes in directing plays and chamber operas, translating Greek tragedy and comedy, and writing books and articles which explore how operas and dramas work in the theatre. He is the author of Janácek’s Tragic Operas, Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck, Wagner and Aeschylus, and a complete set of accurate and actable translations of Aeschylus and Sophocles in four volumes, with theatrical commentaries based on his own productions. His newest book is Opera from the Greek: Studies in the Poetics of Appropriation, containing eight case studies in the appropriation of material from Greek tragedy and epic by composers from Monteverdi to Mark-Antony Turnage.

He has recently completed Aristophanes: the Last Years of the War - an edition of Lysistrata, The Women’s Festival and Frogs in his own new translations with theatrical commentaries; and he is currently working on Aristophanes on War and Peace, an edition of Acharnians, Knights and Peace.

In recognition of his achievements, Michael Ewans was elected in 2005 to a Fellowship in the Australian Academy of the Humanities.




How to Cite

Ewans, M. (2022). The Dramatic Structure of Zemlinsky’s Eine florentinische Tragödie. Journal of Music Research Online, 12. Retrieved from