Abstract

Scott Repatriated?: La Dame blanche Crosses the Channel

Scotland, close enough to visit, far enough to seem untamed and mysterious, enthralled nineteenth-century composers. Fascination fixated on Sir Walter Scott, whose works spawned numerous foreign operas. When these musical mutations migrated across the channel, however, they often collided with Britain's vision of her 'national' author. This is especially true with Boieldieu's La Dame blanche (1825). The opera succeeded in continental Europe, but two separate London productions failed. What stymied this metamorphosis? As I argue, the conflict between Londoners' nationalistic possessiveness of Scott and Scottish melodies on the one hand, yet their uneasiness with the novels on which the opera was based and its complex score on the other, placed these adaptations at a kind of cultural impasse. Ultimately, the layers of meaning Scott's works had accrued in England made the White Lady one citizen the English could not repatriate.