Global Double Cycle and Damaged Double Cycle as Representations of Fate in Nineteenth-Century Opera

Levi Walls, University of North Texas

In this paper, I expand upon the terminology surrounding Lawton's concept of double cycle. "Global double cycle" involves a parallel between the structure of the first act and that of the entire opera. Since fate is the necessary conclusion brought about by a person's character, nineteenth-century operas sometimes feature a structural parallel between the character-building phase (Act I) and the culmination (the entire work). "Damaged double cycle," meanwhile, is my proposed term for a marked flaw in a double cycle that draws attention to important differences between two narrative situations. As a case study in applying these new terms, I illustrate how global and damaged double cycles combine to produce a clear structural expression of fate in Berlioz's Les Troyens. This reading emphasizes the structural importance of Berlioz's "medial punning," and solves a commonly observed aesthetic issue in Les Troyens: the apparent lack of dramatic continuity between the two halves.