The story of Danaus and his fifty daughters is a Greek myth often quoted by ancient writers and notably treated in Aeschylus’s most famous tetralogy. The fable of the Danaids thus became a famous source of inspiration for French and Italian playwrights in the eighteenth century.
A comparison between five plays stemming from different genres but dealing with the same subject shows that there are strong links in terms of dramatic action, situations, roles and characters’ feelings. However, each artist gives a personal touch to his work, converting his creation according to the linguistic and theatrical models of the period.
The libretto for Les Danaides is based on Calzabigi’s drama. It was a very popular tragédie lyrique in 1784 and throughout the nineteenth century, not only for its musical content but also for the questions raised by the identity of the compositor and by the authorship of the libretto.