Composers and their stage works 


Albert Camus

(wr. 1938, prod. 1945). Camus described this play as a "tragedy of the intelligence." (wr. 1938, prod. 1945)

After the death of his sister-mistress Drusilla, Caligula, the young Emperor of Rome, becomes aware of the intolerable truth that "Men die; and they are not happy." He decides to use his power to free himself from the human condition and to awaken others to the necessity of rebelling against its absurdity. But his faulty conception of liberty leads him to a systematic perversion of all human values: pursuing individual freedom to its logical extreme, he eventually alienates himself from all mankind.

Caligula orders the execution of his friends, establishes merit badges for brothel clients, impersonates Venus, and holds impromptu poetry contests. These events dramatise the arbitrariness of death and suffering and the logical absurdity of morality, love, and art. By endangering the desire of the intellectual Chaerea for security, even at the expense of logic, and by flouting the poetic Scipio's love for humanity, Caligula estranges the two men closest to him in spirit. Finally, he feels compelled to kill Caesoma, his faithful mistress, because she is the last link to any human emotion in him. After Caligula finally understands that he has not attained the freedom he sought, that by destroying everything about him he has also destroyed himself, he "accepts" death at the hands of conspirators led by Chaerea and Scipio.