Cover

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Title Page, Other Works in the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-x

This is not a history of opera. Neither is it a history of writings on opera or philosophies of opera, if such may be said to exist. (Although I will have much to say about a number of philosophers, several of them had nothing to say about opera.) It is instead something more tentative, a series of brief and rather specific forays into operatic history. ...

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I. Voices of the Invisible

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pp. 3-8

Just as the operatic voice has fascinated us, in the West, continuously for four hundred years, so we have felt the need again and again to formulate explanations of its force. Two recent scholarly developments suggest that the time may be ripe for a new such formulation. ...

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II. Late Renaissance Opera

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pp. 9-27

When opera began, voice, psyche, and the subject as a whole were at one with the hidden regions of the world. By virtue of this conjunction there was no unconscious in early opera, no psyche at odds with itself. Instead there was only an extension of human powers into parts of the world hidden from the senses. ...

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Excursus 1: A Cosmos of Apollinian Harmony

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pp. 28-33

Manuals asserting the enduring significance of ancient mythology enjoyed a long-lasting vogue through the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Many were printed with deluxe woodcut illustrations or had them added in later, expanded editions. ...

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III. Early Modern Opera

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pp. 34-67

About the middle of the seventeenth century, an ostensibly demystified operatic voice led to a superficial scepticism and to doubts as to the propriety of sung drama. A librettist of that time complained that "musical recitation is improper altogether, since it does not imitate natural discourse," ...

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Excursus 2: The Borders of Theatrical Space

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pp. 68-72

From the heyday of Renaissance intermedi to the high point of Metastasian opera seria—roughly the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth century—the history of musico-dramatic staging reveals a gradual, uneven, but finally inexorable circumscribing of theatrical space. ...

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IV. Modern Opera

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pp. 73-103

The operatic voice had always been powerful, but before the early nineteenth century it was not uncanny. Since that time, on the other hand, its uncanniness has seemed inescapable. ...

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Excursus 3: Noumenal Themes

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pp. 104-106

The ghostly intruder—the mysterious stranger embodied in protagonists such as Bertram in Meyerbeer's Robert le diable and Wotan in Die Walküre and Siegfried—was not the only topos through which the creators of nineteenth-century opera sought to objectify noumenal realms. Several other possibilities frequent the repertory. ...

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Excursus 4: Composing Schopenhauer

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pp. 107-108

The great idealist philosophies of the modern West have all had their distinctive puzzles at heart: Descartes's mysteriously traversed chasm between mind and body, Kant's unknowable noumenon conditioning our knowledge, Hegel's Geist—spirit or mind—and its phenomenology that aims to abolish Kant's noumenon but seems unable to succeed. ...

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V. Nietzsche: Overcoming Operatic Metaphysics

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pp. 109-126

Nietzche's Dionusus sang, at first, with noumenal operatic voice; but this same Dionysus, hardly a moment later, ridiculed noumenalism as a farce of romantic culture. The opposition reflects two roles Dionysus plays in Nietzsche's thought. ...

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VI. Ghosts in the Machine

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pp. 127-142

Carmen has rarely been heard as Nietzsche heard it. This fact says much about our persisting metaphysical needs, about the older kinds of solace we continue to seek in opera-we "solid citizens," as Adorno once put it, "for whom art can never be irrational enough."1 ...

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Excursus 5: Mechanical Reproduction of Opera

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pp. 143-144

"Empathy with the commodity is probably empathy with exchange value itself," Walter Benjamin once wrote to his colleague Adorno. Benjamin's famous, complex, shifting notion of "aura" may be seen from one vantage point as his attempt to elucidate the effects of commodification on the work of art, a project Adorno pushed him to pursue. ...

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Excursus 6: Film Fantasy, Endgame of Wagnerism

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pp. 145-146

When Adorno pronounced film to be the telos of Wagnerian music drama, it is improbable that he had anything quite like George Lucas's Star Wars series in mind. Nevertheless the films-"space operas," as Lucas himself has called them-show enough points of contact with the Ring to amount to something of a late-twentieth-century reductio of it under the aegis of full-blown mass-commodification ...

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VII. The Sum of Modernity

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pp. 147-156

Parsifal was a heavy burden for modernist opera composers to bear. Usually they were in some degree suspicious of it, sensing and resisting its falsity. Yet they also were lured to its consecrational solemnity, which came more and more to seem the gravity required of modernist "high art," ...

Notes

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pp. 157-180

Index

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pp. 181-192