Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

A licenza is technically an insertion into, or an epilogue to, an Opera or other stage work, and makes reference to a patron's birthday or to a special festive occasion. The melodrama of the preceding plot, which has seemed to be leading inexorably towards a tragic outcome, is both forgiven (everyone is sorted out) and celebrated (as appropriate to the festival); the players are shown to be, in truth, mere players. Operas which incorporate explicit licenzas include Luigi Rossi's Orfeo (1647), George Friedrich Handel's Atalanta (1736) and Gioacchino Rossini's Il Viaggio a Reims (1825). Operas whose plots are controlled by magi, like Handel's Orlando (1732) and Mozart's The Magic Flute (1791), tend to close in scenes resembling explicit licenzas.

In fantasy, any text whose plot is controlled by a Magus or other figure of authority behind the scenes – Godgame texts in particular – may have licenza scenes towards its conclusion. Shakespeare's The Tempest (performed circa 1611; 1623) can be read in this light, as can (perhaps) John Fowles's The Magus (1966). C S Lewis's Perelandra (1943) much more overtly presents the dance which concludes the action as a celebration of the throned and observing God. [JC]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.