This chapter addresses recent theories of modern theatricality, which is understood as a way of turning away from a reality that has ceased to make sense. The heightened theatricality of Rossini’s operas, then, becomes a response to the psycho-cultural context in which these works were composed and first performed: a world that could no longer be fully known, in which human subjects had lost any sense of spatial and especially temporal dimensions, and felt stuck in the present. Rossini’s dramaturgy, both comic and serious, was characterized by distance, objectification, and self-referentiality because meaning could not be found off the stage. Rather, the stage was the only site where the illusion of meaning could be entertained.
Keywords: theatricality, dramaturgy, self-referentiality