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Princeton Studies in Opera

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Richard Wagner, Fritz Lang, and the Nibelungen

The Dramaturgy of Disavowal

David J. Levin

This highly original book draws on narrative and film theory, psychoanalysis, and musicology to explore the relationship between aesthetics and anti-Semitism in two controversial landmarks in German culture. David Levin argues that Richard Wagner's opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen and Fritz Lang's 1920s film Die Nibelungen creatively exploit contrasts between good and bad aesthetics to address the question of what is German and what is not. He shows that each work associates a villainous character, portrayed as non-Germanic and Jewish, with the sometimes dramatically awkward act of narration. For both Wagner and Lang, narration--or, in cinematic terms, visual presentation--possesses a typically Jewish potential for manipulation and control. Consistent with this view, Levin shows, the Germanic hero Siegfried is killed in each work by virtue of his unwitting adoption of a narrative role.

Levin begins with an explanation of the book's theoretical foundations and then applies these theories to close readings of, in turn, Wagner's cycle and Lang's film. He concludes by tracing how Germans have dealt with the Nibelungen myths in the wake of the Second World War, paying special attention to Michael Verhoeven's 1989 film The Nasty Girl. His fresh and interdisciplinary approach sheds new light not only on Wagner's Ring and Lang's Die Nibelungen, but also on the ways in which aesthetics can be put to the service of aggression and hatred. The book is an important contribution to scholarship in film and music and also to the broader study of German culture and national identity.

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Siren Songs

Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Opera

Mary Ann Smart

It has long been argued that opera is all about sex. Siren Songs is the first collection of articles devoted to exploring the impact of this sexual obsession, and of the power relations that come with it, on the music, words, and staging of opera. Here a distinguished and diverse group of musicologists, literary critics, and feminist scholars address a wide range of fascinating topics--from Salome's striptease to hysteria to jazz and gender--in Italian, English, German, and French operas from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. The authors combine readings of specific scenes with efforts to situate these musical moments within richly and precisely observed historical contexts. Challenging both formalist categories of musical analysis and the rhetoric that traditionally pits a male composer against the female characters he creates, many of the articles work toward inventing a language for the study of gender and opera.

The collection opens with Mary Ann Smart's introduction, which provides an engaging reflection on the state of gender topics in operatic criticism and musicology. It then moves on to a foundational essay on the complex relationships between opera and history by the renowned philosopher and novelist Catherine Clément, a pioneer of feminist opera criticism. Other articles examine the evolution of the "trouser role" as it evolved in the lesbian subculture of fin-de-siècle Paris, the phenomenon of opera seria's "absent mother" as a manifestation of attitudes to the family under absolutism, the invention of a "hystericized voice" in Verdi's Don Carlos, and a collaborative discussion of the staging problems posed by the gender politics of Mozart's operas.

The contributors are Wye Jamison Allanboork, Joseph Auner, Katherine Bergeron, Philip Brett, Peter Brooks, Catherine Clement, Martha Feldman, Heather Hadlock, Mary Hunter, Linda Hutcheon and Michael Hutcheon, M.D., Lawrence Kramer, Roger Parker, Mary Ann Smart, and Gretchen Wheelock.

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Unsung Voices

Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth Century

Carolyn Abbate

Who "speaks" to us in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, in Wagner's operas, in a Mahler symphony? In asking this question, Carolyn Abbate opens nineteenth-century operas and instrumental works to new interpretations as she explores the voices projected by music. The nineteenth-century metaphor of music that "sings" is thus reanimated in a new context, and Abbate proposes interpretive strategies that "de-center" music criticism, that seek the polyphony and dialogism of music, and that celebrate musical gestures often marginalized by conventional music analysis.

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Vocal Apparitions

The Attraction of Cinema to Opera

Michal Grover-Friedlander

Cinema and opera have become intertwined in a variety of powerful and unusual ways. Vocal Apparitions tells the story of this fascinating intersection, interprets how it occurred, and explores what happens when opera is projected onto the medium of film. Michal Grover-Friedlander finds striking affinities between film and opera--from Lon Chaney's classic silent film, The Phantom of the Opera, to the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera to Fellini's E la nave va.

One of the guiding questions of this book is what occurs when what is aesthetically essential about one medium is transposed into the aesthetic field of the other. For example, Grover-Friedlander's comparison of an opera by Poulenc and a Rossellini film, both based on Cocteau's play The Human Voice, shows the relation of the vocal and the visual to be surprisingly affected by the choice of the medium. Her analysis of the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera demonstrates how, as a response to opera's infatuation with death, cinema comically acts out a correction of opera's fate. Grover-Friedlander argues that filmed operas such as Zeffirelli's Otello and Friedrich's Falstaff show the impossibility of a direct transformation of the operatic into the cinematic.

Paradoxically, cinema at times can be more operatic than opera itself, thus capturing something essential that escapes opera's self-understanding. A remarkable look at how cinema has been haunted--and transformed--by opera, Vocal Apparitions reveals something original and important about each medium.

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