The Cambridge companion to opera studies 9780521671699, 0521671698, 9780521855617, 0521855616

With its powerful combination of music and theatre, opera is one of the most complex and yet immediate of all art forms.

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The Cambridge companion to opera studies
 9780521671699, 0521671698, 9780521855617, 0521855616

Table of contents :
Opera, the state and society / Thomas Ertman --
The business of opera / Nicholas Payne --
The operatic event: opera and opera audiences / Nicholas Till --
'Too much music': the media of opera / Christopher Morris --
Voices and singers / Susan Rutherford --
Opera and modes of theatrical production / Simon Williams --
Opera and the technologies of theatrical production / Nicholas Ridout --
The dramaturgy of opera / Laurel E. Zeiss --
Genre and poetics / Alessandra Campana --
The operatic work: texts, performances, receptions and repertories / Nicholas Till --
Opera and gender studies / Heather Hadlock --
Opera and national identity / Suzanne Aspden --
'An exotic and irrational entertainment': opera and our others
opera as other / Nicholas Till.

Citation preview

The Cambridge Companion to Opera Studies With its powerful combination of music and theatre, opera is one of the most complex and yet immediate of all art forms. Once opera was studied only as ‘a stepchild of musicology’, but in the past two decades opera studies has experienced an explosion of energy with the introduction of new approaches drawn from disciplines such as social anthropology and performance studies to media theory, genre theory, gender studies and reception history. Written by leading scholars in opera studies today, this Companion offers a wide-ranging guide to a rapidly expanding field of study, and new ways of thinking about a rich and intriguing art form, placing opera back at the centre of our understanding of Western culture over the past 400 years. This book gives lovers of opera as well as those studying the subject a comprehensive approach to the many facets of opera in the past and today. nicholas till is Professor of Opera and Music Theatre and Leverhulme Research Fellow at the University of Sussex.

Cambridge Companions to Music Topics The Cambridge Companion to Ballet Edited by Marion Kant The Cambridge Companion to Blues and Gospel Music Edited by Allan Moore The Cambridge Companion to Choral Music Edited by Andr´e de Quadros The Cambridge Companion to the Concerto Edited by Simon P. Keefe The Cambridge Companion to Conducting Edited by Jos´e Antonio Bowen The Cambridge Companion to Eighteenth-Century Opera Edited by Anthony R. DelDonna and Pierpaolo Polzonetti The Cambridge Companion to Electronic Music Edited by Nick Collins and Julio D’Escriv´an The Cambridge Companion to Grand Opera Edited by David Charlton The Cambridge Companion to Jazz Edited by Mervyn Cooke and David Horn The Cambridge Companion to the Lied Edited by James Parsons The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Music Edited by Mark Everist The Cambridge Companion to the Musical, second edition Edited by William Everett and Paul Laird The Cambridge Companion to Opera Studies Edited by Nicholas Till The Cambridge Companion to the Orchestra Edited by Colin Lawson The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock Edited by Simon Frith, Will Straw and John Street The Cambridge Companion to Recorded Music Edited by Eric Clarke, Nicholas Cook, Daniel Leech-Wilkinson and John Rink The Cambridge Companion to the String Quartet Edited by Robin Stowell The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century Opera Edited by Mervyn Cooke Composers The Cambridge Companion to Bach Edited by John Butt ´ The Cambridge Companion to Bartok Edited by Amanda Bayley The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles Edited by Kenneth Womack The Cambridge Companion to Beethoven Edited by Glenn Stanley

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The Cambridge Companion to

OPERA STUDIES ............

edited by Nicholas Till

University Printing House, Cambridge CB2 8BS, United Kingdom Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. Information on this title:  C Cambridge University Press 2012

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2012 Printed and bound in the United Kingdom by the MPG Books Group A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data The Cambridge companion to opera studies / edited by Nicholas Till. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-521-85561-7 (hardback) 1. Opera. I. Till, Nicholas, 1955– ML1700.C166 2012 782.1 – dc23 2012013653 ISBN 978-0-521-85561-7 Hardback ISBN 978-0-521-67169-9 Paperback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


Notes on contributors [page viii] Acknowledgements [xi] Introduction: opera studies today Nicholas Till [1] Part I • Institutions 1 Opera, the state and society Thomas Ertman [25] 2 The business of opera Nicholas Payne [53] 3 The operatic event: opera houses and opera audiences Nicholas Till [70]

4 5 6 7

Part II • Constituents ‘Too much music’: the media of opera Christopher Morris [95] Voices and singers Susan Rutherford [117] Opera and modes of theatrical production Simon Williams [139] Opera and the technologies of theatrical production Nicholas Ridout [159]

Part III • Forms 8 The dramaturgy of opera Laurel E. Zeiss [179] 9 Genre and poetics Alessandra Campana [202] 10 The operatic work: texts, performances, receptions and repertories Nicholas Till [225] Part IV • Issues 11 Opera and gender studies Heather Hadlock [257] 12 Opera and national identity Suzanne Aspden [276] 13 ‘An exotic and irrational entertainment’: opera and our others; opera as other Nicholas Till [298] Further reading [325] Index [338]




Suzanne Aspden teaches in the Music Faculty at the University of Oxford. Her research interests centre on eighteenth-century opera, and issues of performance and identity. She has co-edited a book on word–music interrelationships, and is currently completing a book on the reputed rivalry of the singers Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni in 1720s London. Her next book project concerns opera and national identity in the eighteenth century. She is co-editor of the Cambridge Opera Journal. Alessandra Campana is Assistant Professor of Music at Tufts University. She has published on Mozart, Verdi, Puccini and Bellini in the Cambridge Opera Journal, Mozart Jahrbuch, Studi Verdiani and The Opera Quarterly. Recent publications include ‘To Look Again (At Don Giovanni)’ in The Cambridge Companion to Eighteenth-Century Opera (2009) and ‘Look and Spectatorship in Manon Lescaut’, in The Opera Quarterly (2009). She is currently completing a book on opera and modern spectatorship in Italy between the 1870s and 1915 and is part of the editorial team of the new Opera Quarterly. Thomas Ertman is Associate Professor of Sociology at New York University, where he teaches courses on historical sociology and sociology of the arts. He is coeditor, along with Victoria Johnson and Jane Fulcher, of Opera and Society in Italy and France from Monteverdi to Bourdieu (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and author of Birth of the Leviathan: Building States and Regimes in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 1997). He is currently researching a project comparing cultural life in Weimar and Third Reich Berlin. Heather Hadlock is Associate Professor of Musicology at Stanford University. She is the author of Mad Loves: Women and Music in Offenbach’s ‘Les Contes d’Hoffmann’ (Princeton University Press, 2000), and has contributed chapters to The Cambridge Companion to Rossini (2003), Women’s Voices Across Musical Worlds (Northeastern University Press, 2003), Berlioz: Past Present, Future (University of Rochester Press, 2003), Siren Songs (Princeton University Press, 2000) and Musicology and Sister Disciplines (Oxford University Press, 2000). She is Book Review Editor for the Cambridge Opera Journal, and is Chair of the American Musicological Society Committee on the Status of Women. Christopher Morris is Lecturer in Music at University College, Cork (UCC). He is a musicologist specializing in opera, cultural theory, Austro-German modernism and film music. He worked for four years as Archivist of the Canadian Opera Company before joining UCC in 1998. His publications include Reading Opera Between the Lines: Orchestral Interludes and Cultural Meaning from Wagner to Berg (Cambridge University Press, 2002) and he is currently working on a book entitled Modernism and the Cult of Mountains: Music, Opera, Cinema, to be published by Ashgate. He is Associate and Reviews Editor of The Opera Quarterly. Nicholas Payne is the Director of Opera Europa, the leading organization for professional opera companies throughout Europe. He has worked in opera since joining

ix Notes on contributors Covent Garden at the end of the 1960s, and subsequently worked for four different UK opera companies over twenty-seven consecutive years as Financial Controller of Welsh National Opera, General Administrator of Opera North, Director of the Royal Opera Covent Garden, and General Director of English National Opera. Nicholas Payne writes and broadcasts regularly on operatic and general arts. Nicholas Ridout is Reader in Theatre and Performance Studies at Queen Mary, University of London. His publications include Theatre & Ethics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), The Theatre of Soc`ıetas Raffaello Sanzio (co-authored with Claudia Castellucci, Romeo Castellucci, Chiara Guidi and Joe Kelleher; Routledge, 2007), Stage Fright, Animals and Other Theatrical Problems (Cambridge University Press, 2006) and Contemporary Theatres in Europe: A Critical Companion (co-editor with Joe Kelleher; Routledge, 2006). In 2010–11 he was Visiting Professor in the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University and a guest speaker at the first Andrew Mellon Summer School in Theatre and Performance Studies at Harvard University. Susan Rutherford is Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Manchester. She studied voice at the Royal Northern College of Music in both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes before pursuing an academic career. In 2003, she was awarded the biennial ‘Premio internazionale: “Giuseppe Verdi”’ by the Istituto Nazionale di Studi Verdiani, Parma, and in 2007 received the Pauline Alderman Award for ‘outstanding research on women and music’ for her monograph The Prima Donna and Opera, 1815–1930 (Cambridge University Press, 2006). Nicholas Till is Professor of Opera and Music Theatre and Leverhulme Research Fellow at the University of Sussex. He has previously worked as a director for opera companies in the UK and Europe, and as a librettist and director for new works performed by the Royal Opera Garden Venture, English National Opera Studio and Stuttgart Opera, among others. He is the author of Mozart and the Enlightenment (1992), has written extensively on contemporary opera and music theatre, and has taught in many fields, including visual arts and theatre. As Director of the Centre for Research in Opera and Music Theatre at the University of Sussex, he regularly contributes talks and programme articles to opera companies in the UK, Europe and the USA, and is a frequent contributor to radio and television programmes. He is currently working on a book about the origins of opera in the seventeenth century. Simon Williams is Professor and Chair of the Department of Dramatic Art at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has published widely in the fields of European continental theatre, the history of acting, Shakespearean performance and operatic history. His major publications include German Actors of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (Greenwood Press, 1985), Shakespeare on the German Stage, 1586–1914 (Cambridge University Press, 1990), Richard Wagner and Festival Theatre (Greenwood Press, 1994) and Richard Wagner and the Romantic Hero (Cambridge University Press, 2004). He is also an active director and reviewer of opera. His current projects include co-editing A History of the German Theatre for Cambridge University Press and studies of Shakespeare in the eighteenth century and European opera in the nineteenth.

x Notes on contributors Laurel E. Zeiss is Associate Professor of Music History and Musicology at Baylor University. A Mozart opera specialist, Dr Zeiss has published her research in the Cambridge Opera Journal, The Journal of Singing, Ars Lyrica and the College Music Symposium. She also has contributed essays to several collections, including Taste in the Eighteenth Century: Aesthetics and the Senses (Wissenschaftlicher ´ Verlag Trier, 2011) and Eclat, Encounter, Expropriation: The Clash of Cultures and Civilizations in Music and Opera in the Imperial Age (forthcoming). During spring 2011, she was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Opera Research at the University of Sussex. Laurel Zeiss is currently writing a book on opera as a genre for Oxford University Press.


This book has been long in the making and I must express my gratitude to Victoria Cooper and her team at Cambridge University Press for their immense patience with the lengthy delays on the project, and to those contributors who had to wait too long for their work to see the light. The saddest reason for delay was the sudden departure of my colleague at the University of Sussex David Osmond-Smith, who died before he could complete the chapter he was due to contribute; this book is dedicated to his memory. Any editor needs other people to look at his (or her) work, and I would like to thank my colleague Nicholas McKay at Sussex for giving me helpful feedback on two of my own chapters in the book, and Suzanne Aspden, a contributor but also an experienced editor, for doing the same with a fourth chapter. I will refrain from mentioning which chapters they were since responsibility for the final content of the book is ultimately mine.


Introduction: opera studies today nicholas till In all art the road to appreciation lies through reflection.

(stendhal, life of rossini) 1

In 1860 the French poet Charles Baudelaire heard a concert performance of excerpts from Richard Wagner’s opera Tannh¨auser. Writing about the overwhelming impact that the music had upon him he expressed his desire to understand better its ‘mysterious intentions and method, which were all unknown to me. I resolved to make myself master of the why and wherefore, and to transform my pleasure into knowledge.’2 We could have no better account of why we might be led to study something, most particularly something that gets under our skin, as Wagner had got under Baudelaire’s skin, and as opera gets under many people’s skins. We study something firstly because we want to understand ‘the why and wherefore’ of it: why it is, and why it is as it is. We want to understand its constituents: how they are put together and why they are put together in that way. And, secondly, we want to understand why it has the effect that it has upon us, so as to know better the values that form our own subjectivity; to gain understanding of the basis of our own pleasures or displeasures, as individuals and members of particular groups and communities. And, finally, we study something for the light it casts upon the society and culture within which the object of our study exists (or existed). Even if Baudelaire didn’t express this last concern immediately, he was certainly one of the first critics to have understood how works of art tell us about their specific historical moment. These three modes of explanation broadly provide the map by which this book has been put together, indicating what I take to be the three main fields of interest in current opera studies. Their methods are not mutually exclusive: explanations of the formal ‘what?’ soon lead (as Baudelaire recognized) to questions about artistic intention (‘why and wherefore?’), which in turn inevitably raise questions about performance, institutional, cultural and social contexts; subjectivities themselves are culturally constructed. Nonetheless, time was when opera studies might have considered its remit to be the first of these activities in isolation, examining the formal ‘what?’ of operatic works as represented by their scores alone. For the British opera historian Robert Donington, [1]

2 Nicholas Till

writing as late as 1978, the components of opera are simply ‘the words that articulate the drama, and the music that expresses it’.3 Insofar as opera was studied as an academic subject the focus was on describing the musical and dramatic principles of operatic works, and perhaps supplying some kind of critical judgement of their quality according to probably unexamined criteria (as Joseph Kerman concedes in the passage from Opera as Drama on p. 8 below), or offering a historical account of opera’s formal or stylistic development through a select handful of canonical composers and works. All that was necessary to know about an opera was assumed to be contained in the closed text and the fictive world it represented; everything else was deemed to be contingent. A statement of method by the German critic Siegmund Levarie, who sought to bring the rigour of formalist analysis to the operas of Mozart, makes this clear: ‘Emphasis on the score will banish from the staked limits any primary consideration of Mozart’s life and experience. Only rarely and incidentally will the historical devices of the scholarly mode of criticism be admitted.’4 For Levarie, this method was justified because ‘In the case of music, meaning and grammar are identical’.5 But Levarie cannot avoid discussion of non-musical events since he is analysing opera and is aware that the formal properties of the music must in some way relate to dramatic action, so he issues a caveat that is more than usually revealing: ‘The terminology will thus not be able to avoid loans from universal thoughts and aspirations, not necessarily musical, which are shared by all mankind but given particular expression by the composer.’6 This is more than usually revealing since it is an explicit statement of what has come to be called ‘liberal humanism’ – the basing of critical interpretation upon unquestioned assumptions of ‘universal’ human values. It is explicitly unhistorical (that which is universal by definition excludes historical or cultural particularity), implicitly assumes that the values of one’s own culture are universal, and takes no account of the different subject positions that people occupy as the result of culture, gender, class, race, sexuality and so forth. It is exemplified by the kind of criticism that can discuss the theme of sexual jealousy (a ‘universal’ theme) in Verdi’s Otello without mentioning the issue of Othello’s race and how the issue of race played out in the context of early seventeenth-century English society and late nineteenth-century Italian society. The development of opera studies since the early 1990s may be charted as a move away from these kinds of formalist and liberal humanist approaches towards modes of study that consider the social and historical contexts of a work, and engage not only with dramatic texts but with the materiality of performance practices and events, and with the institutions and cultural discourses that sustain them. To study opera we have to study more than operas.

3 Opera studies today

Dissolving walls and boundaries The study of opera has been a late entrant to the academic disciplines, mainly because of opera’s own uncertain generic combination of theatre and music, which led to its being marginalized by both musicology and theatre studies. It could, of course, be argued that since music and theatre are inseparable in most of the world’s performance traditions this is a false distinction that has only come about due to the separation of theatre and music in European culture, and the resultant separation and reification of their study as disciplines. But the effect of this is that in the development of opera studies as an academic discipline in its own right we can observe two apparently contradictory tendencies at work. The first is the tendency for any new academic discipline to want to demarcate its terrain firmly, and to establish its own rules and procedures. New academic subjects tend to be defensive about their status, with the effect that they often seek to out-rigour older disciplines in an effort to prove that the new subject is indeed worthy of academic attention. This phase of discipline formation is often exclusionary in its determination to draw the line between its own procedures and what is perceived to be the amateurish dilettantism that has gone before. As the historian Michel Foucault argued in Discipline and Punish, ‘Discipline sometimes requires enclosure, the specification of a place heterogenous to all others and closed in upon itself. It is the protected space of disciplinary monotony.’7 The second tendency, which usually follows as a reaction to the ‘disciplinary monotony’ of the first, is to throw the subject open to wider disciplinary enquiry. The belatedness of the academic study of opera has had the effect of compacting these two tendencies so that they often seem to occur alongside each other, for at the same time that the claim for disciplinary rigour was being made it was recognized that a form like opera is inherently interdisciplinary, and therefore demands a wide range of critical approaches. At the very least, the critic of opera needs to understand the history, practices and theories of theatre as well as those of music, although these days few theatre scholars or musicologists believe that the study of either theatre or music can be contained within these disciplinary boundaries alone, as I discuss further in Chapter 3. These two tendencies towards methodological rigour and methodological openness can perhaps be seen to crystallize, symbolically at least, in two publications that appeared in 1989 (a year when walls and boundaries were dissolving more widely): Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker’s book Analyzing Opera, and the launch by Parker and Arthur Groos of the Cambridge Opera Journal. If Analyzing Opera set out to establish some methods for the rigorous analysis of opera according to its own terms, the Cambridge Opera Journal set out quite explicitly to open opera studies to multidisciplinary approaches.

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It will not do to oversimplify the story. Much fine work had been undertaken in the field of opera studies before 1989. Most of this work had taken place in relation to individual composers (e.g. Winton Dean on Handel, Julian Budden or David Kimbell on Verdi, John Warrack on Weber, to list only British examples), although such studies often viewed the works in isolation of anything but biographical context, or introduced historical contexts as backgrounds that never seriously impinged on discussion of the composers and their works. One of the first substantial attempts to offer an overarching theory of the dramaturgy of opera was Joseph Kerman’s Opera as Drama, first published in 1956, a book whose influence remains widespread, and to which I shall return later in this introduction. But Kerman’s study is even more resolutely unhistorical than the others mentioned. Newer disciplinary approaches had included the perspectives of sociology (Jane Fulcher’s work on French grand opera,8 or John Rosselli’s on the nineteenth-century Italian opera industry,9 both from earlier in the 1980s) or literary theory (Peter Conrad’s Romantic Opera and Literary Form from 1977;10 Herbert Lindenberger’s Opera the Extravagant Art from 1984).11 But it was from the 1990s that opera studies really took off as a discipline that was able to recognize both the material and institutional specificity and the broader cultural complexities of the form. As an object of musicological study, opera has always been problematic for critical methods derived from the historical hegemony of German instrumental music. As Abbate and Parker suggest, ‘Traditionally, [musicology] treated opera in a stepmotherly fashion, preferring older or purely instrumental music for establishing canonical norms, often abandoning the study of nineteenth-century opera to amateurs.’12 And this applied not just to nineteenth-century opera, of course, despite the valiant efforts of scholars like Winton Dean or Donald J. Grout to restore the reputations of composers such as Handel or Scarlatti, or the work of the German scholar Reinhard Strohm on eighteenth-century Italian opera.13 Writing in 1949 the Scottish musicologist Donald Francis Tovey notoriously dismissed the whole history of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century opera as an irrelevant bywater of ‘the mainstream of music’, judging that ‘at the beginning of the seventeenth century [the mainstream] enters into regions partly mountainous and partly desert and becomes choked with weeds’. For Tovey the only redemption for opera was to regard it as ‘ultimately a pure form of music’ with ‘a capacity to rise almost as high as absolute music can rise’.14 Lest we are tempted to dismiss Tovey’s discomfort with opera as being a relic of the past, it is worth noting that the twenty-four chapters of Nicholas Cook and Mark Everist’s Rethinking Music of 1999,15 a compendium of what were judged to be the main issues in musicology at that date, confine themselves almost exclusively to the discussion of non-operatic music, even

5 Opera studies today

though paradoxically the purpose of the book was to demonstrate the wide range of disciplinary approaches now being taken by musicology. Similarly, Alastair Williams’s 2001 survey Constructing Musicology dedicates a mere five pages to opera, discussing it in relation to the representation of women and the orient in music, issues over which opera has proved particularly vulnerable to contemporary forms of social and cultural critique, and issues which merit two chapters to themselves in this book.16 Yet for much of the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries ‘music’ meant, for most people, opera. Countering Tovey, William Austin proposes that ‘Between Monteverdi and Mozart we may infer . . . that Italian opera constituted the mainstream of music.’17 For many composers who are remembered today primarily for their instrumental music (or songs), such as Haydn, Schubert or Dvoˇra´ k, opera constituted a substantial part of their output, whilst, of course, many major composers such as Gluck, Verdi, Wagner, Massenet and Puccini worked almost exclusively in opera. Traditional accounts of the musical development of opera tend to see it in relationship to the ‘progress’ of canonical forms of instrumental music. A composer like Mozart, one of the few composers to have been an absolute master of operatic and non-operatic genres alike, is therefore supposed to have deployed the inherently dramatic and developmental structures of instrumental sonata form to allow opera to develop a properly dramatic language (although this doesn’t explain why Haydn, another master of sonata form, was, by our lights, much less successful in opera). But, as Austin and Abbate have both suggested, this argument may be tautologous. Abbate suggests that our concept of what is ‘dramatic’ in music is, in the first place, derived from opera, and Austin argues even more broadly that ‘Our basic ideas about the orchestra, about keys and chords and modulations, about rhythms and forms and musical expression, were shaped by opera.’18 It may in fact be the case that sonata form developed from opera buffa rather than the other way round. And Abbate has also suggested that the hermeneutic turn in contemporary critical musicology, the tendency to interpret music in relation to its constructions of, say, gender or nation, has its roots in opera aesthetics insofar as it is opera that affirms music’s ‘signifying capacity’.19 Although Wagner claimed that his music dramas were symphonic, perhaps a reflection of his own status anxiety about working in the medium of opera, they deliver no meaningful symphonic method for the analyst; definitions of what might constitute symphonic thinking have to be rendered very vague and abstract to include Wagner. Perhaps the best-known example of this kind of approach was the work of the Wagnerian critic Alfred Lorenz who, in the 1920s and 1930s, rejected the prevalent obsession with labelling and interpreting the thematic leitmotifs of Wagnerian

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drama, identifying instead the larger-scale harmonic structures underlying the surface of the music. In doing so he reduced Wagner’s operas to a series of purely formal, tonal processes entirely divorced from dramatic meaning.20 Typically, critics rooted in the tradition of formal analysis often prefer their operas unperformed; Mozart scholar Julian Rushton finds the music of Don Giovanni to be so perfect that ‘in truth [the opera] needs no staging’.21 Kierkegaard preferred to listen to performances of Don Giovanni with his eyes closed; the advent of recording technologies made that unnecessary, re-enforcing the tendency to listen to opera as a primarily musical experience which has almost certainly contributed to the dominance of the conductor in opera during most of the twentieth century. The arrival of video, notably much more popular for opera than for spoken theatre, has redressed this balance somewhat. Parker and Abbate’s Analyzing Opera addresses the problem of formalism directly, staking a claim for the importance of analytical methods, but proposing new approaches: ‘All too often the practitioners of musical analysis labor doggedly to discover the hallmarks of autonomous structure, or coherence, or organic unity in a work. By doing so, they may ignore a hundred rich contexts for their object, including those we might regard as historical: the conditions of its invention, its intertextuality.’22 But although Parker and Abbate suggest that their mode of analysis opens opera to social and historical forces, and they reference poststructuralist views that the text is not self-contained – that meanings arise in relation to other texts and contexts (see Chapter 10 of this volume) – the essays in the collection in fact offer few examples of such historically informed analysis. Abbate’s highly original (and influential) work on opera has demonstrated that poststructuralist methods of analysis often dispense with the historical contextualization that she refers to above, although more recently she has sought to consider the effect of performance more carefully, leading her to question the methods of close textual interpretation.23 Historically informed analysis is, in fact, much more evident in the articles found in the Cambridge Opera Journal. In an editorial to the first 1989 issue that is admirable for its restraint from polemic Parker and Arthur Groos claim a simple purpose for the journal: to open opera studies to interdisciplinary approaches from scholars outside the discipline of musicology. ‘We hope, in short, to broaden the scope of discourse about opera’, pointing out with evident satisfaction that contributors to the very first volume of the journal include an economic historian, a musicologist, a literary critic, a philosopher and an opera scholar ‘unfettered by academic ties’24 (even if, under other circumstances, such writers might have been labelled by Parker himself, wearing his analyst hat, as ‘amateurs’). In earlier editions of the journal contributors still feel obliged to do a little pre-emptive throat-clearing to

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justify their disciplinary solecism; by the millennium it had become evident that opera scholars were revelling in their disciplinary promiscuity. Disciplinary restraint and disciplinary promiscuity side by side. We could not have a more apt critical paradigm for opera itself, which has always been confined and constrained by the institutional structures and discourses that hold it in place, and yet still manages to be messy, elusive and sometimes even surprisingly subversive.

Opera as drama Although the study of opera has historically been led by musicology, it is also to some extent informed by whatever is the current state of drama and theatre studies – itself a belated presence in the academy. Drama studies emerged from within literary studies with the study of dramatic texts as literature. Given the predominant formalism of literary studies at the time that drama was becoming accepted as an academic discipline in post-war Europe and America, it is not surprising that the formal aspects of dramatic texts were often exaggerated. And to some extent this might have given legitimation to approaches to opera that similarly focused on the formal properties of the music of opera: the kind of organic textual unity sought by musical analysis is paralleled by the way in which Cleanth Brooks, one of the best-known members of the school of formalist literary criticism known as New Criticism, sought to reduce the meaning of Shakespeare’s Macbeth to a single metaphor in the play, as if it were no more than an extended poem.25 Moreover, the formalism of both musicological analysis and New Criticism was in accord with the reductive approach of a critical modernism committed to the pursuit of what is essential to an art form. The aesthetic philosopher Suzanne Langer, for instance, insisted that ‘Each of the great orders of art has its own primary apparition which is the essential feature of all its works . . . there can be no hybrid works, belonging as much to one art as to another.’26 This left opera in a sticky spot, and the modernist theatre critic Eric Bentley duly dismissed forms such as opera in his book The Playwright as Thinker, stating that ‘every dramaturgic practice that subordinates the words to any other medium has trivialized the drama without giving full rein to the medium that has become dominant’.27 Indeed, if opera has proved a troublesome stepchild for conventional musicology, which sidesteps the problem by pretending that opera is not theatre, it has proved no less delinquent to conventional theatre studies, which has consistently ignored opera as a theatrical form. My Thames and Hudson Illustrated Encyclopedia of World Theatre, still on my shelves from when I was a student in 1977, has no entry for opera, whilst its entry under ‘Chorus’ says simply

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that from the Renaissance onward the collective chorus ‘was taken over by one character who acted as commentator and observer of the main action’, as if four hundred years of the operatic chorus had never happened.28 Such solecisms are replicated in standard histories of theatre to this day. It was the laudable intention of Joseph Kerman in Opera as Drama to challenge both Bentley’s dismissal of opera from the perspective of drama, making a claim for opera to be taken seriously as a dramatic genre, and the kinds of musical formalism demonstrated by Lorenz and Levarie, insisting that any analysis of the music of an opera should do so in the light of its dramatic function. Opera as Drama is feisty and opinionated, but limited by its liberal humanist premises. In the revised edition of the book, issued in 1988, Kerman reflected on the lack of an explicit methodological or theoretical framework in the original book: The ‘theory’ is exceedingly slight and is presented in a conspicuously roundabout fashion. After a not so hidden reference to Aristotle and a rejection of naturalistic criteria, the argument proceeds immediately by analogy . . . Only afterwards . . . is theory set forth or adumbrated. Drama is or entails the revelation of the quality of human response to actions and events, in the direct context of those actions and events. Opera is drama when it furthers such revelations.29

The premises of Kerman’s humanist psychologism continue to inform everyday operatic criticism. The pages of a magazine such as Opera are littered with critical judgements that assume that dramatic characters have an essential being, with statements such as: ‘like many Americans, X failed to capture the aristocratic quality of the Count’; ‘Y successfully brings out the essential passivity of Melisande’s character’. As a callow young opera director keen to make a mark I once proposed to the director I was assisting on Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia that the opera was ‘all about money’. ‘No’, said the director, it’s ‘all about people’. Where for Kerman the presumption that drama entailed humanist psychology meant that baroque opera was disqualified as drama, Winton Dean attempted a defence of baroque opera based on precisely the same premises of humanist psychology, presenting a case for interpreting Handel as a great dramatic psychologist. Handel’s Cleopatra is ‘the equal of Shakespeare’s’,30 and, writing of Handel’s portrayal of sorceresses such as Armida and Alcina, Dean states that ‘Handel’s music transcends the libretti; the magic element, designed perhaps as an excuse for diversion and the titillation of the senses, becomes a vehicle for profound truths about human nature.’31 Dean here makes a number of familiar assumptions. Firstly, he assumes that there is such a thing as human nature, and by implication that it is timeless and universal in that it transcends the specific context of the opera in question.

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Secondly, he assumes that it is the music that reveals ‘profound truths about human nature’, and that these truths are, again, transcendent. This belief in the power of operatic music to convey truths beyond those given in the text is very evident in mainstream operatic criticism; as Carolyn Abbate notes, ‘We generally assume that the message conveyed by that music – whatever form it takes – possesses absolute moral authority.’32 But Abbate also questions this assumption when she insists that the possibility of musical meaning arises from context; there is no essential realm of ‘truth’ to which music has privileged access. ‘When the Countess pardons the Count in act 4 of The Marriage of Figaro, it is not that Mozart’s music simultaneously gives voice to some more profound statement of or about forgiveness. Rather, it is the fact that there is a Countess, a Count, a specific dramatic situation, and ordinary words like “Contessa, perdono” sung out loud that has in quite precise ways predetermined the meaning to attach to Mozart’s musical moment.’33 And Abbate goes on to insist that ‘Such phenomena undermine romantic notions about music’s overriding force, seen as the power to do more than the verbal and the visible, to convey something beyond them, to transcend and survive their limits.’34 The belief that music has access to realms of truth beyond the dramatic situation is invariably also supported by the common view that truth is reached through the abandonment of received schemata and conventions. This presumption clearly underpins the entry on ‘Mozart’ in the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera (1987 edition), which describes Mozart’s operatic career as a progressive liberation from conventional forms to represent his characters with increasing lifelikeness and truthfulness. The incomplete opera Zaide is ‘a clear step forward’; Idomeneo ‘has the power to transcend old forms’; Le nozze di Figaro is ‘an enormous advance on its predecessors’; Don Giovanni ‘severs almost the last connections, still present in Figaro, with set types’; finally, Die Zauberfl¨ote shows Mozart’s ‘lifelong care for the truthful observation of human character’.35 Yet this routine narrative is patently absurd in the case of Mozart. If Mozart blurs the stereotypes of opera seria and opera buffa to challenge class distinctions in Figaro, the characters in Don Giovanni clearly revert to earlier types from opera seria (Anna and Ottavio) and opera buffa (Leporello and Zerlina), for reasons that I tried to suggest in my Mozart and the Enlightenment.36 It is nonsense to imply that the obviously generic characters of Die Zauberfl¨ote represent the consummation of Mozart’s movement towards ‘truthful observation of human character’. If they appear truthful it is because Mozart knows how to deploy particular musical and dramatic conventions that have become naturalized in such a way that they seem truthful. As Ronald J. Rabin puts it, ‘Rather than assume that Mozart’s genius invariably led him to transform genre conventions, we might enquire instead how Mozart exploits them

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to suit his dramatic aims.’37 There is no simple opposition between convention and truth. As late as Aida in 1871 Verdi knew that conventions of Italian opera that went back to Rossini could still be relied upon since, as Harold Powers put it, conventions create ‘a framework of expectations’ for an audience.38 Alessandra Campana’s chapter on operatic genres addresses this issue of genre and convention across the history of opera. The problem with Kerman’s reliance on such a narrow definition of drama is that it excluded huge areas of the operatic repertory on the grounds that these works failed to meet his stringent criteria: most seventeenthcentury opera, all eighteenth-century Italian opera seria and French opera, most early Romantic opera. The exclusionary tightness of Kerman’s category of drama led Peter Conrad in Romantic Opera and Literary Form to offer a provocative rebuff when he suggested that opera might more usefully be associated with genres such as the epic, romance, Shakespearean lyric poem, allegory, novel, dance and even painting – anything but drama! Kerman’s method is also typical in that it ignores the theatrical experience of opera in performance; his analytical method is rooted in the notion of the text as something self-sufficient. Remedying this is not just a matter of considering ‘staging’ as an additional component of opera (a position that Donington conceded in a later book);39 it involves an understanding that musical and theatrical works are, to a significant extent, conceived and shaped according to the musical, theatrical and social systems for which they are created.

Nietzsche to the rescue Kerman’s claims for opera as drama had already perhaps been pre-empted in the nineteenth century by Friedrich Nietzsche, who so often anticipates later twentieth-century modes of thought. Nietzsche’s first major work The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music of 1872, written under the influence of Schopenhauer and Wagner, places the problem of opera at the centre of a philosophical enquiry into the nature of being. In this book Nietzsche suggests that those elements that Kerman rejects as inessential to opera as drama (‘the lyrical, spectacular or ritual elements’40 ), or that Winton Dean considered to be ‘an excuse for diversion and the titillation of the senses’, might actually be what make the form valuable. For Nietzsche, in his famous distinction between the Apollonian and the Dionysian aspects of art and life, the main characteristic of the Dionysian is that whereas the Apollonian spirit attempts to impose order and meaning on the world through idealized representation, the Dionysian accepts the underlying flux and meaninglessness of life, sometimes celebrating it, at other times

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accepting its tragic futility. Music and dance as physically expressive arts are the characteristic arts of the Dionysian spirit, and they combine with the more representational form of drama to create Athenian tragedy. In The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche appears at first to denigrate opera, describing the rational, Socratic culture which destroyed the spirit of tragedy as ‘the culture of opera’.41 But this is because, in his view, the historical forms of opera were essentially misguided, based on the mistaken belief that the function of music in opera is to convey the words of the drama clearly (‘It was truly unmusical listeners who demanded that the words be understood above all else.’42 ) or to illustrate the emotions of the characters. The Dionysian aspect of tragedy directly negates Aristotle’s dramatic precepts, and hence, by extrapolation, those of a critic like Kerman. The Dionysian is opposed to the principle of action since it recognizes the futility of goal-oriented action. It is also opposed to the principle of psychological coherence, or, indeed, to the function of the individual as protagonist; Nietzsche specifically regrets the development of ‘character portrayal and psychological refinement that occurs in Sophoclean tragedy’.43 The Dionysian aspects of drama may well be recognized as those aspects of opera (lyric, spectacular, ritual) which Kerman fears will subsume the properly dramatic. The term spectacular is, of course, deliberately chosen for its negative connotations of ‘showy’ or ‘empty’: Wagner’s critique of Meyerbeer’s ‘effects without causes’.44 Yes, we may all agree that there is a lot of showy spectacle in opera, and that knowing the spectacular politics of fascism and the effects of today’s media-dominated ‘society of the spectacle’ we are right to be wary of such spectacle. Indeed, in a 2007 essay on Turandot the authors note that the first production of Puccini’s opera was staged by a stage and film director who became a notorious fascist, and suggest that ‘Turandot delivers opera to spectacle. The power of spectacle obliterates the moral conflict that the surviving characters would have exhibited in a Verdian universe . . . The delivery of opera to spectacle is also its delivery to fascism, to its aesthetic of power through spectacle.’45 Spectacle is often identified with the visual. But Nietzsche believed that the visual was an essential aspect of theatrical communication, writing that ‘myth does not find its adequate objectification in the spoken word. The structure of the scenes and the visible images reveal a deeper wisdom than the poet can convey in words and concepts.’46 Kerman’s and Dean’s strictures against spectacle reveal the typically Protestant iconoclasm of Anglo-Saxon theatre cultures, which tend to distrust the visual – a tendency that goes back to the dispute between the writer Ben Jonson and the scenic designer Inigo Jones over the primacy of their respective roles in the Stuart court masques on which they collaborated. But for the first two hundred years of its life spectacle, associated in particular with stage

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technology – referred to as ‘machines’ in seventeenth- and eighteenthcentury theatre – was assumed to be an essential component of opera; indeed, as essential as music. In his General History of Music of 1766– 89 the English historian Dr Burney stated that opera consisted of three key elements – music, singing and machines – that were always vying for precedence, claiming that during the first century of opera ‘the distinct and characteristic charm of opera was not the Music but the machinery’.47 Purcell’s semi-opera The Fairy Queen (1692) was originally advertised as being presented with ‘Singing, Dancing and Machines interwoven, after the manner of an opera’; as late as 1791 Mozart’s Die Zauberfl¨ote could be announced as ‘a comedy with machines’.48 For the seventeenth-century French philosopher Pierre Bayle opera was a microcosm of the universe, the hidden machinist of the opera being like the hidden God of Cartesian philosophy who operates the cogs, levers and counterweights of nature.49 Burney, on the other hand, was more ambivalent about operatic machines, which he described as ‘expensive and puerile toys’50 (he was another AngloSaxon Protestant, after all). He also considered that eighteenth-century opera had in turn given too much prominence to singing, and that it was time to redress the balance in favour of musical values. Since Burney was writing at the time of Gluck’s reforms in favour of vocal and dramatic simplicity, to be followed by the rich musical complexity of Mozart, it might have seemed that purely musical values had won out. But Italian Romantic bel canto opera and French grand opera reaffirmed that the pleasures of singing and spectacle cannot be expunged from opera. Well into the nineteenth century the advertisement of spectacular scenic effects was as important as information about the composer or singers in selling an operatic performance.51 Indeed, the German critic Theodor Adorno noted that, despite its pretensions to transcendence, opera has always relied upon advanced technologies to achieve its effects of immateriality.52 Adorno cited Wagner as the epitome of this contradiction, although it is well known that Wagner’s experiments in stage technology were as frustrating to him as to his audiences: George Bernard Shaw tells us that Bayreuth smelled like a steam laundry because of Wagner’s overindulgence in smoke effects.53 Wagner’s own imprecations against operatic spectacle, encapsulated in his famous paradox that during the seventeenth century ‘the Musical Drama became, in truth a peepshow (Schauspiel) whereas the Play (Schauspiel) remained a hear-play (Horspiel)’,54 suggest a guilty conscience. That spectacle and technology have throughout much of its history been considered as essential to opera, and that today opera is experienced by the majority of its audience via technological apparatuses of dissemination, justifies a chapter on this aspect of opera in the book (see Chapter 7).

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Nietzsche considered that the producer of early opera had ‘forced the mechanic and the decorative artist into his service’ precisely because he lacked true visionary understanding. Nietzsche similarly believed that the early composers had succumbed to the ‘voluptuous sensuality of vocal music’ because they failed to understand the ‘Dionysiac depths of music’.55 But in fact the voluptuous sensuality of the lyrical could be described as the excessive element of opera which cannot be contained within the bounds of plot or character. It is perhaps where the Dionysian bursts through most powerfully; indeed, Carolyn Abbate and others have seen singing as a kind of uncanny possession.56 When he dismissed the lyrical Kerman was trying to make people take opera seriously, and presumably deplored the kind of canary fancying that many operatic devotees indulge in. But nonetheless it again betokens a kind of puritanism to overlook this aspect of opera, which is, after all, an art designed for lyric performance. As so often, Adorno’s dialectical approach to opera enabled him to see that operatic ‘coloratura’ was ‘an extreme in which the idea of opera emerges most purely’, arguing that Alban Berg ‘was inspired by the genius of opera’ when he wrote the role of Lulu for a coloratura soprano.57 As a Dionysian element the lyrical is also the vehicle for one of the essential components of the tragic experience in drama: Aristotle’s ‘pity and terror’. These were the Dionysian elements of tragic drama that even Aristotle could not ignore. In opera our experience of these extreme emotions is almost always received through the agency of singing, and when communicating extreme emotions the lyrical does often transcend the immediate justification offered by character or situation. As Bellini famously said to the librettist of I puritani, ‘Carve in your head the adamantine letters: “The opera must draw tears, terrify people, make them die through singing”.’58 The sexual connotations of Bellini’s terminology cannot be overlooked (to ‘die’ is a well-known euphemism for sexual orgasm), for he describes exactly the mixture of pleasure and pain that is combined in the condition of Dionysian ecstasy. Like many more high-minded critics Kerman and Dean overlook the importance of sensual pleasure in aesthetic experience. The term ‘aesthetic’ itself, we should remember, means ‘of the senses’; it is extremely rash to neglect the aspect of pleasure in music since desire and pleasure are the strongest motivators for much human action, and we need to be alert to how they are being aroused in works of art. Susan Rutherford considers the importance of singing and singers in Chapter 5. The third component of opera which Kerman wishes to hold at bay is that of ‘ritual’. But I would suggest that this component might be considered even more fundamental an aspect of the dramatic event than the function of representation put forward by Aristotelian theory. When Kerman referred to

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the ritualistic aspect of opera he was thinking of things like the stately temple scenes in Die Zauberfl¨ote, the pseudo-religious tableaux of Parsifal and Tosca, or the Coronation Scene in Boris Godunov. Such rituals can indeed add a kind of pompous dignity and solemnity to an opera. But ritual is a theatrical form which certain kinds of music serve very well, since ritual foregrounds atmosphere, pattern and repetition over action, development and character. Some opera composers, such as Stravinsky, Harrison Birtwistle and Philip Glass, have deliberately set out to emphasize these attributes in whole operas. But we might also note that opera does not just represent rituals. It also serves as a focus for social rituals, just as the occasion of the performance of Greek tragic dramas served as a focus for the community of Athens to affirm its social and ethical ideals. Indeed, for Nietzsche there was ‘no fundamental opposition between the audience and the chorus’ in Attic drama.59 If we judge the operas of Lully, Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito or Smetana’s pageant-like opera Libuˇse by the precepts of Aristotelian dramatic theory we are probably missing the point. Such operas have a specific social function (respectively: to affirm the power and glory of Louis XIV; to facilitate political reconciliation between the Austrian emperor Leopold II and the Bohemian nobility; to provide the emergent Czech nation with a suitable self-image by which to fight for its independence from Austria); they should be judged by their success in relation to these aims. As a historian of ritual in early modern Europe suggests, the core question is not ‘what does it mean?’ but ‘what emotions does it evoke?’60 Carl Dahlhaus’s call for a methodological procedure to challenge Kerman’s consignment of baroque opera to the dustbin of history by attempting to ‘reconstruct the specific idea of the dramatic that really underlay earlier opera seria’61 is to this extent misguided if the primary purpose of opera seria was not, ultimately, dramatic, an issue that I will take up further in Chapter 3. What Nietzsche’s formulations on the Dionysian aspects of art adumbrate is a map for the outward move that has taken place in opera studies from the assumption of the self-sufficiency of musical form and musicodramatic representation to a broader consideration of musical and theatrical performance, and from here to a consideration of the social contexts of the dramatic event, and of the cultural contexts that create systems of meaning and effect for work, performance and event. Such a move also demands a re-engagement with history.62

Opera and history Histories of opera in the past usually consisted of narratives of the development of the different forms and styles of opera, usually constructed in

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a teleological fashion as a story of progress, ‘treating one kind of opera as merely the precursor of another’, as Carl Dahlhaus once put it.63 Works, composers or even whole periods that diverged from the mainstream grand narrative were either ignored or characterized as being, say, exemplary of ‘national’ schools of opera, which placed them (somewhat condescendingly) outside the main (usually Germanic) march of history – although in 1814 a now canonical opera like Fidelio, first performed in its definitive version in that year, would have seemed decidedly marginal, a belated instance of a genre once popular in France in the 1790s. Or history might be offered as ‘background’ to the stories and themes of particular operas (the French Revolution as background to Beethoven’s representation of the theme of liberty in Fidelio; the Italian Risorgimento as background to Verdi’s portrayal of the Hebrews in captivity in Nabucco). But as Mary Hunter and James Webster have insisted, this latter approach to historical contextualization often ‘permits the historical and aesthetic imaginations to operate in different, even unrelated realms; one is invited to exercise one’s historical imagination in acts of homage to a set of essentially or potentially a-historical aesthetic experiences’.64 And although, as Victoria Johnson notes in a recent interdisciplinary study of opera in Italy and France, there have in the past been critics who have worked with a ‘history of ideas’ approach to opera, they have thereby chosen to study the intellectual content of opera without coming to terms ‘with the importance of opera as a site of social, cultural, and political interaction’.65 History of ideas approaches often fail to consider the complex processes by which ideas are mediated by specific institutions and agents, or to deal with the particular materialities and codes of theatrical and musical performance, or of the performance event.66 And our understanding of what constitutes the ‘political’ is now greatly expanded. Where once historical interpretation might have involved simply reading operatic narratives as political allegories – for example, arguing over whether Purcell and Tate’s Dido and Aeneas was an allegory of James II as Aeneas abandoning England as Dido to build a Roman (Catholic) empire, or of Dutch William III as Aeneas being reminded of his responsibilities to English Mary – Anthony Welch now insists that the meanings of this opera must be read through a much wider ‘matrix of cultural forces that give shape to its ideology and form; among them, critical debates over the meaning and legacy of the classical past, shifting models of heroism and of gender relations, the changing make-up of theatre audiences and the evolution of their tastes, and the protocols of genre that organized Dido’s relationship with earlier works and families of works’.67 A nice example of the way in which the politics of a form like opera may not always be explicit, and will depend upon careful consideration of the relationship between formal and aesthetic choices and historical contexts,

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is given in an essay by Jane Fulcher in the collection just cited. Here Fulcher suggests that the stylistic pluralism of a work as apparently innocent as Colette and Ravel’s fairytale opera L’Enfant et les sortil`eges (1925) may have been intended as a deliberate retort to the nationalist stylistic ‘purism’ advocated by the reactionary anti-semitic composer Vincent d’Indy (who was not the first artist to equate aesthetic and racial purity).68 This emphasis upon the historical context for the understanding of a work of art (what we might call ‘synchronic’ historiography) has had a direct impact upon historiographical narratives that attempt to offer explanation of artistic forms unfolding over time (‘diachronic’ historiography). As theatre historian Bruce McConachie puts it, in the past theatrical performances tended to ‘be viewed essentially as “art objects” stuck on a stage, rather than as events occurring between live actors and audiences’.69 Broadening of the synchronic historical context of an object of study means that that object’s apparent solidity is dissolved. The critical theorist Elizabeth Deeds Ermath notes that the tendency to see things in diachronic rather than synchronic terms tends to separate art from politics,70 but that the expanded frame of reference of synchronic historiography means that the ‘work’ can no longer be isolated from its context to be paraded in a diachronic narrative. For if we are talking not only about works of art (and, as we shall see in Chapter 10, even this concept presents us with epistemological difficulties) but also about the economic conditions of their production, their intertextual relations, their critical reception, the social events in which they participated and so forth, then a diachronic narrative of even something as apparently well defined, and as strongly institutionalized, as opera is indeed problematic. And, as Fabrizio della Seta has pointed out, institutions, systems and structures tend to serve sameness and continuity rather than the distinctiveness and change sought in the ‘great works of art’ approach to historiography.71 Yet diachronic historiography cannot be abandoned altogether since one of the key tasks of historical understanding is, indeed, to show how things are similar to, or different from, each other, and to explain why things are similar and why they differ, and how and why change occurs. Our frame of reference for understanding any entity is based on the categories of similarity and difference, and as critical theorist Fredric Jameson insists, ‘we cannot not periodize’ in our effort to map continuities and changes.72 Moreover, we are often also dealing with spatial as well as temporal ‘periods’, seeking explanations for why forms are similar or different in one place from another (for example, why nineteenth-century Russian opera is both similar to and different from French grand opera). Sometimes we need the broad canvas to gain an understanding of the bigger picture of historical development. A recent example of diachronic historiography

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that combines temporal and spatial models proposes three main periodizations of opera that offer evidence of changing geopolitical structures in the history of modern Europe: an initial period of two hundred years during which Italian opera (a linguistic/formal rather than geographical category, since both Italians and non-Italians wrote ‘Italian’ operas both inside and outside of Italy) predominated, reflecting the tendency for emergent modern European cultures to fashion themselves on exemplary models (in this period classical or Italian); a subsequent period of one hundred years during the nineteenth century when the development of indigenous schools of opera was a part of the formation of modern nation states; and a third period described as the ‘Europeanization’ of opera, in which works travel freely across borders from all parts of Europe to establish an international repertory, reflecting the increasing universalization and homogenization of political and cultural values during the course of the twentieth century.73 These and related issues are discussed in Suzanne Aspden’s chapter on opera and national identity (Chapter 12). We cannot not periodize. But what has changed is our understanding that the historical determinants of change are much wider than the parameters of style or form alone; that they cannot be attributed solely to the genius of individual composers; and that they cannot be reduced to monolithic intellectual ‘Zeitgeists’ (‘the Age of Reason’) that explain everything and nothing. Once we recognize the importance of engaging with systems and structures as well as artists and works, then the determinants of change are clearly multifarious, being contingent as much upon changes in political or economic circumstances, institutional structures, performers, technologies or ideologies, as upon the volition of individual creative artists. Indeed, the monumental Italian Storia dell’opera italiana, originally planned in six volumes in the 1980s, has got no further than three volumes elaborating the ‘sistema’ (systems) of opera before even reaching composers or their works. Clearly, nothing claiming to be a history of opera can any longer confine itself to a diachronic account of the handful of great works that survive in the repertory today, and must also acknowledge the historical situatedness of our own experience of the works we encounter or study.

The death of opera? There are many ways of jointing a chicken. Some books of this nature divide their topic by historical period, national schools, or artists. Others separate out the constituent components of the subject (for opera this might include theatre buildings, singing, staging and so forth), whilst another approach is to distinguish different methodologies that can be employed (such as

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reception history, media theory or psychoanalysis). This study has combined the second and third approaches, offering chapters that analyse the social and institutional frameworks of opera in the first section, the material constituents of opera in the second, the formal aspects of opera in the third section, and specific methodological and theoretical issues in the last section. No method of division is entirely satisfactory. The book might have included, for example, a chapter devoted exclusively to the methods of reception history, or a chapter on technological remediations of opera. Instead the reader will find that the methods of reception history, discussed directly in Chapter 10, are to be found in several different chapters (such as in the discussion of literary and filmic representations of opera in Chapter 13), or that a number of authors include discussion of the impact of new media for the production, dissemination and reception of opera in relation to their particular topic. And, of course, not all authors will agree with each other in their approach or in their evaluation of the relative importance of their topic: inevitably Susan Rutherford writing about singers and singing (Chapter 5) believes that singing is the ‘defining feature of opera’, whilst Simon Williams, writing about theatrical production (Chapter 6), argues that opera must be understood as an essentially theatrical form. Both may be right, to the extent that philosophers since Aristotle have recognized that essence and definition may not be coterminous, but their different emphases also highlight the complex and multivalent nature of opera. This book is a companion to opera studies rather than a companion to opera. In this regard it makes no claim to offer a comprehensive account of operatic history or of operatic practice today. The book also takes a broadly institutional definition of opera, which is to say that although its contributors have been encouraged to draw on as wide a range of examples as possible, most of these exemplify the representative rather than the exceptional or marginal (always recognizing that one person’s exceptional or marginal may be another person’s norm or centre). In particular, although operatic institutions survive and even flourish (albeit mostly in culturally highly conservative forms) few people would want to argue that opera itself has been a vital or culturally central art form during most of the twentieth century, let alone today, and this is perhaps reflected in the book. Opera houses commission only a tiny number of new works, and few of these obtain any permanent place in the repertory. The most dynamic forms of music theatre today (and I am not referring to popular musical theatre) are created outside the forms and institutions of opera, which is essentially now a museum art form. Pronouncements of the death of opera are not new; Wagner declared that ‘with Rossini died the opera’74 (although it seems that when he wrote those words French opera was already dead – ‘a

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garish corpse’75 ). Brecht also pronounced opera to be dead, and dismissed attempts to make it more relevant through modernist musical techniques or the paraphernalia of Zeitoper (operas dealing with modern issues and incorporating fashionable modern elements such as divorce or telephones), instead insisting that the only valid method was to rework the essentially ‘culinary’ nature of opera to expose its ideological premises.76 On this, as on few things, Brecht was at one with Adorno, who claimed after World War II that opera was an ‘eviscerated’ art form that didn’t know that it had died,77 and like Brecht dismissed superficial attempts to modernize the form.78 Other moments of opera’s demise have more symbolic value: Toscanini laying down his baton at the point where Puccini left Turandot unfinished in 1926 as the end of the glorious history of Italian opera; Schoenberg’s inability to complete Moses und Aron as the moment that marked the impossibility of any further German opera in the twentieth century. Or, less canonical, the three-hundred-year-old operatic diva who does not (perhaps cannot) sing in Jan´acˇ ek’s The Makropulos Case (also 1926). Here, Jennifer Shepherd suggests, Emilia Marty’s final lament for her own life might also be a lament for opera itself. ‘Having sung for the duration of opera’s history, Marty would, in fact, seem to embody opera. Shared births, perhaps also shared deaths. Jan´acˇ ek staged Marty’s demise with an abrupt surge of song. The rest of Makropulos’s modern conversational singing, on the other hand, might represent another expiration, in which the diva’s swan song is opera’s last gasp.’79 John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles of 1992 can only mourn a dead form that plays to those who are maybe no less dead: ‘At the Met, Ghosts Come to Applaud “Ghosts”’ was the caption of a review in The New York Times.80 Reflecting on the broader ‘morbidity’ of classical music, Joseph Kerman wants us to believe that opera could perhaps become ‘the lifeline for classical ˇ zek and Mladen Dolar, it is precisely opera’s music’.81 But for Slavoj Ziˇ ˇ zek and death that makes it interesting as a subject of study. Indeed, for Ziˇ Dolar opera was dead from the beginning: a new art form based on an attempt to restore the past. Moreover, opera lives on as the un-dead: ‘If opera were simply over’, Dolar writes, ‘it could be assigned a neat place in cultural archaeology and thus properly buried. The astounding thing is the enormous operatic institution’s stubborn, zombielike existence after its demise . . . The more opera is dead, the more it flourishes . . . Opera remains a huge relic, an enormous anachronism, a persistent revival of a lost past, a reflection of the lost aura, a true postmodern subject par excellence.’82 It is perhaps no surprise, then, that recently some of the giants of the current ˇ zek himself but also the French philosopher Alain intellectual scene, Ziˇ Badiou and the American Marxist critic Fredric Jameson, have turned their attention to opera (although predictably, perhaps, to Wagner, who believed

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that his own works had superseded opera).83 Opera may be dead, but its ghosts continue to provoke and challenge, and we still want to know the why and wherefore of it.

Notes 1 Stendhal, Life of Rossini, trans. Richard N. Coe (London: John Calder Press, 1970), p. 7. 2 Charles Baudelaire, ‘Richard Wagner and Tannh¨auser in Paris’, in The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, trans. and ed. Jonathan Mayne (London: Phaidon, 1964) pp. 111–46; 117–18. 3 Robert Donington, The Opera (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1978), p. ix. 4 Siegmund Levarie, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro: A Critical Analysis (University of Chicago Press, 1952) p. vi. 5 Ibid., p. vii. 6 Ibid., p. vi. 7 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1977), p. 141. This is a tendency that can clearly be seen with the claiming by musicology of popular music as a legitimate terrain of study. One of the first steps was to seize popular music from the domain of cultural studies, where it had hitherto resided. Musicology will show that the methods of rigorous musical analysis are essential to understanding of how popular music works; the non-technical approach of cultural studies writers such as Hebdige, Frith or Straw must be superseded by the methodological rigour of Middleton, Walser, McClary or Moore. 8 Jane F. Fulcher, The Nation’s Image: French Grand Opera as Politics and Politicized Art (Cambridge University Press, 1987). 9 John Rosselli, The Opera Industry in Italy from Cimarosa to Verdi: The Role of the Impresario (Cambridge University Press, 1984). 10 Peter Conrad, Romantic Opera and Literary Form (Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1977). 11 Herbert Lindenberger, Opera the Extravagant Art (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984). 12 Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker (eds.), Analyzing Opera: Verdi and Wagner (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1989), p. 9. 13 Reinhard Strohm, Die italienische Oper im 18. Jahrhundert (Wilhelmshaven: Heinrichhofen, 1979).

14 Donald Francis Tovey, ‘The Main Stream of Music’, in The Main Stream of Music and Other Essays (New York: Oxford University Press, 1949), pp. 330–52; 350. 15 Nicholas Cook and Mark Everist, Rethinking Music (Oxford University Press, 1999). 16 Alastair Williams, Constructing Musicology (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001). 17 William W. Austin (ed.), New Looks at Italian Opera: Essays in Honour of Donald J. Grout (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1968), Introduction, p. 3. 18 Ibid. 19 Carolyn Abbate, ‘Music: Drastic or Gnostic?’, Critical Inquiry, 30/3 (Spring 2004), pp. 505–36; 522. 20 Alfred Lorenz, Das Geheimnis der Form bei Richard Wagner. Published in four volumes: Der musikalische Aufbau des B¨uhnenfestspieles ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ (Berlin, 1924); Der musikalische Aufbau von Richard Wagners ‘Tristan und Isolde’ (Berlin, 1926); Der musikalische Aufbau von Richard Wagners ‘Die Meistersinger von N¨urnberg’ (Berlin, 1931); Der musikalische Aufbau von Richard Wagners ‘Parsifal’ (Berlin, 1933). 21 Julian Rushton, W.A. Mozart: Don Giovanni (Cambridge University Press, 1981/1994), p. 76. 22 Abbate and Parker (eds.), Analyzing Opera, p. 3. 23 See Abbate, ‘Music: Drastic or Gnostic?’ 24 Arthur Groos and Roger Parker, ‘Editorial’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 1/1 (March 1989), p. iii. 25 Cleanth Brooks, The Well Wrought Urn (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1947), pp. 22–49. 26 Suzanne Langer, ‘Deceptive Analogies: Specious and Real Relationships Among the Arts’, in Problems of Art (New York: Scribner, 1957), p. 82. 27 Eric Bentley, The Playwright as Thinker (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1946), p. 87. 28 Martin Esslin (ed.), Illustrated Encyclopedia of World Theatre (London: Thames and Hudson, 1977), p. 62.

21 Opera studies today 29 Joseph Kerman, Opera as Drama, new and revised edn (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988), p. xiv. 30 Winton Dean, Handel and the Opera Seria (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969), p. 60. 31 Ibid., p. 82. 32 Carolyn Abbate, Unsung Voices: Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton University Press, 1991), p. 156. 33 Carolyn Abbate, ‘Music: Drastic or Gnostic?’, p. 522. 34 Ibid., p. 524. 35 Harold Rosenthal and John Warrack, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera, 2nd edn (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 337–8. 36 Nicholas Till, Mozart and the Enlightenment: Truth, Virtue and Beauty in Mozart’s Operas (London: Faber and Faber, 1992), p. 204. 37 Ronald J. Rabin, ‘Figaro as Misogynist: On Aria Types and Aria Rhetoric’, in Mary Hunter and James Webster (eds.), Opera Buffa in Mozart’s Vienna (Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 232–60; 233. 38 Philip Gossett, ‘Verdi, Ghislanzoni, and “Aida”: The Uses of Convention’, Critical Inquiry, 1/2 (December, 1974), pp. 291–334; Harold Powers, ‘“La solita forma” and “The Uses of Convention”’, Acta Musicologica, 59 (January–April 1987), pp. 65–90; 45. 39 Robert Donington, Opera and its Symbols: The Unity of Words, Music, and Staging (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1990). 40 Kerman, Opera as Drama, p. 226. 41 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music, trans. Shaun Whiteside (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1993), p. 89. 42 Ibid., p. 91. 43 Ibid., pp. 83–4. 44 Richard Wagner, Opera and Drama, trans. William Ashton Ellis (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), p. 95. 45 Michael P. Steinberg and Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg, ‘Fascism and the Operatic Unconscious’, in Victoria Johnson, Jane F. Fulcher and Thomas Ertman (eds.), Opera and Society in Italy and France from Monteverdi to Bourdieu (Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 267–88; 276. Richard Taruskin has suggested that Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex represents an alternative, stripped-down fascist aesthetic. Richard Taruskin, ‘Un cadeau tr`es macabre’, University of Toronto Quarterly, 72(4), (2003), pp. 1–16.

46 Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, p. 81. 47 Charles Burney, A General History of Music: From the Earliest Ages to the Present Period (1789) (London: G.T. Fowks, 1935), Vol. II, p. 554. 48 Musikalisches Wochenblatt, Berlin 1791, quoted in Otto Erich Deutsch, Mozart: A Documentary Biography, trans. Eric Blom, Peter Branscombe and Jeremy Noble (London: Simon and Schuster, 1990), p. 409. 49 Quoted in Philippe-Joseph Salazar, Id´eologies de l’op´era (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1980), p. 14. 50 Burney, General History of Music, p. 554. 51 Lawrence W. Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988), p. 93. 52 Theodore W. Adorno, ‘Bourgeois Opera’, in Theodore W. Adorno, Sound Figures, trans Rodney Livingstone (Stanford University Press, 1999), pp. 15–28, p. 18. 53 George Bernard Shaw, The Perfect Wagnerite (New York: Dover Publications, 1967), preface to the fourth edition (1923), p. ix. 54 Richard Wagner, Opera and Drama, p. 135. 55 Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, p. 92. 56 Carolyn Abbate, In Search of Opera (Princeton University Press, 2001). 57 Adorno, Bourgeois Opera, p. 26. 58 Quoted in Herbert Weinstock, Vincenzo Bellini: His Life and His Operas (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971), p. 170. 59 Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, p. 41. 60 Edward Muir, Ritual in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 158. 61 Carl Dahlhaus, ‘The Dramaturgy of Italian Opera’, in Lorenzo Bianconi and Giorgio Pestelli (eds.), Opera in Theory and Practice, Image and Myth (University of Chicago Press, 2003), pp. 73–146; 114. 62 Nietzsche, of course, later abjured the Wagnerism of his theory of opera, preferring Bizet’s Carmen for its music that is ‘wicked, subtle and fatalistic’. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner, Nietzsche Contra Wagner, The Twlight of the Idols, The Antichrist, trans. Thomas Common (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1899), p. 6. 63 Dahlhaus, ‘The Dramaturgy of Italian Opera’, p. 114. 64 Hunter and Webster, ‘Introduction’ to Opera Buffa in Mozart’s Vienna, p. 7.

22 Nicholas Till 65 Victoria Johnson, ‘Introduction’ to Johnson, Fulcher and Ertman (eds.), Opera and Society, pp. 1–26; 3–4. 66 I include my own Mozart and the Enlightenment within this critique. 67 Anthony Welch, ‘The Cultural Politics of Dido and Aeneas’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 21/1 (2009), pp. 1–26. 68 Jane F. Fulcher, ‘The French “Opera of Ideas” and its Cultural Role in the 1920s’, in Johnson, Fulcher and Ertman (eds.), Opera and Society, pp. 115–32. 69 Bruce A. McConachie, ‘Towards a Postpositivist Theatre History’, Theatre Journal, 37/4 (December 1985), pp. 465–86; 470. 70 Elizabeth Deeds Ermath, Sequel to History: Postmodernism and the Crisis of Representational Time (Princeton University Press, 1992), p. 36. 71 Fabrizio della Seta, ‘Some Difficulties in the Historiography of Italian Opera’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 10/1 (March 1998), pp. 3–13. 72 Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present (London and New York: Verso, 2002), p. 29. 73 See Philipp Ther, In der Mitte der Gesellschaft: Operntheater in Zentraleuropa, 1815–1914 (Vienna and Munich: Oldenbourg, 2006).

74 Wagner, Opera and Drama, p. 46. 75 Ibid., p. 41. 76 Bertolt Brecht, ‘The Modern Theatre is the Epic Theatre’, in Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic, ed. and trans. John Willetts (London: Methuen, 1978), pp. 33–42. 77 Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, ed. and trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), p. 18. 78 Adorno, ‘Bourgeois Opera’, p. 17. 79 See Jennifer Sheppard, ‘Jan´acˇ ek’s Makropulos and the Case of the Silent Diva’, New Opera Quarterly, 25/1–2 (2009), pp. 51–72; 69. 80 Edward Rothstein, ‘At the Met: Ghosts come to applaud “Ghosts”’, New York Times, 5 January 1992. 81 Joseph Kerman, Opera and the Morbidity of Music (New York Review of Books, 2008), p. 20. ˇ zek and Mladen Dolar, Opera’s 82 Slavoj Ziˇ Second Death (New York and London: Routledge, 2002), p. 3. 83 Alain Badiou, Five Lessons in Wagner, trans. Susan Spitzer (London and New York: Verso, 2010); Fredric Jameson, ‘Regie Opera, or Eurotrash?’, New Left Review, 2nd series, 64 (July–August 2010), pp. 111–29.

part one


1 Opera, the state and society thomas ertman

In a volume in the ‘Cambridge Studies in Opera’ series, Victoria Johnson has pointed to the ‘blossoming of opera studies’ that has occurred in recent decades in the wake of the cultural and historical ‘turns’ experienced by the social sciences and humanities since the 1970s.1 Two new directions in opera research which Johnson has termed the ‘material conditions’ and ‘systems of meaning’ approaches2 have reshaped in a fundamental way our thinking about the relationship between opera, the state and society, and in so doing have laid a firm foundation for further work in this area. While the ‘systems of meaning’ paradigm with its roots in the New Cultural History has reconstructed the time-bounded ‘horizons of expectation’ that opera’s librettists, composers and audiences shared during different periods of the genre’s four-century lifespan, the ‘material conditions’ approach, strongly influenced by social history, has delineated the ways in which political and legal – as well as social and economic – factors have shaped operatic production and reception. This research has uncovered three paradigmatic systems of production and reception that one might call the impresarial, the statist and the impresarial-statist, each of which embodies a distinct pattern in the relationship between opera, the state and society. In the impresarial system, found in its purest form in Italy between the advent of public or commercial opera in 1637 and unification in 1861, in Britain until 1939 and in the United States right down to the present, central states and local governments create the framework conditions for opera production through the enforcement of contracts but provide only minimal financial assistance while leaving the organization of opera seasons in the hands of private businessmen (the impresarios) or associations aiming – but often failing – to turn a profit. Local urban-based social and economic elites choose the opera house as a locus of sociability and status differentiation while influencing the character and content of works through their expectations and tastes. The statist model, pioneered during the late 1600s and 1700s in the principalities of central Europe but now prevalent across most of Europe, represents the greatest possible contrast to the impresarial paradigm. In this model, government officials directly organize opera seasons underwritten by generous princely or later public subsidies in state-owned theatres using [25]

26 Thomas Ertman

permanent artistic ensembles. While during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries these seasons served both to entertain a court-based elite and to project the power and magnificence of the state, since 1918 they have tended to serve rather as showcases for a national or international artistic heritage now rendered accessible to a wider public thanks to government financial support. Finally, France from the age of Louis XIV down to 1939 offers an example of a mixed model, with profit-oriented entrepreneurs often taking over the daily running of the Paris opera houses, but under the watchful eye of government officials who used the subsidies they provided as leverage to shape what appeared on the operatic stage. Increasingly their influence was matched by that of subscribers drawn from the Parisian elite, whose support was crucial to the financial success of the lessees of the Op´era and the Op´era-Comique. A variant of this impresarial-statist paradigm has reappeared more recently in Great Britain. Keeping these three models in mind will allow us to compare the different conditions under which opera has been produced and received across time and space as well as to understand more fully the role of the state in shaping those conditions.

Opera and the night watchman state: the impresarial model in Italy, Britain, Bohemia and the Americas Origins and spread of the impresarial model in seventeenth-century Italy

The origins of laissez-faire, market-driven opera can be traced, according to the research of Ellen Rosand, and Beth and Jonathan Glixon, to an April 1636 production of the opera Ermiona, mounted by Pio Enea degli Obizzi for a public tournament in his home town of Padua, on the Venetian terraferma. The favourable reception of Ermiona seems to have been the catalyst that led the patrician Tron brothers less than a year later to transfer the music drama to their Venetian theatre, the San Cassiano, formerly used to house visiting commedia dell’arte players.3 The great popular success of this work unleashed over the next several decades a veritable commercial opera boom in Venice that saw three new venues opened by 1641 and, according to the calculations of Ellen Rosand, a total of over 150 operas produced in nine different theatres between 1637 and 1678.4 This opera boom was made possible, as both Lorenzo Bianconi and Rosand have pointed out, by a tripartite organizational system of theatre owners, collective or individual impresarios and contract artists first developed in the late sixteenth century to present commedia dell’arte in a city that already enjoyed an international reputation as an entertainment centre and favoured destination for visitors from Italy and abroad. Under this system, which with modifications later became the model for opera production throughout the Italian peninsula

27 Opera, the state and society

and beyond, the wealthy families that owned Venice’s theatres did not themselves mount opera performances, but rather rented their properties out for a fixed sum to artistic collectives or to businessmen who commissioned the works to be staged and hired all the personnel needed to produce them.5 In seventeenth-century Venice, the audience was a uniquely diverse and affluent one, consisting of the local patriciate, nobles from the terraferma, wealthy tourists, members of the diplomatic corps and well-to-citizens such as merchants, lawyers and public officials. At the same time, as Bianconi and Walker have argued, ticket prices were probably too high to permit the city’s common people to attend.6 Yet despite high ticket prices, the substantial cost of popular singers and elaborate sets often rendered it impossible for impresarios to turn a profit even if the works they presented were favourably received. In this case, it was the impresario’s financial partners, often patrician, who were willing to absorb the loss either from a love of the art form or because of the prestige associated with supporting opera.7 The state’s role in this system was limited to the enforcement of contracts, the inspection of theatres for safety violations, and the vetting of opera libretti prior to publication.8 Impresarial opera in eighteenth-century Italy, Britain and Prague

During the nearly 160 years between the arrival of impresarial or public opera in Venice and Napoleon’s invasion of Italy in 1796, the art form spread throughout the peninsula (and beyond) as new theatres were built and older ones refurbished.9 Lorenzo Bianconi has estimated that by 1700 about forty cities within Italy could already boast theatres that mounted regular opera seasons. By 1800 this number had more than doubled to about a hundred such theatres, with most large urban centres (Turin, Genoa, Milan, Padua, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples and of course Venice) possessing several venues operating in competition with one another. The geographic distribution of such theatres remained heavily weighted towards northern and central Italy (Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna and the Marches), with relatively low density in the south.10 While the state could claim only limited responsibility for the emergence of public opera in Venice, it played a more active role in the spread and consolidation of the new art form around the peninsula over the next century and a half by providing operating subsidies, lending singers from princely establishments and underwriting theatre construction.11 Piperno, Bianconi and Walker, and Reinhard Strohm have pointed to three reasons why Italian states in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries furnished such direct support to opera. Firstly, theatrical activities represented a significant service industry in pre-unification Italy, creating thousands of jobs and attracting visitors to centres of operatic production.12 Secondly, opera, by

28 Thomas Ertman

gathering the literate segment of the local population into an easily policed space on a nightly basis, offered an attractive means of social control, especially to conservative regimes. Such reasoning, according to Piperno, led the Neapolitan authorities to extend the operatic season into Lent beginning in 1785 through the licensing of sacrodrammi, or sacred operas.13 Finally, and most importantly, governments looked favourably on opera – and above all the dramma per musica – from the mid-1600s onward because, in the words of Piperno, ‘it functioned as a vehicle for ideas expressing the dominant ideology’14 to a core audience made up primarily of members of the local ruling elite. Venetian-style opera, and with it the impresarial model, spread beyond the confines of the Italian peninsula as well, most notably to London and to central Europe. Beginning in 1708, as the painstaking archival research of Judith Milhous, Curtis Price and Robert Hume has shown, a long series of impresarios began organizing Italian opera seasons featuring star singers in the Queen’s (later King’s) Theatre Haymarket, built by Sir John Vanbrugh and opened in 1705. Despite the theatre’s name, and exactly as in seventeenth-century Venice, these ventures received no government financial support of any kind other than the £1,000 per annum (no more than one-tenth of the total budget) that George I and George II of the operaloving House of Hanover appear to have contributed to Handel’s two Royal Academy companies between 1720 and 1738. Rather, again as in Venice, the state’s role throughout the eighteenth century was limited to providing the regulatory (licensing) and legal framework within which company managers operated and the courts in which the many disputes involving contracts could be settled.15 Indeed, managers’ sole dependence on the box office for revenue led them to charge very steep admission prices at the Queen’s/King’s Theatre – one half guinea for the better places and five shillings for the worst at a time when the most expensive seats at Englishlanguage theatre productions cost only four shillings – thereby ensuring that the core audience would be composed of the British equivalent of the Venetian patriciate, namely the Whig aristocracy. While, as Ian Woodfield has shown, the most talented impresarios such as the manageress Frances Brookes (1773–78) were able to break even or better thanks to popular programming and strict cost controls, most – like their Italian and French counterparts – lost substantial sums and often faced financial ruin.16 In central Europe as well, as Reinhard Strohm and Juliane Riepe have emphasized, Italian impresarios organized travelling companies that offered opera seria and, from the 1750s, opera buffa productions in many cities throughout the Holy Roman Empire at little or no cost to the state when compared to the permanent court opera establishments discussed below.17 Of special historical significance is the centrality of Italian impresarial opera

29 Opera, the state and society

in eighteenth-century Prague that Daniel Freeman, John Tyrrell and Angela Romagnoli have highlighted. Thus Antonio Denzio offered regular public seasons between 1724 and 1734 at a theatre provided (rent free) by Count Sporck, and Giovanni Battista Locatelli presented several new works by Gluck (Ezio 1750, Issipile 1752) at the Kotzen Theatre. Finally, and most famously, it was the impresarios Pasquale Bondini and Domenico Guardasoni who first arranged for the Prague premiere of Le nozze di Figaro (December 1786) at the Nostitz (later Estates’) Theatre, and then commissioned Don Giovanni (October 1787) and La clemenza di Tito (6 September 1791) for the same venue.18 The ‘golden age’ of impresarial opera in nineteenth-century Italy, Britain and the Americas

The literature on opera, state and society in Italy during the genre’s ‘golden age’ between the French invasion (1796) and unification (1861) is dominated by the writings of John Rosselli and by Carlotta Sorba’s comprehensive monograph Teatri.19 These and other works have pointed to three fundamental changes to the impresarial model during the first half of the nineteenth century. Firstly, the decade and a half of French domination and the Risorgimento that followed witnessed a tremendous expansion of operatic activity throughout the peninsula. Drawing on a census of theatrical venues taken in 1868, Sorba has concluded that at least 613 of the 942 theatres found within the borders of the newly unified Italy had been built since 1815.20 Secondly, the vast expansion in theatrical venues naturally widened the audience for opera in Italy.21 This effect was reinforced by the fact that, as Rosselli has established, admission prices in Italy were very low by European standards during this period and remained so thanks to government controls right up until unification.22 Finally, in keeping with the politically repressive atmosphere of the restoration, central and local governments exercised a far greater degree of supervision over and interference in operatic activity after 1814 than in the two preceding centuries, especially by means of pre-performance censorship.23 At the heart of this tremendous expansion of both operatic production and reception during the Napoleonic and Risorgimento decades stood, as Rosselli has demonstrated, the figure of the impresario, whose relative standing had risen compared to that of his eighteenth-century predecessor. In an atmosphere of intense competition for singers, orchestral musicians, successful scores and even costumes, theatre owners of all types turned over the arduous task of mounting opera seasons to professionals seeking to turn a profit or at least to break even. In order to render this possible, theatre proprietors were forced to provide the impresario with a dote (capital

30 Thomas Ertman

endowment or subsidy) in cash or in the form of boxes that could be rented out.24 In the absence of permanent companies anywhere in Italy, impresarios put together two to three seasons (autumn, carnival, spring) per year by drawing on the peninsula-wide free labour market in artists, all hired to perform two operas over a period of several months before moving on to engagements elsewhere.25 This impresarial system was built upon the sanctity of the contract, and could only function as well as it did because of the willingness of the law courts to uphold such contracts.26 Furthermore, as Michael Walter has outlined, individual governments came one by one to offer copyright protection to composers during this period, a development that culminated in the new copyright laws for the unified Italian kingdom passed between 1865 and 1882.27 The advent of effective copyright protection is one of two structural changes wrought by Italian unification in 1861 that – according to Rosselli, Fiamma Nicolodi and, most recently, Jutta Toelle and Alan Mallach – inaugurated the slow decline of the impresarial model of opera–state–society relations dominant in that country since the 1630s. Copyright shifted control of the production process from the impresario, who had previously commissioned new works and then often kept the manuscript for future use, to publishers like Ricordi, Lucca and Sanzogno, who obtained copyright from composers in return for their willingness to print scores and piano reductions.28 The second structural change was the disappearance of the old polities that had provided modest though crucial annual subsidies to the opera houses of their capitals and sometimes to those of key provincial cities as well. During the first few years after unification the national government, as legal successor to the defunct principalities, continued such payments. In late 1866, however, the Italian Parliament, faced with the immense costs of two wars against Austria and public criticism over subsidies for the theatres, voted to end all central government support for the opera houses beginning in 1868 and instead to turn responsibility for such support over to the municipalities, now governed by popularly elected local councils. The latter in turn reduced theatre subsidies, often the object of resentment in the past because they had been financed through taxes on food.29 Finally, as Alan Mallach has underlined, unification brought with it a change in the core audience for opera as a new elite emerged that included professionals, bureaucrats and successful businessmen as well as members of the nobility.30 At the same time, an increase in the number of low-price performances meant that the art form could now be seen live even by Italians of modest means.31 Indeed, in his Prison Notebooks, the Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci, while underlining the democratic character of Italian opera and comparing it in this respect to the plays of Shakespeare and the Greek tragedians, nevertheless argued that the works of Verdi especially

31 Opera, the state and society

had implanted an artificial, melodramatic attitude towards life among the popular classes.32 The nineteenth century represented the apogee of impresarial opera in Britain as well. As Jennifer Hall-Witt has argued, London’s impresarios, not benefiting from any form of state financial support, engaged beginning in the late eighteenth century in what she has termed a ‘commercialization of the opera’, employing a variety of means including the expansion of the King’s Theatre auditorium, the installation of fixed seating in the orchestra and gallery, the marketing of tickets through booksellers, and an increase in the number of performances in an effort to boost revenue. When, in 1843, the government finally decided, in keeping with the liberal policies of the era, to end the Italian opera monopoly enjoyed by the troupe resident at the Queen’s/King’s Theatre since 1737, a rival company, the Royal Italian Opera, opened at Covent Garden. While opera at both venues became less exclusive after mid-century in the sense that the volume of individual ticket sales rose relative to expensive season-long subscriptions, their audiences remained dominated, as Hall-Witt has shown, by an elite now composed, as in other areas of English society, by an aristocracy of wealth as well as of birth.33 In Prague, as John Tyrrell relates, impresario-organized Italian-language opera ended in 1807, but the impresarial model lived on in modified form in the Czech-language Provisional (1862–83) and National (1883–) Theatres. In both cases, the Provincial Council of Bohemia conferred the right to mount opera seasons in Czech to a consortium for a six-year period and provided it with a small subsidy not unlike the Italian dote that nevertheless left that consortium’s management largely dependent on box-office revenues to cover expenses. This system finally came to an end in 1920 with the direct takeover of the National Theatre by the new Czechoslovak state.34 During the nineteenth century, the impresarial model also spread beyond Europe to the younger, generally weaker states of the Americas. As John Rosselli has shown, from the 1820s onward three touring circuits emerged – one centred on the Pacific coast from San Francisco to Chile, a second around the Caribbean, the southern United States, Mexico and Central America, and a third from the Atlantic coast of Brazil to the estuary of the R´ıo de la Plata – along which troupes assembled by Italian impresarios regularly travelled. By mid-century, the most significant opera venue in the southern hemisphere was Buenos Aires. Here such impresarios took advantage of the reversal of the seasons to import top-flight singers during the European summer (when most houses there were dark) to one of the ´ finally city’s large, private theatres. In 1908, the magnificent new Colon opened after a period of planning and construction lasting two decades. While the municipality of Buenos Aires was in the end forced to shoulder

32 Thomas Ertman

most of the building costs, it turned the theatre over to the impresario Cesare Ciacchi once the project was completed. The core audience for this house, as Rosselli and Claudio Benzecry have demonstrated, was made up not of the capital’s huge immigrant population (better represented in the upper galleries), but rather of the leading families of the country’s HispanoArgentine oligarchy who, as in Italy and Britain, transformed the house into an exclusive gathering place.35 The United States, with its tradition of opposition to state support for the arts, was also a centre for commercially oriented opera organized by impresarios throughout the nineteenth century and beyond. As John Dizikes and Karen Ahlquist have recounted, the famed Spanish tenor Manuel Garc´ıa and his troupe were the first to bring Italian opera in the original language to New York in 1825 and 1826. As Ahlquist has further shown, the next three decades saw the construction and failure of three patron-financed opera houses in that city before the managers of the Academy of Music (1854–84) hit on a viable business model in the absence of city or state aid that combined expensive places for the New York elite with large numbers of inexpensive seats (the Academy could hold 4,600) for a mass audience.36 The Academy nonetheless succumbed to competition from the newly founded Metropolitan Opera (1883), built by nouveau-riche backers who felt slighted by older money at the Academy, but run from the beginning by a series of impresarios. These impresarios adopted the successful business model of their erstwhile rivals at the Academy and it has served the Metropolitan well right down to the present. By the eve of World War I touring companies also regularly brought opera to San Francisco and Philadelphia as well as many smaller cities, and permanent companies existed in Chicago and Boston in addition to New York.37 The end of impresarial opera in twentieth-century Italy, Britain and Argentina, and its survival in the United States

Harvey Sachs and above all Fiamma Nicolodi have chronicled how Italy’s participation in World War I and the subsequent fascist takeover of power in 1922 marked a decisive break with a decentralized, laissez-faire pattern of state–opera–society relations and instead ushered in a state-dominated model of the kind pioneered in the German-speaking lands (see p. 41).38 A first step in this direction occurred in November 1920 when La Scala, already outfitted since 1898 with a permanent, though seasonal, orchestra and chorus, was reorganized as a non-profit corporation or ente autonomo supported financially not only by wealthy contributors and the city of Milan, but also, beginning in the 1921–22 season, by the central state. In 1928–29, the fascist government took over Rome’s privately owned Teatro Costanzi and re-launched it as the capital’s publicly supported Royal Opera

33 Opera, the state and society

House (Teatro Reale dell’Opera). Finally, between 1931 and 1936, the regime moved aggressively to bring both the eleven first-rank opera houses (now all constituted as enti autonomi) and their provincial counterparts under direct state control by appointing political figures to their boards, intervening directly in programming and scheduling decisions, allocating singers through a central placement office and creating the Theatre Inspectorate (Inspettorato del Teatro) to enforce its will. The fascists employed these tools not only to keep undesirable works and artists from the Italian stages but also, following the promulgation of the 1938 racial laws, to remove Jews from the opera world.39 While in the political sphere the fall of fascism and the end of World War II brought a democratic republic to Italy, in the realm of opera–state relations the break with the past was far less marked, according to Fiamma Nicolodi. Thus the Scoccimarro Law of 1946 reaffirmed the fundamental role of the central government in supporting opera and left much of the 1936 framework legislation in place. A fateful change, however, was that the trade unions were able to push through permanent, year-round (as opposed to the traditional seasonal) contracts for the orchestra, chorus and technical staff of many houses, thereby contributing to a situation whereby personnel costs (excluding fees for singers, conductors and stage directors) absorbed nearly 60 per cent of the budgets of the enti autonomi by the 1970s.40 These high fixed costs, combined with the irregular or much-delayed transfer of promised government funds, led to a vicious cycle of shortened seasons and falling ticket sales. While the Corona Act of 1967 increased government funding and even permitted a doubling of opera and ballet performances between 1970 and 1984, opera attendance declined further and the financial problems caused by bloated staff payrolls and inadequate state support (0.12 per cent of the Italian budget in the mid-1980s compared to 1 per cent or higher in France and Germany) soon returned.41 More recently, between 1996 and 2000 fourteen opera houses were reconstituted as charitable foundations in order to permit them to gather more easily contributions from corporations and private individuals on the British or American model, but the overall fiscal crisis continues.42 At the beginning of the twenty-first century, then, Italy remains the traditional opera nation where the condition of the art form remains the most precarious. In Argentina as well, the economic and political dislocations of the period following World War I spelled the end of the impresarial model, as Benzecry and Rosselli have documented. In 1925, following a sharp fall in subscription income as a result of the post-war economic slump, ´ no impresario was willing to organize an entire company for the Colon, thereby forcing the capital’s government to step in and create a permanent,

34 Thomas Ertman

city-financed orchestra and chorus. During the next four seasons impresarios, aided by state subsidies, provided singers and overall artistic direction, but in 1930, in the wake of the Great Depression, the house was taken over fully and irrevocably by the municipality, in whose hands it still remains.43 In Britain, the impresarial system now centred on Covent Garden survived the economic turmoil of the 1930s, as Frances Donaldson has chronicled, thanks only to the efforts of the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, who organized international seasons there between 1934 and 1939 with the financial backing of a syndicate of wealthy, aristocratic patrons headed by Lady Cunard. At the end of the war, during which Covent Garden had been used as a dance hall, the newly created Arts Council, led by its chairman Lord Keynes, decided to provide public funds to underwrite the creation of a permanent company based at that theatre (the direct ownership of which was taken over by the Ministry of Works in 1949) that would present opera in English at affordable prices using British and Commonwealth artists. This enterprise was on balance a success, though by the early 1960s the practice of performances in English had been largely abandoned to the (also subsidized) Sadler’s Wells Opera Company (after 1968 the English National Opera), thereby encouraging ever more international stars, previously put off by the English-only policy, regularly to visit the house. While state aid to Covent Garden (through the Arts Council) had initially been modest, it represented nearly 25 per cent of the budget in the early 1950s and was approaching 50 per cent by the early 1960s. Here as well, the impresarial model had finally given way to statism thanks to a new, more positive attitude towards public support for opera resulting from the successful efforts of successive post-war governments to expand access.44 Indeed, the only place that model still thrives is in the United States. In 1932, in a hard-headed and ultimately successful response to the losses caused by the Great Depression, the Met cancelled all existing contracts and reorganized itself as the Metropolitan Opera Association. After acquiring the theatre building from its boxholder-owners in 1940, the Association finally received some indirect assistance in the form of exemption from real estate taxes voted by the New York State legislature in 1943. Further help came in the early 1960s when city, state and federal government grants would provide $40 million towards the $184 million cost of Lincoln Center, where both the Met and the New York City Opera would find their new homes. Such assistance was the exception rather than the rule, however, and both companies, as well as their counterparts in other American cities like San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Houston and St Louis, remain the only non-festival opera organizations to have survived largely unsubsidized – in 2006, the Met received $655,800 from the state towards total expenses of $253,402,128 – into the twenty-first century thanks to a combination of consistently high

35 Opera, the state and society

attendance, generous tax laws on charitable givers, and a tradition of cultivating wealthy donors stretching back more than a hundred years.45

Opera and the weak state: the mixed impresarial-statist model in France Louis XIV, Lully and the mixed model of the ancien r´egime

In the popular imagination, France is often considered the example of statecentred opera par excellence. This is understandable, given the inordinate role played by Louis XIV in the establishment of the genre there and, more recently, the large sums spent by the French state in both the late nineteenth and late twentieth centuries to build imposing opera houses (the Garnier and Bastille) in the heart of that nation’s capital. Yet research on opera and the state in France reveals that this image is based in part on a misconception. While it is true that many works beginning with those of Lully and continuing, it has been argued, through those of Meyerbeer, affirmed existing power relations, and that the Op´era as an institution has been closely identified with the French state, that state in fact rarely administered its principal opera house directly between its founding in 1669 and the end of the Third Republic in 1940. Rather, a long succession of businessmen sought to run the Op´era (or more properly the Acad´emie Royale de la Musique) at a profit just as Lully had done, tolerating a high degree of state oversight as the price that had to be paid for this privilege. France thus represents a mixed model of the relations between opera, the state and society that I have termed ‘impresarial-statist’. It was a powerful music lover, Cardinal Mazarin, who at the end of 1642 invited leading Italian composers, librettists, singers and set designers to the French court of the boy-king Louis XIV and his Regent mother Anne of Austria.46 Yet, despite Mazarin’s best efforts, Venetian-style opera, previously triumphant across the Italian peninsula and soon to be so in London, could not establish a foothold at the French court, and in 1666 Louis XIV dismissed his Italian musicians. The failure of Venetian opera in France did not mean the failure of opera tout court, however. Within a few years of the departure of Louis’s Italian musicians, Paris possessed a flourishing royal opera that despite the vicissitudes of war, revolution and regime change has survived without interruption down to the present. In an important monograph, Victoria Johnson has reconstructed the story of this institution’s founding and re-founding between 1669 and 1672 and survival during the French Revolution. As Johnson has emphasized, the driving force behind the establishment of a permanent opera was the poet Pierre Perrin (1620–75), who was convinced that, contrary to prevailing

36 Thomas Ertman

belief, French was as suitable a language for musical theatre as Italian and that it was possible for the French to challenge the supremacy of their southern neighbours in this field, a view clearly shared by Louis XIV and his chief minister Colbert. On 28 June 1669 Louis granted him the exclusive right or privil`ege to create a French-language, public opera theatre, to be called the Acad´emie d’Op´era.47 The charter of 1669 in effect created a ‘hybrid’ organization. On the one hand, the ruler would be directly associated with the new enterprise as patron and, it was assumed, as the allegorical subject of many compositions. On the other hand, it would be the privil`ege-holder’s responsibility to rent a performance space and to hire musicians, singers, set designers and a composer, as would a Venetian impresario, and to pay them from boxoffice receipts.48 In March of 1672, financial difficulties forced Perrin to sell his privil`ege to Louis’s principal musician and favourite Jean-Baptiste Lully (born Giovanni Battista Lulli in Florence). For the next fifteen years, until his death in 1687, Lully would run the Op´era at a considerable personal profit, thanks to his business acumen and the unbroken popularity at the box office of his trag´edies lyriques.49 As Catherine Kintzler has argued, the breakthrough of this new French form of lyric theatre, in contrast to the initial failure in that country of Italian opera, was due to the ability of Lully and his most frequent librettist Quinault to create works that were both analogous to, yet clearly distinct from, French spoken tragedy thanks to the presence not only of music, but also of dance and of magical elements and the associated stage effects.50 From the start, as William Weber and others have underlined, Lully shaped the Op´era in ways that were to survive down to the Revolution and, in many respects, beyond. In order to maximize his own investment in a hand-picked troupe of over one hundred artists (musicians, singers and dancers) and expensive sets, he mounted performances in his theatre at the Palais Royal three days per week throughout the entire year with only a short break at Easter. Each season was built around a new opera or op´eraballet and one or two revivals of works from previous seasons. The price of admission to the lower and upper amphitheatres seems to have been relatively low and the house crowded, at least during Lully’s lifetime. After his death in 1687, new operas and op´era-ballets were commissioned from Destouches, Desmarests, Campra and other composers, but the uneven success of these works led the Op´era’s directors to fall back on the oeuvre of the departed master that, as Weber has shown, continued to dominate the repertory until the 1730s, at which point they began to share this honour with the compositions of Lully’s true artistic heir, Jean-Philippe Rameau. When compared to its sister institutions in Italy, then, France’s privately run royal opera of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was unique

37 Opera, the state and society

not only in its hybrid organizational form, but also for mounting some 120 to 200 performances per year, many of works written decades earlier, thus rendering it the first repertory opera theatre.51 It was also unusual in that French rulers ceased to attend the Acad´emie regularly from the 1690s until the arrival in the capital of the opera-loving Habsburg princess MarieAntoinette in 1773. It was during this time as well, as James Johnson has shown, that the traditionally hierarchical seating pattern at the Op´era began to break down, thereby leading to more social mixing between aristocracy and bourgeoisie in the theatre.52

The survival of the Op´era during the Revolution and the resurrection of the mixed model under the director-entrepreneurs

That the Op´era, one of the most prominent institutions of absolutist France, was able to survive the French Revolution is deeply ironic – and something of a miracle. As Victoria Johnson has maintained, this can be explained by the fact that by the 1790s the claim first put forward by Perrin and later Lully – that the Acad´emie, through its uniquely lavish productions, would add to the cultural glory of France – had come to be widely accepted even among the revolutionaries. This claim was strengthened by the assertion that the Op´era contributed greatly to the economic health of Paris both by providing work for hundreds of employees and suppliers and by attracting free-spending tourists to the capital. Both of these arguments were echoed in the report delivered to the municipal government on 17 August 1791 by the city official and deputy Jean-Jacques Leroux, who recommended that the Acad´emie not only be saved, but also be provided with a direct subsidy to cover its chronic operating deficits.53 After a period of direct state administration of the Op´era under Napoleon – illuminated by David Chaillou – and during the restoration,54 the liberal monarchy of Louis Philippe attempted to save money by returning to the mixed impresarial-statist pattern of relations among opera, the state and society traditionally associated with France. Thus, on 28 February 1831, a contract was signed with the patent medicine producer Louis V´eron, backed by the immensely wealthy Spanish banker Alexandre Aguado, permitting him to run the Op´era at his own profit and risk for the next six years as director-entrepreneur (directeur-entrepreneur) and providing him with an annual subsidy of between 44 and 50 per cent of total expenditure. With the exception of a brief return to direct state administration between 1854 and 1866 in the wake of the massive bankruptcy of the director Nestor Rocqueplan (a deficit of around 900,000 francs) and to municipal control during the Commune (1870–71), such director-entrepreneurs ran the Op´era – and the Op´era-Comique as well – until 1939.55

38 Thomas Ertman

The essential features of this mature impresarial-statist system can be traced back to the days of Perrin, Lully and their successors. Once again, the state conferred a privil`ege allowing a person or persons to run the Op´era for private gain. However, this new practice of handing the Acad´emie over to director-entrepreneurs differed in two crucial respects from the similar, but ultimately unstable production system of the ancien r´egime. Firstly, the government would now pay an annual subsidy to the privil`ege-holder. The increased expenditures of the Op´era during this period meant, however, that the level of subsidization dropped from about 60 per cent of total outlays in 1830 to about 40 per cent in the 1850s and about 20 per cent in 1875, after which it remained stable until World War I. As comparative figures collected by Michael Walter show, this level of state support at mid-century was probably higher than that found in purely impresarial Italy (for example San Carlo, Naples, 20 per cent in 1848), but much lower than the 50–70 per cent found in many German court theatres.56 Secondly, the return to private management was accompanied by a high level of state supervision that operated in four ways:57 through a detailed contract (cahier des charges – literally ‘book of obligations’) signed by the director-entrepreneur and monitored and enforced by the ministry responsible for the arts; through legislative oversight; through the preventive censorship that was in place between 1835 and 1906 and that required the texts of libretti to be submitted for approval before a new work could reach the stage;58 and, finally, between 1831 and 1870, by a special Commission of Surveillance appointed by the government. In the view of Jane Fulcher, this body played a crucial role, especially between 1831 and 1847, in rendering the Op´era a ‘subtly used tool of the state’.59 Anselm Gerhard and Michael Walter have contested this interpretation, however, arguing based on their own readings of the documents that she has overstated the extent to which successive regimes were either willing or able to influence libretto and repertory choices for clear political ends.60 Who made up the audiences that successive directors of the Op´era, Op´era-Comique and Th´eaˆ tre-Italien needed to attract in order to remain solvent? Research by Steven Huebner and Fr´ed´erique Patureau has cast new light on this subject. Huebner argues that, as far as subscribers are concerned, social differences between the three subsidized opera theatres have been exaggerated: between 1830 and 1870 most were drawn in all three cases from what he characterizes as, echoing Ren´e R´emond, ‘the aristocracies of birth, fortune and education’.61 Patureau has also shown that, as late as 1892–93, the social composition of the traditional Monday–Wednesday– Friday subscriber group at the Op´era remained as elite as it had been prior to the advent of the Third Republic in 1871. However, already during the 1880s the leadership of all of the so-called national (i.e. state subsidized)

39 Opera, the state and society

theatres – Op´era, Op´era-Comique, Com´edie-Franc¸aise and Od´eon (the Th´eaˆ tre-Italien had closed in 1878) – had come under pressure from a National Assembly elected by universal manhood suffrage and a more populist public sphere to open their doors to a wider audience, and the Op´era responded by adding an additional Saturday subscription option in 1892 and increased the number of matinee, reduced-priced (‘family’) and even free performances.62 This case from the democratic Third Republic was one of the first instances in which a government was required to make promises of greater accessibility in order to gain support for generous state subsidies for the arts – a situation that was to become the norm in many European countries beginning in the 1980s. As we have seen, in Italy World War I and the immediate post-war period marked a time in which direct state involvement in opera increased substantially. In France this was not the case. There the long-standing impresarial-statist system remained in place at both the Op´era and the Op´era-Comique. Indeed, after 1914 the fortunes of the Acad´emie lay firmly in the hands of a businessman, Jacques Rouch´e, who would prove to be the longest serving and, in many respects, the most remarkable of all directorentrepreneurs. In September 1914 Rouch´e took up the reins of the Op´era and guided it through the war, post-war economic instability and then the Great Depression without any increase in the annual 800,000 francs subsidy until 1929. All in all, Jean Gourret has estimated that Rouch´e and his business partners lost 18.4 million francs between 1915 and 1931, with Rouch´e covering 73 per cent of this or 13.4 million francs from his personal fortune, a sum nearly equal to the entire budget of the Op´era in 1931.63 As one parliamentarian succinctly put it in 1924, ‘M. Rouch´e is subsidizing the state for the honour of directing the Op´era’.64 The end of the mixed model in France in the wake of the Great Depression and its resurrection in contemporary Britain

In view of the continuing economic crisis and the huge losses he had already sustained, Rouch´e’s patience with the government was exhausted by 1933 and he only agreed to continue in his position if the state covered all future operating deficits. Successive governments of both the moderate right and (after 1936) left honoured this promise, and by 1937 the degree of subsidization had reached German levels of 60 per cent (as opposed to between 4.4 and 12 per cent during the 1920s). Meanwhile, the strike-plagued Op´eraComique, whose director-entrepreneur Pierre Gheusi enjoyed neither the financial resources nor the political clout of his Op´era counterpart, went bankrupt in 1936 and was placed by the new Popular Front government under Rouch´e’s authority as well. In effect, the impresarial-statist model that Perrin and Lully had first inaugurated and V´eron and Rouch´e had carried

40 Thomas Ertman

forward was now exhausted, in part because the higher salaries for artists and technical staff backed by the new government were not compatible with even a subsidized for-profit model. On 14 January 1939 the government nationalized the Op´era and the Op´era-Comique and placed them under a single umbrella organization, the R´eunion des th´eaˆ tres lyriques nationaux, whose first director was . . . Jacques Rouch´e. Once again the latter, now 76 years old, was called upon to guide the Op´era through a world war, and he would later claim that he had preserved many employees from deportation and certain death during the German occupation. Nevertheless, he was dismissed in 1945 as a collaborator and only rehabilitated in 1951.65 Paris’s opera houses were now the sole responsibility of the state, but France’s post-war situation, characterized by expensive colonial wars and political instability, was not conducive to sustained support for the arts. As a result, both the Op´era-Comique and the Op´era suffered, as Gourret has pointed out, from two decades of inadequate funding and labour unrest that culminated in the dramatic events of 1969–72 when the former was permanently shut down and the latter temporarily closed, its entire ensemble dismissed and the director responsible (Ren´e Nicoly) felled by a heart attack. While the experienced Swiss opera administrator and composer Rolf Liebermann was able to reconstruct the company and restore the Garnier to international respectability between 1973 and 1980, during the subsequent decade the socialist government under Franc¸ois Mitterand devoted most of its energy and financial resources to the controversial project of building a new theatre, the Op´era Bastille (inaugurated in 1989) and to reopening the Op´era-Comique in 1990. Since that time, however, the successful administrations of the Swiss Hugues Gall (1995–2004) and the Belgian Gerard Mortier (2004–09) combined – as in Germany–with a high level of financial commitment from the state (average subsidy 56–58 per cent of expenditure between 2003 and 2008) have returned the Op´era, now occupying both the Garnier and the Bastille, to its traditional place among the elite of world opera houses.66 While in 1939 France may have forsaken the impresarial-statist model which it pioneered for pure statism, that model, it could be argued, has resurfaced more recently across the Channel, in London. If during the 1960s the British government had begun to emulate its continental neighbours by subsidizing over half of the annual expenditures of the Royal Opera House (ROH), by the mid-1980s that figure had fallen to about 45 per cent and in 2008 stood at only 29 per cent, much closer to the average 20 per cent subsidy in pre-1914 France than the 80 per cent support provided by German states and municipalities to their opera houses today (see p. 46). In addition, as the candid memoirs of former chief executives Jeremy Isaacs and Mary Allen show, political pressure (exercised through the Arts

41 Opera, the state and society

Council) to meet certain standards of ‘access’ and ‘outreach’ has increased, not decreased, with the decline in state aid. In the face of this decline, successive ROH managers have resorted not only to aggressive fund raising from individuals and corporations (16.9 per cent of revenue), but also to profit-making business ventures (12.8 per cent) in order to supplement box-office receipts (39.4 per cent). This combination of limited state aid, close government oversight and a commercial orientation was, it will be recalled, the hallmark of the old French system of director-entrepreneurs.67

Opera and the strong state: the statist model in German-speaking central Europe and Russia Court opera in the Holy Roman Empire and Sweden in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

If the writings of Bianconi, Piperno, Rosselli and Sorba point to preunification Italy as the homeland of impresarial opera, then those of Ute Daniel, Franz Hadamowsky, Michael Walter and others identify the German-speaking territories of the Holy Roman Empire and its successors the German Confederation and (after 1871) imperial Germany and Austria-Hungary as pioneers of a state-centred pattern of operatic production and reception that has shaped the art form’s fate in those lands right down to the present. Under this statist model, permanent companies receiving generous government support perform nearly year round to an audience dominated by those with ties to the state. As several pieces in the recent European Science Foundation-supported volume Italian Opera in Central Europe stress, the new form of musical theatre developed in Italy first appeared and then consolidated itself within the Holy Roman Empire in the guise of what Lorenzo Bianconi has termed ‘court opera’, a forerunner to the statist paradigm characterized by single, lavish presentations of works performed by court musicians for invited, non-paying audiences, as was the case in Florence and Mantua in the early 1600s and Rome in the 1630s. Thus, according to Herbert Seifert, the first opera staged north of the Alps was in all likelihood Monteverdi’s Orfeo, mounted in 1614 for the prince-bishop of Salzburg Marcus Sitticus and his court by Italian musicians (including the originator of the lead role, Francesco Rasi) whom the music-loving churchman had recruited.68 Over the course of the next century, ambitious rulers one by one followed Sitticus’s lead and introduced occasional performances of Italian opera to the courts of Vienna (1620s), Munich (1653), Innsbruck (1654), Dresden (1662), Hanover (1678), Stuttgart (1698), Bonn (1699) and many smaller capitals.69 Opera

42 Thomas Ertman

was then able to put down permanent roots in the Holy Roman Empire in the late eighteenth century thanks to two key innovations introduced in the wake of the bloody and costly Seven Years War (1756–63). Firstly, the fiscal burden associated with the war and its aftermath led many rulers to open the doors of their court theatres to a paying audience, an innovation that had spread throughout Germany by the early 1800s.70 Secondly, this fiscally motivated reform took place at a time when Enlightenment thinkers like Johann Christoph Gottsched were arguing that German-language theatre would contribute to the moral and cultural education of the public.71 In this spirit, Emperor Joseph II ordered in 1777 that a ‘German National Singspiel’ performing opera in the local language should occupy the Burgtheater.72 Before Joseph ended this experiment in 1783, his initiative in favour of opera in the vernacular performed by native central European artists had unleashed a wave of imitation among many neighbouring princes.73 Yet, as Greger Andersson has indicated, another northern European ruler seems to have launched a ‘national opera’ project even earlier than Joseph: Gustav III of Sweden (reigned 1771–92). Since 1699, the Swedish court had periodically hosted French companies performing plays and both serious and comic operas, and the music-loving queen Lovisa Ulrika (Frederick the Great of Prussia’s sister) also inaugurated a new royal theatre (the Confidencen) and invited an Italian troupe to court the following year. Her son Gustav, after succeeding to the throne, founded the Royal Swedish Opera in 1773, a permanent company that performed newly commissioned heroic and comic works as well as contemporary French and Italian operas, all in Swedish. In 1782 he built the new opera house for his artists in which he himself was assassinated during a masked ball on 29 March 1792, thereby gaining immortality as a character in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera (and in Auber’s setting of the same libretto).74 The maturation of court opera in nineteenth-century central Europe and Russia

In his path-breaking comparative social history of opera, Michael Walter has argued that the fact that from the early nineteenth century onward (1848 in Vienna) the administrators of Germany’s reformed court theatres mounted performances directly using local artists, rather than relying on short-term contracts with impresarios as in Italy, had far-reaching structural consequences for the conditions of production and reception in that region. In the first instance, it meant that court theatres built up libraries of opera scores that could be used for future revivals of successful works, whereas in Italy scores remained the property of the impresarios who had commissioned or otherwise acquired them. This in turn permitted the

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introduction and spread of a repertory system in the German-speaking lands under which upwards of twenty or more works might alternate with one another over the course of a season. Since court theatres traditionally offered spoken dramas, comedies and ballet evenings as well as opera, such theatres could remain open year round with only a short break during the summer months, mounting some 230 or more performances of pieces drawn from all of these genres per season.75 Once the court theatres had begun performing operas and theatre pieces exclusively in German, it made good financial sense, as Ute Daniel has emphasized, to engage a standing ensemble of local artists. The result was the creation during the first half of the nineteenth century of a single labour market in singers and actors within the German Confederation.76 The reforms introduced into the court theatres of the German-speaking lands during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries naturally brought with them a transformation in the make-up, seating arrangements and behaviour of their audiences. As mentioned above, Bianconi and others have stressed that a defining feature of the earliest forms of court opera in both Italy and Germany was that productions were mounted for an invited, non-paying audience of court members and distinguished guests, seated in hierarchical fashion and abstaining from spontaneous reactions to what they saw and heard so as not to offend the presiding prince. As the studies of B¨ohmer and Henzel have shown, these features continued to define Italian opera seria performances in Munich in the 1770s and in Berlin as late as 1800.77 After the introduction of paid admission, however, the core audience of aristocrats, government officials and army officers was now forced to attend performances with many more spectators from the world of commerce, finance, industry and the free professions.78 In addition to the German territories, Austria and Scandinavia, the other great home of the statist model during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the Russian Empire. As Murray Frame has recounted, the Empress Elizabeth created a directly administered court theatre open to the public in 1756, and between 1824 and 1860 the tsarist state constructed five new buildings, three in St Petersburg and two in Moscow, to house the imperial opera, ballet and theatre troupes. From 1843 to the early 1880s – as Julie Buckler has explained in her study of opera attendance in nineteenthcentury Russia, which makes innovative use of literary sources as well as official documents – the government supported rival Russian and an Italian opera company in St Petersburg, with the latter the more socially prestigious. As both she and Murray Frame stress, while the core opera audience up until the end of 1914 was closely associated with the imperial state, a wider cross section of the city’s population was also present, though high prices and the subscription system largely excluded the working class.79

44 Thomas Ertman The vicissitutes of the statist model in post-1918 Europe

In his authoritative survey of opera during the Weimar Republic, Michael Walter has called the end of World War I ‘the most striking date in the institutional and social history of opera in Germany’.80 This was so because the end of the Empire also meant the end of the court theatres. The new, democratically constituted German states – and above all the largest, Prussia – assumed immediate financial and administrative responsibility for these theatres and renamed them Staats- or Landestheater (hence the Berlin Hofoper was rechristened the Staatsoper). In addition, during the Weimar years difficult economic conditions forced city governments to take over more formerly private local theatres so that the number of Stadttheater (public municipal theatres) rose significantly from ten in 1914 to sixty-six in 1931–32. In 1919 there was a widespread consensus among the new political masters of Germany’s state-run theatres – echoing that of French Third Republic parliamentarians mentioned above – that a ‘democratization’ of the opera was necessary if substantial public subsidies were to be justified, and they sought to realize this goal by greatly expanding the number of low-price and free tickets in an effort to open the doors of the opera house to those who had previously been excluded from it.81 As Walter has argued, however, this attempt to increase what today is called ‘accessibility’ largely failed. While the core opera audience did indeed change fundamentally during the Weimar Republic, it did not do so in the way hoped for by many politicians on the left (and some on the right). The places vacated by the court aristocracy and those among the educated upper middle class (Bildungsb¨urgertum) ruined by the great inflation of 1920–23 were taken not by workers, but rather by the nouveaux riches who had profited from war and economic dislocation and by the upper echelons of the ‘new middle class’ of white-collar employees. This new audience – and especially its younger members – were less deeply committed to opera than the former court theatre elites, and the directors of public theatres sought to attract it to the opera house both through frequent world premieres and a very conservative repertory policy dominated by the warhorses of the pre-war era (the operas of Wagner, Verdi, Lortzing and Mozart) now supplemented by those of Puccini.82 In Russia as well, as Murray Frame has chronicled, World War I and its aftermath brought an end to the court theatres. On 6 March 1917, the Kerensky government transformed the court theatres into state theatres, and on 26 August 1919 the Bolsheviks nationalized all of the country’s theatrical property. Yet, as in France, the imperial opera and ballet companies in St Petersburg and Moscow miraculously survived this revolutionary upheaval largely intact, despite their close association with the old regime. Frame explains this by the fact that while many radical intellectuals like Meyerhold advocated the complete destruction of the old artistic landscape,

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both Lenin and the first People’s Commissar of Enlightenment, Anatoly Lunacharsky, favoured preserving the best of the tsarist cultural legacy, which they believed valuable in itself, while at the same time making it accessible to the people.83 A now vast literature, beginning with the pioneering works of Joseph Wulf and Fred Prieberg, has analysed the changes to German musical life introduced by the Nazis after their seizure of power in 1933.84 Foremost among these was the creation of a powerful instrument of centralization and control in Goebbels’s Reichsministerium f¨ur Volksaufkl¨arung und Propaganda (Reich Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda; RMVP) and the Reichsmusikkammer (Reich Musicians’ Chamber; RMK), the official state organization of musicians.85 As far as opera is concerned, Michael Walter has demonstrated that neither the leaders of the Goebbels-influenced RMK nor their rivals in the Amt Rosenberg had any clear plan of action for this sphere other than to remove all traces of Jewish and ‘cultural bolshevist’ (radical modernist) influence from German operatic life, something upon which both factions could agree.86 As the recent exhibition Verstummte Stimmen (‘Silenced Voices’) has documented, this policy was carried out with great thoroughness. At the Staatsoper in Berlin, for example, twenty-one artists and employees were summarily fired in 1933 after discussions between administrative director Heinz Tietjens, music director Wilhelm Furtw¨angler and Hermann G¨oring based on a list of Jewish ensemble members drawn up in 1932 by the house’s Nazi party cell. In addition to the hundreds, if not thousands, of employees and artists associated with German-speaking opera houses dismissed and/or driven into exile by the Nazis, the curators of Verstummte Stimmen have identified over thirty-five composers (including Viktor Ullmann and Pavel Haas), singers (including Magda Spiegel and Henriette Gottlieb) and directors murdered in Nazi death camps. Similarly, the works of all Jewish composers (such as Offenbach, Meyerbeer and Schreker) were removed from the repertory. Interestingly, this fate did not befall the immensely popular Carmen, whose libretto was written in part by the Jewish Ludovic Hal´evy.87 By the end of World War II, 98 of Germany’s 300 theatres lay in ruins, according to Ferdinand K¨osters’s extremely comprehensive history of the resurrection of opera in that country between 1945 and 1955. What is striking is the speed with which often homeless companies organized full-scale productions following the capitulation of the Third Reich on 7 May 1945: by 4 September the Deutsche Oper could mount Fidelio in Berlin, and throughout 1945–46 performances occurred in often makeshift quarters across the ruined land.88 The tremendous energy and resources devoted during a time of great hardship and scarcity to the revival of opera and the rebuilding of the public theatres, above all with the support of municipal

46 Thomas Ertman

and later state governments, are remarkable and were characteristic of both halves of the increasingly divided country, as witnessed by the rapid reconstruction of the old Staatsoper in East Berlin at extraordinary expense while most other historical buildings in the capital remained in ruins. In a parallel to the Weimar Republic, 144 new operas received their premieres in both Germanys between 1945 and 1955, and the post-1918 policy of substantial state aid to public theatres in order to reduce admission prices has continued down to the present.89 Thus, according to the Deutsche B¨uhnenverein’s most recent statistical handbook, the Federal Republic in 2006–07 contained 143 public theatres offering over 6,500 opera performances seen by nearly 4.4 million audience members and underwritten by government subsidies of 2.075 billion Euros, or 81 per cent of operating costs.90 Despite, then, the vicissitudes of the twentieth century, Germany continues to possess the world’s most dense opera landscape, an achievement rendered possible by a statist model of production and reception with roots stretching back to the very first decades of the art form itself.

Theoretical conclusion: opera, the state and society in comparative-historical perspective Opera history would seem to lend itself naturally to a comparative approach. By the early eighteenth century at the latest the art form had spread across Europe and yet, as the discussion above has illustrated, the way in which performances were organized and financed, the audience they attracted and the exact role of the state in this process varied, despite certain commonalities, from one part of the continent to the next. How can we account for these differences, as well as for similarities in the pattern of production and reception across regions or, later, nations? Surprisingly, this is a question rarely asked in a systematic way in the literature surveyed in this chapter. If we look to neighbouring fields like social theory, the sociology of music and historical sociology, however, we can discover a number of hypotheses and methodological approaches that could introduce a new dynamism into the study of the relations among the state, opera and society. A potentially fruitful starting point for exploring similarities across different opera worlds is the famous essay of Theodor Adorno, ‘Bourgeois Opera’.91 The puzzle to which Adorno provides one possible answer might be formulated in this way: given all of the variations in production systems and in cultural traditions among, for example, Italy, Germany and France, why do operas from a certain period exhibit common themes regardless of setting or country of origin? Adorno’s answer, simply put, is that opera is a bourgeois art form, the essence of which is defined by the ‘crossing of

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myth and of enlightenment, of captivity within a blind system with no consciousness of itself and of the idea of freedom which rises up in its midst’.92 This new art form first came to full bloom, he points out, in the Venetian Republic under bourgeois social conditions and triumphed at the courts of the eighteenth century only after the social emancipation of the bourgeoisie was well advanced. The situation of opera then became ‘precarious . . . when the bourgeois high society that had carried [it] in its fully developed form no longer existed’.93 Jane Fulcher has pointed to an alternative to this position of Adorno’s. It is derived from the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of ‘symbolic domination’, or the struggle to define what is legitimate.94 In her detailed study of music and politics in interwar France, Fulcher has shown that it makes little sense to link a given style, in this case neoclassicism, to a particular class or even political interest, as Adorno tends to do when discussing Stravinsky. Rather, both left- and right-wing composers employed this style, but interpreted its meaning in different ways and sought to impose their ‘reading’ through a struggle that extended from the concert hall through the opera house to the print media.95 This idea of a struggle for symbolic legitimacy that can involve aesthetic choices, journalistic campaigns and subtle or not-so-subtle interventions by state authorities opens up a new way of viewing opera during the 1920s and 1930s that can be applied productively to other periods as well. Can the social sciences also help us to explain the differences in the systems of production and reception found in Italy, France and Germany outlined above? Over the past several decades a literature has emerged within political science and sociology which highlights the systematic differences in the pattern of statebuilding found across the early modern and modern West. This literature points to the emergence after 1500 within the German and Scandinavia states of proto-modern bureaucracies of the kind thematized by Max Weber, in contrast to the continuing predominance during the same period in western and southern Europe of less effective administrative and financial methods built around venal office and tax farming.96 It seems reasonable to hypothesize that it is these variations in statebuilding trajectory that account for the fact that prior to the interwar period it was mainly private entrepreneurs, rather than civil servants, who organized opera productions in Italy, France, Britain and the Americas, whereas the latter were responsible for opera seasons from an early date in central and northern Europe as well as in Russia. The spread of bureaucratic methods and structures across the West over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in turn can help explain the almost universal triumph after 1945 of the statist model of opera production and reception pioneered in Germany. While these parallels require further investigation, they suggest

48 Thomas Ertman

that a closer engagement with research on the state might be a fruitful next step in developing a truly comparative history of opera production and reception.

Notes 1 Victoria Johnson, ‘Introduction: Opera and the Academic Turns’, in Victoria Johnson, Jane F. Fulcher and Thomas Ertman (eds.), Opera and Society in Italy and France from Monteverdi to Bourdieu (Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 1–26; 1–2. 2 Ibid., pp. 13–18. 3 Ellen Rosand, Opera in SeventeenthCentury Venice: The Creation of Genre (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991), pp. 67–72; Beth Glixon and Jonathan Glixon, Inventing the Business of Opera: The Impresario and His World in Seventeenth-Century Venice (Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 18–19, 67–9. 4 Rosand, Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice, p. 3; David Kimbell, Italian Opera (Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 113–15. 5 Lorenzo Bianconi, Music in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 182–5; Rosand, Opera in SeventeenthCentury Venice, p. 79; Glixon and Glixon, Business of Opera, pp. 3–10. 6 Lorenzo Bianconi and Thomas Walker, ‘Production, Consumption and the Political Function of Seventeenth Century Opera’, Early Music History, 4 (1984), pp. 209–96; 227; Glixon and Glixon, Business of Opera, pp. 295–305; Rosand, Opera in SeventeenthCentury Venice, p. 14. 7 Glixon and Glixon, Business of Opera, p. 105. 8 Ibid., pp. 123–4, 302–5, 313–14; Rosand, Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice, p. 15. 9 Lorenzo Bianconi and Thomas Walker, ‘Dalla Finta pazza alla Veremonda: storie di Febiarmonici’, Rivista italiana di musicologia, 10 (1975), pp. 379–454; Bianconi, Music, pp. 193–4; Franco Piperno, ‘Opera Production to 1780’, in Lorenzo Bianconi and Giorgio Pestelli (eds.), The History of Italian Opera, Part II, Vol. IV: Opera Production and its Resources, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (University of Chicago Press, 1998), pp. 1–79; 15–16; Rosand, Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice, p. 186. 10 Lorenzo Bianconi, Il teatro d’opera in Italia: geografia, caratteri, storia (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1993), pp. 11–13.

11 John Rosselli, Singers of Italian Opera: The History of a Profession (Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 7–24; Robert Lamar Weaver and Norma Wright Weaver, A Chronology of Music in the Florentine Theater 1590– 1750 (Detroit: Information Coordinators, 1978), pp. 62–71; Piperno, ‘Opera Production’, pp. 36–9. 12 Franco Piperno, ‘State and Market, Production and Style: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Eighteenth-Century Italian Opera History’, in Johnson, Fulcher and Ertman (eds.), Opera and Society, pp. 138–59; 139–43; Piperno, ‘Opera Production’, pp. 17, 37, 41–2. 13 Piperno, ‘State and Market’, pp. 140, 144–8; John Rosselli, ‘Opera Production, 1780–1880’, in Bianconi and Pestelli (eds.), Opera Production, pp. 81–164; 100. 14 Piperno, ‘Opera Production’, p. 16. See also Bianconi and Walker, ‘Production, Consumption’, p. 260: ‘opera theatre, once established . . . functions as an instrumentum regni, a public demonstration and representation of authority’; and Reinhold Strohm, Dramma per Musica: Italian Opera in the Eighteenth Century (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), p. 6: ‘there had always been a solid alliance between opera and political absolutism’. 15 Judith Milhous, ‘Opera Finances in London, 1674–1738’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 37/3 (Autumn, 1984), pp. 567–92; Curtis Price, Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, Italian Opera in Late Eighteenth Century London. Vol. I: The King’s Theatre, Haymarket 1778–1791 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1995), pp. 2–8. 16 Ian Woodfield, Opera and Drama in Eighteenth Century London (Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 182–97, 219–23; Price, Milhous and Hume, Italian Opera, Vol. I, pp. 4–6, 9–14; Judith Milhous, Gabriella Dideriksen and Robert D. Hume, Italian Opera in Late Eighteenth Century London. Vol. II: The Pantheon Opera and its Aftermath 1789–1795 (Oxford: Clarendon, 2001), pp. 649–55; Milhous, ‘Opera Finances’, pp. 585–90, 592; Michael Burden, ‘The Lure of the Aria,

49 Opera, the state and society Procession and Spectacle: Opera in Eighteenth Century London’, in Simon Keefe (ed.), The Cambridge History of Eighteenth Century Music (Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 385–401; 385–6. 17 Strohm, Dramma per Musica, pp. 93–6; Juliane Riepe, ‘“Essential to the Reputation and Magnificence of such a High-Ranking Prince”: Ceremonial and Italian Opera at the Court of Clemens August of Cologne and other German Courts’, in Melania Bucciarelli, Norbert Dubowy and Reinhard Strohm (eds.), Italian Opera in Central Europe. Vol. I: Institutions and Ceremonies (Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, 2006), pp. 147–75; 168–70, 172–3. 18 Angela Romagnoli, ‘From the Habsburgs to the Hanswursts, up to the Advent of Count Sporck: The Slow Progress of Italian Opera on the Bohemian Scene’, in Bucciarelli, Dubowy and Strohm (eds.), Italian Opera, pp. 67–97; 82–7; Daniel Freeman, The Opera Theater of Count Franz Anton von Sporck in Prague (Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon Press, 1992), pp. 9–75; John Tyrrell, Czech Opera (Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 14–16. 19 Carlotta Sorba, Teatri: l’Italia del melodrama nell’et`a del Risorgimento (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2001). 20 Ibid., p. 26. See also Bianconi, Il teatro, pp. 12–14. 21 Sorba, Teatri, pp. 93–5, 139–45; John Rosselli, ‘Opera Production, 1780–1880’, in Bianconi and Pestelli (eds.), Opera Production, pp. 81–164; 156–7. 22 Sorba, Teatri, pp. 119–31; John Rosselli, The Opera Industry in Italy from Cimarosa to Verdi: The Role of the Impresario (Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 44–5, 67–70; Rosselli, ‘Opera Production’, pp. 87–8. 23 John Black, The Italian Romantic Libretto: A Study of Salvatore Cammarano (Edinburgh University Press, 1984), pp. 18, 47–54. 24 Rosselli, ‘Opera Production’, pp. 82, 89–93, 95–7; Rosselli, Opera Industry, pp. 20–1, 46–9, 67–76. 25 Rosselli, Opera Industry, pp. 13–15, 17–37. 26 Rosselli, Opera Industry, pp. 109–13; Rosselli, ‘Opera Production’, pp. 125–9. 27 Michael Walter, ‘Die Oper ist ein Irrenhaus’: Sozialgeschichte der Oper im 19. Jahrhundert (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1997), pp. 222–9. 28 Rosselli, Opera Industry, pp. 173–5; Fiamma Nicolodi, ‘Opera Production from Italian Unification to the Present’, in Bianconi and Pestelli (eds.), Opera Production, pp. 165–228; 182–8; Jutta Toelle, Oper als Gesch¨aft: Impresari an italienischen Opernh¨ausern 1860–1900 (Kassel: B¨arenreiter, 2007),

pp. 54–6, 114–20; Alan Mallach, The Autumn of Italian Opera: From Verismo to Modernism, 1890–1915 (Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 2007), pp. 208–24. 29 Rosselli, ‘Opera Production’, pp. 76–7, 169–70; Nicolodi, ‘Opera Production’, pp. 165–7, 172–7; Sorba, Teatri, pp. 252–8; Mallach, Autumn, p. 403; Toelle, Oper, pp. 146, 179–91. 30 Mallach, Autumn, pp. 9–10, 124–6. 31 Roberto Leydi, ‘The Dissemination and Popularization of Opera’, in Lorenzo Bianconi and Giorgio Pestelli (eds.), Opera in Theory and Practice, Image and Myth (University of Chicago Press, 2003), pp. 287–376; Toelle, Oper, pp. 58–60; Rosselli, ‘Opera Production’, pp. 156–8; Nicolodi, ‘Opera Production’, pp. 188–91. 32 Antonio Gramsci, Passato e presente (Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1977), pp. 194–5; Gramsci, Letteratura e vita nazionale (Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1977), pp. 77–81. See also: Marzio Pieri, ‘Opera and Italian Literature’, in Bianconi and Pestelli (eds.), Opera in Theory and Practice, pp. 221–86; 228–32. 33 Jennifer Hall-Witt, Fashionable Acts: Opera and Elite Culture in London, 1780–1880 (Durham: University of New Hampshire Press, 2007), pp. 146–84. 34 Tyrrell, Czech Opera, pp. 24–31, 32–5, 38–45, 47. 35 John Rosselli, ‘The Opera Business and the Italian Immigrant Community in Latin America 1820–1930: The Example of Buenos Aires’, Past and Present, 127 (May 1990), pp. 155–82; Claudio Benzecry, The Opera Fanatic: Ethnography of an Obsession (University of Chicago Press, 2011), chapter 1; Benzecry, ‘Opera and Social Closure in 19th Century Buenos Aires: Detaching Ritual Classification from Organizational Form’, unpublished manuscript. 36 John Dizikes, Opera in America: A Cultural History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993), pp. 3–12; Karen Ahlquist, Democracy at the Opera: Music, Theater and Culture in New York City, 1815–1860 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997), pp. 41–81, 116–59. 37 Irving Kolodin, The Metropolitan Opera 1883–1966 (New York: Knopf, 1966), pp. 3–14; Dizikes, Opera in America, pp. 163–6, 269–83, 361–5, 413–14. 38 Nicolodi, ‘Opera Production’, pp. 191–207; Nicolodi, Musica e musicisti nel ventennio fascista (Fiesole: Discanto, 1984); Harvey Sachs, Music in Fascist Italy (New York: Norton, 1987), especially pp. 55–86.

50 Thomas Ertman 39 Nicolodi, ‘Opera Production’, pp. 191–5, 197–8, 202–7; Nicolodi, Musica, pp. 17–18. 40 Nicolodi, ‘Opera Production’, pp. 208–10, 212, 222. 41 Ibid., pp. 211, 216, 218–19, 221–2. 42 Mallach, Autumn, p. 371. 43 Benzecry, Opera Fanatic, chapter 1; Benzecry, ‘Opera and Social Closure’; Rosselli, ‘Opera Business’, pp. 179–81. 44 Frances Donaldson, The Royal Opera House in the Twentieth Century (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1988), pp. 30–1, 40–50, 75, 86, 117–18. 45 Kolodin, Metropolitan Opera, pp. 25–38; Dizikes, Opera in America, pp. 510–18, 529–30; Metropolitan Opera Association, Tax Form 990 (2006), p. 1. 46 Robert Isherwood, Music in the Service of the King: France in the Seventeenth Century (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1973), pp. 123–5; Silke Leopold, Die Oper im 17. Jahrhundert (Laaber-Verlag, 2004), pp. 174–7. 47 Victoria Johnson, Backstage at the Revolution: How the Royal Paris Opera Survived the End of the Old Regime (University of Chicago Press, 2008), pp. 98, 105, 110–11, 114–15; Isherwood, Music, pp. 175–6; J´erome de La Gorce, L’Op´era a` Paris au temps de Louis XIV (Paris: Dejonqu`eres, 1992), pp. 15–17. The complete text of the privil`ege can be found in Jean Gourret, Ces hommes qui ont fait l’Op´era (1669–1984) (Paris: Albatros, 1984), pp. 251–2. 48 Johnson, Backstage, pp. 111–13. 49 Ibid., pp. 83–5, 90–1, 119, 136–7; La Gorce, L’Op´era, pp. 29–31, 46, 81; Gourret, Ces hommes, pp. 23–9. 50 Most recently in Catherine Kintzler, ‘Representations of le peuple in French Opera, 1673–1764’, in Johnson, Fulcher and Ertman (eds.), Opera and Society, pp. 72–86; 73–5. See also the illuminating discussion of the role of dance and choruses in Lully’s operas in Rebecca Harris-Warwick’s ‘Lully’s On-stage Societies’, in the same volume, pp. 53–71. 51 William Weber, ‘La musique ancienne in the Waning of the Ancien R´egime’, Journal of Modern History, 56/1 (March 1984), pp. 55–88; La Gorce, L’Op´era, pp. 38–9, 197–9; Gourret, Ces hommes, pp. 26–8; Johnson, Backstage, p. 151. 52 Weber, ‘La musique ancienne’, pp. 61, 68, 83–5; James Johnson, Listening in Paris: A Cultural History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), pp. 54, 59–70, 81–95. 53 Johnson, Backstage, pp. 63, 72, 76–81; Gourret, Ces hommes, pp. 92–4.

54 David Chaillou, Napol´eon et l’Op´era: la politique sur la sc`ene 1810–1815 (Paris: Fayard, 2004), pp. 23–37, 108–9, 143, 183–4. See also Gourret, Ces hommes, pp. 101–7; Johnson, Listening, pp. 173–81. The most detailed study of a Parisian opera company during the Restoration is Olivier Bara’s comprehensive and exemplary Le Th´eaˆ tre de l’op´era-comique sous la restauration: enquˆete autour d’un genre moyen (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 2001). 55 Herv´e Lacombe, ‘The “Machine” and the State’, in David Charlton (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Grand Opera (Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 21–42; 24–9; William Crosten, French Grand Opera: An Art and a Business (New York: Da Capo, 1972), pp. 16–33; Walter, ‘Die Oper’, pp. 48–54; Gourret, Ces hommes, pp. 115–20, 220. The text of V´eron’s contract, which served as a model for all subsequent agreements with director-entrepreneurs, can be found in Gourret, Ces hommes, pp. 263–7. 56 Walter, ‘Die Oper’, pp. 51–3, 90; Gourret, Ces hommes, pp. 220–4, 232. 57 Lacombe, ‘The “Machine”’, pp. 27–8; Herv´e Lacombe, Les Voies de l’op´era franc¸ais au XIXe si`ecle (Paris: Fayard, 1997), p. 250; Jane F. Fulcher, The Nation’s Image: French Grand Opera as Politics and Politicized Art (Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 54–5; Fr´ed´erique Patureau, Le Palais Garnier dans la soci´et´e parisienne 1875–1914 (Li`ege: Mardaga, 1991), pp. 58–72, 76–8. See also Walter, ‘Die Oper’, pp. 56–8. 58 Odile Krakovitch, Hugo censur´e: la libert´e du th´eaˆ tre au XIXe si`ecle (Paris: Calmann-L´evy, 1985), pp. 69–266; Lacombe, ‘The “Machine”’, p. 35; Lacombe, Les Voies, pp. 24–5; Walter, ‘Die Oper’, pp. 279–80. 59 Fulcher, Nation’s Image, pp. 2 (quote), 57–64, 86, 103–5, 169. 60 Anselm Gerhard, Review of Fulcher’s The Nation’s Image in: Neue Zeitschrift f¨ur Musik, 149/3 (March 1988), pp. 57–8; Walter, ‘Die Oper’, pp. 58–9. See also most recently Sarah Hibberd, French Grand Opera and the Historical Imagination (Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 6. On ministerial oversight after 1875, see: Patureau, Le Palais Garnier, pp. 72–6. 61 Steven Huebner, ‘Opera Audiences in Paris 1830–1870’, Music & Letters, 70/2 (May 1989), pp. 206–25; 213. 62 Patureau, Palais Garnier, pp. 315–34, 401–27, 434–5. 63 Gourret, Ces hommes, pp. 157–61, 164, 223–4. See also: Roger Nichols, The Harlequin Years: Music in Paris 1917–1929 (London: Thames and Hudson, 2002), pp. 59–64.

51 Opera, the state and society 64 Quoted in Jane F. Fulcher, The Composer as Intellectual: Music and Ideology in France 1914–1940 (Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 97. 65 Gourret, Ces hommes, pp. 166–70. The texts of the nationalization legislation of 1939 can be found on pp. 273–9. See also Nichols, Harlequin Years, pp. 94–5. 66 Gourret, Ces hommes, pp. 185–204. The subsidy level was calculated from figures on expenditure and state aid derived from the Op´era’s website. 67 Donaldson, Royal Opera House, pp. 117– 18, 158, 206, 214; Jeremy Isaacs, Never Mind the Moon: My Time at the Royal Opera House (London: Bantam Press, 1999); Mary Allen, A House Divided: The Diary of a Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House (London: Simon & Schuster, 1998); Royal Opera House, Annual Review 2007/08 (London: Royal Opera House, 2008), pp. 104–5. 68 Herbert Seifert, ‘The Establishment, Development and Decline of Operatic Institutions in Austria’, in Bucciarelli, Dubowy and Strohm (eds.), Italian Opera, pp. 11–19; 11–13. 69 Leopold, Die Oper, pp. 241–2, 257–76; Seifert, ‘Operatic Institutions’, pp. 14–19; Samantha Owen, ‘The Rise and Decline of Opera at the W¨urttemberg Court’, in Bucciarelli, Dubowy and Strohm (eds.), Italian Opera, pp. 99–114; 104–5; Riepe, ‘“Essential to the Reputation”’, p. 156; Bianconi, Il teatro, p. 41. 70 Ute Daniel, Hoftheater: zur Geschichte des Theaters und der H¨ofe im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1995), pp. 116, 129–30, 240–1, 462; Horst Seeger and Mathias Rank (eds.), Oper in Dresden: Festschrift zur Wiederer¨offnung der Semperoper (Berlin: Henschelverlag, 1985), p. 108; Reiner N¨agele (ed.), Musik und Musiker am Stuttgarter Hof (1750–1918) (Stuttgart: W¨urttembergische Landesbibliothek, 2000), pp. 4, 88, 115; Hans Zehetmair and J¨urgen Schl¨ader (eds.), Nationaltheater: Die Bayerische Staatsoper (Munich: Bruckmann, 1992), p. 14; Walter, ‘Die Oper’, pp. 97, 319–20. 71 Erich Reimer, Die Hofmusik in Deutschland 1500–1800 (Wilhelmshaven: Florian Noetzel, 1991), pp. 128–31; Daniel, Hoftheater, pp. 143–6; Strohm, Dramma per Musica, p. 83. 72 Reimer, Hofmusik, pp. 128, 134; Franz Hadamowsky, Wien: Theatergeschichte (Vienna: Jugend und Volk, 1988), pp. 259–66, 298–9. 73 Reimer, Hofmusik, pp. 135–41.

74 Greger Andersson, ‘Opera in Sweden’, in Keefe (ed.), Cambridge History, pp. 420–31. 75 Walter, ‘Die Oper’, pp. 71–2, 82–9. 76 Daniel, Hoftheater, pp. 461–2. 77 Karl B¨ohmer, W.A. Mozarts ‘Idomeneo’ und die Tradition der Karnevalsopern in M¨unchen (Tutzing: Schneider, 1999), pp. 21–2; Christoph Henzel, Die Italienische Hofoper in Berlin um 1800 (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1994), pp. 29–35. Henzel includes (pp. 31–3) the detailed seating assignments for 1798 within the royal opera house in Berlin. 78 Walther, ‘Die Oper’, pp. 320–3. 79 Murray Frame, The St Petersburg Imperial Theaters (Philadelphia, PA: McFarland, 2000), pp. 8–10, 68, 83, 175; Frame, School for Citizens: Theatre and Civil Society in Imperial Russia (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), pp. 20–3, 80; Julie Buckler, The Literary Lorgnette: Attending Opera in Imperial Russia (Stanford University Press, 2000), pp. 3–4, 18–19, 25, 36–9. 80 Michael Walter, ‘Oper 1918–1933’, in Hitler in der Oper: deutsches Musikleben 1919–1945 (Stuttgart: Metzler, 2000), pp. 71–130; 71. 81 Ibid., pp. 87, 92–3, 97, 101–2, 120–2; Michael Walter, ‘Die M¨order sitzen in Rosenkavalier: die Neuorientierung des deutschen Musiklebens nach dem ersten Weltkrieg’, in Hitler in der Oper, pp. 1–47; 26; Pascal Huynh, La Musique sous la R´epublique de Weimar (Paris: Fayard, 1998), pp. 94–5; Micaela von Marcard, ‘Auf zu neuen Ufern: die preußischen Staatstheater der Weimarer Republik’, in Georg Quander (ed.), Apolloni et Musis: 250 Jahre Opernhaus unter den Linden (Frankfurt am Main: Propyl¨aen, 1992), pp. 147–85; 147–8. 82 Walter, ‘Oper 1918–1933’, pp. 101–18, 123; Walter, ‘Die ideelle Tats¨achlichkeit der Oper : Meyerbeers Opern in der Weimarer Republik’, in Hitler in der Oper, pp. 131–74; 135–9, 168. 83 Frame, St Petersburg Imperial Theaters, pp. 143, 154–7. 84 Joseph Wulf, Musik im Dritten Reich: eine Dokumentation (Frankfurt: Ullstein Verlag, 1966); Fred K. Prieberg, Musik im NS-Staat (Frankfurt: Fischer, 1982). 85 Walter, ‘Die Verm¨ahlung einer idealen Politik mit einer realen Kunst: Oper und Musikpolitik im Dritten Reich’, in Hitler in der Oper, pp. 213–62; 213–14; Henry Bair, ‘Die Lenkung der Berliner Opernh¨auser’, in Hanns-Werner Heister and Hans-G¨unter Klein (eds.), Musik und Musikpolitik im faschistischen Deutschland (Frankfurt: Fischer, 1984), pp. 83–90; 84–5.

52 Thomas Ertman 86 Walter, ‘Die Verm¨ahlung’, pp. 213–31, 245–62. 87 Hannes Heer, J¨urgen Kesting and Peter Schmidt (eds.), Verstummte Stimmen: die Vertreibung der ‘Juden’ aus der Oper 1933 bis 1945 (Berlin: Metropol Verlag, 2008), pp. 72–3 and passim; Prieberg, Musik im NS-Staat, pp. 34–77, 107–43; Walter, ‘Die Verm¨ahlung’, p. 232. 88 Ferdinand K¨osters, Als Orpheus wieder sang . . . : der Wiederbeginn des Opernlebens in Deutschland nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg (M¨unster: Edition Octopus, 2009), pp. 11, 39. 89 Ibid., pp. 534, 538–41. 90 Deutscher B¨uhnenverein, Theaterstatistik 2006/2007 (Cologne: Deutscher B¨uhnenverein, 2008), pp. 253–5, 257.

91 Theodor W. Adorno, ‘B¨urgerliche Oper’, in Gesammelte Schriften. 16: Musikalische Schriften I–III (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1978), pp. 24–39. All translations are my own. 92 Ibid., p. 31. 93 Ibid., p. 36. 94 Jane F. Fulcher, ‘Symbolic Domination and Contestation in French Music: Shifting the Paradigm from Adorno to Bourdieu’, in Johnson, Fulcher and Ertman (eds.), Opera and Society, pp. 312–29. 95 Fulcher, Composer as Intellectual. 96 For a summary of this statebuilding literature, see Thomas Ertman, Birth of the Leviathan: Building States and Regimes in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 1–34.

2 The business of opera nicholas payne

The purpose of a business is to make a profit. Opera has a reputation as one of the most effective methods yet invented of losing money. A connection between the two is surely a contradiction in terms? Daniel Snowman, in his Social History of Opera series for the BBC, argued that the history of opera tells the story of who picks up the deficit.1 Private or public funders; idealistic artists or intrepid entrepreneurs; individuals or consortia: these are the players with the power to shape the way opera is made. Nor is it a story with a straightforward chronological progression from a primitive example to the complex model(s) of today. At different times during opera’s four centuries and in different places, different practices may be contrasted. Sometimes they are locked in combat, at others one or other is in the ascendant. While there is no blueprint of best practice, judgements may be made as to how well the opera business adapted itself to the needs of its creative forces. And questions may be asked about how the opera has been moulded to the needs of the business. Opera’s business model is, therefore, not structured to deliver a profit, but rather towards generating enough income to cover the costs of production. There has always been a tension between how much may be derived from ‘earned income’, from ticket sales and commercial exploitation, and how much from ‘contributions’, either public or private. The relative strength of each element determines where the economic and artistic control lies. A selection of enduring management models may show how a precarious balance is sought between the need to market the creative work of the artist and the demands of the audience.

Absolute monarchs How much did opera, at its beginning, owe to the will of an absolute ruler? The Medici in Florence and the Gonzaga in Mantua wielded the economic power to bring opera into being as an art form, but to what extent did they shape it? The early experiments were disdained by the Medici Grand [53]

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Dukes, who preferred more spectacular indoor and outdoor entertainment, but their court provided an ambience in which private individuals such as Jacopo Corsi and the proto-dramaturges of the Florentine Camerata could operate. The banker and merchant Corsi and his salon were both the patrons and the brains behind the emergence of opera at the end of the sixteenth century. Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga of Mantua was more hands on. His engagement of an ensemble of singers and provision of elaborate stage machinery provided the necessary conditions for the creation of opera’s first masterpiece, Monteverdi’s Orfeo, in 1607. The following year, Montevedi’s Arianna was performed before a temporary structure seating five or six thousand people in the grounds of the ducal palace. After this extravagant display, operatic production declined sharply in Mantua. In 1612, Monteverdi was dismissed as part of a general programme of court cutbacks by the new Duke Francesco, who had commissioned Orfeo in the first place. Could this have been the earliest example of financial strictures curtailing the business of opera? The French king Louis XIV acknowledged no such limitations. At the age of thirty, he granted letters patent to establish ‘Acad´emies d’op´era ou representations en musique en langue franc¸aise sur le pied de celles d’Italie’,2 which was the foundation of the Acad´emie Royale de Musique, otherwise known as the Op´era. Three years later, in 1672, the patent was acquired by the composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, who over the subsequent fifteen years established the new form of trag´edie lyrique. Lully managed his fiefdom down to the finest detail, even obtaining the rights to any profits of the enterprise at the Palais-Royal theatre, but the king remained the ultimate boss. As patron, he was consulted about the subjects of the operas and under suitable disguise his attributes were celebrated in them. He expected to be the first to be shown the completed scores, and to be given previews in his private theatres at St Germain-en-Laye or Versailles before they were presented to a wider public at the Op´era.3 Louis XIV’s omnipotence is an extreme example of the patron prince’s control over the operatic process, but it was copied in varying degrees throughout much of Europe. The Elector of Saxony, Friedrich August I, modelled his early eighteenth-century court on Versailles. The Hofoper in Dresden became one of many court operas supervised by German princes, and this model is the foundation for the unequalled richness of Germany’s operatic life today, albeit with the financial responsibility for its maintenance transferred to the state and its constituent L¨ander. Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796, maintained a court opera primarily staffed by Italians, alongside which she encouraged comic opera in the vernacular. She even wrote six opera libretti herself. The flowering of Russian

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opera during the next century, in opposition to the imported Italian model, took place under the benign despotism of the crown monopoly of the Imperial theatres. Constitutional monarchs of more recent times lack the power to be more than titular patrons of the opera. Yet proof that money translates into power and that the hereditary principle survives may be found in the enduring success since 1934 of Glyndebourne, where three generations of the Christie family have housed, sold to the public but effectively underwritten a highquality festival, which has become a model for private-sector-funded opera. If one of the new Russian billionaire oligarchs were to choose to found and fund an opera company, as the railway magnate Savva Mamontov did in Moscow at the end of the nineteenth century, who knows what he or she might achieve? The Moscow Private Russian Opera, which Mamontov created after the crown monopoly on theatres was revoked in 1882, was artist led and able to operate with greater creative freedom than the institutionalized Bolshoi. It foreshadowed the challenge to St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre from Sergey Diaghilev, the most influential impresario of the twentieth century.

Impresarios The first public opera house was opened in Venice in 1637. The instigator at the Teatro Tron in San Cassiano was the librettist Benedetto Ferrari, but the business was run by a collective of members, primarily the participating artists. Two years later, the Teatro di SS. Giovanni e Paolo was converted for opera by the aristocratic Grimani family and initially leased to the Ferrari collective, until they conceded it to a company led by the composer Francesco Cavalli and moved to the new Teatro San Mois`e. In 1641, a fourth theatre, the Teatro Novissimo, was built by a group of noblemen willing to finance their cultural interests. While boxes were leased to regular supporters, tickets were also sold to a socially mixed paying public, following the example of the popular commedia dell’arte. The competition to sell opera to the public increased the pressure on both prices and costs.4 Monteverdi, who had moved to Venice in 1613, composed his later operas in this environment. The two which survive, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria and L’incoronazione di Poppea, are scored for smaller forces than his earlier work for the Mantuan court. Unlike Orfeo, the choral contribution is minimal, and the solo voices are accompanied mainly by continuo instruments, with the strings reserved for the ritornellos and sinfonias. This economy of resources also enabled the operas to be toured beyond Venice. In contrast to Orfeo and Arianna, Ulisse and Poppea are closer to sung plays, the economic

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background to their conception having contributed to the development and ‘modernization’ of opera. The precariousness of opera as a business led to the companies of artists – composers, librettists, singers – hiring an impresario to manage negotiations with the theatres. The word derives from the Italian impresa, meaning both enterprise or initiative and exploitation or business. Originally the impresario may have been the librettist or a company member with legal training. An early survivor was Francesco Santurnini, who in 1674 revived the flagging attendances at the Venetian theatres by halving ticket prices at the Teatro San Mois`e. His compensatory cost cutting impacted on quality and hastened the trend towards comic operas which could be cast with inferior singers. By contrast, the rival Grimani family at the Teatro di SS. Giovanni e Paolo spent more on singers, composers and stage decoration, but kept prices high. The conflict between popular and elitist opera was born early. The most influential impresario of the early nineteenth century was Domenico Barbaia.5 His enduring legacy was his management of the royal theatres in Naples during their heyday between 1809 and 1840. His business success was built on gambling, which was permitted in theatres for the first part of this period. As early as 1806, he acquired the lease of the gaming tables at La Scala in Milan. It was the granting of the same concession in Naples which generated the profits that enabled him to build up the orchestra to its pre-eminent position, to engage a dazzling roster of soloists, and to obtain the contract for rebuilding the Teatro San Carlo in 1816. But what especially distinguishes Barbaia’s tenure was its creativity. During its golden age, he presented over a hundred performances a year and many of the operas were new. The zenith was the period between 1815 and 1822 when he engaged Rossini as artistic director. The security of tenure and the quality of resources enabled the composer to expand his range both musically and dramatically. Rossini’s contract gave him an annual salary plus part of the proceeds of the gaming tables, reinstated by the Bourbons but finally prohibited in 1820 on the grounds that they encouraged bad behaviour. After Barbaia’s death in 1841, the role of leading Italian impresario was assumed by the Milanese publishing house of Ricordi, which commissioned Verdi’s Nabucco in 1842, establishing him as Italy’s leading composer and La Scala as the successor to the San Carlo as Italy’s premier opera house. By controlling the rights to performance, Ricordi exerted a powerful influence over the artistic policies of the theatres. The publisher could both dictate the manner of production and advise on the choice of singers. Nonetheless, the burgeoning ensembles of the Italian theatres, with their very different resources, also played a part in determining the shape of opera. Verdi offered

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his cherished Macbeth to Florence’s Teatro alla Pergola in 1847 partly because they agreed to engage Felice Varesi, the leading singing-actor of the time, and also because he was able to write extensive music for a three-part female chorus of witches. By contrast, Rigoletto, written with the same baritone in mind four years later for La Fenice in Venice, does not use a female chorus. The poor quality of female choral singing in many Italian theatres may have reflected the chorus’s semi-professional status, but also the legacy of the Vatican’s ban on women in church choirs. The growing superiority of French orchestral playing, along with the higher fees, was part of the lure which drew Verdi to Paris, as Rossini before him, thus contributing to the city’s cultural hegemony during the third quarter of the nineteenth century. Yet it is a salutary lesson of the limitation of economic power that, despite the unequalled resources deployed by Parisian managers, French grand opera has left too few enduring masterpieces, both of which are by Italian composers. A theatre manager operates a building, whereas an impresario presents a programme, though the functions can overlap. In mid-nineteenth-century Paris, Offenbach was composer, impresario and sometimes theatre manager as well, but not of a huge institution like the Op´era. The pre-eminent theatre director of the age was Louis-D´esir´e V´eron, whose success lay in building a subscription list of fashionable and rich punters, who used the Op´era to network during the lengthy operas of Meyerbeer and Hal´evy. Barbaia would not have survived the disciplines of the French bureaucracy, which exerts a strong influence on theatres. The Paris Op´era, today as under V´eron, reports directly to a government commission. But the impresario’s trade was not plied in Italy alone. For much of its history, Covent Garden in London has been independently managed. The present theatre, the third on the site, was opened in 1858 by Frederick Gye, whose family managed the Royal Italian Opera for over thirty years. Augustus Harris, a theatrical businessman of the old style, was in charge for the latter years of the Victorian period. In an echo of Ricordi a century earlier, the music publishers Boosey & Hawkes acquired the lease of the Royal Opera House during World War Two, and altruistically made it available to the new Covent Garden Opera.6 Today’s impresario operates in a commercial field outside the traditional opera houses. The concert promoter Raymond Gubbay has profitably mounted a succession of operas staged ‘in the round’ in the arena of the Royal Albert Hall in London, where he relies on a hard core of six operas which can attract large numbers to a concentrated series of performances. His initiative has found a new audience who were not being reached by the established opera companies.

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Composers An impresario’s job is to stay in business. If avoiding bankruptcy is only to be achieved by curtailing creativity, so be it. But what if the creator cuts out the middle man? What if the composer seizes hold of the means of production? When Handel arrived in London in 1710, and was commissioned by the dramatist and impresario Aaron Hill to write Rinaldo, he was awakened to both artistic and business possibilities. These culminated in the formation of a private joint-stock company, underwritten by guarantors or subscribers, to organize opera in London. The Royal Academy of Music, though its title echoed the French precedent, was a model of eighteenth-century English capitalism, offering a 25 per cent return on investments and with its directors elected by its members, one vote per £200 subscribed. Handel was appointed to the salaried position of Master of the Orchestra, the equivalent today of musical director, but his responsibilities encompassed programming the operas and recruiting singers. His artistic direction of the First Academy lasted from its inception in 1720 to its demise in 1728, a golden age which brought Europe’s greatest singers to London and gave birth to a baker’s dozen of his operas. The sixty or so subscribers to the First Academy may have lost their money on the venture but they benefited from nearly five hundred performances over its eight seasons.7 Handel, as a recipient of a royal pension, was financially unscathed and in 1729 entered into partnership to launch the Second Academy at the King’s Theatre Haymarket, where he created a further seven operas in addition to revivals over the next four years. Ousted from the Haymarket by the rival Opera of the Nobility, he transferred his operation to the new theatre at Covent Garden. By 1737, the Covent Garden venture had lost Handel both money and his health. He had also declined a proposal from Aaron Hill to work towards the foundation of true English opera, a lost business opportunity partly mitigated by the oratorios of his latter years. Handel belonged to an age and society which encouraged the risktaking entrepreneur. He exploited the conditions to create an unparalleled body of work, but he did not seek to revolutionize the form of opera. A century later, Richard Wagner dedicated his life’s work to creating the ‘art work of the future’. He also served his apprenticeship as musical director of opera houses in Magdeburg and Riga. Frustrated by his experiences of operatic routine and the difficulties of securing adequate performances of his operas – even in centres as important as Dresden, Paris and Munich – he determined to forge a new model. His inspiration came from the drama festivals of ancient Greece, where a community gathered to share a cathartic

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experience over several days. Atop a green hill on the outskirts of the provincial town of Bayreuth, he built himself a ‘perfect’ theatre, an indoor Greek amphitheatre in which he buried his orchestra so as to achieve an ideal relationship between actor and audience. Like Handel, he depended on convincing kings to part with money to realize his dream; but, unlike Handel, there was no pretence that it was a commercial venture. The site was donated, and Wagner undertook conducting engagements to spearhead the fundraising campaign. The Bayreuth Festspielhaus was topped out when Wagner was 60 years old. He controlled every aspect of the venture. He wrote the words as well as the music. He chose the artists, coached them musically and directed their every movement. He set the ticket prices and he met and wrote the letters to the sponsors. The first production of the tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen in 1876 was, and remains, the most ambitious undertaking in the history of opera. After the triumphant reception at the conclusion of the third cycle, Wagner sank into a ‘deep distress’ at the inadequacies of the performance and the financial deficit to be recovered.8 Yet, although business compromise forced him to abandon his ideal of free entry and to build only a ‘sketch’ of his imagined theatre, it has remained the last truly revolutionary building for opera. Benjamin Britten’s Aldeburgh Festival is, in many ways, the antithesis of Bayreuth, yet it was also conceived as a place of pilgrimage in a secluded location where ideal artistic conditions might be attained. Two hundred years after Handel, Aaron Hill’s challenge was grasped. Alongside his ‘grand’ operas for the large public opera houses, Britten developed a parallel strand of chamber operas for a small cast, no chorus and only thirteen musicians in the orchestra, which could be more easily assembled and toured. His artistic direction of his festival and leadership of a group of trusted artists and administrators established a new business model for opera, which thrived until his death in 1976 and was to remain an inspiration for others. His English Opera Group lasted from 1947 until 1975, when it was subsumed into the shorter-lived English Music Theatre, but other ad hoc seasonal companies such as Kent Opera have continued to wax and wane in Britain and elsewhere in Europe. They demonstrate that an opera company does not have to reside in a building or trade on a ‘permanent’ basis in order to achieve quality and status, though the savings on overheads are replaced by the costs of touring. It is tempting to speculate what might have happened if Britten had accepted the offer of the musical directorship of Covent Garden in 1952.9 Might the creative presence of a composer have transformed the burgeoning national institution into a continually creative force for new opera, or would the responsibilities of maintaining a company and a heritage have proved an

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overwhelming burden? While it is undeniable that the influence of Handel, Wagner and Britten as ‘managing directors’ of operatic enterprises in their respective centuries resulted in golden periods in the history of opera, it may also be argued that the work involved broke their health and brought each of them to an early grave.

Interpreters Handel’s First Academy also performed operas by his rival Bononcini; Wagner was a noted interpreter of Beethoven; Britten was a superlative pianist and conductor; but it is for the performance of their own music that they are primarily remembered. By contrast, two other great composerinterpreters found time to lead the vast institution of the Viennese opera during its glorious years in the early twentieth century. Mahler did not write his own operas, but his decade as director of the Hofoper from 1897 to 1907 is remembered for his restitution of the classics as well as for its thirty contemporary premieres, for building an ensemble of loyal singers and for insisting on serious production values. Mahler’s contract for ten months a year enabled him to impose his will on every aspect of the opera house, from hiring and firing musicians to renegotiating the conditions of the stage hands. During the Great War, the businessman Hans Gregor presided, but, despite Austria’s political humiliation and economic struggle, a further flowering followed from 1919 to 1924 when Richard Strauss became co-director of the newly reorganized Vienna State Opera. While Strauss, whose contract covered only five months a year, did not match Mahler as a driving force for change, his skills as an interpreter and enabler reached well beyond his own music. He was also a partner to the founding of the Salzburg Festival by the theatre director Max Reinhardt in 1920 as a haven for European culture. Toscanini’s two periods at the helm of La Scala Milan were likewise the highest peaks of Italian opera, with exemplary performances of Verdi and Puccini matched by a strong commitment to Wagner and to contemporary opera. Toscanini reorganized everything at La Scala, insisting on making the singers study and rehearse to his exacting standards and on educating the public in serious appreciation of opera ‘not as something for amusement but as something with a moral function, which enters into the life of a society’.10 The interwar period was the era of dominance by the great conductors. There was a time during the 1920s when Berlin’s three opera houses were led by Erich Kleiber, Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer. The latter’s four-year tenure at the Kroll Opera from 1927 to 1931 was a beacon of modernism which challenged traditional operatic practices until prevented by the

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gathering political clouds of the 1930s. The maintenance of three artistled opera houses has remained an emblematic but expensive investment for the City of Berlin. Klemperer’s legacy was picked up by the stage director Walter Felsenstein when he launched the Komische Oper in Berlin in 1947. The emphasis on the hegemony of the director, which he established during long rehearsal periods with a chosen ensemble, became the model for post-war German theatre, the most productive operatic environment of the second half of the twentieth century. The structure involved an Intendant or managing director (often the stage director but sometimes the musical director) at the head of a team whose other leading players were a business manager and an artistic administrator. The equivalent triumvirate in Italy comprised a sovrintendente, a musical director and an artistic director, but, whereas the German Intendant usually appointed his subordinates, the Italian system often threw together conflicting chiefs nominated by opposing political parties. These organizational models of the pre-eminent operatic countries of the third quarter of the twentieth century delivered strong artistic leadership, but depended on the public sector underwriting the finances. Insofar as that support has become more precarious with the rise of the mixed economy, its erosion has compromised the artistic director’s authority. The global market place, which is the opposite side of the same coin, means that a top artist will be in demand worldwide and not always available to micro-manage the more local details, a cause for complaint that goes back to Mahler in Vienna and Klemperer in Berlin.11 The most powerful musician of the twentieth century was Herbert von Karajan, who in his heyday combined the positions of chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, artistic director of the Salzburg Festival and, from 1957 to 1964, director of the Vienna State Opera. Karajan foresaw the future. In partnership with Deutsche Grammophon, he engineered for his productions to be recorded for posterity. His anticipation of the opportunities offered by technology gave him unrivalled control over the business of producing opera during his lifetime. Since his death in 1989, no one figure has approached the extent of his empire; but the Internet, multiple TV channels and high-definition cinema relays have ensured a more plural and democratic diffusion of opera. This may also create more business opportunities for opera, and even a resolution of the usual conflict between the public funding imperative of accessibility and the business imperative of profit, but for the time being few such business models are self-sustaining. One of the few interpreters to retain full executive power over a leading opera house is Valery Gergiev, Musical and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. Gergiev operates an almost

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superhuman schedule, which has enabled him to establish the Mariinsky as a worldwide brand, while insisting on minute control of all major (and some minor – such as approval of contract negotiations, tour schedules, dinner invitations) artistic and budgetary decisions. In addition to learning repertory, recruiting personnel and planning productions, he negotiates subsidies with the state and secures significant funding from the private sector in and beyond Russia towards his ambitious plans for performances and new cultural buildings.

Trustees of the state State support brings with it democratic accountability. It is one of the great progressive achievements of society after World War II that access to education, healthcare, public transport and culture should have become recognized as the fundamental right of citizens. Although state support exists to enable artists to fulfil their potential for the benefit of the public, government bureaucrats can be wary of artists’ personal agendas. They therefore impose checks and balances to monitor the director’s executive power. In some European countries, the position of head of an opera house is essentially a political appointment. A change of government means a new Culture Minister, who in turn nominates a candidate for director of the opera. Others employ more sophisticated means but, as the primary financial stakeholder, can insist on budgetary and structural disciplines to ensure that a management bends to their demands. The leading theatres in countries as different as the Netherlands and Spain are bound by four-year contracts with their public funders. In Britain, the ‘arm’s-length principle’ has provided a buffer between government and artistic institutions. An independent board of directors is usually elected from within, but sometimes by public appointment, as an oligarchy to represent the interests of multiple stakeholders (public and private sectors, artists and audience) and to hold the executive management to account. One consequence has been a relatively new breed of general manager, whose role is to balance artistic and business concerns. When Covent Garden established its opera company after World War II, it appointed as General Administrator David Webster, a businessman from Liverpool, much to the chagrin of Sir Thomas Beecham, the doyen of English conductors who had dominated the provision of opera in Britain for three decades. Whereas Beecham’s occasional opera seasons had been financed by speculative capitalists, in a spirit not so very different from Handel’s two hundred years earlier, the new Covent Garden Opera was

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a permanent company on the German model, supported to a degree by the state through its newly created Arts Council. During the 1960s, the proportion of public funding averaged around 50 per cent of turnover, but today it is less than 30 per cent on a budget of £100 million. There was a responsibility to deliver a full and varied programme at reasonable prices to the public which had paid for it through their taxes, and the conditions of subsidy were negotiated and set down in an annual ‘offer letter’. Webster, who held the post for twenty-five years, was a man of taste but primarily an expert manager of people. Hugues Gall, who was brought in to rescue the Paris Op´era after the chaotic opening of the Op´era Bastille, a political event which the commissioning Mitterrand government insisted must commemorate the bicentenary of the Revolution in 1989, was an opera professional with experience in Paris and Geneva. His achievements and decisive manner compelled the respect of the international opera community and of the French government, and transformed the productivity of the largest lyric institution in Western Europe, employing more than 1,500 people, operating two large theatres, offering 350 performances of opera and ballet and receiving €90 million in subsidy per annum. Ioan Holender was a leading artists’ agent and knowledgeable opera professional before taking charge of the Vienna State Opera in 1991. His success in ensuring that his theatre consistently played to 95 per cent of capacity, through his clever manipulation of the old repertory system so as to accommodate the visiting ‘stars’ while preserving the traditional ensemble, made his position unassailable over a nineteen-year tenure, the longest in the history of a city noted for cutting short the tenures of its directors. For politicians of different parties, Holender became the man who delivered the required result. Managing a modern opera company is a full-time occupation, involving the motivation of large numbers of people of diverse skills. With the exception of the apparently superhuman Gergiev, the multiple tasks can no longer be accomplished by a composer or conductor or stage director whose priorities must be artistic. While the general manager needs to earn the respect of artists, he or she also has to gain the trust of the opera’s principal supporters, both private and public. In some countries this individual is literally a civil servant, but even when it is nominally an independent appointment the leader of the big national opera houses is de facto a trustee of the state. The leader of such a large institution, with a thousand or more employees, delegates specialist functions – artistic planning, finance, marketing, orchestral and technical management – to a group of lieutenants who combine to form the executive management of the company. Inevitably, tensions arise between conflicting interests, and it takes skill to resolve them. Sometimes,

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the solution leads to a compromise between artistic ideals and business pragmatism.

Artistic managers Better to protect the purity of artistic vision on which an opera company thrives, there is an alternative contemporary path. Instead of appointing a cultured pragmatist, the state may entrust the executive management to an artistic director capable of mastering the intricacies of budgeting and people management. Such people will be chosen primarily for the quality of their artistic judgement and ability to attract the best artists, and they will be expected either to acquire business skills or to surround themselves with competent support in those areas. This model has enjoyed notable successes in Europe during the latter part of the twentieth century. The Belgian Gerard Mortier trained as a lawyer and learned his craft as an opera manager in Paris and Germany under the composer Rolf Liebermann and the conductor Christoph von Dohn´anyi. During the 1980s he transformed the reputation of La Monnaie in Brussels as an opera with a serious artistic and public purpose; the 1990s found him battling to re-establish the Salzburg Festival ideals for modern times; and in the twenty-first century he has imposed his strong artistic vision on the machine of the Paris Op´era. His next stop was to have been New York City Opera, but its dependence on private contributions at a time of severe economic downturn precipitated a retreat to Madrid and the safety net of public subsidy. Mortier challenges the belief that opera reached its zenith in the nineteenth century and has been in decline as a living art form since the first quarter of the twentieth century. He calculates that, whereas the nineteenth century produced forty operas worthy of revival today, there are sixty-eight such candidates from the twentieth century, and he is dedicated to teaching the public to love them as he does.12 While Gall was reforming the state-supported Paris Op´era, St´ephane Lissner was offering a rival aesthetic at the Th´eaˆ tre du Chˆatelet backed by the City of Paris, and their competition expanded the audience for opera. Lissner took his skill at winning the trust of cherished artists to the Aix-enProvence Festival, where he secured funding for a renewal of the theatres in the town and the launch of an academy for young artists. His success was even recognized in Italy, when La Scala turned to him as a saviour after a period of strife. It is some achievement for a foreigner to have restored peace, productivity and purpose to the temple of Italian opera. As a non-Italian, he could stand outside local politics; the incremental cuts of recent years left a vacuum to be filled by more performances; and he assiduously developed

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ongoing relationships with some of the most important conductors and directors. In Britain, the most consistent record over time as an artistic manager has been Brian McMaster’s. He will be remembered for the changes he wrought during his fifteen-year stints at each of Welsh National Opera and the Edinburgh International Festival. He realized early on that, though he might not be able to afford the top singers in Cardiff, he could offer unrivalled rehearsal conditions to attract the very best international directors. The impact of a strongly European production aesthetic reached beyond opera to theatre generally. In Edinburgh, he was able to extend his range to the other arts. He employed a very personal taste to open the eyes and ears of a wider audience. These three examples succeeded because they have been able to inspire colleagues and audiences to follow their individual visions, but they also shared canniness in convincing people to finance them. While those visions existed to advance the art, their management was by no means solely artistic. Mortier told me that 30 per cent of his time in Paris was spent on matters involving the unions.13 Despite significant cutbacks in opera funding by the Italian government, Lissner has managed to protect La Scala’s pre-eminent status. McMaster has been adept at balancing the mixed-economy funding characteristic of the United Kingdom, by striking a judicious balance between wooing new sources of income and maintaining the social case for public subsidy. All three have spent their working lives as dedicated arts managers.

Business managers Yet, despite the evidence of their achievements, the trend is away from the artistic manager as chief executive. Because opera has become such a complex business, involving advocacy, fundraising, human relations and management of buildings, appointment panels, as in other fields, are increasingly looking for a generalist as managing director, to whom the principal artistic positions report. The timing of the shift of direction, when it occurs, illustrates one of its causes. The late twentieth and twenty-first centuries have seen the building or rebuilding of significant new opera houses. Such capital projects, which are long-term investments, compete for resources with the artistic programme, which may by contrast appear ephemeral. Making the new or restored building work becomes the priority for the board and the major stakeholders, and they want it supervised by someone who shares their view rather than by someone with overriding artistic ambitions. Both London

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opera houses have adopted this change of management structure in the wake of turbulent periods when their theatres were being redeveloped. The Royal Opera House Covent Garden appointed as Chief Executive Tony Hall, whose previous career had been spent as a manager at the BBC. He delegates artistic control to separate directors of the opera and ballet companies, but is accountable for balancing the budget and for the public face of the organization. He has also led the move towards expanding audiences through cinema relays and DVDs, acquiring the production company Opus Arte in the process. While the investment may not yet have yielded a business profit, it has proved a powerful tool in raising awareness of the ROH brand. English National Opera has followed suit by appointing a chief executive above its artistic and music directors, and has developed a funding partnership with SkyArts which included digital distribution of performance content. Most of the leading Nordic companies now have a business manager in the senior position. The most recent changes in that direction have been in Oslo and Helsinki during major building projects. The Scandinavian model is dedicated to achieving harmony through a method of project management where different managers are given the responsibility and incentive of seeing through specific productions. At the other end of Europe, Spain’s opera houses have experienced a renaissance of productivity and public support. Both Madrid’s Teatro Real and Barcelona’s Liceu are managed by a chief executive drawn from business or public service and to whom the artistic director and those responsible for the other functions such as finance, fundraising, marketing and technical services report. This model, predicated on a roughly fifty–fifty balance of public and private funding, has helped to create a stable environment in which the opera companies can grow. The traditional opera countries such as Germany and Italy have so far proved resistant to the imposition of a controlling business manager, but it would not be surprising if, for example, a major rebuilding in Berlin or a financial crisis in Rome were to trigger changes there too. There is no single blueprint for the management of an opera house, but, for good or ill, twenty-first-century opera is more than ever a business.

Questions for study A selective study raises questions about the relative importance of art and business and how they may be linked to their mutual advantage. Peter Drucker’s dictum that the purpose of business is to create a customer14 may also be applied to art. The greatest artists have been eager to sell their works.

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The questions are how and at what cost. Here are some topics worthy of study. 1







Since funding is essential to underpin the business of putting on opera, how important is the source of that funding? Mozart spent most of his short life chasing commissions. In his last year he wrote La clemenza di Tito to celebrate the emperor Leopold’s coronation as King of Bohemia, and Die Zauberfl¨ote for a commercial impresario to perform in a popular theatre. Which of the two was or is more successful, then and now? Most creative artists address an audience. Lully wrote his Thes´ee directly for Louis XIV, but that does not prevent it speaking to a modern audience, as demonstrated by the production in 2008 at the Th´eaˆ tre des Champs-Elys´ees in Paris. Britten said that ‘almost every piece I have written has been composed with a certain occasion in mind’.15 Like Hindemith, he wanted to compose Gebrauchsmusik, or ‘useful’ music. Is the economic imperative of writing for a customer a stimulus or hindrance to creation? Britten also opined that ‘until the nineteenth century, the composer was the servant of society . . . I believe in the artist serving society. It is better to be a bad composer writing for society than to be a bad composer writing against it.’16 Opera, by nature, is a social activity linking performers and audience, and this is reflected in the economic equation of its support. How do you convince the public of the value of this expensive venture? When Britten contrasted his ideal with ‘composers [who] began to blow up their egos’ and the artist as ‘the glorified mouthpiece of God’,17 he was probably thinking of Wagner. Yet Wagner’s overwhelming ambition and demands drove forward the art of opera and created the model of the dedicated festival. How dependent are the advances in opera on the ambitions of creative individuals? The first quarter of the twentieth century must, on any assessment, be judged a golden age for the composition and performance of opera. It coincided with the zenith of the great composer-conductors and interpreters; but also with a period of tumultuous political and economic change, encompassing the Great War, the Russian Revolution and the Weimar Republic. Older Czechs still remember the brief period in the late 1940s between the expulsion of the German occupying forces and the arrival of Soviet-style communism as an unparalleled artistic flowering. What is the relationship of such seismic changes with the business of opera? The reconstruction of Europe after World War II saw the beginning of a fifty-year age of dominating state subsidy for opera which has transformed it as a business. On the one hand, it has opened up access to opera for a much wider audience. All the great public services – education, healthcare, transport, culture – are the fruits of democratic socialism. On the other, it has given the artist – composer or director – a protection and licence to challenge public taste. As the certainties of continuing public sector support are challenged, can the democratic gains be maintained? An opera house today strives to strike a balance between artistic and financial needs, and employs an army of specialist experts to help deliver the desired result.

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Yet the choice of the leader to be accountable for that result sends a strong signal of intent. In France, Germany, Italy and Russia, the chief executive is still more likely than not to be the artistic leader. In other countries, the trend is towards making the artistic leadership report to a business executive. The latter may well see the task as enabling the artistic programme to flourish, but will also be influenced by the response to that programme from audience, critics and financial stakeholders. Chicago Opera Theater asked its patrons to vote with their dollars to select ‘The People’s Opera’ for 2010. How long before a whole programme is chosen by public vote? An opera manager in the twentieth century does not necessarily have a more difficult job than his or her predecessors, but it has become a more complex one. Labour is more expensive and more regulated, so casualization and outsourcing look like more economical solutions; competition from other forms of entertainment is more intense; obligations on matters such as health and safety are more onerous; business is increasingly conducted in a global market which never sleeps.18 It is hardly surprising that the big institutions should seek a managing director with proven business qualifications. Is the ability to motivate and control a team of experts now the prime attribute? At the same time, there is a growth of smaller outfits – seasonal festivals, lightfooted touring companies without the burden of the upkeep of a building, groups dedicated to new work or finding new audiences – which thrive on a less elaborate administrative structure. It is easy to see how they may appeal to creative practitioners, and indeed provide them with a freedom they may find lacking in the institutions. The phenomenon belongs to the twenty-first century, the Internet age, which prizes flexibility and multiple choices. Could such small businesses be a model for the future?

This chapter does not seek to prescribe ideal solutions for the business of producing opera. Nor does it argue that there has been a steady evolution in the making of that business. Rather, it looks to a selection of historical examples for guidance towards good practice. Always, we must ask what set-up enables the best opera to be produced; and the correlative question of how the best opera may reach as many consumers as possible. That is our business.

Notes 1 Daniel Snowman, The Gilded Stage: A Social History of Opera (London: Atlantic Books, 2009), p. 6. Companion volume to the BBC series. 2 ‘Academies for opera or musical performance in the French language on the Italian model.’ 3 Vincent Borel in programme for Lully’s Armide at Th´eaˆ tre des Champs-Elys´ees, 2008.

4 See Lorenzo Bianconi and Thomas Walker, ‘Production, Consumption and Political Function of Seventeenth-Century Opera’, Early Music History, 4 (1984), pp. 209–96. 5 For more detail of the growth of the role of the impresario in Italy, see John Rosselli: The Opera Industry in Italy from Cimarosa to Verdi: The Role of the Impresario (Cambridge University Press, 1984).

69 The business of opera 6 Harold Rosenthal, Two Centuries of Opera at Covent Garden (London: Putnam, 1958), pp. 556–7. 7 Subscribers list published in the score of Admeto, re di Tessaglia, 1727. Stanley Sadie, Handel (London: John Calder, 1962), p. 64. 8 Cosima Wagner, Cosima Wagner’s Diaries, Vol. I: 1869–1877, ed. Geoffrey Skelton (London: Collins, 1978); abridged selection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1982). 9 The Earl of Harewood in conversation with the author, 2006. 10 Gianandrea Gavazzeni quoted in Harvey Sachs, Toscanini (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1978). 11 See Peter Heyworth, Otto Klemperer: His Life and Times, Vol. I (Cambridge University Press, 1983).

12 Gerard Mortier speech to Opera America convention in Denver, 2008. 13 Gerard Mortier in conversation with the author, 2007. 14 Peter F. Drucker, The Essential Drucker: Selections from the Management Works of Peter F. Drucker (New York: Harper Business, 2001), p. 24. 15 Benjamin Britten, On Receiving the First Aspen Award: A Speech by Benjamin Britten (London: Faber and Faber, 1964), p. 11. 16 Benjamin Britten, interview with New York Times, October 1969. 17 Ibid. 18 See Philippe Agid and Jean-Claude Tarondeau, The Management of Opera (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).

3 The operatic event: opera houses and opera audiences nicholas till

In 1778 the Italian journalist and historian Pietro Verri, noting the frequent complaints by critics from northern Europe about the lack of dramatic coherence in Italian operas, wrote ‘In my opinion, northerners are wrong to criticise our opera with the laws of the theatre; . . . ours are a spectacle of another sort.’1 In this chapter I want to examine what Verri may have meant by ‘spectacle of another sort’, and to suggest that any operatic performance might usefully be understood as a ‘spectacle of another sort’. In Chapter 10 I suggest that an operatic text should perhaps be seen as the pretext for a performance, rather than the performance serving to realize the operatic ‘work’. But we also have to recognize that performances themselves serve as pretexts for events. Reinhard Strohm has suggested that baroque opera in particular must be understood as primarily ‘event-like’ rather than ‘work constituted’,2 but Carolyn Abbate insists that this is true for all operatic performance: ‘what counts is not a work, not, for example, Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von N¨urnberg in the abstract, but a material, present event’.3 Although modern cultural activities are often work focused (I attend a performance of Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler because I want an opportunity to experience an infrequently performed opera, not to hear the particular singers or to be seen at the Royal Opera House), even today this is far from being exclusively the case: many people attend performances because they are more interested in singer x, conductor y or director z than in the work being performed. And people also attend theatrical or musical performances as a social activity: to celebrate an event in their lives; as the occasion for a date; to identify themselves as part of a particular community; to participate in a social or political ritual. In academic theatre studies there has been a clear shift since the 1960s from the study of dramatic texts as literature to the recognition that dramatic texts can only be understood in the context of performance, and that performance itself can only be understood in the fuller context of the performance event. This includes consideration of the specific occasion of performance, the location and design of the performance space, the contribution of the audience to the event, and the social and symbolic rituals [70]

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of the event. The theatre historian Thomas Postlewait says that he now uses the term ‘theatre’ to embrace ‘the comprehensive field of the performing arts, including theatre, dance, opera, folk theatre, puppetry, parades, processions, spectacles, festivals, circuses, public conventions and related performance events’.4 Clearly in a spectrum as broad as this, the focus of interest is going to be broad as well; many such events will not have written texts in the first place, and some make no clear distinction between audiences and performers. Study of the social aspects of performance events has indeed moved theatre theorists and historians from the disciplines of literary and dramatic criticism to the broader terrain of what are now called performance studies, which often draw on disciplinary methods associated with social and historical anthropology, and ethnography. A similar trend can be seen in musicology. Writing in 1995, Regula Burckhardt Qureshi made a case for an anthropological approach to music history: Anthropologizing music history must therefore begin with a recasting of the musical product into the realm of experience . . . At a profound level this may amount to the undisciplining of music, releasing it from the boundaries of an essentialism closely linked to textualist form, so that it may be restored to the human relationships that produce it.5

The musicologist Christopher Small also asked us to consider the relationships that are exemplified in a musical event, in this case a modern classical music concert: What is going on in this concert hall is essentially the same as that which goes on during any musical performance. Members of a certain social group at a particular point in its history are using sounds that have been brought into certain kinds of relationships with one another as the focus for a ceremony in which the values – which is to say, the concepts of what constitute right relationships – of that group are explored, affirmed, and celebrated.6

There is always a symbolic dimension to the performance event. Like Small, theatre historian Bruce McConachie suggests that ‘theatre helps people to constitute themselves as social beings’, and defines the theatrical event as ‘a type of ritual which functions to legitimate an image of a historical social order in the minds of its audience’.7 This juxtaposition of statements by theatre historians and musicologists indicates how, in certain respects, the disciplines of musicology and theatre studies have drawn together to the point where, since they are both concerned with the nature of performances as events, their disciplinary concerns seem less distinct.

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Places of performance One of the key figures in the development of performance studies, the American theatre theorist and practitioner Richard Schechner, has insisted that performance studies must take into account the widest possible contexts for performance, starting with consideration of the geographical location of the performance event.8 Since the mid-seventeenth century, when the first public opera houses opened in Venice, the opera house has provided an important social focus for urban cultures, its public rituals perhaps offering a secular substitute for the religious rituals that once structured social patterns of existence. The geographical location of opera houses within cities tells us a good deal about their function within a particular society. For monarchical regimes the opera house is often viewed as a private appurtenance of the royal family. In eighteenth-century Paris the Op´era (strictly the Acad´emie Royale de Musique) was located within the Palais Royal, seat of the junior Orl´eanist branch of the French royal family. When in 1763 the theatre burned down there were proposals for it to be rebuilt on a public site fronting the Louvre, but the Duc d’Orl´eans successfully petitioned the king to allow him to rebuild the Op´era as a private theatre within his palace, ensuring that it would remain a predominantly aristocratic venue.9 But many royal theatres served as a transitional space between the court and the public sphere, a place where monarchs could display themselves to their subjects. The San Carlo in Naples, for instance, adjoins the royal palace on one side and a public square on the other. The Burgtheater in eighteenth-century Vienna, home of the Court Opera, was similarly adjacent (although not actually adjoined) to the imperial palace, and in the 1780s Emperor Joseph II, who micro-managed the court opera himself, used the theatre as a useful place to conduct state affairs since he could rely on the relevant personnel being gathered there regularly; the Austrian diarist Count Zinzendorf, who was an assiduous opera-goer, reports in 1784 that during a performance at the opera the emperor summoned him to his box to discuss Zinzendorf ’s recent report on the proceedings of the Commission on Serf Labour.10 In Paris the association of the Op´era with the monarchy and aristocracy meant that in 1789, when the reforming minister Jacques Necker was dismissed by King Louis XVI, the first demonstration of the Parisian public’s anger was the storming of the Op´era on 12 July, two days before the better-remembered storming of the Bastille. The Op´era retained its symbolic status even after the revolution had dismantled many of the other appurtenances of royalty. When in 1800 Napoleon as First Consul survived an assassination attempt it was at the Op´era, since 1794 a public theatre, that he subsequently displayed himself.

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Arguments for the relocation of the Op´era in Paris had been influenced by Voltaire’s calls in the 1740s for the modernization and beautification of medieval Paris, in which he had suggested that new theatres should be built as ‘splendid public monuments’.11 In the nineteenth century the siting of the opera house in a city was often indeed given as much symbolic value as the siting of the buildings of municipal or state authority, and reflected the new concentration of economic and political power in the middle classes. In Vienna the current State Opera (heir to the Court Opera), commenced in 1861, was the first building to be erected on the Ringstrasse that was conceived by the Emperor Franz Joseph as a ceremonial route for the display of what Carl Schorske calls ‘the great representational buildings of the bourgeoisie’: political, economic and cultural buildings such as the parliament, the city hall, the stock exchange, and the state museums and theatres.12 The cultural buildings served, in Schorske’s words, as ‘a meeting ground for the old aristocratic and the new bourgeois elites’.13 Each was built in a suitable historicist style: Flemish gothic for the city hall to symbolize medieval urban privileges, classical Greek for the parliament to represent democracy, Italian Renaissance for the cultural buildings, including the opera. At the same date in Paris a new Op´era was commissioned by Napoleon III as a monument to his own imperial pretensions, his city planner Baron Haussmann carving a great avenue through the old city to link the Op´era to the royal palace at the Louvre (the broad avenue having the secondary function of making the kind of assassination attempt that the emperor had survived in 1858, whilst making his way through the narrow congested streets to the old Op´era building in the Salle Pelletier, more difficult). When the competition for the Op´era was announced, the architectural critic C´esar Daly opined that the new building would perfectly symbolize the spirit of modern Paris, suggesting that whereas in London, a city of commerce, the representative buildings were its railway stations, in Paris, a city of pleasure, the Op´era would offer ‘in architectural language the truest expression of the taste, mores and genius of Paris’.14 Theatre historian Marvin Carlson has pointed out that the new Op´era was located ‘at the centre of one of the representative quarters of the upper bourgeosie’.15 Indeed, the Op´era sits at the hub of radiating boulevards linking the Palais Garnier (as it came to be known, after its architect) not only to the Louvre but to the Stock Exchange, the Printemps department store, and the Gares du Nord and de l’Est, also becoming the focal point for the most significant conglomeration of upper-crust caf´es and restaurants in later nineteenth-century Paris.16 In modern states the location of opera houses continues to serve as an important sign of the relationship between the state and official culture, which is often represented by opera. In Australia the decision in the 1950s to build an opera house, locating the daringly modernist building by Jørn

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Utzon prominently on Sydney harbour, was a clear statement of Australia’s desire to be seen to have acceded to cultural maturity (or what was at the time the accepted view of cultural maturity), its engineer Ove Arup declaring in 1965 that it would serve as ‘a civic symbol for a city which seeks to destroy once and for all the suggestion that it is a cultural backwater’.17 (Modern Australians are mercifully less prone to the ‘cultural cringe’ that prevailed in the 1950s and 1960s.) The elitist connotations of opera have meant that recently built opera houses are often located more discreetly in multi-purpose arts centres, such as the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff (2004–09), which replaced controversial architect Zaha Hadid’s striking but rejected plans for an opera house on the same site, Hadid’s winning scheme falling victim to typically British parochialism in the arts.18 But the commercial redevelopment of the former dock areas of the Danish capital Copenhagen in the 2000s included a showcase opera house that is notably sited on an axis with the Amalienborg Royal Palace across the water, reaffirming the historical relationship between opera and monarchy in Denmark. As I write (6 March 2011) the Chinese boom city of Guangzhou (Canton) is formally opening a new opera house designed by none other than Zaha Hadid, described as ‘unifying the adjacent cultural buildings with the towers of international finance in Guangzhou’s Zhujiang new town’, a clear expression of the current economic and cultural priorities of the capitalist-communist regime in China.19 Not to be outdone, the Gulf state of Dubai has commissioned Hadid to build a trophy opera house to crown its consumerist desert paradise with the cultural imprimatur of opera. In London, on the other hand, the Covent Garden Opera House occupies a more marginal space than opera houses in other great cities, squeezed tightly into an area once associated with crime and prostitution, and adjoining London’s main fruit and vegetable market (until the market moved in 1974). Its unimpressive location is perhaps a sign of the ambiguous relationship of the British to the arts, and more particularly to arts that are perceived to be foreign. It also reflects the fact that the modern British monarchy has never exercised the kind of power (and rarely the vision) that is enjoyed by European heads of state (monarchic or otherwise) to stamp their mark publicly with showcase monuments such as the Paris Op´era, or the Op´era Bastille, also in Paris, built on a site representative of French Republicanism as one of the socialist President Mitterrand’s grands projets of the 1980s. A typically private project by the Victorian impresario James Henry Mapleson to build a more strikingly located national opera house on the Thames Embankment alongside the Palace of Westminster had to be terminated in 1877, after work was well under way, due to shortage of support, the incomplete building being demolished to make way for New Scotland Yard in 1888.20 Moreover, the British ruling classes have always preferred to

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affect the manners of the country squire to those of the urban sophisticate, and this is exemplified in the proliferation of country-house opera houses in Britain. Glyndebourne Opera, founded in 1934 in the gardens of an Elizabethan mansion in the Sussex Downs an hour outside London, is the original and best-known country-house opera, although it lost some of its quaint village-hall atmosphere when commercial imperatives required that a bigger house be built, which opened in 1994. Here the well-heeled can enjoy an essentially urban art form whilst disporting themselves (in formal attire) in a gracious pastoral setting, observed across a ha-ha ditch by sheep and cows. A helicopter landing pad in a nearby field ensures that those who disdain the tiresomeness of a journey by road or rail can arrive with more panache. But even in eighteenth-century London, where the opera house was not so intimately associated with the monarchy as in Naples, Vienna or Paris, the King’s Theatre in the Haymarket was judged to be the obvious place for King George I to display in public his reconciliation with his son the Prince of Wales after a long-running and politically divisive feud – at a performance of Handel’s Radamisto in 1720. Despite its name the theatre had no formal royal links, but since it was primarily the Whig aristocracy who patronized the Italian opera in London, and since the reconciliation restored the prominent Whig politicians Robert Walpole and Viscount Townshend to the government, the location had clear political significance.

From selective inattention to absorbed listening The interior layout of opera houses is equally revealing of their social function. In the few baroque opera houses that survive today, such as the Margrave’s Theatre in Bayreuth or the Cuvilli´es Theatre in Munich (now almost entirely rebuilt), the royal box serves as a second stage and second focus for the theatre, where the ruler is framed as theatrically as those on stage. ‘In 1750 it was unfashionable to arrive at the opera on time’, James H. Johnson begins his book on the history of the social etiquette of concert and opera-going called Listening in Paris.21 As a result the performance on stage was often interrupted by applause for the arrival of the king or other members of the royal family. This was something that initially embarrassed Napoleon as First Consul, who always arrived late at the Op´era (and not only because someone had tried to assassinate him on the way); when he did so sometimes the singers on stage joined in the applause, whilst on one occasion a special ballet sequence that Napoleon had missed was performed again for him. In time Napoleon became adroit at manipulating such appearances, ensuring that the Op´era management was informed

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beforehand so that it could notify the press.22 A century later Mark Twain observed with malicious glee, staunch republican that he was, that audiences at Wagner’s Festspielhaus at Bayreuth continued to be awed by the presence of royalty in the theatre, although there was supposed to be no other focus of attention than the art on the stage: In the opera-house there is a long loft back of the audience, a kind of open gallery, in which princes are displayed. It is sacred to them; it is the holy of holies. As soon as the filling of the house is about complete the standing multitude turn and fix their eyes upon the princely layout and gaze mutely and longingly and adoringly and regretfully like sinners looking into heaven.23

And performances themselves continued to be at the mercy of the social preferences of whoever exercised the most control over the opera house well into the nineteenth century, as at the Paris Op´era, where the members of the aristocratic Jockey Club de Paris held numerous boxes and, according to Wagner, could override the writ of even the emperor. Their preferred part of any operatic performance was the obligatory ballet, which by tradition took place in the second act of the opera, allowing the members of the Jockey Club to dine during the first act before going on to the Op´era for their favoured part of the entertainment (often leaving immediately after the ballet). When in 1861 Wagner made a bid for success in Paris with a revised version of his opera Tannh¨auser he agreed to add a ballet as required at the Op´era, but placed it at the beginning of the opera. The ensuing uproar from the members of the Jockey Club caused extended interruptions to the performances of up to 15 minutes (according to Wagner’s account), and Wagner had to withdraw the opera after the third performance.24 In theatres where the aristocracy rather than the ruler were in control of the building the design of theatres allowed for tiers of smaller boxes that were owned or leased by aristocratic families. In 1816 the French novelist Stendhal described the boxes at La Scala in Milan as ‘200 miniature salons’, ‘sufficient to contain all that is of worth and value in Milanese society’.25 Byron, who was also in Milan in 1816, wrote that ‘All society in Milan is carried out at the opera’,26 and Milan society hostesses knew better than to try to entertain at home on any day but a Friday, the only night on which there was normally no performance at La Scala. In their boxes people could, Byron observed, chatter, play cards, ‘or anything else’ (there is a clear innuendo there).27 In the mid-eighteenth century the French traveller de Brosses reported that, although the recitative in Italian opera seria was monotonous, it at least allowed him to play an uninterrupted game of chess in his box.28 Visiting La Scala in 1770 the English music historian Charles Burney noted in his diary that at La Scala each box ‘contains 6 persons who

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sit 3 on each side facing each other’, a clear indication that the priorities of sociability outweighed those of viewing the stage.29 Burney also observed the result of such sociability, describing the ‘abominable noise and inattention’ that the audience paid to what was happening on stage, except for one or two favourite arias.30 At such moments, Stendhal noted in Naples in 1817, there would be ‘prolonged and urgent shushings’ for people to be quiet.31 The Italian patriot Antonio Gallenga gives us a fuller picture of an operatic audience at work at La Scala in the middle of the nineteenth century: In the pit, in the gallery, in the six tiers of boxes, there are other interests at stake than the catastrophe on stage. Everywhere there is nodding and smiling, and flirting and waving of fans and handkerchiefs; two-thirds at least of the performance are drowned out by the murmur of a general conversation, until occasionally, a burst of applause, or the strokes of the director of the orchestra announce the entrance of a favourite singer, or the prelude to a popular air; when, as if by common accord that confused roar of 6,000 voices is instantly hushed; all laughing, cocquetting, and iced-champagne-drinking, are broken short; and all the actors in the minor stages submit themselves for five minutes to behave like a well behaved audience.32

The Romantic composer Louis Spohr, exhibiting a typically Germanic disdain for Italian musical culture, complained that ‘Nothing more insufferable can be imagined for a stranger who is desirous to listen with attention than this vile noise.’ And he attributed such behaviour to the fact that ‘from such persons as have perhaps seen the same opera thirty or forty times, and who come to the theatre only for the sake of the society, no attention is to be expected’.33 But what Burney, Gallenga and Spohr describe is not ‘no attention’. Rather, it is what Richard Schechner has designated as ‘selective inattention’. Employing the methods of an anthropologist to analyse the rituals of performance events, Schechner noted a similar kind of selective inattention at work at a concert of Carnatic music in Madras: ‘There was no necessity to maintain or appear to maintain, a single-focus high-tension attention. But at the same time the use of selective inattention led not to a feeling of laxness or “I don’t care”, but to a selective discipline on the part of the audience. Connoisseurs knew precisely what and who they wanted to hear.’ Going on to quote from his diary, Schechner writes: ‘This audience is sitting in judgment – but that judgment is based on its knowledge and love of the music . . . the lights stay on here so the audience can see each other, and feel together.’34 During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries operatic works themselves were put together with the clear understanding that they would

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not receive the same level of attention throughout, exemplified by the convention of what was known as the aria di sorbetto, an aria sung by a minor character during which members of the audience could obtain refreshments (or avail themselves of the none-too-salubrious sanitary facilities) safe in the knowledge that they were not missing anything sensational. But just as Schechner insists that selective inattention does not indicate lack of engagement in either the event or the performance, James Johnson has reminded us that Spohr’s expectation of silent ‘attentive listening’ is historically specific, marking a stage in a gradual cultural shift in emphasis from the sociality of theatrical attendance to a focus on the work being presented on stage. There are already signs of increasing efforts to impose decorum on audiences in the mid-eighteenth century,35 and opera houses in Italy were usually policed for this purpose, as Byron’s feckless companion Dr Polidori discovered to his cost when he asked a soldier to remove his hat at a performance at La Scala, and had later to be rescued from detention by Byron.36 But the policing of Italian opera houses was usually more to do with maintaining social order than with aesthetic etiquette. In 1820 the dying Keats was so depressed by the theatre police at the San Carlo in Naples that he determined to move on to Rome, despite his unfit state, not wanting to be buried amongst a people so politically abject.37 The first signs of a shift towards discipline and attention as an aesthetic ideal rather than an issue of public order can be found in the second half of the eighteenth century, when the French critic Diderot began to encourage a new kind of absorption in dramatic action, opposing this to the ‘theatricality’ of modes of performance that explicitly acknowledged the audience and the theatrical occasion.38 James Johnson had charted the gradual spread of attentive opera and concert listening in Paris through the early part of the nineteenth century, but there is already evidence of this kind of attention being sought in London at the end of the eighteenth century: in 1784 the critic of the Morning Chronicle complained that ‘The Opera Band, perhaps as complete as any in the world, is overpowered by the noise and nonsense on the spectator side of it, and even Pacchierotti himself cannot sufficiently, without impaired effort, make his way to those who are happy in hearing him’.39 By 1850 a Sunday Times reporter could note the silence with which an audience listened to an opera at the Surrey Theatre in south London (one of several popular working-class theatres that had begun to present operas) as a testimony to ‘the improvement of taste among all classes’,40 although at the end of the century Mark Twain observed that the upper-crust audience at the Metropolitan Opera in New York had still not adopted the habit of listening silently: ‘they hum the airs, they squeak fans, they titter and gabble all the time’.41

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The expectation of absorptive attention was brought to its fulfilment by Wagner (who else?). In a letter to Liszt of 1852 Wagner had imagined the ideal environment for such an experience, suggesting that operas should be performed ‘in some beautiful retreat, far from the smoke and industrial odours of city civilisations’.42 Although tempted by King Ludwig of Bavaria’s offer to build a showcase theatre for his works in Munich, Wagner eventually opted to build his Festspielhaus on a hill outside the sleepily provincial town of Bayreuth to ensure its remove both from the modern metropolis and from the mundane life of the town below. Wagner encouraged a spirit of pilgrimage in his audience, and Matthew Wilson Smith suggests that the narrative of Parsifal, with Parsifal’s long slow approach to the temple on the hill of Montsalvat, inside which is held the Holy Grail before which Parsifal stands ‘bewitched’, is a dramatic representation of the ideal experience that Wagner sought for his audience at Bayreuth.43 But despite his self-conscious medievalism, just as Wagner relied upon modern stage technologies to achieve his magical stage effects, so he relied upon modern modes of transport to enable his audience to travel from afar to Bayreuth. Mark Twain also recorded that the only way for such travellers to secure tickets and lodgings for the festival was by another wonder of modern technology, the telegraph.44 At the Paris Op´era, which opened one year before Bayreuth, Charles Garnier had a no less sacramental view of his theatre. When criticized for the overuse of emblems such as masks and lyres in the building he responded that ‘lyres and masks in theatres, like the crosses on altars, keep the thought oriented, by visual means, toward the central concern’;45 his ideas for the decoration of the grand foyer were taken from the staging of the religious ceremony scene in Meyerbeer’s Le Proph`ete.46 The creation of such extravagant spaces for social display and interaction at the Garnier is itself a sign of a shift of emphasis; in Italian opera houses foyer spaces were often cramped since it was assumed that social interactions took place inside the auditorium itself. Garnier described his magnificent social spaces as ‘the architectural symphonies of the theatre’,47 and Garnier’s critics often complained that the palatial social spaces detracted from the auditorium. But Garnier himself extended his musical metaphor to argue that whereas his foyers and staircases were like a symphony orchestra to be listened to on its own, the auditorium should be more restrained, playing second fiddle to the spectacle on stage like the orchestra that accompanies the opera (Garnier’s idea of ‘restrained’ must be recognized as relative here). Nonetheless, it appears that Garnier’s magnificently vulgar jewel box did steal the thunder of the operas performed within it: Christophe Charle has suggested that audiences increasingly came to the Op´era to admire the building rather than to hear operas.48

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Bayreuth, on the other hand, has exiguous social spaces (visitors often complained about the lack of facilities), ensuring that the pilgrim’s attention is focused on the holy grail within. Inside the auditorium Wagner designed all the seats to face the stage in a semicircle, rather than the classic horseshoeshaped auditorium of the baroque theatre in which the sightlines to the stage are of lesser significance than those across the auditorium. The long rows of tightly packed seats also pin the audience down in their places throughout the performance – something that Garnier explicitly rejected when he designed broad passages between seats at the Op´era in the belief that people had a right to circulate during the performance, and ‘to come and go freely’.49 And whereas in theatres whose primary function was social the auditorium would remain lit throughout the performance so that the audience could see each other, at Bayreuth Wagner dimmed the lights in the auditorium so that the audience had to concentrate on the stage – something that was still considered worthy of note when the practice was first introduced in London by Mahler at a performance of Siegfried at Covent Garden in 1892.50 Wagner himself had enjoined that since Parsifal was a ‘sacred’ work there should be no vulgar applause or curtain calls to break its spell until the end of the opera. But by this date it was already common to frown upon applause during a performance, the ideal of the coherent work having taken hold more generally. Writing of a performance of Lohengrin at Covent Garden in 1875 the critic of The Times newspaper noted that ‘In a work constructed as is Lohengrin frequent plaudits cannot be expected since each successive act may be regarded as almost one continuous piece.’51 Visiting ‘the shrine of St Wagner’ in 1891 Mark Twain wrote a vivid account of the pall of reverence that was encouraged at performances at Bayreuth after Wagner’s death: Absolute attention and petrified retention to the end of an act of the attitude assumed at the beginning of it. You detect no movement in the solid mass of heads and shoulders. You seem to sit with the dead in the gloom of the tomb. You know they are being stirred to their profoundest depths; that there are times when they want to rise and wave handkerchiefs and shout their appreciation, and times when tears are running down their faces, and it would be a relief to free their pent emotion in sobs or scream.52

Performance as event By the end of the century this kind of reverential silence and immobility had indeed become the ideal of concert-, theatre- and opera-going. But there are, of course, other ways of displaying attention or marking appreciation than immobile or silent listening. At the beginning of the

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eighteenth century Joseph Addison commented how in France there was an ‘Inclination of the Audiences to sing along with the Actors’53 (something which the Metropolitan audience still did at the end of the following century). Visitors to Italy often noted how freely Italian audiences physicalized their responses to key moments in a performance in displays of a more baroque-style religious ecstasy than the puritanical mode practised at Bayreuth. The English traveller John Moore attending a performance in Italy in 1787 described how ‘At certain airs, silent enjoyment was expressed in every countenance; at other the hands were clasped together, the eyes half shut, and the breath drawn in with a prolonged sigh, as if the soul was expiring in a torrent of delight.’54 Stendhal gives an account of how, at the premiere of Rossini’s La gazza ladra, there was a muttering of ‘O bello!, o bello!’ after the applause for the overture had died down.55 The later eighteenth-century cult of sensibility also had an impact upon audiences’ behaviour in the theatre. Sensibility was a manifestation of the new middleclass ideology of naturalness, formed in explicit opposition to the control and artifice of absolutist and aristocratic cultures. The ethos of sensibility demanded that people display their emotions as a sign of their openness and honesty, rather than concealing them. In the era of sensibility theatre and opera audiences were similarly encouraged to make extravagant displays of their emotional responses to the drama, and sentimental theatrical genres such as the com´edie larmoyante or the opera semiseria came into being to provide audiences with opportunities to demonstrate their sensibility. When Paisiello’s opera Nina, one of the most popular examples of operatic sensibility, was performed in Naples in 1790 the audience were moved to rise from their seats with cries of sympathy to reassure the opera’s heroine that everything would turn out for the best after her pathetic aria ‘Il mio ben’.56 More vigorous forms of appreciation, such as the practice of throwing bouquets, were also common, and an institution unique to opera to this day is the claque: people who are hired by theatre managers and singers to encourage the audience to applaud (often, in the case of singers, in a spirit of rivalry), or sometimes to voice signs of disapprobation. From informal beginnings the claque became an important institution at the Paris Op´era in the 1830s, when the theatre manager Louis V´eron employed a permanent manager of the claque, Auguste Levasseur, who studied the score of each new work carefully to determine where the applause would be needed, attended rehearsals, and regularly discussed tactics with V´eron. Levasseur organized a quasi-military operation, commanding his troops from an orchestra seat in the centre of the theatre by tapping his cane to signal applause. A later leader of the claque expressed his view of the valuable role he played, claiming that the claque was necessary ‘to animate and encourage the actors, to warm up

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a sluggish audience, and to emphasise the most beautiful passages’.57 This latter point is telling, for it suggests that the new bourgeois audience that was increasingly filling the seats at the Op´era (and at other opera houses in Europe and the Americas) was less confident of its taste and judgement than its predecessors. The development of musical and operatic criticism in the press during this period is symptomatic of the same tendency. Despite the growth of the public press in the eighteenth century, musical, theatrical and operatic criticism remained during that century very much an aspect of the marketing and public relations operation of theatres (or what the early nineteenth-century English critic Leigh Hunt, one of the earliest opera critics in England, described as ‘puffery’ in exchange for ‘plenty of tickets’).58 Since audiences would attend the opera pretty much regardless of what was played they did not need to be persuaded or dissuaded by reviews of the aesthetic quality of what was on offer. The object of greatest interest in a performance was the skills of the performers, and, as Jennifer Hall-Witt has pointed out, aristocratic audiences were often well informed about singing since many of them took singing lessons themselves as a part of their general education; like Schechner’s expert audience at the concert of Carnatic music, they didn’t need critics to tell them who was any good.59 As the social status of opera audiences expanded to include the wealthier middle classes, attendance at the opera became less exclusively the preserve of the aristocratic elite. For the new audience, going to the opera was less a matter of social obligation. Instead it was one of a number of choices as to how to spend one’s leisure time and money, and such audiences needed guidance and advice in an increasingly diverse market. As Terry Eagleton has explained, public criticism serves to create a critical consensus of taste and judgement, but to some extent it only becomes necessary when the grounds for making such judgements are no longer certain; when the aristocratic assumption that good breeding and aesthetic taste go together gives way to a more contested set of values.60 Like the claque, public criticism served to give confidence to an increasingly middle-class audience who needed to be told what to attend, and what to think about what they experienced.61 The development of programme notes and musical guides was also part of this trend. In a recent article on the publication of popular guides to Wagner’s operas (such as the American music critic H.E. Krehbiel’s How to Listen to Wagner’s Music of 1890), Christian Thorau suggests that such guides can be seen as part of a wider provision of self-improvement manuals for the middle classes that included the Swiss art historian Burkhardt’s Cicerone, ‘a guide for the enjoyment of art in Italy’, or the ubiquitous Baedeker travel guide books.62 Institutions like the claque affirm that the relationship between audience and performance in an art form like opera is always two-way. The operatic

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event is neither purely a social event for the audience alone, nor is it purely focused on the imaginary world being represented on stage, even if the historical move from the social display of seventeenth-century opera-goers to the darkened auditorium at Bayreuth marks a clear historical shift from one tendency to the other, the reasons for which we must return to at the end of this chapter. In the seventeenth century it was common for prominent people to sit on the stage in full view of their peers, and this practice suggests that there was at that time no clearly marked distinction between the rituals on stage and social rituals in the theatre. Even after this practice had been discontinued almost everywhere by the latter part of the eighteenth century it was common for actors to perform on a forestage in front of, rather than within, the illusionistic stage sets, occupying a liminal space between the fictional stage space and that of the audience. The fact that there was little attempt to provide historical or geographical authenticity in costuming in the eighteenth century, operatic costumes being largely a theatricalized version of the anyway extravagant contemporary fashions, also reduced the gap between fiction and reality. In a diary entry of Lady Coke, an assiduous opera-goer in late eighteenth-century London, we are at first unaware that Lady Coke has transposed a discussion about the clothes on display at an opera performance from the costumes on stage to what the audience was wearing.63 The opera historian John D. Drummond suggests that in the eighteenth century the ‘division between theatre and life was at times a tenuous one’,64 and, in a study of the culture of Italian opera seria that can be described as anthropological in approach, Martha Feldman has suggested that the highly artificial conventions of opera seria should be seen as a mirror of the social conventions of the society to which it played, its elaborate codes serving as a kind of affirmation of the codified rules and social hierarchies of courtly social etiquette. The theatre historian Joseph Roach describes acting treatises of the time as exemplifying ‘the technique of reifying the social order’, citing a manual of 1813, that he considers to be retrospective of earlier practices, which describes the hierarchical disposition of the actors on stage: ‘The principal person stands in the middle of the others; then these stand according to rank, age, and sex.’65 More generally, the codification of social etiquette is part of what the social historian Norbert Elias characterized as the ‘civilising process’ by which natural bodily functions and emotions are increasingly either concealed or brought under control in modern societies.66 Reinhard Strohm describes this aspect of opera seria as a form of ‘social modelling’,67 in which, as Feldman explains it, rules of behaviour were ‘not learned primarily as content but as feeling, feeling internalized through the expressive power of ceremonial recitation’.68 In such a society, Drummond suggests, ‘to be a virtuoso was not an act of Romantic

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rebellion, it was an image of absolute control’.69 Just as the courtier had to keep his inner feelings under control, the singer demonstrated her mastery over the emotions being displayed musically. Both might be seen as indicative of the wider social imperative for the citizen of the modern state to learn to suppress personal inclinations for the greater good of the state, reflected in the conflicts between love and duty that lay at the heart of almost all of the narratives of classical opera seria. Drummond also argues that in seventeenth- and early eighteenthcentury society more emphasis was placed upon appearances than upon substance. Baroque art is related to rhetoric, which is concerned ‘not with what is said, but with the way of saying it’,70 placing value upon persuasion rather than upon representation or self-expression. In Romantic aesthetics there is an insistence upon emotional sincerity as the touchstone for artistic truth, but in classical rhetoric and opera seria the purpose is to move people to accept a particular view of things rather than to express oneself. (Expression was one of the tools of rhetoric, but it served as a sign rather than an index of emotion.) Just as the classical rhetorician deployed a whole range of figures of speech (or ‘tropes’) as rhetorical devices (repetition, metaphor, exaggeration, understatement, irony, etc.), so the baroque composer deployed musical tropes. These were not considered as dead conventions to be challenged as inauthentic, but as a sign of artistry. Martha Feldman has also described the way in which the music of opera seria ‘strategically choreographed both the delivery and the reception of the text rhetorically, simultaneously staging the singer’s performance and moulding the demonstrations of the audience’.71 But Feldman also suggests that in opera seria neither what took place on stage nor what took place in the auditorium was entirely predetermined, noting that there was a ‘dialectic between both political and textual fixity on the one hand and behavioural and performative freedom’.72 Indeed, it was the very reliability of the conventions that permitted and encouraged performative freedom; audiences hearing the same opera night after night expected the performers to vary the music. Moreover, Schechner found that in such performance cultures the principle of selective inattention could apply as much to the behaviour of the performers as to that of audiences, noting that the ability of performers to step in and out of role, to transgress the frame of the performance, is an essential aspect of the recognition of performance as event. Dr Burney describes a touching example of a singer stepping out of role as recounted to him by the elderly Farinelli. When Farinelli and Senesino, the two great rival castrati of the age, first appeared together on the London stage, Senesino playing ‘a furious tyrant’ and Farinelli ‘an unfortunate hero in chains’, Farinelli’s singing ‘so softened the heart of the enraged tyrant, that Senesino, forgetting his stage-character,

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ran to Farinelli and embraced him in his own’.73 Another castrato Caffarelli was notorious for his capricious nature, his refusal to rehearse, and his rather less generous behaviour to his peers, ‘making obscene gestures and remarks, joking with the audience, making fun of other singers on the stage, mimicking and anticipating their phrases, and more’.74 At the San Carlo, where a stuffier royal etiquette prevailed, Caffarelli once found himself put under arrest for overstepping the mark, but this was for l`ese majest´e, not for breaking the stage illusion. Louis Spohr found that such practices were still prevalent in Roman opera houses in 1816, complaining that ‘One is accustomed . . . to hear one of the persons performing sing alone for a quarter of an hour at a time, in situations of the most impassioned kind, while the others walk about in the background, or partly behind the scenes, and chat and laugh with acquaintances.’75 Writing in 1838 Liszt noted that Italian audiences never forgot the singer over the character that he or she represented: ‘One knows always that one is in the presence of Madame Schoberlichner and not in the presence of Semiramis’.76 But during the course of the nineteenth century this focus on the ‘eventness’ of performance would give way to the presumption of absorptive attention in the fictive world of the drama.

The fall of the public man The effect of Wagner’s reforms was to create a passive solitary spectator lost in his or her own absorption in what is happening on stage. ‘They leave themselves at home when they go to Bayreuth’, Nietzsche complained, in one of his more unpleasantly misogynist moments, becoming ‘mob, herd, woman’.77 The ‘feminization’ of the Wagnerian spectator is made explicit in Aubrey Beardsley’s print ‘The Wagnerites’ (1894) which shows an audience consisting almost entirely of women (and exotic looking women, at that). This audience passivity was not, in fact, Wagner’s intention. Although he had railed against the socializing frivolity of Italian opera-going, he hoped to replace this with a more genuine social experience modelled on the civic theatre festivals of ancient Athens. But in general the Romantic ideal of the theatrical event encourages a relationship in which the performers on stage convey emotions that are supposed to be interior and authentic to an audience that is encouraged to experience these in a private and personal way. The subjectivity of such experience is replicated in much recent critical writing about opera, in which the academic presumption of critical objectivity gives way to what David Levin has identified as writing ‘in explicitly lyrical, intensely personal ways’, noting that such critics ‘have been doing a great deal of emoting, finding ways to, as Madonna would

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have it, justify their love’.78 Such accounts often openly acknowledge the eroticism of the operatic encounter: Wayne Koestenbaum describes how the singer’s voice ‘enters me, makes me a “me”, an interior, by virtue of the fact that I have been entered’,79 recalling the homosexual Walt Whitman’s fantasies of a tenor’s voice filling his body a century earlier.80 ‘When I go to the opera house’, writes Sam Abel, another exponent of Levin’s ‘new lyricism’, ‘the performance is a physical sex act between my body and the singer’s voice-body’.81 Levin also notes that the tendency towards solipsism in operatic experience often leads such critics to focus on the experience of listening to opera at home, which in the writing of Abel and Koestenbaum becomes a kind of ‘masturbatory fantasy’.82 The passage from opera as social event to the silent, petrified but erotically suffused retention of the modern audience demands some explanation. It is clearly related to the parallel development of the ideal of the autonomous, coherent operatic work discussed in Chapter 10: one assumes the other. But that still begs the question why such a development took place. If, as McConachie suggests, ‘theatre helps people to constitute themselves as social beings’, then we have to ask what notions of social being the theatre and opera of the later nineteenth century were modelling. The historical sociologist Richard Sennett may be able to help here. Sennett has argued that one of the most fundamental social changes that took place between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was the retreat from public life as a sphere of self-expression and social interaction, greater value being placed instead upon private life and domesticity as the realms of authenticity and selfhood.83 The German sociologist J¨urgen Habermas has defined the eighteenth-century ‘public sphere’ as a discursive space for the formation of public opinion and for the modelling of a shared social consensus,84 and Sennett suggests that the theatre was one of the most significant institutions of this eighteenth-century public sphere. Martha Feldman describes Italian cities in the eighteenth century as ‘veritable citadels of public opinion’, suggesting that ‘cities and city spaces [in particular opera houses] were places to argue, judge and pronounce’.85 Writing in Milan in 1816 Stendhal described La Scala as ‘the focal point of the entire city’.86 This effect may have been even more pronounced in Italy, where authoritarian rule allowed little leeway for more direct political expression. Attending an especially rowdy performance in Genoa in 1844 Charles Dickens opined that ‘as there is nothing else of a public nature at which they are allowed to express the least disapprobation, perhaps they are resolved to make the most of this opportunity’.87 But, according to Sennett, from the late eighteenth century onwards in general public life increasingly came to be seen as inauthentic. This rift

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between public and private is clearly marked in Wagner’s claims that the expression of subjectivity lies at the core of music’s contribution to drama since music conveys authentic feelings (whether known or unknown to the dramatic character) which have otherwise been made ‘unintelligible to ourselves by State-politics or religious dogmas’.88 But, as Hegel insisted, pure interiority is also pure emptiness.89 Where the theatre was once a space for the public modelling of the subject as citizen, it now serves as a place where the private individual goes to gain emotional experiences; the member of the modern audience comes to the theatre not to interact socially with other people but to replenish his or her interior world. This is what Sennett describes as ‘the paradox of visibility and isolation’ in modern public life: ‘the public man as passive spectator’.90 Sennett talks of how Wagner ‘disciplined’ his audience.91 Following the work of Michel Foucault on the ‘technologies’ by which power inscribes itself as discipline in human subjects, cultural historian Jonathan Crary has also described the inculcation of ‘attentiveness’ in the public as a key technology of the social disciplining of people in both work and leisure in the nineteenth century.92 The prerogative of attentiveness in the opera house is clearly a part of this broader tendency,93 and Crary also notes that as modern urban life offered more and more distractions, technologies of attentiveness had to up the ante to compete. In his study of the Paris Op´era in the nineteenth century Anselm Gerhard suggests too that ‘the urban space of experience exerted a strong influence on the forms of spectacle with which grand opera attempts to combine a wide range of perceptual stimuli’.94 But we can also see in the shift from a social to an attentive model of theatre-going a clear illustration of what the French economist Jacques Attali describes as the general tendency of capitalism to reify and commodify all social activities: ‘Fetishized as a commodity, music is illustrative of the evolution of our entire society: deritualize a social form, repress an activity of the body, specialize its practice, sell it as spectacle, generalize its consumption, then see to it that it is stockpiled until it loses its meaning.’95 The latter condition is reached when recordings make it possible to listen to opera in the home, so that people can enjoy ‘the imaginary museum of musical works’96 divorced from the social or performative contexts that originally gave them meaning. But Attali’s diagnosis is equally evident in the deritualization of the social aspects of theatre- and opera-going during the course of the nineteenth century, the rendering immobile of the body in the cause of mental absorption, and the audience’s Parsifal-like bewitchment at the spectacle presented on stage that is the legacy of Wagner.97 Although most opera performances continue to be confined to purposebuilt opera houses, there has been a move in recent years towards exploring

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alternative spaces for performance, often with the intention of attracting new audiences, or creating different modes of audience engagement with the operatic event. In Germany the conductor and director Christoph Hagel has presented Mozart’s Die Zauberfl¨ote in the Reichstag subway station in Berlin (2008), and La clemenza di Tito in the Bode Museum in Berlin (2010), making use of the dramatic architectural properties of these locations. In Britain the Birmingham Opera has been presenting works in less architecturally marked venues since 2001, including Berg’s Wozzeck in a dilapidated warehouse on the edge of a housing estate, Beethoven’s Fidelio in a big top pitched beside Aston Villa Football Club, and Bernstein’s Candide in an old car-parts factory. The productions allow experimentation with space and acoustics, and, in the company’s own words, ‘re-write the rules of engagement between audiences and performer’, often drawing the audience into the action as participants rather than merely observers.98 In the company’s production of Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse (2005), set in an immigration detention centre, the audience was required to undergo the kind of identity check that asylum seekers regularly experience before entering the performance, and observed much of the first half of the performance from outside a wire fence. For Verdi’s Otello (or Othello, since all Birmingham productions are sung in English), which engaged with contemporary issues of race and religion, the audience had to remove its shoes to enter the performance space as if entering a mosque, and at times became, in effect, an extension of the chorus (which is itself often largely amateur in such productions). Such projects evidence a desire to challenge both the spatial and the sociocultural barriers of conventional performance spaces for opera. A number of contributors to this book have commented also on the recent explosion of new technological media by which opera can be disseminated. Many of these media could be said to extend the more solipsistic mode of engagement first made possible by sound recording technologies. The German opera scholar Clemens Risi has drawn attention to YouTube clips in which the empathetic breathing of a fan who has posted a clip of Natalie Dessay singing the mad scene from Lucia di Lammermoor can be heard accompanying Dessay’s performance. Risi notes that opera fans also post videos of themselves singing along, or lip synching, to their favourite opera stars, referring us to a virtuoso performance of an aria from Vivaldi’s Griselda by Cecilia Bartoli as rendered, with the full panoply of Bartoli’s mannerisms, by one Chris Jones, alias ‘divoboy’.99 The public-facing performativity of such clips and the resultant online comments and exchanges suggest that a more interactive process is taking place here than with oldfashioned singing along in the bath. Opera houses have also learned to use

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social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to engage with younger audiences and to create new online operatic communities. A witty publicity video for Nico Muhly’s opera Two Boys, ironically about the dangers of social networking sites, performed at the English National Opera in 2011, even went viral on YouTube.100 Live broadcasts of opera performances in cinemas that create a sense of occasion, and the use of mobile media to organize spontaneous ‘pop-up’ or ‘flashmob’ operatic events,101 suggest that new technologies can also offer opportunities for more sociable, less isolating forms of engagement. The British composer Craig Vear has created ‘a digital opera for a mixed ensemble of technologies, remote audiences and live performers’ based on Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey (2010/11),102 and it cannot be long before the methods of the virtual YouTube choir are applied to an operatic work.103 All of these developments suggest that the future may involve very different concepts of the performance space of opera, and of what constitutes an operatic audience or an operatic event.

Notes 1 Martha Feldman, ‘Magic Mirrors and the Seria Stage: Thoughts Toward a Ritual View’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 48/3, Music Anthropologies and Music Histories (Autumn 1995), pp. 423–84; 452. 2 Reinhard Strohm, ‘Looking Back at Ourselves: The Problem with the Musical Work-Concept’, in Michael Talbot (ed.), The Musical Work: Reality or Invention? (Liverpool University Press, 2000), pp. 128–52; 148. 3 Carolyn Abbate, ‘Music: Drastic or Gnostic?’, Critical Enquiry, 30/3 (Spring 2004), pp. 505–36; 506. 4 Thomas Postlewait, Cambridge Introduction to Theatre Historiography (Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 2. 5 Regula Burckhardt Qureshi, ‘Music Anthropologies and Music Histories: A Preface and an Agenda’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 48/3 (Fall 1995), pp. 330–42; 33. 6 Christopher Small, Musicking: The Meanings of Performance and Listening (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1998), p. 183. 7 Bruce A. McConachie, ‘Towards a Postpositivist Theatre History’, Theatre Journal, 37/4 (December 1985), pp. 465–86; 473.

8 Richard Schechner, Performance Theory (New York and London: Routledge, 1988), p. 169. 9 Marvin Carlson, Places of Performance (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1989), p. 76. 10 John A. Rice, Mozart on the Stage (Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 206. 11 Carlson, Places of Performance, p. 74. 12 Carl E. Schorske, Fin-de-Si`ecle Vienna: Politics and Culture (Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 33. 13 Ibid., p. 37. 14 Carlson, Places of Performance, p. 83. 15 Ibid., p. 84 16 Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2002), p. 216. 17 Michael Baume, The Sydney Opera House Affair (Sydney: Thomas Nelson, 1967), pp. 118–19. 18 Nicholas Crickhowell, Opera House Lottery: Zaha Hadid and the Cardiff Bay Project (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1997). 19 ‘Guangzhou Opera House Completed’,

90 Nicholas Till 20 See Susie Timms, Mapleson: Victorian Opera Impresario (London: Bezazzy Publishing, 2007). 21 James H. Johnson, Listening in Paris: A Cultural History (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1995), p. 9. 22 For all information on Napoleon and the Op´era, Johnson, Listening in Paris, pp. 165–7. 23 Mark Twain, ‘At the Shrine of St Wagner’ (1891), in What is Man? And Other Essays (New York: Harper and Bros, 1917), pp. 209–26; 218. 24 Richard Wagner, ‘A Report on the Production of Tannh¨auser in Paris’ (1861), ed. and trans. William Ashton Ellis, in Richard Wagner’s Prose Works, Vol. III: The Theatre (New York: Broude Brothers, 1966), pp. 349–60. 25 Stendhal, Rome, Naples and Florence, trans. Richard N. Coe (London: John Calder, 1959), pp. 22, 68. 26 George Gordon, Lord Byron, Byron’s Letters and Journals, ed. Leslie A. Marchand, Vol. V: 1816–17: ‘So late into the night’ (London: John Murray, 1976), p. 124. 27 Byron, Byron’s Letters and Journals, p. 124. 28 Quoted in Martha Feldman, Opera and Sovereignty: Transforming Myths in Eighteenth-Century Italy (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2007), p. 46. 29 Charles Burney, Music, Men and Manners in France and Italy (1770), ed. H. Edmund Poole (London: Eulenburg Books, 1974), p. 46. 30 Charles Burney, The Present State of Music in France and Italy (London: T. Becket and Co., 1771), p. 66. 31 Stendhal, Rome, Naples and Florence, p. 352. 32 Quoted in Nicholas Till, The Life and Times of Rossini (Tunbridge Wells: Midas Books, 1985), p. 22. 33 Louis Spohr, Louis Spohr’s Autobiography (London: Longman, 1865), Vol. I, p. 259. 34 Schechner, Performance Theory, pp. 197–8. 35 Feldman, Opera and Sovereignty, p. 111. 36 William Michael Rossetti (ed.), The Diary of Dr John William Polidori, 1816 (London: Folcroft Library Editions, 1975), p. 191. 37 Andrew Motion, Keats (London: Faber and Faber, 1997), p. 551. 38 See Stefano Castelvecchi, ‘From Nina to Nina: Psychodrama, Absorption and Sentiment in the 1780s’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 8/2 (July 1996), pp. 91–112; 97. See also Michael Fried, Absorption and

Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot (University of Chicago Press, 1988). 39 Curtis Price, Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, Italian Opera in Late EighteenthCentury London, Vol. I: The King’s Theatre, Haymarket, 1778–1791 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), p. 176. 40 Jim Davis and Victor Emeljanov, Reflecting the Audience: London Theatregoing, 1840–1880 (Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire Press, 2001), p. 28. 41 Mark Twain, ‘At the Shrine of St Wagner’, pp. 224–5. 42 Carlson, Places of Performance, p. 86. 43 Matthew Wilson Smith, The Total Work of Art: From Bayreuth to Cyberspace (London: Routledge, 2007), pp. 41–3. 44 Twain, ‘At the Shrine of St Wagner’, p. 209. 45 Charles Garnier, Le Nouvel Op´era de Paris (Paris: Ducher et Compagnie, 1876), p. 77. 46 Ibid., p. 215. 47 Ibid., p. 120. 48 Christophe Charle, ‘Opera in France, 1870–1914: Between Nationalism and Foreign Imports’, in Victoria Johnson, Jane F. Fulcher and Thomas Ertman (eds.), Opera and Society in Italy and France from Monteverdi to Bourdieu (Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 243–66; 250. 49 Garnier, Le Nouvel Op´era, p. 139. 50 Sven Oliver M¨uller, ‘Distinktion, Demonstration und Disziplinierung: Ver¨anderungen im Publikumsverhalten in Londoner und Berliner Opernh¨ausern im 19. Jahrhundert’, International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, 37/2 (December 2006), pp. 167–87; 183. 51 Ibid., p. 153. 52 Mark Twain, ‘At the Shrine of St Wagner’, pp. 224–5. 53 Joseph Addison, The Spectator, 3 April 1711. 54 Feldman, Opera and Sovereignty, p. 69. 55 Stendhal, Life of Rossini, p. 269. 56 Castelvecchi, ‘From Nina to Nina’, pp. 105–6. 57 This, and other information on the claque, is taken from Johnson, Listening in Paris, pp. 246–8. 58 Theodore Fenner, Opera in London: Views of the Press (Carbonville and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1994), p. 7. 59 See Jennifer L. Hall-Witt, ‘Representing the Audience in the Age of Reform: Critics and the Elite at the Italian Opera in London’, in Christina Bashford and Leanne Langley (eds.), Music and British Culture, 1785–1914: Essays in

91 The operatic event: opera houses and opera audiences Honour of Cyril Ehrlich (Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 122–44; 134. 60 Terry Eagleton, The Function of Criticism (London: Verso, 1984). 61 On nineteenth-century opera criticism see Katherine Ellis, Music Criticism in NineteenthCentury France: La Revue et Gazette musicale de Paris, 1834–80 (Cambridge University Press, 1995), and Roger Parker and Mary Ann Smart (eds.), Reading Critics Reading: Opera and Ballet Criticism in France from the Revolution to 1848 (Oxford University Press, 2001). 62 Christian Thorau, ‘Guides for Wagnerites: Leitmotifs and Wagnerian Listening’, in Thomas Grey (ed.), Richard Wagner and His World (Princeton University Press, 2009), pp. 133–50. See also Jann Pasler, ‘Material Culture and Postmodern Positivism: Rethinking the “Popular” in Late Nineteenth-Century French Music’, in Stephen A. Crist and Roberta Montemorra Marvin (eds.), Historical Musicology: Sources, Methods, Interpretations (University of Rochester Press, 2004), pp. 356–87. 63 Price, Milhous and Hume, Italian Opera, Vol. I, p. 179. 64 John D. Drummond, Opera in Perspective (London, Melbourne and Toronto, ON: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1980), p. 140. 65 Joseph Roach, ‘Theatre History and the Ideology of the Aesthetic’, Theatre Journal, 41/2 (1981), pp. 155–68; 158. 66 Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process, trans. Edward Jephcott (New York: Urizen Books, 1978). 67 Reinhard Strohm, Dramma per Musica: Italian Opera Seria of the Eighteenth Century (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1997), p. 6. 68 Feldman, Opera and Sovereignty, p. 33. 69 Drummond, Opera in Perspective, p. 144. 70 Ibid., p. 141. 71 Feldman, ‘Magic Mirrors’, p. 461. 72 Ibid., p. 445. 73 Burney, The Present State of Music in France and Italy, p. 217. 74 Feldman, Magic Mirrors, p. 430. 75 Spohr, Louis Spohr’s Autobiography, p. 286. 76 Clemens Risi, Auf dem Weg zu einem italieneschen Musikdrama: Konzeption, Inszenierung und Rezeption des Melodrama vor 1850 bei Saverio Mercadente und Giovanni Pacini (Tutzing: Verlag Hans Schneider, 2004), p. 289. 77 Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘Nietzsche Contra Wagner’, in The Case of Wagner. Nietzsche Contra Wagner. The Twilight of the Idols. The

Antichrist, trans. Thomas Common (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1899), p. 69. 78 David J. Levin, ‘Is there a Text in this Libido?: Diva and the Rhetoric of Contemporary Opera Criticism’, in Jeongwon Joe and Rose Theresa (eds.), Between Opera and Cinema (New York and London: Routledge, 2002), pp. 121–32; 122. 79 Wayne Koestenbaum, The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality and the Mystery of Desire (New York: Poseidon Press, 1993), p. 43. 80 Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, in A Choice of Walt Whitman’s Verse ed. Donald Hall (London: Faber and Faber, 1968), pp. xxvi, 50. 81 Sam Abel, Opera in the Flesh: Sexuality in Operatic Performance (Boulder, CO and Oxford: Westview Press, 1996), p. 168. 82 Ibid., p. 168. 83 Sennett, The Fall of Public Man. 84 J¨urgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1989). 85 Feldman, Opera and Sovereignty, p. 35. 86 Stendhal, Rome, Naples and Florence, p. 7. 87 Charles Dickens, Pictures from Italy (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1998), p. 50. 88 Richard Wagner, Opera and Drama, trans. William Ashton Ellis (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), p. 264. 89 George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, trans. T.M. Knox (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), Vol. II, p. 320. 90 Sennett, The Fall of Public Man, pp. 27 and 212. 91 Ibid., p. 208. 92 Jonathan Crary, Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999). 93 M¨uller, ‘Distinktion, Demonstration und Dizsiplinierung’. 94 Anselm Gerhard, The Urbanization of Opera: Music Theater in Paris in the Nineteenth Century, trans. Mary Whittall (Chicago University Press, 1998), p. 13. 95 Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1985), p. 5. 96 Lydia Goehr, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992). 97 See the account of a performance in Berlin in 1818 in M¨uller, ‘Distinktion,

92 Nicholas Till Demonstration und Dizsiplinierung’, p. 175. 98 99 3LB1ZAesEAk. See Clemens Risi, ‘The Diva’s Fans: Opera and Bodily Participation’, Performance Research, 16/3 (2011), pp. 49–54.

100 See aDycZH0CA4I. 101 See page/flashmob - the opera. 102 See 103 See youtube-choir-eric-whitacre.

part two


4 ‘Too much music’: the media of opera christopher morris

Richard Strauss’s last opera, Capriccio (1942), reflects on an issue that has preoccupied opera since its birth in the Italian courts of the late Renaissance. Which is more important, it asks, the words or the music? Is it ‘prima la musica, dopo le parole’ (first the music, then the words) or ‘prima le parole, dopo la musica’ (first the words, then the music)? Capriccio suggests that the answer lies in a genuine symbiosis that privileges neither, implying, with a wink, that the opera itself is a demonstration of that symbiosis. Things haven’t always been so harmonious. To its critics opera always seemed to lack the economy of means so treasured, at various historical moments, in verbal, musical and theatrical arts, while its apparently haphazard and bloated combinations suggested a forced marriage. Opera hasn’t even fared well in relation to other suspect hybrids like theatre. The term ‘theatrical’ has often encompassed negative associations with falsehood, superficiality and emotive excess, not least for the modernists, who, as Martin Puchner has shown, derided theatricality as a trope for everything that modern art disavows.1 Yet the victimized finds its own victim: in many theatrical circles musical forms of theatre, including opera, stand for something debased in relation to what is still referred to as ‘legitimate theatre’.2 Is it that too much is given away to music? Does music need to be kept in check to avoid swamping theatre’s heterogeneous mix of literary, gestural and visual components in a flood of homogenizing sound? Isn’t the opera house really a concert hall with scenery? This is certainly one strand of the historical critique of opera, which is saturated with arguments for the reform of operatic practice in the name of drama and poetry, as though curbing the genre’s instinctive tendency to indulge music. Measured against the possibility of rediscovering a lost unity between poetry and music in Hellenic theatre – a conviction shared by so many of the theorists and practitioners of opera, from the Florentine Camerata through the eighteenth-century philosophers to Wagner – opera was always haunted by an ancient ghost and found wanting by comparison. That ghost was Aristotle, whose prescriptions for tragedy offered an always-elusive benchmark against which opera was perceived to fail. In his Poetics Aristotle had affirmed the importance of music to drama, but with qualifications: like character and spectacle, music would be subordinated to [95]

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a dramatic ideal centred on the coherence and unity of plot and motivated by the pursuit of ‘beautiful’ proportion and scale. If early modern understandings of Aristotelian theory informed the very emergence of opera, the Poetics would subsequently be mobilized against opera, repeatedly invoked to provide a critique of operatic practice. It was neo-Aristotelian ideals that underpinned the Arcadian reform movement so central to the establishment of opera seria in the early eighteenth century, and it was these same values that returned later in the century when opera seria was deemed to have lost sight of the classical values of what Gluck called a ‘beautiful simplicity’.3 Writing in the preface to his libretto Tarare (1787), Beaumarchais summoned the authority of Gluck to castigate opera’s overindulgence of music: There is too much music in our music for the theatre; it is always overloaded with it. And to use the na¨ıve remark of a justly famous man, the illustrious Chevalier Gluck, ‘our opera stinks of music’: puzza di musica.4

Beaumarchais’s endorsement of Gluck’s colourful critique is not the last indictment of an operatic culture deemed to have confused means (music) and ends (drama). Aristotelian ideals and criticism resurfaced in modernism, especially in its neoclassical strains, and resonated in twentiethcentury musicology, most notably in Joseph Kerman’s influential Opera as Drama of 1956 (the title says it all). The prevalence of this Aristotelian strain of criticism, then, highlights opera’s persistent ‘failure’ to conform to its strictures. Brecht’s call for an ‘epic theatre’ in which music would figure prominently is, in part, a call for a reconceptualization of opera on non-Aristotelian grounds, yet, as Joy Calico observes, this is a moot point because opera ‘was never Aristotelian in the first place’.5 Contemporary opera studies tends to reflect this view, probing opera’s distinctly non-Aristotelian tendency to let gesture, spectacle and music (especially voice) off the leash, as it were. Armed with media theory and methodologies developed in the fields of theatre and performance studies, scholars of opera have increasingly tended to acknowledge and celebrate, rather than apologize for, opera’s failure to conform to acceptable notions of drama. In his reading of the critical reception of Rameau’s operas in France, Charles Dill shows how much was at stake in these debates.6 With their unprecedented quantities of instrumental music – divertissements, symphonies – Rameau’s operas seemed, to many critics, to test the limits of meaning, a breach that flirted with mere noise. That audiences could take pleasure in this ‘noise’ – pleasure in something that could not be named – raised questions about the sorts of experiences licensed by opera. The spectre of musical meaninglessness, Dill concludes, could provoke questions not only of semantics or convention, but of ideology and even morality. What

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scholars like Dill have shown, in fact, is that opera’s excesses of means and materiality are its most revealing features – revealing, not just about opera, but about its social, cultural and historical environments. Part of this focus has been to situate the debates about the relationship between words and music within the enabling materials or conduits of operatic production and signification, seeking to understand, for example, the discursive role of text, performance space and the body of the performer in operatic practice.

Text as medium Here I take a cue from the work of Friedrich Kittler, albeit with some reservations. Keen to foreground the material foundations of discourse and question the metaphysics of ‘spirit’ so central to traditional humanist analysis and criticism, Kittler focuses on the determining impact of media technology. His understanding of the term ‘technology’ owes much to Foucault, who associates it with the enabling techniques of discursive identity formation and socialization. But Kittler places considerably more emphasis on the material foundation of discursive technologies, on the material conditions that determine the possibilities not only for the circulation of discourse, but also for its storage (and thus availability to the historian).7 Identification of this mediality – which Kittler defines as the historical set of possibilities for the storage, processing and transmission of data – precedes, for Kittler, questions of meaning and of subjectivity itself.8 It is a stance that can take him into alarmingly reductive territory, stripping discourse down to the effects of data systems and raising the spectre of technological determinism. Yet if Kittler can be accused of articulating what Thomas Sebastian and Judith Geerke have called a ‘technicist perspective’, his materialist mode of analysis nevertheless offers scholarship on opera some useful tools.9 The richness and complexity of opera as discursive practice cannot be reduced to materiality alone, yet the historical importance of material determination in its emergence and development should not be overlooked.10 As Richard Dellamorra and Daniel Fischlin have argued, opera is materially overdetermined, its excessive resource requirements opening its production and distribution to the contingencies of time and place, from vocal production to stage design, and from theatre architecture to orchestral timbre.11 As a highly public, official, urban cultural form, too, opera depends on and sets in motion a series of what Kittler would term ‘discourse networks’ (Aufschreibesysteme) involving material and cultural resources, skills, management, distribution, publicity and critical and popular reception.12 Kittler’s storage function of media, for example, is evident in libretto, operatic score and stage manual. Each serves to store information about

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the operatic work – information that can be retrieved by the practitioner in the context of performance or by the historian or analyst seeking to investigate and interpret traces of past literary, compositional and theatrical practice. The score, in particular, makes use of uniquely operatic notation (Aufschreibesysteme can be translated literally as ‘notation systems’) that is simultaneously imprecise and rigid: imprecise, in that the notation of Western music leaves so many musical parameters open to interpretation; rigid, in that the embedding of plot within a pre-defined musical framework ‘temporalizes’ the narrative unfolding in ways that have no equivalent in traditional literary notation. So, for example, the musical notation of the act finales in the Mozart/Da Ponte collaborations (Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cos`ı fan tutte) tells us only so much about timbre, tempo and accent. At the same time, by rhythmicizing verbal delivery, timing entry cues and coordinating ensemble, it maps out a kind of diegetic pacing and positioning that can be relativized only to a point. The result is an elasticity that tolerates considerable stretching or contraction (singers are not free, for example, to overlap or interrupt other dialogue in the way that actors might in spoken theatre). Cuts to the score are common, but reworking a trio as a duet or interpolating musical material from outside the score is still widely considered unthinkable. Radical or revisionist stagings of the classic opera repertoire, then, will often suggest a split character in which the originality or shock factor of the mise en sc`ene counterpoints the familiar (sometimes all too familiar) terms of its musical realization.13

Performance space as medium In her definition of theatrical performance, theorist Erika Fischer-Lichte emphasizes the spatial and temporal conditions involved. Theatrical mediality, she argues, ‘is determined by the bodily co-presence of actors and spectators, who gather at the same time and in the same space’.14 In the case of opera the qualities of this space tend follow a familiar pattern: tiered balconies in horseshoe shape, orchestra pit, proscenium arch. But these developed only gradually towards their current form. Gary Tomlinson has shown, for example, that the performance venues of early seventeenthcentury opera shared with the Renaissance intermedi a comparatively free and fluid conception of the borders between performance and spectatorial space. As temporary and adapted venues like palace chambers and courtyards gave way to dedicated structures, so the theatrical ‘fourth wall’ established a more rigid division between audience and performers. And by the early eighteenth century, Tomlinson adds, contemporary illustrations of operatic productions suggest a further demarcation: in the celebrated sets

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of the Bibiena family, the heavens, once represented in a continuity with the space of the action, are now displaced to another, inaccessible realm, as though configuring in scenic terms the dualism of the Cartesian subject with its defining split between physical and metaphysical realities.15 For Fischer-Lichte one of the characteristic features of operatic mediality in modernity is its tendency to play on the distinction between a visual (Theatron) and an acoustic (Auditorium) conception of the performing space. We need only think of opera’s penchant for offstage voices (some obvious examples include Pamina’s offstage call to Tamino before their final reconciliation in Mozart’s Die Zauberfl¨ote, the Heavenly Voice in Verdi’s Don Carlos, the voice of John the Baptist cursing from his underground dungeon in Strauss’s Salome, the offstage chorus calling the name of Peter Grimes at the end of Britten’s Peter Grimes, which cleverly blurs the line between the real lynch mob and what may be imaginary voices in Grimes’s head), not to mention the orchestra pit, to understand this eye/ear schism. Fischer-Lichte stops short of suggesting that the performing space is itself a medium; rather, she sees it as a set of possibilities enabling and determining the media of sight and sound.16 But there is a real sense in which the auditorium and stage serve to channel and inflect the communicative process of performance – to function, in other words, as a medium of theatrical signification. Richard Jones’s 2004 production of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden highlights one of the less obvious possibilities that the auditorium might offer as medium. In Act II, as the paranoid Boris patrols his property at night in search of intruders, creaking floorboards and footsteps are heard from behind the closed doors leading to the access corridor of one of the balconies of the auditorium. In a gesture that breaks the theatrical ‘fourth wall’ both visually and aurally, Boris looks up, startled, to the darkness of the balcony, attempting to make out the source of the noise. The resemblance to the surround-sound effects of cinema and home speaker systems is striking: in each case the traditional front-andcentre field of sound is disrupted by sound pointedly sourced outside that field, in this case to the side. In fact the sourcing of the sound to a very specific point in the acoustic field echoes the often artificial and exaggerated locating of surround-sound effects at points in an imaginary field outside the flat, front-and-centre visual source. Yet it is also a bridge to operatic tradition in the sense that opera has always been fascinated with its imaginary acoustic environment: echoes (vocal echo effects were a common feature of early opera, most obviously in the scene in Monteverdi’s Orfeo in which Orfeo sings his lament for the lost Euridice and hears only the echo of his own voice repeating the last syllable of each line), sounds that approach from or withdraw into the distance (the retreat of the Furies in Act II of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, or the march of the pilgrims in Act III of Tannh¨auser),

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ghostly realms half-heard (the Wolf ’s Glen scene in Der Freisch¨utz, Peter Quint’s beckoning of Miles in Act II of The Turn of the Screw). That DVD recordings of opera should feature multichannel sound is not some radical departure but simply a technologically updated adaptation of one of opera’s characteristic features. Not that the traditional opera house is opera’s only space. Site-specific performance of opera may be very much the exception, but some of the experiments are striking. In the UK, for example, the phenomenon of the flashmob (an event in which an audience is gathered quickly via word-ofmouth, texting and telephoning) has been applied to opera. BBC television has organized and broadcast flashmob operas at Paddington Station, London (2004) and Medowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield (2005), inviting the flashmob by text and incorporating it as a chorus into a contemporary plot consisting of well-known operatic extracts. Swiss television has broadcast a series of productions of popular operas staged in public locations: La traviata in Zurich’s main train station (2008), La boh`eme in a high-rise complex in Bern (2009) and Aida on barges on the Rhine in Basle (2010). Cinematic adaptations have allowed opera to roam free of the opera house, although singers (or substitute actors) typically mime onto a studio recording of the music. Penny Woolcock’s 2003 film adaptation of The Death of Klinghoffer breaks with this tradition by recording the singers live on location, with the result that the acoustics of the locations become part of the recording. Opera conceived specifically for electronic media is another rarity, but it too has resulted in some telling reconfigurations of operatic tradition. The American composer Robert Ashley, for example, has focused his operatic output towards television, in the sense not merely of adapting from the stage, but of conceiving his work from a televisual perspective from the very beginning: Every opera I have written is written as though it were a television production schedule. So all the television producer has to decide is how to illustrate the story and when to look at the singer, when not to look at the singer, when to look at the landscape, when to look to something else; but the television producer makes that decision, and I wanted that to be a characteristic of my work.17

Body and voice as media Fischer-Lichte’s reference to the ‘bodily co-presence of actors and spectators’ chimes with another key feature of Kittler’s mediality: the corporeal nature and impact of discourse. For Kittler the body is a historical site inscribed by discourse, written upon by the various intersecting media formations and technologies that channel through it and act upon it. One of

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the consequences for the historian, Kittler argues, is that the effects on the body – its pathologies and pain – become privileged sites for the analysis of discourse. It is, in other words, where the body suffers, where it is subjected by culture, that the most telling insights are to be had. This has not been lost on theorists of opera. Linda and Michael Hutcheon, for example, have highlighted the tropes of disease, suffering and death in operatic texts from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. Opera’s frequent representations of disease – in works such as La traviata, Parsifal and Lulu – shed light, they argue, on cultural attitudes to contagion and its social causes and effects, so that in a society infected by disease, ‘the physical breakdown of the body becomes the model for the pathological breakdown of the culture’.18 But what is so characteristically operatic, they add, is the intersection of these representations with questions of sexual desire and anxiety, so that Violetta’s consumptive body in the final act of La traviata (her illness serving, perhaps, as a metaphor for the sexual diseases from which a woman of her profession would inevitably have suffered in the nineteenth century) becomes a complex site of intersecting tropes, suggesting not only a transformation from hedonism to pain and from sensuality to a spiritualized awareness of approaching death, but, crucially, the interdependence of these states.19 In a quite different take on the operatic body, Mary Ann Smart traces historical shifts in the relationship between physical gesture and music in nineteenth-century opera. Yet here too it is the moments of greatest intensity and suffering – nervous agitation, fainting, suffocation – that prove decisive. In the musical gestures of Auber’s La Muette de Portici (1828), the work considered the first grand opera, in which the mute heroine is played by a dancer, Smart detects the disruptive presence of a gestural excess, derived from the synchronism of music and gesture in melodrama, that challenges conventions of operatic meaning with an ‘overflow of signification’.20 Characteristic of the later nineteenth century, she argues, is the coexistence of this aesthetic of ‘gestural overstatement’ with an increasingly transcendental representation of the body.21 In the ethereal conclusions to some of the arias in Verdi’s late operas (such as Leonora’s prayer for release at the end of La forza del destino), Smart identifies a tension between the legacy of melodrama and the increasingly metaphysical orientation of opera – metaphysical, that is, in its turn away from grounded engagement with the body and social experience to mystical invocations of spirit and will or to a quasi-psychological intimation of inner, inscrutable forces.22 Although Smart concentrates on musical gesture notated in the score, she also conveys a sense of what this might mean in performance – how this modern idiom, in which music and stage seem to appeal to a level of signification above and beyond the body, might recast the body of the operatic performer. It is an idiom, she observes, ‘in which singer’s bodies are overwhelmed by sheer orchestral sound and scenic grandeur’.23 The

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media of sight and sound act upon the performing body, shaping it into what Smart characterizes as an ‘increasingly vulnerable figure’.24 In short, opera’s musical gestures increasingly give the impression of acting upon, rather than in accord with, the performer’s body, a shift Smart sees exemplified in Wagner, above all in the contrast between the strongly gestural musical language of Act I of Die Walk¨ure and the mystical disembodiment of Parsifal. The kinds of gestures analysed by Smart form only part of a corporeal economy in opera that also includes more formal choreography of principal characters (Carmen’s exoticism is defined as much by her dancing and body language as her voice); dance scenes closely integrated into the plot, usually featuring the chorus (the socially stratified dances in the party scene of Don Giovanni or the drunken dancing in the tavern scene of Wozzeck); and the incorporation of formalized dance numbers featuring professional dancers, whether as an element of operatic spectacle (the countless exotic dances in opera), convention (the role of ballet in French opera) or genre (the op´erasballets of eighteenth-century France). Yet, as the guest editors of an issue of The Opera Quarterly devoted to dance point out, scholarship on opera has, until recently, paid only cursory attention to the role of dance, hampered, they argue, by a lack of resources and the skills needed to engage with both music and dance (including familiarity with two forms of notation).25 In his contribution to the special issue, Daniel Albright points to a missed opportunity. If dance can be integrated into opera in a seamless way, Albright argues, it is often the case that the two make strange bedfellows, as though the incorporation of a medium of mute gesture within a genre so defined by vocality represented a forced fusion of inherently incompatible modes of expression. Rather than attempt to smooth over this tension, Albright emphasizes its value as a means of renewing our perspective on both opera and dance. Ballet’s ‘aesthetic contortions of the body’, he contends, never seem more strange than when it interrupts the noisy vocality of opera, while the ‘opera-ness of opera’ comes sharply into view when it follows a dance number and suddenly demands that we readjust to its strange conventions: In Salome, Herod always seems slimy, but nowhere quite so goggling, panting, outlandish, and inhumanly lewd – a drooling mouth and rolling tongue standing in for a man – as when he sings his applause just after the Dance of the Seven Veils.26

And what of the power of the voice? This has been one of the central themes in the work of Carolyn Abbate, who addresses the question in relation to, among others, Salome. The trouble with the standard feminist critique of Salome’s awful fate at the hands of Strauss’s score, she argues, is its failure to register the power of her voice, a power that is cued and unleashed by the score but which ultimately exceeds any textual strategies of containment,

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even the brutal silencing that concludes the opera. Nothing, Abbate tells us, can quite overcome the authority summoned by the sensuous vitality and force of Salome’s soaring voice.27 More recently, though, Abbate’s writing has registered an anxiety about the authority of the performer. Does performance, she asks, only imply an active agency that takes control of text, making it his or her own? Or is there also a more troubling side to this engagement, a sense of the performer’s submission to a mechanical and inevitable unfolding of script, of predetermined process? For Abbate interpretative freedom and creative energy are shadowed by the performer’s submission to the machine-like demands of the musical work, to a textual command that leads to ‘the persistent vision of performers as dead matter, subject to mortification and reanimation’.28 In this sense the performer becomes a medium in the split sense of that word: simultaneously an agent or go-between who actively manipulates or interprets information (music, stage direction) but also a vessel or carrier, alive only in the sense that it is charged with the semiotic energy of the data that it transmits. In a substantial body of work on opera, Lawrence Kramer has reflected on the perceived capacity of voice to articulate subjectivity while also gesturing towards extreme states (of pleasure and of pain) that seem to undo the borders of the self. But Kramer also sounds a note of caution, wondering if the by-now quite ‘sophisticated’ scholarship on voice has come at a price. To conceive of the operatic voice as a vehicle for transcendence strikes Kramer as entirely reasonable, but only if this claim is balanced by acknowledgement of the means by which voice achieves this. Such an acknowledgement, he adds, would mean confronting ‘the rhetoric of a genre whose historical mandate is precisely to uphold the links between voice, sexuality, and transcendence while at the same time forgetting the cultural and historical work performed by doing so’.29 That is, in its celebration of the transformative potential of voice, opera studies has risked merely endorsing or repeating its effects while paying insufficient attention to the relationship between the idea of voice and its grounding in convention, actual (gendered, socialized) vocal utterance and specific cultural contexts. In his account of Strauss’s Elektra, for example, Kramer relates the tessitura and contour of the protagonist’s voice to a radical fin-de-si`ecle split between horror of and fascination with a supposedly ‘anarchic’ feminine corporeality that always threatens to break through the ordered surface of culture.30

Intermediality Any discussion of operatic mediality needs to account for the interaction of, or movement between, its media – what we might term, following recent theory, ‘intermediality’.31 As we have seen, the notion that opera

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indulges music – that it subordinates its literary and visual dimensions to music – had wide currency historically. If this critique underpinned practical attempts at reform, it also fuelled more idealistic visions of cohesion. Writing around the time of Gluck’s operatic reforms, the Enlightenment philosopher and dramatist Gotthold Ephraim Lessing had begun a project to outline the potential and limitations of a union of the arts. Although only the first part of his Laoko¨on (1766), focusing on the distinct properties of poetry and the visual arts, was published, notes for a planned continuation show that Lessing viewed music and poetry as aligned by their temporal natures.32 Yet their union in opera was marred, he argued, by the practice of alternately making poetry subservient to music (aria) or music to poetry (recitative).33 Sympathetic in principle to the idea of a synthesis, Lessing nevertheless cast doubt on the prospects for realization given the means available. One of Lessing’s contemporaries and admirers, the philosopher and critic Johann Gottfried Herder, echoed Lessing’s pessimism when he contrasted the ‘whole shebang of fragmented and tattered operatic singsong [Opern-Klingklang]’ with the as-yet unrealized potential of a ‘cohesive lyric structure in which poetry, music, action, and decoration are one’.34 The perceived gap separating operatic reality from the ideal would become a recurrent theme among the generation of Romantic critics. In observations published in the literary journal he edited with his brother, August Wilhelm Schlegel outlined a dream of synthesis: We should try to bring the arts closer together and seek transitions from one to the other. Statues perhaps may quicken into pictures, pictures become poems, poems music, and (who knows?) in the same way stately church music may once more ascend towards heaven like a cathedral.35

And only a few years later, in lectures published posthumously as his Philosophy of Art, F. W. J. Schelling would issue a plea for a renewal of the vision of Greek drama that had fuelled the emergence of opera: The most perfect union of all the arts, the union of poetry and music through song, of poetry and painting through dance, all synthesized with one another – this would be the most fully constructed realization of theatre, namely the theatre of antiquity, of which we have only a caricature: opera.36

If calls like these were too rarefied and idealistic to offer anything like a prescription for specific cultural practice, the notion of a Gesamtkunstwerk, a ‘total work of art’, haunted nineteenth-century German aesthetics, promising not only to rejuvenate opera, but to bridge the divisions of a culture perceived to have lost its organic wholeness in the face of divisive political forces and mechanization.37

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When Wagner boldly claimed to have embodied the Gesamtkunstwerk principle in his own work, the critical response was famously polarized, some hailing a new breakthrough in operatic practice, others responding with the charge that he had merely succeeded in intensifying the tyranny of music, still others charging him with the destruction of music.38 Wagner became a touchstone for the Gesamtkunstwerk idea in both a positive and negative sense, inspiring creative experimentation with synthesis, while arguably provoking a backlash in the form of investment in the idea of an independence of the arts. As Daniel Albright shows, Lessing’s views on the distinctive properties of the arts found champions among the modernists, albeit in a new guise.39 The modernist approach to mixture marked a shift in focus from genre to the vessel of signification as perceived, from message or meaning to underlying materiality, from art form to medium. If the debate over hybrid forms like opera had always implicitly included consideration of media – sound, image, language – it now did so much more explicitly. Hybridity now implied a mixture not only of accepted genres and forms but of underlying media, as though to turn attention to the container or conduit rather than its variable content. Conversely, the language of autonomy now emphasized ‘purity’, as though invoking the craft of the metalworker or alchemist. And this was no mere shift in descriptive paradigms. Tracing the emergence of the new purity discourse on visual art, W. J. T. Mitchell stresses the moral imperative at work. Pure painting, Mitchell argues, implied a ‘purgation of the visual image from contamination by language and cognate or conventionally associated media’. Mixture, he adds, was to be ‘resisted in the name of higher aesthetic values’.40 Music, too, would be subject to the modernist drive toward purity, but this was only one stage in a long history. For Tomlinson the post-Renaissance definition of music is synonymous with a drive towards abstraction from language, and he highlights opera’s role in problematizing the relationship between words and music. In Lully’s recitative, he argues, ‘the style ceased to be one that revealed a . . . sameness and came instead to entail the mitigation of the innate difference between the signifying operations of words and tones’.41 The nineteenth century brought this separation to its apogee in the concept of ‘absolute music’, a purely abstract music that means nothing but itself and refers to nothing but its own formal processes. But music’s self-containment, supposedly unsullied by language, was born out of discourse, not least the Romantic characterization of music as a form of metaphysics. As Daniel Chua puts it: ‘Far from standing speechless before its ineffable utterances, the Romantics spoke absolute music into existence. It is a music emancipated from language by language.’42 And, as Tomlinson shows, nineteenth-century opera has a part to play in articulating this strange double quality of expressing the inexpressible, of ‘representing

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aspects of a protagonist’s soul previously (and normally) invisible’.43 Repeatedly traversing these borders, operatic characters would oscillate between what Abbate identifies as a foundational split between phenomenal and noumenal, heard and unheard. That is, if opera can suggest a (phenomenal) world in which characters hear music as music, it increasingly elides these moments with a (noumenal) sphere of music which surrounds and inhabits the characters but to which they seem deaf.44 Seeking to purge the musically absolute from these nineteenth-century noumenal shadows, modernist purism would gesture towards newly distilled modes of expression.45 Like visual art, music was to purge itself of alien elements. Kurt Weill summed up the attitude when he insisted that ‘opera today no longer represents a discrete musical genre (as in the nineteenth century) but has again taken its rightful place . . . in the whole area of absolute music’.46 Opera, then, should acknowledge its identity as music. Yet Weill acknowledges that the sort of music theatre he produced in collaboration with Brecht might be seen to contradict this view, and he carefully qualifies the nature of his work: True, this form of music theatre presupposes a basically theatrical type of music. Yet it also makes it possible to give opera a structure that is absolutely musical, even instrumental.47

The trick, it seems, is to combine music and theatre without allowing one to dominate or transform the other. Brecht affirms this view from the theatrical side. The potential he detected in music lay not in a Wagnerian synthesis, but in its participation in critical, oppositional relationships between the media of theatre: So long as the expression ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ . . . means that the integration is a muddle, so long as the arts are supposed to be ‘fused’ together, the various elements will all be equally degraded, and each will act as a mere ‘feed’ to the rest . . . Words, music, and setting must become more independent of one another.48

Yet the gulf dividing Brecht and Wagner may not be as wide as is often presented. Matthew W. Smith argues that, for all Brecht’s insistence on a theatre of mutually estranged media, his model replicates Wagnerian totality as ‘a kind of unity through juxtaposition’.49 That is, the intermedial relationships in Brechtian theatre may be based on opposition rather than reinforcement, but the result is still a form of Gesamtkunstwerk.50 Nicholas Cook takes up some of these thorny issues in Analysing Musical Multimedia. Like many accounts of its kind, Cook’s struggles to define the term medium, but the book nevertheless points towards a productive rethink of music in mixed-media settings, opera included. Reflecting on the

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kinds of relationships traditionally theorized between music, language and image, Cook confronts the often cosy critical assumptions of conformity and reinforcement that are so embedded in traditional opera studies. What he proposes instead goes beyond understanding media relationships in more confrontational terms towards an argument that deconstructs the very notion of media purity, suggesting, in a stance that parallels Mitchell’s for visual art, that the meaning of even ‘pure’ music is so inextricably bound with representational figures and practices that it is already a form of ‘multimedia’.51 A similar acknowledgement of the centrality of difference also underlies Fischer-Lichte’s characterization of opera as ‘a prototype of the theatrical’. Far from exceptional, Fischer-Lichte claims, opera defines theatricality, taking theatre’s characteristic ‘disjointedness’ (Zusammenhangslosigkeit) and ‘openly putting it on display’ much more than other theatrical genres.52 A vivid example of operatic ‘disjointedness’ might be the by-now familiar dissonances between text and performance in productions that resituate plots geographically or historically, or which dissolve scenic detail into more abstract settings and concepts. Few spectators will be unfamiliar with the strange operatic dissonance when characters refer to objects that are not there or rhapsodize about vistas that cannot be seen. This will often take ironic form: in Christoph Marthaler’s 1998 production of Kat’a Kabanov´a for the Salzburg Festival the first act opens with the clerk Vanya rhapsodizing about not the sight of the mighty Volga beneath him in the valley, but a photograph of the river on a calendar hung on a wall in a domestic interior. At other times the confrontation will be more stark: in Peter Sellars’s famous Mozart/Da Ponte stagings of the late 1980s, Don Giovanni’s ‘Champagne Aria’ becomes a heroin aria, while directors Hans Neuenfels and Calixto Bieito have become notorious for introducing layers of action not alluded to in the libretto. In the opening scene of Bieito’s 2001 production of Un ballo in maschera for Barcelona, for example, a split-level stage presents the regicidal conspirators sitting on a row of toilets, their trousers around their ankles, while Neuenfels’s production of Die Fledermaus for the Salzburg Festival in 2001 has the chorus masturbating in time to Strauss’s music. Audiences and critics are inevitably polarized in their reactions to these kinds of gestures – one outraged member of the Fledermaus audience initiated legal proceedings to recover his ticket costs53 – but there is no question that a fundamental and deliberate misalignment of text and production is now a standard feature of operatic performance. Director Peter Konwitschny took this relationship to a new level when his 2001 Stuttgart production of G¨otterd¨ammerung substituted any staging of the destruction of Valhalla with a scrolling projection of Wagner’s stage directions. Instead of misaligning text and production, then, Konwitschny allowed text to become

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production, as though reflecting on the impossibility of staging the scene, not from a technical but from a representational and historical point of view: how are we to engage with this climactic moment and its apocalyptic symbolism, now saturated and over-represented by a century and a quarter of interpretation and staging? What is suggested here is more than text as a pretext to performance, but an intermedial engagement between text and performance space that brings textuality into performance. The same might be said of the now common use of surtitles in operatic performance. Superficially merely aids to comprehension, they in fact transform the spectatorial engagement with the stage by drawing the act of reading into the theatrical experience. And this reading only synchronizes with the unfolding of plot and sung/spoken dialogue up to a point: delays or anticipations in the projected words are common and inevitable, particularly given fluctuations in tempo of delivery and the nuances of translation and word order. In comic opera it can manifest itself in the phenomenon of ‘miscued’ laughter (miscued, that is, in relation to vocal delivery), but more generally it can also create unexpected alignments, when translated text coincides with musical gestures, creating temporal conjunctions that might not feature in the score. But surtitle effects need not be accidental or secondary, as Jones’s production of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk demonstrates. When Katarina and her lover Sergei murder her husband, Zinovy, the surtitles above the stage turn to red, as though the blood from the gory scene were spilling out from the stage and staining the very textuality of the opera. Or is it the other way round?54 One result is that the intermedial relationship in opera between performing body and text becomes complex and unstable. On the one hand the strong tradition of text as vehicle has empowered the performer and privileged the immediacy and authority of voice. It has also licensed a unique gestural vocabulary. The singer’s engagement with an operatic text is in part a dramatic interpretation, but it is also a technical response that seeks an appropriate production of voice. The demands of musical execution appear on the stage together with the imperative to ‘characterize’: the singer must contort his or her body simply in order to maintain the musical process (melodic, timbral, rhythmic, verbal) now unfolding and (as Abbate points out) unstoppable. The operatic body is a technified body in Kittler’s sense, negotiating the demands of both vocal production and the range of theatrical gestures conditioned by particular cultural and historical environments. But this need not be understood as a struggle in which ‘inappropriate’ gestures motivated by musical-technical demands must be somehow controlled in the interests of dramatic truth. Rather, evidence of the bodily demands of opera becomes in itself a form of dramatic truth, so that the singer’s visible negotiation between technique and theatre,

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potentially a sign of inexperience or weakness, can become a sign of commitment: technique as theatre. And to what extent have these two gestural vocabularies fused to make a kind of heightened operatic language of gesture, the sort of ‘overstatement’ that features in Smart’s reading of nineteenth-century opera? A potentially more sensitive negotiation between singers’ bodies and texts emerges when there is, as Fischer-Lichte puts it, ‘an obvious discrepancy between the corporeality of the singer and that imagined for the character in question’.55 This turns in part on the relationship between musical technique and dramatic verisimilitude: Strauss’s famous quip that Salome should be a ‘sixteen-year-old princess with the voice of Isolde’ sums up the problem.56 Roles less demanding than Salome will still tend to demand a level of experience and a vocal maturity that may be at odds with notions of ideal casting. Body shape, too, can become part of the equation: FischerLichte quotes Fuchs complaining, in the year before the Salome premiere, of the ‘Siegfrieds with laced-up beer bellies’, and the image of the overweight singer has been a persistent jibe against opera.57 Shifts in cultural perceptions of body shape have a bearing on this issue. Recent trends towards particularly thin ideal body images have left their mark on opera, evident in the sometimes drastic attempts by singers to lose weight. Soprano Deborah Voigt, for example, underwent stomach surgery to reduce her weight, a step inevitably linked in the press to her dismissal from a 2004 production of Ariadne auf Naxos at the Royal Opera House, when she was deemed too large to fit a dress earmarked for the title role.58 Part of the intermedial engagement of the performing body in opera is an interaction with other performing bodies. And if this interaction can be interpreted as a collaborative effort, a synergy, say, between vocalists or within the orchestra, it also points to a musical hierarchy in which both singers and orchestra are united not in some form of collective but in common acknowledgement of the authority of the conductor. Obedience to a single will is the paradigm here, and if the rise of the director in recent decades has challenged the position of the conductor, he or she retains enough of that despotic authority entrenched by nineteenth-century practice to hold sway over all but the most rebellious or independently famous operatic performers. The new star-director only adds to the layers of hierarchy, reinforcing the singer’s position as medium of an authoritative will. This will is also perceived to be authorial: conductor and director are positioned as mediators between text and performance, as representatives of authorial intention. For the director this role tends to come with considerable interpretative licence, although a production will often be critically evaluated in relation to established perceptions of the meaning of libretto/plot/scenario. For conductors, who embody an art-music tradition

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predicated on the authentic transmission of authorial intention (the will of the composer-genius), the tolerance is more narrow: with their authority comes responsibility to the greater authority of the composer. In this sense the dual nature of their role as medium (both interpretative agent and compliant vessel) is no less complicated than that of the singer.

Remediation59 If we can speak of a discourse network for opera in the context of modernity, it would undoubtedly centre on the gramophone, on the technological reproduction of opera as sound. In part this ‘invisible opera’ had already emerged as a trope in the live performance of opera, evident in the nineteenth-century cultivation, particularly in Germany, of the metaphysically tinged theatre described by Smart.60 One outcome was what might be called the ‘symphonization’ of opera: in theory and in compositional practice the role of the orchestra was newly privileged, in part as a foil to the perceived mundane, even embarrassing, realities of the stage. Allied with a paradoxical cultural inheritance that surrounded instrumental music with a metaphysical aura while equally investing it with a seemingly limitless capacity for representation – the same doubleness that Tomlinson detects in the nineteenth-century operatic voice – orchestral preludes and interludes in operas summon a theatre that is even further removed from the mundane reality of the stage: natural panoramas (Wagner’s Ring), sexual encounters (Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier) and dream-like explorations of the unconscious (Debussy’s Pell´eas et M´elisande). That is, the orchestra becomes a vehicle capable of representing multiple worlds – both external and internal, sensual and metaphysical – while appearing to transcend theatrical representation as defined by the stage. But if the role of the partially or (in Bayreuth) fully concealed orchestra pointed to new ways of dislocating sight and sound, music and performer, the gramophone seems to have summoned spectres that the nineteenth century had not foreseen.61 As a burgeoning body of theory has highlighted, this new technologically rendered disembodiment remediated opera into new modes of engagement while it further heightened those cultural anxieties that had long attended the voice as both inside and outside, produced and heard, empowering and betraying.62 Cinema, too, discovered a fascination with opera, a subject explored recently in the work of Marcia Citron, Jeongwon Joe and Michal GroverFriedlander.63 What fascinates Grover-Friedlander about this remediation is the process of mutual illumination that it opens up: ‘Paradoxically, cinema can at times be more “operatic” than opera itself, thus capturing something

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essential that escapes opera’s self-understanding.’64 Unsurprisingly, it is the operatic voice that she locates at the centre of this attraction: what, she asks, might cinematic remediations of opera tell us about the relationship between the vocal and the visual? This tension, for Grover-Friedlander, is already inherent in opera, not merely foregrounded by the relation of opera to cinema. And what is the impact of other forms of operatic remediation: webcasts, live broadcasts of stagings on television, on DVD and now in the cinema? Although they record or document an event in the theatre, they are very much their own medium. As Kramer points out, the visual vocabulary of video is loaded with conventions of its own: different, and often contrasting, shots give way to one another with considerable frequency and not necessarily motivated by what is happening on stage. Close-ups and headshots also figure prominently, a perspective, Kramer observes, that is unavailable in the theatre.65 In the theatre, live performers are often perceived merely as distant bodies, their more subtle gestures often lost, their faces meaningfully visible only thanks to theatrical make-up. But video reveals (betrays?) another level of detail. To see the beaded perspiration seep through the make-up on the face of Christopher Ventris in a videotaped production of Parsifal from Baden-Baden is to witness the labour and corporeality of opera in a way that may remain invisible in the theatre. Video represents the singer’s body in ways unimaginable in live theatre: the muscular control around neck and mouth, perspiration beading on stage make-up, the chest filling with air, the palate vibrating the tone, theatrical movements both directed and undirected. A similar effect is created by the singer’s need to observe the conductor’s gestures. While some singers have an extraordinary knack for concealing their glances toward the conductor (and well-placed monitors are of some help here), others make the process all too visible. In close-up, even a brief upward glance of the eyes is caught, exposing the musical regimen that always accompanies the theatrical one. There is, then, a very perceptible remediation of live theatre into video. But is there evidence of the sort of radical engagement and problematization that Grover-Friedlander detects in the most successful cinematic engagements with opera? My contention is that, on the contrary, videos retreat into a conservative and self-effacing mode of engagement, as though their awkward dual role (both document of a creative act and creative artefact in themselves) has left them in cultural limbo.66 Typically, video recordings of live performances begin with images of the exterior of the theatre, followed by shots of the foyer and the gathering audience in the auditorium, then, when the performance begins, a series of classic proscenium perspectives on the stage. In a sense we are invited to take our seat, to experience ‘being there’. The live transmission of the Metropolitan Opera’s

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HD (high-definition) broadcasts accentuates this further with a countdown clock showing the minutes remaining as cinema audiences gather in sync with the audience in New York. Multichannel sound then simulates the acoustic environment of the theatre. As Ellis Jacob, president and CEO of Canada’s Cineplex Entertainment, put it: ‘The combination of the Met’s superb musical productions combined with our giant screens and Dolby Digital Surround Sound will make these events the next best thing to actually being there.’67 A notable exception is the video recording of Olivier Py’s 2005 production of Tristan und Isolde from Geneva. Video director Andy Somers departs from the standard vocabulary with unusual angles, a mixture of floor and hand-held cameras and the use of different image qualities (including nightvision cameras). The result, superficially distracting, can also be read as a bold gesture towards a more assertive and idiomatic practice based, it would seem, on collaboration between stage and video director. Rather than simulate ‘being there’, rather than merely supplementing or simulating a nowlost original, it offers an experience that acknowledges its difference. It also problematizes its engagement with Tristan. Grover-Friedlander’s observation that opera turns on the relationship between voice and image rings particularly true in relation to Wagner’s drama of unattainable desire. And if Kramer is right that ‘with videos, the problem of how to look, how to show, is itself always literally on view’, the potential for a critically charged remediation is clear.68 Somers’s video seems to address this challenge, repeatedly problematizing the media of visual perception, and, in doing so, destabilizing the imagined source of voice in the image of the performing body. In common with other forms of theatre, opera now embraces and mobilizes both new and traditional media: live voices and recorded sounds, stage actors and screen counterparts, sung lyrics and projected text, auditorium and home theatre. The implications for opera studies are far-reaching. Our understanding of opera history is profoundly coloured by our experience of the intensely mediatized culture of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. But even those operas that remain for us scores or libretti or written accounts are mediatized by discourse and notation. It is through these media that we have come to know opera. To attempt to filter out mediality in the name of some imaginary work or pure historical origin is at best idealistic and at worst misleading. Kramer is quite right to question the notion of an imaginary opera unfiltered by its realizations. ‘There is no possibility’, he writes, ‘of making a clean separation of an ideal opera to which its various renditions are external or supplementary.’69 All opera, in other words, is mediatized, and this has consequences for opera studies, whether engaging with contemporary operatic experience or with the operatic past. It means acknowledging the material means by which we experience opera

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and engage with the discourse surrounding it; it means acknowledging the mediation involved in media. This may not license a wholesale or thoughtless imposition of contemporary perspectives on the study of history, but it does gesture towards a reflexive and transparent engagement both with the operatic past and with its continual revitalization in the present.

Notes 1 Martin Puchner, Stage Fright: Modernism, Anti-Theatricality, and Drama (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002). 2 The term was originally applied in eighteenth-century London to theatres that did not use music and dance to circumvent censor legislation, but it is no longer used in this informed historical sense. Rather, its derogatory implications seem inescapable and intentional. 3 C. W. Gluck, Dedication for Alceste, trans. Eric Blom in W. Oliver Strunk and Leo Treitler (eds.), Source Readings in Music History (New York: W. W. Norton, 1998), p. 934. 4 P. de Beaumarchais, preface to Tarare, trans. in Jacques Barzun (ed.), The Pleasures of Music: An Anthology of Writing about Music and Musicians (New York: Viking Press, 1951), p. 231. John Rice speculates that Beaumarchais learned of Gluck’s remark from Salieri, whose drafts for the score of Les Dana¨ıdes had been Gluck’s target. Rice, Antonio Salieri and Viennese Opera (Chicago University Press, 1999), p. 387. 5 Joy H. Calico, Brecht at the Opera (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988), p. 40. 6 Charles Dill, ‘Ideological Noises: Opera Criticism in Early Eighteenth-Century France’, in Roberta Montemorra Marvin and Downing A. Thomas (eds.), Operatic Migrations: Transforming Works and Crossing Boundaries (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), pp. 76–7. 7 Paul Rabinow, interview with Michel Foucault, trans. Christian Hubert, in Rabinow (ed.), The Foucault Reader (New York: Pantheon, 1984), p. 255. 8 Friedrich A. Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz (Stanford University Press, 1999), p. 243. In popular usage the term ‘medium’ has become synonymous with mass communication and technology. In cultural theory it can stand for everything from genre and art form to communicative apparatus to journalism; it signifies something about the

way discourse circulates, about how informational and creative forms of communication are packaged and transmitted. 9 Thomas Sebastian and Judith Geerke, ‘Technology Romanticized: Friedrich Kittler’s Discourse Networks 1800/1900 ’, MLN, 105/3 (April 1990), pp. 583–95; 584. 10 In an observation that parallels Sebastian and Geerke’s assessment of Kittler’s work, Abbate critiques what she calls the ‘technomysticism’ prevalent in musicological enquiry. Carolyn Abbate, ‘Music: Drastic or Gnostic?’, Critical Inquiry, 30/3 (Spring 2004), pp. 505–36; 527. To the extent that ‘technology’ serves as a catch-all to cover difficult questions of materiality, labour and discursive process, Abbate’s complaint is justified. I view consideration of opera’s media technologies, rather, as a means of initiating enquiry and opening up new perspectives, not as an end in itself. 11 Richard Dellamora and Daniel Fischlin, ‘Introduction’, in Dellamora and Fischlin (eds.), The Work of Opera: Genre, Nationhood, and Sexual Difference (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), p. 6. Martha Feldman writes tellingly of the ‘hyperproduction’ of light in eighteenth-century Italian opera, concluding that its lack of naturalness offered reinforcement of the absolutist allegory of the monarch, not the sun, as the source of light. Feldman, Opera and Sovereignty: Transforming Myths in Eighteenth-Century Italy (Chicago University Press, 2007), p. 151. 12 Friedrich A. Kittler, Discourse Networks 1800/1900, trans. Michael Metteer (Stanford University Press, 1992). 13 For more on this split attitude to fidelity, see Roger Parker, Remaking the Song: Operatic Visions and Revisions from Handel to Berio (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), pp. 1–12. 14 Erika Fischer-Lichte, ‘Die Oper als “Prototyp des Theatralischen”: Zur Reflexion des Auff¨uhrungsbegriffs in John Cages Europeras 1 & 2’, in Hermann Danuser and

114 Christopher Morris Matthias Kassel (eds.), Musiktheater Heute: Internationales Symposion der Paul Sacher Stiftung Basel 2001 (Mainz, London, Madrid, New York, Paris, Tokyo and Toronto, ON: Schott, 2003), p. 301. 15 Gary Tomlinson, Metaphysical Song: An Essay on Opera (Princeton University Press, 1999), pp. 68–72. 16 Fischer-Lichte, ‘Die Oper als “Prototyp des Theatralischen”’, p. 303. 17 Bianca Michaels, ‘Interview with Robert Ashley’, The Opera Quarterly, 23/3–4 (Summer–Autumn 2006), pp. 537–45; 539. 18 Linda Hutcheon and Michael Hutcheon, Opera: Disease, Desire, Death (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996), 15. 19 Ibid., pp. 38–43. 20 Mary Ann Smart, Mimomania: Music and Gesture in Nineteenth-Century Opera (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004), p. 11. 21 Ibid., p. 26. 22 For a discussion of this transcendental turn from a different perspective, see Tomlinson, Metaphysical Song, pp. 127–42. 23 Smart, Mimomania, p. 161. 24 Ibid., p. 162. 25 Simon Morrison and Stephanie Jordan, ‘A Note from the Guest Editors’, The Opera Quarterly, 22/1 (Winter 2006): pp. 2–3; 2. 26 Daniel Albright, ‘Golden Calves: The Role of Dance in Opera’, The Opera Quarterly, 22/1 (Winter 2006): pp. 22–37; 28. 27 Carolyn Abbate, ‘Opera, or, The Envoicing of Women’, in Ruth A. Solie (ed.), Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Musical Scholarship (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1993), pp. 225–58. 28 Carolyn Abbate, In Search of Opera (Princeton University Press, 2001), p. 9. For a critique of Abbate’s position, see Michelle Duncan, ‘The Operatic Scandal of the Singing Body: Voice, Presence, Performativity’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 16/3 (2004), pp. 283–306. 29 Lawrence Kramer, Opera and Modern Culture: Wagner and Strauss (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2004), pp. 8–9. 30 Ibid., pp. 193–4. 31 For an investigation of intermediality in the context of theatre, see Freda Chapple and Chiel Kattenbelt (eds.), Intermediality in Theatre and Performance (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2007). 32 Lessing’s title refers to a Roman statue of the Trojan priest, Laoc¨oon. For Lessing the discrepancy between the statue’s

representation of Laoc¨oon and the literary accounts of his fate is emblematic of the distinction between the visual arts and poetry. 33 Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Werke und Briefe 5/2 (Werke, 1766–1769), ed. W. Barner (Frankfurt: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 1990), p. 314. 34 Johann Gottfried Herder, Adrastea (Vol. II, 4th part) (1802), in Bernhard Suphan (ed.), S¨amtliche Werke, 33 vols. (Berlin: Weidmann, 1877–1913), Vol. XXIII, p. 336. 35 August W. Schlegel, ‘Die Gem¨alde’, in Athenaeum 2 (1799), ed. August Schlegel and Friedrich Schlegel (1798–1800), Vol. II (Stuttgart: J. G. Cotta, 1960), p. 50. 36 Friedrich W. J. von Schelling, Philosophie der Kunst, Schellings Werke 3, ed. M. Schr¨oter (Munich: Beck, 1984), p. 387. 37 For the relationship between the Gesamtkunstwerk ideal and modernity see Matthew Wilson Smith, The Total Work of Art: From Bayreuth to Cyberspace (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2007). 38 For a useful sample of nineteenth-century Wagner criticism, see Thomas Grey (ed.), Richard Wagner and His World (Princeton University Press, 2009). 39 Daniel Albright, Untwisting the Serpent: Modernism in Music, Literature, and Other Arts (Chicago, IL and London: University of Chicago Press, 1999). 40 W. J. T. Mitchell, Picture Theory: Essays On Verbal and Visual Representation (Chicago, IL and London: University of Chicago Press, 1994), pp. 96, 97. 41 Tomlinson, Metaphysical Song, p. 42. 42 Daniel Chua, Absolute Music and the Construction of Meaning (Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 6. 43 Tomlinson, Metaphysical Song, p. 93. For an account of an interesting exception to this pattern, see Martin Deasy, ‘Bare Interiors’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 18/2 (2006), pp. 125–50. 44 Carolyn Abbate, Unsung Voices: Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton University Press, 1991), pp. 122–3. While he endorses Abbate’s distinction, Tomlinson argues that the term ‘noumenal’ should be applied more sparingly: ‘It is not merely the ever-present sonorous environment, heard or unheard. Instead it is the form this environment takes at those moments when a character attains a special self-consciousness of the musical nature of his or her experience. It is the musical expression of a character’s approach to the limit of

115 The media of opera phenomenal knowledge.’ Tomlinson, Metaphysical Song, p. 89. 45 Albright investigates modernist concepts of musical purity and hybridity in Untwisting the Serpent. 46 Kurt Weill, ‘Verschiebungen in der musikalischen Produktion’, Berliner Tageblatt (October 1927), trans. Stephen Hinton in Robert P. Morgan (ed.), Source Readings in Music History, Vol. VII (New York: W. W. Norton, 1998), p. 125. 47 Ibid. 48 Bertolt Brecht, ‘The Modern Theater is the Epic Theatre’ (1930), in John Willett (ed. and trans.), Brecht on Theatre (New York: Hill and Wang, 1964), pp. 37–8. 49 Smith, The Total Work of Art, p. 49. 50 Calico endorses Smith’s nuanced view of the opposition between Brecht and Wagner, adding ‘as in any polarity, the poles are also bound by the current flowing between them’. Calico, Brecht at the Opera, p. 2. 51 Nicholas Cook, Analysing Musical Multimedia (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 264–72. 52 Fischer-Lichte, ‘Die Oper als “Prototyp des Theatralischen”’, pp. 306–7. 53 Tasos Zembylas, ‘Art and Public Conflict: Notes on the Social Negotiation of the Concept of Art’, The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society, 34/2 (2004), pp. 120–1. 54 Peter Sellars has experimented with similarly theatrical uses of surtitles. His 1988 production of Tannh¨auser for Chicago’s Lyric Opera, for example, included coloured surtitles projected for varying, dramatically motivated, durations. 55 Fischer-Lichte, ‘Die Oper als “Prototyp des Theatralischen”’, p. 295. 56 Richard Strauss, ‘Reminiscences of the First Performance of My Operas’, in Recollections and Reflections, ed. Willi Schuh, trans. L. Lawrence (London: Boosey & Hawkes, 1952), pp. 150–1. 57 Ibid., p. 296. 58 This incident, and the wider issue of singers’ girth, is the subject of the documentary Bella figura (dir. Marieke Schroeder, 2007). 59 The term was coined by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin to denote the incorporation of one medium into another. Bolter and Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999). 60 In her diary Cosima Wagner records her husband’s frustration with the realities of the theatre: ‘Having created the invisible orchestra,

I now feel like inventing the invisible theatre!’ Diary entry for 23 September 1878, in Martin Gregor-Dellin and Dietrich Mack (eds.), Cosima Wagner’s Diaries: An Abridgement, trans. Geoffrey Skelton (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 324. 61 Critics at the early Bayreuth festivals expressed astonishment at its novel media environment, with its fully darkened auditorium and concealed pit. Reporting on Parsifal in 1891, Mark Twain wrote: ‘All the lights were turned low, so low that the congregation sat in a deep and solemn gloom. The entire overture, long as it was, was played to a dark house with the curtain down. It was exquisite; it was delicious.’ Twain, ‘At the Shrine of Wagner’, in R. Hartford (ed. and trans.), Bayreuth: The Early Years (London: Victor Gollancz, 1980), p. 150. For more on these reactions, see my Reading Opera Between the Lines: Orchestral Interludes and Cultural Meaning from Wagner to Berg (Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 159–63. 62 See Avital Ronnel, The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989); Felicia Miller Frank, The Mechanical Song: Women, Voice, and the Artificial in Nineteenth-Century French Narrative (Stanford University Press, 1995); Sara Danius, The Senses of Modernism: Technology, Perception and Aesthetics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002); Friedrich Kittler, ‘Opera in the Light of Technology’, trans. Anja Belz, in Beate Allert (ed.), Languages of Visuality: Crossings Between Science, Art, Politics, and Literature (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1996), pp. 73–88; Michal Grover-Friedlander, Vocal Apparitions: The Attraction of Cinema to Opera (Princeton University Press, 2005), especially chapter 5. An early response to these issues is to be found in Theodor Adorno, ‘The Curves of the Needle’ (1927), trans. Thomas Levin, in Essays on Music, ed. Richard Leppert (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 2002), pp. 271–6. 63 See, for example, Marcia Citron, Opera on Screen (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000); Grover-Friedlander, Vocal Apparitions; Rose Theresa and Jeongwon Joe (eds.), Between Opera and Cinema (London: Routledge, 2005); and Mervyn Cooke, ‘Opera and Film’, in Cooke (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century Opera (Cambridge University Press, 2005). 64 Grover-Friedlander, Vocal Apparitions, p. 1. 65 Kramer, Opera and Modern Culture, p. 174.

116 Christopher Morris 66 Jeremy Tambling referred to the ‘parasitic’ quality of video productions of live stagings. See Tambling, ‘Introduction: Opera in the Distraction Culture’, in Tambling (ed.), A Night in at the Opera: Media Representations of Opera (London: John Libbey, 1994), p. 11. David P. Schroeder echoes this view when he writes of the desire to make opera on screen ‘a surrogate for live performance’. Schroeder,

Cinema’s Illusions, Opera’s Allure: The Operatic Impulse in Film (New York and London: Continuum, 2002), p. 321. 67 ‘“Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD” Now Playing at a Theater Near You’ (15 November 2006), news/press/detail.aspx?id=2719. 68 Kramer, Opera and Modern Culture, p. 174. 69 Ibid.

5 Voices and singers susan rutherford

The singer is the defining feature of opera: the living crucible in which music, drama and spectacle coalesce into a single art form. The history of opera was thus shaped in part according to changing concepts about the singer – about his or her relationship with each of opera’s constituent arts; about ideas of vocal and dramatic virtuosity; about the singer’s place within the hierarchy of the opera house and the gaze of the spectator. In the discourses around opera, the singer is considered both as an embodied musical performer, and also in more abstract terms as pure ‘voice’. Modern opera studies draws on both aspects in its exploration of the singer’s art and performance practice, the social history of the singer, and the investigation of the singer as cultural phenomenon. Initially, however, the singer was largely ignored during the awakening of critical interest in opera in the 1980s.1 Despite an opening article by John Rosselli in the first edition of the Cambridge Opera Journal in 1989, it was not until the mid-1990s that English-language scholarship began to take the same interest in the singer as was already evident in continental Europe, albeit from rather different methodological perspectives. This chapter explores various aspects of both historical and contemporary approaches to the singer in relation to voice, text, spectacle, technology, the operatic market place and the audience.

The singer’s voice Voice is both timbre (the property of the vocal instrument) and action (the manipulation of the instrument). As Stendhal wrote, although the human voice has limited volume, it possesses a more extensive range of colour and effect than any other musical instrument.2 How then can we describe voice in all its infinite gradations? Here is Giulio Strozzi trying to capture the vocal essence of an early opera singer, Anna Renzi, in 1644:


She has a fluent tongue, smooth pronunciation, not affected, not rapid, a full, sonorous voice, not harsh, not hoarse, nor one that offends you with excessive subtlety; which arises from the temperament of the chest and throat, for which good voice much warmth is needed to expand the

118 Susan Rutherford passages, and enough humidity to soften it and make it tender . . . She has felicitous passages [ornaments], a lively trill, both double and rinforzato, and it has befallen her to have to bear the full weight of an opera no fewer than twenty-six times, repeating it virtually every evening, without losing even a single carat of her theatrical and most perfect voice.3

What does Strozzi tell us about Renzi’s voice? The words ‘full, sonorous’ suggest a rounded, resonant tone; the emphasis on her ability in ornament and decoration imply a flexible, fluid action; the rather puzzling lingering on aspects of ‘humidity’ (reflecting the epoch’s belief that tonal quality was partly determined by the moist surfaces of the throat and mouth) indicate a warm, rich colour. Yet such qualities can belong to many voices, all of which have their own unique imprint. Timbre speaks of the singer’s inner subjectivity, or vocal personality. Jean-Luc Nancy states that timbre is ‘the first correlative of listening’; it ‘forms the first consistency of sonorous sense as such’; as the ‘communication of the incommunicable’, it cannot be measured or notated like other aspects of sound (pitch, rhythm, duration), but instead can only be described through the metaphors of other ‘perceptible registers’ – colour, touch, taste, even smell.4 To some extent we can ‘hear’ Renzi’s voice more effectively through one of the roles she created: Ottavia in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea. Even so, the notes can be performed in so many ways that the specificity of her timbre and style must remain unrecoverable. As Giambattista Mancini wrote about the castrato Farinelli in 1777, while written music may demonstrate a particular singer’s ‘intelligence’ and ‘art’, only the ‘living voice’ can reveal the true individuality of a vocal instrument and method of singing.5 Does this mean that all voices are necessarily ‘lost’? The French singer and composer Reynaldo Hahn argued that the ephemerality of singing actually endows it with an ‘eternal’ quality, because singing cannot be destroyed in the manner of material art works but lives on in the memory of the listener.6 Michelle Duncan makes a similar point in her account of the singers in a recent performance of Debussy’s Pell´eas et M´elisande: ‘Though I no longer hear them in the present, I hear them in their presence.’7 The idea of the ‘lost voice’ is nonetheless a familiar trope in opera history. Critics of almost every period have tended to recall the voices heard in their youth as the gold standard of a bygone age, and complained of the ‘decadence’ of modern singing. The ‘lost voice’ continues to infuse various discourses on singers, from biographies such as Sandro Cappelletto’s La voce perduta: vita di Farinelli, evirato cantore, to notions within Lacanianinfluenced approaches.8 Michel Poizat, for example, identifies the singer’s voice as a ‘vocal object’ that is both mourned as a ‘lost object’ and desired as an ‘object of jouissance’9 – the latter term belonging to Roland Barthes’s

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discussion of the ‘grain of the voice’ that opens the way to ‘signifiance’, or ‘meaning insofar as it is sensually produced’.10 Pleasure or jouissance is produced in the listener not only by the innate sound or timbre of voice, but also by what voice can do. In 1695 Giovanni Andrea Bontempi recalled the abilities of the castrato Baldassarre Ferri (1610–1680): One who has not heard this sublime singer can form no idea of the limpidity of his voice, of his agility, of his marvellous facility in the most difficult passages, of the justness of his intonation, the brilliancy of his trill, of his inexhaustible respiration. One often heard him perform rapid and difficult passages with every shade of crescendo and diminuendo. Then, when it seemed as if he ought to be tired, he would launch on his interminable trill and mount and descend on it all the degrees of the chromatic scale through a range of two octaves with unerring justice. And all this was but play for him.11

We should not assume that this description of Ferri was indicative of all or even most castrati, any more than a glowing account of Luciano Pavarotti’s nine high Cs in ‘Pour mon aˆ me’ in Donizetti’s La Fille du r´egiment (at the Metropolitan Opera in 1972) can be read as the ‘norm’ of the twentiethcentury tenor. Both singers, in fact, were prodigiously gifted exceptions to the rule. Bontempi’s summary nonetheless usefully lists all the desired goals of the baroque singer: complete technical control over volume, range, pitch, velocity and effect. Technical virtuosity was not considered as mere empty display, but rather as a voyage of discovery in the sonic possibilities of the human voice. Such a journey at times took both singer and spectator into the realm of the unknown: Bontempi claimed Ferri had through singing transcended the ‘confines of humanity’.12 Spectatorial astonishment would continue to be aroused in later periods by the emergence of different kinds of voices (the coloratura soprano, the tenore di forza, the hochdramatische Sopran and her counterpart, the Heldentenor, the dramatic mezzo, the baritone), all with their own special modes of virtuosity. Even when opera became more a ‘museum’ of repertory works in the twentieth century, the attempts of contemporary singers to revive the music of the past have served to offer new sounds to the listener, from Maria Callas’s re-imagining of bel canto to the development of operatic countertenors such as Jochen Kowalski and David Daniels. And the modern period still had its own innovations in store, with the ‘alternative techniques’ developed by Cathy Berberian, Jane Manning and Arno Raunig that were required for avant-garde opera from Schoenberg to Birtwistle. Beyond such technical developments, the sheer individuality of vocal sound seemingly offers an endless source of fascination. Peter Conrad’s description

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of the singing voice as ‘inordinate in its power and somehow miraculous as the production of a single human body’ demonstrates that its capacity to provoke marvel is remade for every generation.13 This richly varied history of sung performance is thus pervaded by thematics of loss and pleasure, absence and presence. Deciphering its traces in the pre-recorded period solely from notated music and written descriptions is inevitably problematic. The ‘bewildering variety of discourses’ about sung performance during the Renaissance noted by Richard Wistreich14 is a feature that would become yet more marked in later opera history, as ideas of vocal technique splintered even further in response to new compositional practices, increased sizes of theatres and orchestras, and scientific discoveries such as Garc´ıa’s ‘laryngoscope’ in 1855. The systematic study of ‘vocalismo’ (denoted as comprising both technical facility and artistic expression) was pioneered by the Italian musicologist Rodolfo Celletti in the late twentieth century.15 The subsequent scholarship inspired by his approach means that our understanding of the singer’s part in shaping Handel’s compositional practices in terms of both vocality and performance affect (through stage personality and histrionic ability),16 or the reasons for Mozart’s substitution of two arias for Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro in a performance three years after the original production,17 or the development of the tenore di forza,18 or the changing use of portamento across the centuries – to name just a few examples – is now more acute.19 For all that has been discovered, however, much remains unknown. The issue of vibrato, for example, raises unresolved questions about the core sound of the trained voice in earlier periods. Claims that Renaissance, baroque and indeed much nineteenth-century opera was sung with a ‘straight tone’ are countered by others that ‘vibrato’ was regarded as an intrinsic quality of good singing.20 Neither term was used in early musical discourses, but emerged during the mid-nineteenth century (although ‘pure tone’ was a more common expression than ‘straight tone’). To many modern singing teachers, an unobtrusive vibrato is the natural oscillation of a free, resonant voice – not something applied consciously by the singer, in the manner of instrumentalists.21 Richard Miller favours the word ‘vibrancy’ to classify this action of a regular pulsation that does not perceptibly vary the pitch of the note.22 (In contrast, a ‘wobble’ is an irregular pitch fluctuation in the voice.) It is often unclear whether allusions to vocal trembling or ‘tremolo’ in early musical discourses refer to either a natural oscillation (vibrancy), the ‘wobble’ of a faulty technique, or the deliberate use of pulsation as an ornament (a kind of trill on one note).23 Mozart’s letter to his father on 12 June 1778 complained that the bass Joseph Meissner had ‘the bad habit of purposely making his voice tremble’, which was ‘despicable

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and contrary to all naturalness in song’; but the composer also recognized vibrancy as an inherent vocal quality: True the human voice trembles of itself, but only in a degree that remains beautiful; it is in the nature of the voice. We imitate it not only on wind instruments but also on the viols and even on the clavier. But as soon as you overstep the limit it is no longer beautiful because it is contrary to nature.24

What was regarded as ‘beautiful’ was nonetheless clearly a matter of personal taste. In 1840 Manuel Garc´ıa denoted ‘steadiness of voice’ as the ‘foundation of a good style of singing’; but he also described it ‘as rare as it is valuable’ – suggesting that (in his view) most singers did not possess this quality.25 Recording history demonstrates a shift over the past century. The slender, steady but undeniably vibrant tone and incisive attack of fin-de-si`ecle artists such as Lilli Lehmann, Emma Calv´e, Tito Schipa and Victor Maurel – and audible also in much later singers such as Cornell MacNeill and Gundula Janowitz – has given way to the recent penchant for a thicker, heavier quality in the middle of the voice with more intrusive pitch fluctuations. The underlying reasons are complex: more variation in the teaching of singing, with less emphasis on the core values of bel canto technique; demands for ever more volume and vocal power; the manner in which a ‘throb’ in the voice has become a signifier of emotion in both popular and classical singing; the globalization of the opera industry, with greater cultural diversity and national idioms inflected by different language patterns; and the influence of the commercial successes of those rare, exceptionally rich voices (Caruso, Ponselle, Callas, Norman). The past and present debates around vibrato illustrate that historical practice was far from uniform, that national and indeed private preferences played a clear role in classifying acceptable degrees of vocal oscillation and intensity, and that prescriptions in treatises and manuals should not be assumed to have been rigorously followed by all. As for the implications for our own performance practice, perhaps the words of Pier Francesco Tosi to singers in 1723 have some usefulness where uncertainty otherwise reigns: Whoever studies, let him look for what is most excellent, and let him look for it wherever it is, without troubling himself whether it be in the Stile of fifteen or twenty Years ago, or in that of these Days; for all Ages have their good and bad Productions. It is enough to find out the best, and profit by them.26

Singer and text From opera’s outset, the relationship between singer and text has been complex and often contentious. Should opera aim to use music to ‘bring

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singing nearer speech’ (Peri) or to enable words to find ‘expression in the music’ (Caccini)?27 Both approaches became embedded in operatic practice. Word reveals the ‘meaning’ of the characters’ internal and external actions; it inspires the music that expresses their joy and despair. Different engagements with text were thus required from singers. Virtuosity lay both in the singer’s dexterity in delivering many words at high velocity (as in patter arias such as ‘Largo al factotum’ in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia) and, conversely, in the singer’s fragmentation of the word in melismatic passages (see Broschi’s ‘Son qual nave che agita’, performed by his brother Farinelli in 1734).28 The declamatory style of recitative also demanded its own technical proficiency, as Tosi fulminated: There are some who sing Recitative on the Stage like That of the Church or Chamber; some in a perpetual Chanting, which is insufferable; some over-do it and make it a Barking; some whisper it, and some sing it confusedly; some force out the last Syllable, and some sink it; some sing it blust’ring, and some as if they were thinking of something else; some in a languishing Manner; others in a Hurry; some sing it through the Teeth, and others with Affectation; some do not pronounce the Words, and others do not express them; some sing as if laughing, and some crying; some speak it, and some hiss it; some hallow, bellow, and sing it out of Tune; and, together with their Offences against Nature, are guilty of the greatest Fault, in thinking themselves above Correction.29

Tosi’s tirade summarizes two common complaints against singers: either the word is made unintelligible, or it is lifeless. (Sometimes, unfortunately, it can be both.) Composers have often sought to counter such tendencies. For Verdi, who had a keen interest in words that sculpt dramatic action (‘parola scenica’), clear pronunciation and tonal colour were essential in a singer’s performance;30 Wagner described the word as ‘the bone-andmuscle rhythm’ of the human voice.31 As numerous commentators pointed out, the clarity of the word is nonetheless crucially compromised in opera.32 Paul Robinson argues that while libretti in a foreign language, ensemble singing and the use of the orchestra all play their part in obscuring text, it is ‘operatic singing’ itself that ‘represents the most intractable enemy of intelligibility’.33 Scholars influenced by Lacan – Poizat, Dolar, Abbate – emphasize the psychological fears supposedly engendered by the singing voice’s eradication of the word.34 For Lawrence Kramer, for example, ‘overvocalization’ is the ‘purposeful effacement of text by voice’ which ‘projects meaning loss as the outcome of a rupture, a wrenching of song beyond the symbolizing terrain of language and even of conception’.35 The extent of this concern suggests a modern reworking of the ancient distrust of the sirens.

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And yet the continuing enthusiasm of audiences for voice’s playful exploration of sound–word relations invites other perspectives. First, we might note that the terms employed by Kramer – ‘rupture’, ‘wrenching’ – are an oddly violent description of an act that in physiological terms seems quite different to the singer. The feeling as the voice ascends beyond the level of speech is more one of elation or soaring: Pavarotti, for example, spoke of the restful sensation in his larynx when singing in his upper register.36 Adjustments to word shape are occasioned simply by the acoustic properties of the operatic voice constrained to fulfil certain expectations of consistency of tonal quality and volume across the range.37 Nor does the singer lose all contact with the word: its shape may be altered, but it continues to exist as both a mental concept and physical actuality. Martha Feldman sees the fragmenting of referential meaning through repetitions and melismatic passages in eighteenth-century Italian opera as a primarily sensuous process, designed to ‘mesmerize’ the spectator, but also one through which words acquired a ‘new phenomenal, imagistic, and symbolic function’.38 Meaning is thus enriched rather than abandoned. New research in cognitive and behavioural science takes us further. Music’s ludic transmutations of word are far from a new, alarming intrusion into our lived experience. Parent–infant relationships are built largely through the non-verbal ‘communicative musicality’ of a mutual vocal interplay of ‘pitch, melody, rhythm, tempo and dynamics’ enabling mental and emotional attunement.39 Colwyn Trevarthen emphasizes the importance of these exchanges as ‘purposeful engagement’ in ‘cultural learning’ that develops intelligence and teaches us how to establish meaningful communication with others.40 This interaction, by helping mother and baby to bond, increases infant survival rates and thus has clear evolutionary significance.41 The musicality of speech remains paramount in conveying meaning after the acquisition of language skills: apprehension of the voiced (as opposed to the written) word is dependent on nuanced delivery, with its extratextual information about sociocultural factors as well as the emotions and intentions of the speaker.42 The sung word might thus be viewed (or heard) not as a degeneration of language, but rather as a sophisticated elaboration of the sounds or ‘dynamic emotional syntax’ that actually generate language.43 We might therefore refigure our responses to the opera singer’s relationship to text, perceiving the temporary loss of literal meaning as neither an attack on reason nor sybaritic excess, but as revelatory of other experiences. Our pleasure in opera’s melismatic fragmentation or occlusion of the word may stem from our earliest memories of shared communication with our carers. Rather than fuelling anxiety, these sounds perhaps recall a nurturing environment and the processes through which we ourselves discovered

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language – even of a time when our own voices soared freely to the same heights as that of the soprano.

Singer and spectacle An early definition of opera was ‘recitar cantando’: to act through singing. Strozzi’s paean to Renzi reveals the emphasis placed on the singer’s physicality and histrionic qualities in this new art form: The action that gives soul, spirit, and existence to things must be governed by the movements of the body, by gestures, by the face and by the voice, now raising it, now lowering it, becoming enraged and immediately becoming calm again; at times speaking hurriedly, at others slowly, moving the body now in one, now in another direction, drawing in the arms, and extending them, laughing and crying, now with little, now with much agitation of the hands. Our Signora Anna is endowed with such lifelike expression that her responses and speeches seem not memorized but born at the very moment. In sum, she transforms herself completely into the person she represents, and seems now a Thalia full of comic gaiety, now a Melpomene rich in tragic majesty.44

The opera singer’s corporeality continued to be considered by many composers and commentators throughout operatic history as of equal importance as voice, from Monteverdi to Wagner, Lully to Weber, or Verdi to Stravinsky.45 At its most essential, voice expresses itself through body: voice is body made aural. The body is also a site of dramatic interpretation, offering meanings that add further layers to those apprehended through both sound and word, encompassing a wide aesthetic range of gestural action from realism to abstraction. The precise nature and reception of this interpretative dimension of the singer’s body reflected broader cultural ideas.46 We can see from Strozzi’s account of Renzi that she was admired for the spontaneity of her performance, her transformation into another character and her ‘lifelike expression’ – all qualities that can exist alongside the improvised, fluid and simple musical structures of stile recitativo. In short, there was evident harmony between Renzi’s use of both voice and body: aural and visual aspects worked in tandem to produce coherence and complementarity. This aim of unity between the expressive mediums of music and spectacle remained constant for singers through much of operatic history. Unity could be demonstrated in different ways, however. With the arrival towards the end of the seventeenth century of the new musical form of the da capo aria, with its luxuriating repetitions and vocal pyrotechnics, dramatic

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performance (at least in opera seria) became what was often described as ‘statuary’. Richard Steele praised the alto castrato Nicolini in a performance of Scarlatti’s Il Pirro e Demetrio in London in 1708: [Nicolini] sets off the character he bears in an opera by his action as much as he does the words by his voice. Every limb and every finger contributes to the part he acts, insomuch as a deaf man may go along with him in the sense of it. There is scarce a beautiful posture in an old statue which he does not plant himself in, as the different circumstances of the story give occasion for it.47

The arrangement of the body in this series of formal gestures supported the melismatic qualities of eighteenth-century opera, a correspondent tracing in the air of the shapes and contours of musical phrases: for the spectator, a means of seeing as well as hearing the music. This coded physical language had further relevance in opera’s new-found internationality, conveying meaning to audiences unfamiliar with the Italian language. Influenced by Romanticism’s emphasis on heightened passion, opera began to inscribe singers’ gestures and actions more directly within the music (Bellini’s agitated recitative for Norma as she contemplates murdering her children; or Verdi’s use of an ascending scale to accompany Violetta’s eager rise to her feet, convinced of her returning health, just before her fatal collapse in La traviata). Mary Ann Smart traces the path from the synchronization of the performing body and music in mid-nineteenthcentury French and Italian opera to the more abstract relationship evident in Wagnerian opera.48 With the subsequent impact of theatrical naturalism in later decades, operatic acting conventions once again sought the spontaneity and immediacy admired in Anna Renzi. It was a trend not always welcomed by either critics or singers. For George Bernard Shaw, attempts by Emma Calv´e in the 1890s to adopt less stylized patterns of gesture disrupted that much-prized unity between music and action: he grumbled that she ‘acted out of time’ with the music.49 And the growing emphasis on dramatic realism and physicality brought new challenges for singers: by 1922 one dramatic soprano was complaining: ‘We rush around, we fall, we roll down stairs, we do everything but stand on our heads.’50 The uncoupling of synchronization and the athletic demands on singers’ bodies was merely the precursor to the wider dislocation between stage picture and aural experience that would dominate late twentieth-century opera productions. Critical interest in the idea of the ‘attore-cantante’ (actor-singer) is an emerging field in opera studies.51 Research in this area is necessarily interdisciplinary, drawing on performance studies (from histories of rhetoric and gesture to more recent concepts of the semiotics of mise en sc`ene and ‘liveness’), philosophical notions such as ‘presence’ and, as we will see below, the interface between the singer and the performance environment.

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The singer and technology The singer’s interaction with spectacle depended on the technologies of the stage, from the flying machines of baroque opera that created imperious entrances and exits, the effects of lighting in shaping performance (shadowy gas-light in the 1820s demanded gestural expansiveness; electric lighting facilitated the more naturalistic acting style of the 1890s), the different uses of costume design to express either the singer’s status (Adelina Patti’s hoop skirts in the 1860s, or Rosa Ponselle’s haute-couture frocks and jewellery in the 1920s) or the fictional reality of the character (Chaliapin’s semi-naked, body-painted M´ephistoph´el`es in Gounod’s Faust), and acrobatic stunts such as Amina’s somnabulistic roof-top crossing (Bellini’s La sonnambula) or Tosca’s defiant leap from the battlements. Lilli Lehmann, trained by her singer mother never to lose her ‘composure when confronted with an emergency’,52 presumably found this steely fortitude helpful when dealing with her Rhinemaiden’s swimming machine, perched precariously on top of a wobbling platform twenty feet high, at the premi`ere of Wagner’s Der Ring at the Festspielhaus in 1876. Technologies assist in the mediation of singer and character, heighten illusion and suspense, and thus raise important questions about the creation of meaning on stage, modes of representation and the theatricality of the performance event.53 The ‘age of mechanical reproduction’ (so dubbed by Walter Benjamin) arrived in the 1890s, with recorded sound. The dissemination of singers’ voices via this new commercial medium provided fresh routes to stardom for artists such as Enrico Caruso, whose popularity with a mass audience was largely achieved as a result of his extensive recordings, beginning in 1902. Technology changed both criticism (now the reader could hear the singer for himself) and historiographical strategies. With regard to the former, it enabled the development of a specialist fan-base: the voices of singers long dead or simply alive but distant could now be ‘collected’ via records and compact discs. Such collections from those early years proved to be invaluable resources. The Stuart–Liff collection of 78rpm discs provided much of the initial material for EMI’s five-volume The Record of Singing, described after the issue of the fourth volume (having already encompassed 730 singers) as a ‘monumental project’ by William Albright.54 In Britain, the investigation of singers on record was largely led by the late John B. Steane and Michael Scott.55 More recently, the Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (CHARM) at King’s College London has initiated a number of projects. As part of that research, Daniel LeechWilkinson reveals the difficulties of analysing the recorded performances of Adelina Patti, made in 1905 and 1906 when the soprano was in her early sixties; the problems are both scientific (‘the impossibility of knowing the

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speed at which the original discs were recorded’) and aesthetic (trying to relate recorded sound to previous writings about singing).56 There are other extensions to this trawling of deceased voices. Jason Stanyek and Benjamin Piekut discuss capitalism’s commodification of dead singers through ‘necromarketing’ and posthumous duets: for example, Victor’s underdubbing of Caruso’s ‘Vesti la giubba’ (originally recorded in 1907) with a new orchestral accompaniment in 1932 represents the first ‘intermundane collaboration’ of ‘a dead performer recording with live musicians’.57 Technology can be used to try to recreate ‘lost voices’ or indeed lost bodies: a film about Farinelli splices together the voices of a countertenor and a soprano to fabricate that of the castrato;58 while Michal Grover-Friedlander explores the ‘afterlife’ of Callas’s voice in Zeffirelli’s film Callas Forever (2002), asking whether the use of a ‘different body’ (that of the actress Fanny Ardant) to represent the singer would ‘re-animate’ Callas, or whether this new corporeality would ‘refashion the voice’.59 Filmed opera performances and opera as film attract ever more attention. One example is a recent edition devoted by The Opera Quarterly to the subject of opera and technology. Intriguingly, few of the essays (apart from Emanuele Senici’s provocatively entitled essay, ‘Porn Style? Space and Time in Live Opera Videos’)60 deal with the specifics of sung performance; rather, the broader theoretical extrapolations of televisual opera recordings form the main focus. If audio recordings created the ‘disembodied’ voice, visual recordings, with their emphasis on what is seen rather than what is heard, appear to encourage a critical ‘de-voicing’ of the body.

The singer and the operatic market place Emerging concepts of social history in the latter part of the twentieth century encouraged efforts in opera studies to chart a much broader framework of relationships between social and economic processes and protagonists. The benchmark for this new approach was set by John Rosselli’s Singers of Italian Opera, which appeared in 1992.61 Rosselli’s groundbreaking study revealed how the development of a ‘profession’ shaped various aspects of singers’ careers, from training, entry into the profession, patronage, contractual obligations, marketing, theatrical agencies and impresarios. Simply identifying singers and relevant sources was an initial task for scholars, drawing on the work begun by earlier encyclopaedists (Rousseau, Burney, F´etis, Regli, Schmidl). The growth in this area is demonstrated by the expansion of the most comprehensive and authoritative listing of singers, Karl J. Kutsch and Leo Riemens’s Grosses S¨angerlexikon, from two volumes and 6,995 entries in 1987 to seven volumes with around 14,800

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entries in 2003.62 The effort of tracing singers was aided by increased access to the music periodicals that had emerged at the beginning of the nineteenth century.63 Where earlier writings had tended to heighten the singer’s mystique and ‘difference’, these new periodicals began to reveal the craft behind the art, with articles on voice production and technique, analyses of mise en sc`ene, debates about the ‘moral’ effect of singing for both spectator and vocalist, and discussions of wages and working conditions. Styles of criticism varied between countries: for example, commentators in Germany and Britain were more prone to providing detailed accounts of mise en sc`ene than their counterparts in Italy or France, who focused primarily on vocal performance. Public interest in the opera singer was further whetted by other discourses, including annual compendiums (Francesco Regli’s Strenna teatrale in the 1830s), historical surveys (such as the works of L´eon Escudier64 and Ellen Creathorne Clayton65 ), and fictional depictions by illustrious authors (George Sand, George Eliot, George Meredith) and lesser-known writers alike.66 Singers also began to produce their own accounts of their lives and careers. Michael Kelly’s Reminiscences (1826) juxtaposed his training in Italy and his time in Vienna as a court tenor (creating roles under Mozart’s direction) with his experiences in public theatres in London, Dublin and the provinces.67 Similar autobiographies, either penned by the singer or ghostwritten, soon became a standard closure to a performing career. Some such memoirs (see those by Clara Louise Kellogg, Lilli Lehmann and Titta Ruffo) are valuable historical documents;68 others are frustratingly vague in their account of professional life (Geraldine Farrar, for example, produced a bizarre autobiography in the third person, purportedly written by her dead mother).69 Finding a critical perspective on this subjective, often inaccurate material became key for modern musicologists. One solution has been the reissuing of autobiographies in annotated form;70 another is the noticeable shift in historiographical approaches to biographical writing, with a critical positioning of the singer within the complexities of the operatic market place, as in Roger Freitas’s Portrait of a Castrato: Politics, Patronage and Music in the Life of Atto Melani, or the volumes of James Drake, who initially collaborated with Rosa Ponselle on her autobiography, A Singer’s Life, and later issued his own informative biography of the soprano.71 Which singers should be investigated? Karen Henson points out that the degree of a singer’s influence on a composer has been a pervasive requirement, suggesting that performance in itself is not always considered a sufficient feature for scholarly examination.72 Star singers, regardless of composerly connections, have proved the exception. Neither Catalani, Patti nor Ponselle, for example, created any roles of note, and yet all have attracted

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attention. Singers who fulfil the most extreme tropes of celebrity (glittering fame followed by an early death), such as the two Marias – Malibran and Callas – continue to generate copy. However, an emphasis on celebrity performers brings its own limitations: restricting the study of singers to a few select and in some respects atypical examples, ignoring the validity of spectatorial response to less well-known singers, or exaggerating the image of opera as an elite artform, with scant regard for opera performances in the provinces or smaller houses. Social history also explores issues such as gender and ethnicity in singers’ access to the operatic market place. From its inception, opera’s configurations of gender were inherently unstable. Heroic masculinity was initially represented by the castrati, Europe’s first international superstars of the stage.73 These singers, who retained the high voices of prepubescent boys but within the frame of an adult male, were created artificially by a childhood operation, severing the tubes leading to the testicles. Whilst such mutilation seems hideous to modern sensibilities (and indeed to many during that period), Rosselli points out that it should be contextualized within a tradition of Christian asceticism that privileged celibacy as a condition of spiritual grace.74 The castrati first appeared in fifteenth-century Spanish churches; and the boys’ submission to life-changing surgical procedures in the following two centuries was often undertaken not with the operatic stage in mind, but a more stable career as a church singer. Even after their disappearance from the operatic stage in the first decade of the nineteenth century, castrati continued to be employed in the Sistine Chapel and certain other Italian churches up until the early twentieth century. One such singer, Alessandro Moreschi (1858–1921), provided us with the last traces of this vocal tradition in his recordings made in 1902–03 – although these do not adequately reflect either descriptions of Moreschi’s own singing in the early period of his career, or the famed abilities of previous castrati.75 The castrati were renowned for both their musical knowledge (the four main conservatori of Naples provided a long and thorough training in vocal technique, musicianship, composition and literary studies) and their vocal ability. As we have seen from Bontempi’s description of Baldassarre Ferri, the best were considered as phenomenal artists with a tone of piercing sweetness, superb breath control and an exceptionally wide range. The cult of the castrato enhanced the sense of difference between auditorium and stage, and increased the notion of the latter as an arena of the fabulous and superhuman, the magical and the mythical – qualities similarly apparent in baroque operatic narrative and spectacle. The physicality of the castrati, often pictured as unusually tall with barrel-chests, towering over their fellow singers, had further significance in this context. But so too did the presence of women.

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Anna Renzi performed freely in Venice in the 1640s; she could not have done so in Rome, or even in London prior to the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. The Catholic church forbade women to appear on the public stage, although this was generally enforced only in the papal states. Until the ban was lifted in 1797, the castrati therefore played female roles in theatres subject to the prohibition; but they often did so too even in other cities where women were permitted to perform. The sense of gender confusion was further enhanced by women’s assumption of male roles, including those of heroic stature – sometimes opposite castrati playing female characters. Women’s bodies carried their own special messages. Their legs were revealed in breeches for travesti roles, their breasts rose and fell with the breaths of song, their musical gasps and sighs were read as coded sexual excitement.76 Their presence in the public arena, seemingly as objects of display, offering pleasure for money, was viewed as metaphorical and sometimes actual prostitution. A dispute between Margherita Gualandi (known as La Campioli) and her employers in Naples in 1726 illustrates how these notions affected the workings of the opera house. Gualandi unexpectedly fled the city five days before the first performance of Hasse’s Il Sesostrate; the ensuing scandal provoked a storm of recriminations. An Italian nobleman, Cavaliere Vitelleschi, justified the impresario’s treatment of Gualandi, claiming that she had been given every assistance and that her difficulties arose from the theatre’s high standards: ‘This is a city very attuned to music; they not only want to hear fine singing, but want also good acting and good stage presence.’77 However, a quite different account was given by the castrato Carlo Scalzi, who argued that Gualandi had been poorly treated and contractual obligations had been broken. Besides, his statement concluded: Here [in Naples] they want either beauties or professional whores . . . The city is diabolical in these matters, and it is a point of honour among the nobility, once they have visited a singer, to be obliged to say that they have had sex with her. The profession is indecent and dishonest, because they speak evil of everybody, even if they might be angels.78

Sex could be used as a weapon in other ways. In London a year later, gossip about the supposed antipathy of two prima donnas (Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni) escalated into a series of scurrilous pamphlets making lewd and lurid suggestions about the singers’ sexual behaviour – a forerunner of the pornographic ‘biographies’ that emerged in subsequent years, often purporting to be written by the singers themselves.79 Such instances illustrate Richard Dyer’s theories of the ‘collapsing of distinction between star-as-person and star-as-performer’.80 It mattered little that Bordoni was of respectable patrician family and soon to be happily married (to the composer who had caused so much trouble to Gualandi, in fact); only that her

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public presence in the theatre transgressed the norms of female behaviour, and hence could be read back into other areas of her private life. Napoleon’s abolition of the Italian training-schools for the castrati in 1806 hastened the end for a kind of singer already in decline. Their absence from the operatic stage at first gave increased prominence to women’s voices, as both female and male characters. Three decades of extraordinary composition followed, privileging female talent and expanding the artistic and social opportunities for women singers such as Isabella Colbran, Giuditta Pasta, Maria Malibran and Wilhelmine Schr¨oder-Devrient.81 Their rich, dark voices, inscribed in the roles written specifically for them by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Wagner (among others),82 were often described as mezzo-sopranos – although we might now term them as early exponents of the spinto (Pasta) or lirico-drammatico (Malibran) or the hochdramatische Sopran (Schr¨oder-Devrient). When singing female roles, they were generally partnered by the tenori di grazia (Giovanni Battista Rubini is the best-known example), who blended their natural lower notes with the use of falsetto in their upper register. There was thus an octave rising from middle C in which male and female timbres could often sound very similar. By the 1830s, however, emerging ideas of gender posited femininity and masculinity as binary opposites, thus problematizing earlier codes of gender representation in opera and influencing vocal technique. The coloratura soprano became the epoch’s aural portrait of femininity, later to be joined by the lyric soprano. Masculinity similarly explored new sounds. Some tenors such as Michael Kelly in the 1790s or Domenico Donzelli in the 1820s had already begun to sing above the stave in voce di petto (natural or chest voice), rather than falsetto. In 1832, Gilbert-Louis Duprez, supposedly searching for a suitably ‘virile’ timbre in the heroic but very high tessitura of the role of Arnold in Rossini’s Guillaume Tell, found his ut de poitrine (a high C produced from the chest) – and so, legend has it, the tenore di forza was born.83 While attributing Duprez alone with this development is inaccurate, it is nonetheless fair to say that by the 1840s this manner of producing the tenor voice had become commonplace. The extension of the natural voice throughout the tenor range coupled with the epoch’s emphasis on passion and power also impacted on other voice types. The modern baritone, capable of an emotional heft in the upper third of his range, emerged most influentially in roles by Verdi and Wagner (Macbeth, Rigoletto, the Dutchman, Wotan); both composers also expanded the dramatic mezzo-soprano repertoire (Eboli, Amneris, Ortrud and Brang¨ane). The contralto, deprived of her previous access to heroic roles (both male and female), became the lost voice of the century, assigned only to the characters no one else wanted to play: ‘tarts, old women and boys’ is the usual summary of her lot.84

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Western notions of exoticism in the second half of the nineteenth century produced various roles for characters of different ethnicities, as in Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine, Bizet’s Carmen and Delibes’s Lakm´e in France; or Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, La forza del destino, Aida and Otello, Mascagni’s Iris, and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly in Italy. Yet these roles were played by white singers in make-up. Singers of colour, although active on the concert platform, were long denied access to the mainstream operatic profession. The careers of Sissieretta Jones (1868–1933, known as the ‘Black Patti’), Caterina Jarboro (‘Katherine Yarborough’, 1903–86), Lillian Evanti (‘Lillian Evans’, 1890–1967) and Marian Anderson (1897–1993) exemplify the difficulties early African-American singers faced in their attempts to build a career in the US, despite critical and public acclaim for their singing. Both Jarboro and Evanti appeared in European theatres during the 1930s and 1940s, but it was Anderson’s appearance as Ulrica at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1955 that marked an important turning point. While overt racial discrimination abated somewhat for female singers in the latter decades of the twentieth century (we need think only of international stars such as Leontyne Price, Shirley Verrett and Jessye Norman), the bass-baritone Simon Estes argued in an interview in 2000 that the position of male AfricanAmerican singers in the opera house remains tenuous, especially in the US.85 The more recent successes of the tenor Lawrence Brownlee at the Metropolitan promise some much-needed progress.86

The singer and audience Celebrity as an outlet for spectators’ ‘notions of freedom, fantasy, and needs’ is an obvious concern of our own period, but one evident throughout opera history.87 Anna Renzi, as Rosand reveals, was in effect ‘created’ by the press. Strozzi’s homage was an early example of the ‘Applausi’, effusive sonnets and odes flung onto the stage by spectators at curtain calls, or printed in periodicals and other publications.88 Some encomiums were genuine responses by admirers; others were commissioned by the singers themselves as a form of advertisement. Both were the literary equivalent of pictorial illustration – a kind of verbal portraiture – indebted to the classical and mythological lexicon that often was similarly apparent in the visual adornments of the opera houses. Certain critics attempted to debunk the worst excesses of celebratory publicity. In 1829, Luigi Prividali, editor of the Italian periodical Il censore dei teatri, challenged the epoch’s propensity for ‘divinizzazione’, arguing that fame should be rooted not in fashion but in the qualities necessary in an ‘excellent’ singer.89 Few, if any, singers could have met his stringent

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requirements (perfection in timbre, technique, style, interpretation and acting) – but that, of course, was his point. Nonetheless, the tide was not to be stemmed. Increasingly owned by music publishers and theatrical agencies, many periodicals (particularly in France and Italy) traded on the puffery of their proprietors’ artists, and helped to supply the audiences for the opera houses. Impresarios were similarly eager to participate in this pumping up of the celebrity market – but when it came to writing their memoirs, a quite different agenda often prevailed. In 1888, the British operatic impresario Colonel Mapleson wrote about one of his troupe, the Italian tenor Antonio Giuglini (1827–65): Giuglini was in many things a child. So, indeed, are most members of the artistic tribe, and it is only by treating them and humouring them as children that one can get them to work at all. The only two things Giuglini really delighted in were kites and fireworks. Give him kites to fly by day and rockets, roman candles, or even squibs and crackers to let off at night, and he was perfectly happy.90

It is difficult to square this image of Giuglini with the one that emerges from his private correspondence, written over the course of his career to the conductor Giulio Cesare Ferrarini – and where no mention is ever made of either kites or fireworks.91 Instead, he emerges as generous, astute and profoundly grateful for his good fortune as a principal tenor in Europe’s highest-paying theatres. The contrast between divinizzazione at one end of the scale and Mapleson’s disparagement at the other is clear. In the former, the singer’s personality is perceived as at one with the voice; the voice is read as a sign of admirable inner qualities of temperament and judgement. In the latter, the singer is divorced from his or her voice: the ‘divine’ instrument is regarded as an aberration, and the singer treated at best as an idiot savant. The history of discourses – particularly of popular discourse – around singers has veered wildly between these two extremes. These polarized views contribute to the sometimes uneasy relationship between singers and their audiences, from the hostility between rival supporters of Cuzzoni and Bordoni during a performance of Bononcini’s Astianatte in London in 1727 (‘Hissing on one Side, and Clapping on the other’ among the spectators gave way to ‘Catcalls, and other great Indecencies’92 ) to the snappish journalistic exchanges between the twoparty faction dominating Erminia Frezzolini’s career in the mid-nineteenth century (the frezzolinisti lauding her to the skies, the rigoristi describing her as the ‘shade’ of her former self, then the ‘shade of a shade’, and finally as ‘Lazarus in a skirt’).93 The Internet provides a new forum for audience opinion. Comments accompanying clips of singers on YouTube confirm

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the delight that sung performance can arouse in its listeners; but they also reveal disturbing levels of invective (see, for example, the attacks on Natalie Dessay and Anna Netrebko).94 This excoriation of anything presumed less than perfect – in voice, appearance, manner – demonstrates an aggressive escalation in the relentless commodification of the singer. No voice might be considered more poignantly ‘lost’ than the singer’s own instrument as it falters and fades with the passing of the years. Hahn thought differently: A singer never stops learning: the progress of a singer who works at his art ends only with his life; the loss of his voice does not bring his work to a halt, for the real work of singing is mental . . . There is a saying by Garat that is touching indeed for those who understand and cultivate singing. After a glorious career such as few singers have known, Garat, grown old, his voice gone, was asked by a friend if he still occasionally tried to sing. He replied, ‘No, that is impossible; but my mind sings in silence, and I have never sung better.’95

Not the demise of voice, then – rather, its transcendence in the infinite realm of the imaginary.

Notes 1 Richard Taruskin comments on how recent critical approaches to opera have ‘opened up formerly unrespectable and even unmentionable aspects of the genre’. Taruskin, The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2009), p. 225. 2 Stendhal, Life of Rossini, trans. R. Coe (1824: repr. London: John Calder, 1985), pp. 357–8. 3 Quoted in Ellen Rosand, Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice: The Creation of a Genre (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991), p. 232. 4 Jean-Luc Nancy, Listening, trans. C. Mandell (Ashland, OH: Fordham University Press, 2007), pp. 40–3. 5 Giambattista Mancini, Practical Reflections on the Figurative Art of Singing (1777), trans. P. Buzzi (Boston, MA: Gorham Press, 1912), p. 49. 6 Reynaldo Hahn, On Singers and Singing, trans. Leopold Simoneau (1913–14; Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1990), p. 47. 7 Michelle R. Duncan, ‘The Operatic Scandal of the Singing Body: Voice, Presence, Performativity’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 16/3 (2004), pp. 283–306; 306.

8 Sandro Cappelletto, La voce perduta: vita di Farinelli, evirato cantore (Turin: EDT, 1995). 9 Michel Poizat, The Angel’s Cry: Beyond the Pleasure Principle in Opera, trans. Arthur Denner (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1992), pp. 93–106. 10 Roland Barthes, Image Music Text, trans. Stephen Heath (London: Fontana, 1977), p. 184. 11 Giovanni Andrea Bontempi, Historia musica (Perugia: Costantini, 1695), p. 110. 12 Ibid., p. 111. 13 Peter Conrad, A Song of Love and Death: The Meaning of Opera (London: Chatto and Windus, 1987), p. 52. 14 Richard Wistreich, ‘“La voce e` grata assai, ma . . . ”: Monteverdi on Singing’, Early Music, 22/1 (February 1994), pp. 7–19. 15 Rodolfo Celletti, A History of Bel Canto, trans. Frederick Fuller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991). 16 Steven LaRue, Handel and His Singers: The Creation of the Royal Academy Operas, 1720–1728 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), p. 186. 17 Roger Parker, ‘Ersatz Ditties: Adriana Ferrarese’s Susanna’, in Remaking the Song:

135 Voices and singers Operatic Visions and Revisions from Handel to Berio (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2006), pp. 42–66. 18 Marco Beghelli, ‘Il “do di petto”: dissacrazione di un mito’, Il saggiatore musicale, 3 (1996), pp. 105–49. 19 Martha Elliott, Singing in Style: A Guide to Vocal Performance Practices (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2006); John Potter, ‘Beggar at the Door: The Rise and Fall of Portamento in Singing’, Music and Letters, 87/4 (2006), pp. 523–50. 20 Bernard D. Sherman, Inside Early Music: Conversations with Performers (Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 142–3, 225–6, 235–6, 266; see also Frederick Gable, ‘Some Observations Concerning Baroque and Modern Vibrato’, Performance Practice Review, 5/1 (1992), pp. 90–102. 21 Cornelius L. Reid, The Free Voice: A Guide to Natural Singing (New York: Joseph Patelson Music House, 1965), pp. 170–86. 22 Richard Miller, Solutions for Singers: Tools for Performers and Teachers (Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 121–7. 23 Elliott, Singing In Style, pp. 13–16, 64–5, 107–8, 137–9. 24 The full letter with a useful discussion of the tenor Anton Von Raaf can be found in Ludwig Nohl (ed.), Mozarts Briefe nach den Originalen (Salzburg: Mayer, 1865), pp. 159–61. Translation taken from Friedrich Kerst (ed.), Mozart: The Man and the Artist, as Revealed in His Own Words, trans. Henry E. Krehbiel (New York: B. W. Huebsch, 1905), p. 48. 25 Manuel Garc´ıa, Treatise on the Art of Singing (1840–47), ed. A. Garc´ıa (London: Leonard & Co., 1924), pp. 33, 66. 26 Pier Francesco Tosi, Observations on the Florid Song, trans. John Ernest Galliard (1743; repr. London: William Reeves, 1967), p. 86. 27 Ruth Katz, A Language of Its Own: Sense and Meaning in the Making of Western Art Music (University of Chicago Press, 2009), p. 128. 28 Martha Feldman, Opera and Sovereignty: Transforming Myths in Eighteenth-Century Italy (University of Chicago Press, 2007), pp. 77–80. 29 Tosi, Observations, pp. 69–70. 30 Letter to Piroli, 20 February 1871, cited in Hans Busch, Verdi’s Aida: The History of an Opera in Letters and Documents (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1978), p. 139. 31 Richard Wagner, The Artwork of the Future, trans. W. Ashton Ellis (Lincoln and London:

University of Nebraska Press, 1995), Vol. I, p. 103. 32 Johann Joachim Quantz, On Playing the Flute (1752), trans. and ed. Edward R. Reilly, 2nd edn (London: Faber and Faber, 2001), p. 56. 33 Paul Robinson, ‘Reading Libretti and Misreading Opera’, in Opera, Sex and Other Vital Matters (University of Chicago Press, 2002), p. 36. 34 Carolyn Abbate, Unsung Voices: Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton University Press, 1991), pp. 10–11; Mladen Dolar, A Voice and Nothing More (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006). 35 Lawrence Kramer, Musical Meaning: Toward a Critical History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), p. 63. 36 uo6dDQiBGyI; see also Lilli Lehmann, How to Sing, trans. Richard Aldrich (New York: Macmillan, 1916), p. 237. 37 Johan Sundberg, ‘The Perception of Singing’, in Diana Deutsch (ed.), The Psychology of Music (London: Elsevier, 1999), pp. 171–214; 178–82. 38 Feldman, Opera and Sovereignty, p. 85. 39 Heiner Gembris and Jane W. Davidson, ‘Environmental Influences’, in Richard Parncutt and Gary McPherson (eds.), The Science and Psychology of Music Performance: Creative Strategies for Teaching and Learning (Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 17–30; 21. 40 Colwyn Trevarthen, ‘The Musical Art of Infant Conversation: Narrating in the Time of Sympathetic Experience, Without Rational Interpretation, Before Words’, Musica Scientiae, 12 (2008), pp. 15–46; 16–17. 41 Ellen Dissanayake, ‘If Music is the Food of Love, What About Survival and Reproductive Success?’, Musicae Scientiae, special issue (2008), pp. 169–95; 174. 42 Marie-C´ecile Bertau, ‘Voice: A Pathway to Consciousness as “Social Contact to Oneself”’, Integrative Psychological and Behavioural Science 42/1 (2008), pp. 92–113; 100–1. 43 Colwyn Trevarthen, ‘Neuroscience and Intrinsic Psychodynamics: Current Knowledge and Potential for Therapy’, in Jenny Corrigall and Heward Wilkinson (eds.), Revolutionary Connections: Psychotherapy and Neuroscience (London: Karnac Books, 2003), pp. 53–78; 76. 44 Quoted in Rosand, Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice, p. 232. 45 See Monteverdi’s letter to Alessandro Striggio, 7 May 1627, in Denis Stevens, The Letters of Claudio Monteverdi (Cambridge University Press, 1980), p. 315; Laura Naudeix,

136 Susan Rutherford ‘Le jeu du chanteur dans l’esth´etique spectaculaire de l’op´era lulliste’, in Jacqueline Waeber (ed.), Musique et geste en France de Lully a` la R´evolution: ´etudes sur la musique, le th´eaˆ tre et la danse (Berne: Peter Lang, 2009), pp. 43–54; Tosi, Observations, p. 152; G. B. Mancini, Riflessioni practiche sul canto figurato (1777; repr. Bologna: Forni, 1970); John H. Warrack, Carl Maria von Weber (Cambridge University Press, 1976), pp. 205–9; Gilles de Van, Verdi’s Theater: Creating Drama Through Music, trans. Gilda Roberts (University of Chicago Press, 2008), pp. 292–3; Richard Wagner, Actors and Singers, trans. W. Ashton Ellis (Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press, 1995); Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Dialogues (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1982), pp. 22–5. 46 Joseph R. Roach The Player’s Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting (London and Toronto, ON: Associated University Presses, 1985). 47 Quoted in Henry Pleasants, The Great Singers (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1966), p. 55. 48 Mary Ann Smart, Mimomania: Music and Gesture in Nineteenth-Century Opera (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004). 49 30 May 1894; George Bernard Shaw, Music in London 1890–1894, 3 vols. (London: Constable & Co., 1932), Vol. III, p. 227. 50 Florence Easton, in Frederick Martens, The Art of the Prima Donna (London: D. Appleton & Co., 1922), p. 70. 51 Gabriela Cruz, Clemens Risi and Susan Rutherford (eds.), Singing Actor/Acting Singer: Performance, Representation and Presence on the Operatic Stage (forthcoming). 52 Lilli Lehmann, My Path Through Life, trans. Alice B. Seligman (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1914), p. 72. 53 Karen Henson (ed.), Technologies of the Diva (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). 54 William Albright, ‘The Record of Singing: A Brief Overview of a Monumental Project’, The Opera Quarterly, 7/1 (1990), pp. 31–42. 55 J. B. Steane, The Grand Tradition: Seventy Years of Singing On Record (London: Duckworth, 1974); Michael Scott, The Record of Singing, 4 vols. (London: Duckworth, 1977–79). 56 Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, The Changing Sound of Music: Approaches to Studying Recorded Musical Performance (London: CHARM, 2009), Chapter 4, paragraphs 9–16, chap4.html. 57 Jason Stanyek and Benjamin Piekut, ‘Deadness: Technologies of the Intermundane’, TDR: The Drama Review, 54/1 (2010), pp. 14– 38; 21–2. Gabriela Cruz considers footage of Luisa Tetrazzini listening to a recording of Caruso in 1932 in ‘The Fairy Tale of Bel Canto: Walt Disney, Theodor Adorno, Kurt Weill Play the Gramophone’ (forthcoming). 58 Farinelli Il Castrato (dir. G´erard Corbiau, 1994); the singers were Derek Lee Ragin and Ewa Malas-Godlewska. 59 Michal Grover-Friedlander, ‘The Afterlife of Maria Callas’s Voice’, The Musical Quarterly, 88 (2006), pp. 35–62. 60 Emanuele Senici, ‘Porn Style? Space and Time in Live Opera Videos’, The Opera Quarterly, 26/1 (Winter 2010), pp. 63–80. 61 John Rosselli, Singers of Italian Opera: The History of a Profession (Cambridge University Press, 1995). 62 Robert H. Cowden’s Opera and Concert Singers: A Bibliography of Biographical Materials (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985) was followed by his Classical Singers of the Opera and Recital Stages: A Bibliography of Biographical Materials (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994); see also Sharon Almquist, Opera Singers in Recital, Concert and Feature Film (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999) and Laura Macy (ed.), The Grove Book of Opera Singers (Oxford University Press, 2008). 63 This vast source is available to scholars through the work of the Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals (RIPM) or the Centro internazionale di ricerca di periodici musicali (CIRPeM) in Parma, which holds the largest European archive of music periodicals; some journals are also accessible via the Internet or through the digital collections of research libraries. ´ 64 Escudier Fr`eres, Etudes biographiques sur les chanteurs contemporains, pr´ec´ed´ees d’une esquisse sur l’art du chant (Paris: Just Tessier, 1840); L´eon Escudier, Vie et aventures des cantatrices c´el`ebres (Paris: E. Dentu, 1856). 65 Ellen Creathorne Clayton, Queens of Song (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1863). Other examples include G. T. Ferris, Great Singers, 2 vols. (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1882) and H. Sutherland Edwards, The Prima Donna: Her History and Surroundings from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century (London: Remington, 1888). 66 Sherry Lee Linkon, ‘Reading Lind Mania: Print Culture and Nineteenth-Century Audiences’, Book History (1998), pp. 94–106.

137 Voices and singers 67 Michael Kelly, Reminiscences (1825; repr. London: Oxford University Press, 1975). 68 Clara Louise Kellogg, Memoirs of an American Prima Donna (New York and London: G. P. Putnam, 1913); Lehmann, My Path Through Life; Titta Ruffo, La mia parabola: memorie (1937; repr. Rome: Staderini S. P. A., 1977). 69 Geraldine Farrar, Such Sweet Compulsion (New York: Greystoke, 1938). 70 Frieda Hempel, My Golden Age of Singing, ed. E. Johnston and W. Moran (Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1998). 71 Roger Freitas, Portrait of a Castrato: Politics, Patronage, and Music in the Life of Atto Melani (Cambridge University Press, 2009); Rosa Ponselle and James Drake, Rosa Ponselle: A Singer’s Life (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1982); James Drake, Rosa Ponselle: A Centenary Biography (Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1997). 72 Karen Henson, ‘Verdi, Victor Maurel and Fin-de-si`ecle Operatic Performance’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 19/1 (2007), pp. 59–84; 63. 73 Joseph Kerman, Opera as Drama (1956; rev. edn, London: Faber and Faber, 1989), p. 39. 74 Rosselli, Singers of Italian Opera, pp. 32–55. On the castrato, see also Angus Heriot, The Castrati in Opera (London: Calder & Boyars, 1956; repr. 1975); Patrick Barbier, The World of the Castrati: The History of an Extraordinary Operatic Phenomenon, trans. Margaret Crosland (London: Souvenir, 1998); J.S. Jenkins, ‘The Voice of the Castrato’, Lancet, 351/9119 (20 June 1998), pp. 1877–80; Piotr O. Scholz, Eunuchs and Castrati: A Cultural History, trans. John A. Broadwin and Shelley L. Frisch (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2001). 75 Moreschi sang in the Sistine Chapel from 1883 to 1913. Pope Pius X officially banned the employment of new castrati from church choirs in 1903. Nicholas Clapton, Moreschi: the Last Castrato (London: Haus, 2004). 76 Pier Jacopo Martello, ‘On Ancient and Modern Tragedy’ (1714), in Enrico Fubini (ed.), Music and Culture in Eighteenth-Century Europe: A Source Book, trans. Bonnie J. Blackburn (Chicago, IL and London: University of Chicago Press, 1994), p. 49. 77 William C. Holmes, Opera Observed: Views of a Florentine Impresario (University of Chicago Press, 1993), p. 114. 78 Ibid., p. 116. Translation modified. 79 Suzanne Aspden, ‘“An Infinity of Factions”: Opera in Eighteenth-Century

Britain and the Undoing of Society’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 9/1 (March 1997), pp. 1–19. Examples of pornographic memoirs include James Ridgeway, Memoirs of Mrs Billington from Her Birth (London: James Ridgeway, 1792); other works were also written about Lucia Vestris (Anon., Confessions of Madame Vestris, in a series of familiar letters to Handsome Jack (London: New Villon Society, 1891)) and Wilhelmine Schr¨oder-Devrient (Anon., Aus den Memoiren einer S¨angerin (1862), translated as Pauline, the Prima Donna (London and New York: Erotika Biblion Society, 1898)). 80 Richard Dyer, Only Entertainment (London: Routledge, 1992), pp. 79–83. 81 On Colbran, see Sergio Ragni, ‘Isabella Colbran: appunti per una biografia’, Bollettino del Centro Rossiniano di Studi, 38 (1998), pp. 17–55. On Giuditta Pasta, see Kenneth A. Stern, A Documentary Study of Giuditta Pasta on the Opera Stage (Italy), PhD dissertation (Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Dissertation Services, 2000); Paolo Russo, ‘Giuditta Pasta: cantante pantomimica’, Musica e Storia, 10/2 (2002), pp. 497–534; and Susan Rutherford, ‘La cantante delle passioni: Giuditta Pasta and the Idea of Operatic Performance’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 19/2 (July 2007), pp. 107–38. On Malibran, see Howard Bushnell, Maria Malibran: A Biography of the Singer (University Park and London: Pennsylania State University Press, 1979); and April Fitzlyon, Maria Malibran: Diva of the Romantic Age (London: Souvenir Press, 1987). On Schr¨oder-Devrient, see Susan Rutherford, ‘Wilhelmine Schr¨oder-Devrient: Wagner’s Tragic Muse’, in Maggie Gale and Vivien Gardner, Women, Theatre and Performance: New Histories, New Historiographies (Manchester University Press, 2000). 82 For Colbran, see Rossini’s Otello, Armida and Semiramide, amongst others; for Pasta, see Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims, Bellini’s La sonnambula, Norma and Beatrice di Tenda, and Donizetti’s Anna Bolena; for Schr¨oder-Devrient, see Wagner’s Rienzi, Der fliegende Holl¨ander and Tannh¨auser. 83 Gilbert-Louis Duprez, Souvenirs d’un chanteur (1880), in T. de la Croix (ed.), Voix d’op´era: ´ecrits de chanteurs du XIXe si`ecle (Paris: Michel de Maule, 1988). See also Beghelli, ‘Il “do di petto”’; Gregory Bloch, ‘The Pathological Voice of Gilbert-Louis Duprez’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 19/1 (2007), pp. 11–31. 84 On the disappearance of the contralto, see Susan Rutherford, The Prima Donna and

138 Susan Rutherford Opera, 1815–1930 (Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 222–30. 85 Interview with Estes, 15 September 2000, cited in Darryl Glen Nettles, African American Concert Singers Before 1950 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2003), pp. 5–9. 86 ‘Top Notes That Shatter the Glass Ceiling’, New York Times, 11 March 2011. 87 P. David Marshall, Celebrity and Power: Fame in Contemporary Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), p. 56. 88 Rosand, Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice, p. 235. G. Benassati, ‘“Di Pallade ha l’ardir, d’Ebe il sembiante”: Immagini di interpreti musicali attraverso stampe celebrative’, in Giuseppe Adani (ed.), Vita musicale in Emilia Romagna (Milan: Silvana Editoriale, 1985), pp. 184–215.

89 Il censore universale dei teatri, 97 (5 December 1829), pp. 386–7. 90 Colonel James Henry Mapleson, The Mapleson Memoirs: The Career of an Operatic Impresario 1858–1888, ed. H. Rosenthal (London: Putnam, 1966), p. 42. 91 Manuscript letters, conserved in the Archivio Storico del Teatro Regio, Parma. 92 The London Journal, 10 June 1727. 93 Antonio Mariani, Erminia Frezzolini: Grandeur e D´ecadence (1818–1884) (Orvieto: Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Orvieto and Orvieto Arte Cultura Sviluppo, 2006), pp. 206, 218. 94 See, for example, the threads at: www. comments?v=5HDKgsXfkaA and comments?v= S9zeUAYFRVI. 95 Hahn, On Singers and Singing, p. 49.

6 Opera and modes of theatrical production simon williams

Opera is a form of theatre, but the degree to which theatre participates in opera is an issue over which battles, many of them surprisingly vituperative, continue to be fought. In fact, over the last several decades, as the stage director has laid claim to being an artist with a creative presence equal to that of the composer and librettist, the intensity of the dispute has increased. The director has been seen as the saviour of an art form in danger of extinction; according to Jean-Pierre Ponnelle: ‘for now [the director’s] duty is really to keep the entire repertory alive so it doesn’t just exist in a museum’.1 On the other hand, directors have been accused of wantonly damaging the operas they direct; for example, a distinguished scholar of Handel writes of modern productions: ‘Whether the producers’ [stage directors’] antics have stemmed from ignorance, cynicism or the lust to explore a hyperactive ego . . . the result has been the same. The work of art is defaced by graffiti. The servant is exalted above the master.’2 While all of us can think of directors whose work has interfered with our enjoyment of the opera, the final sentence indicates more than a passing dislike for some individual’s work; it implies that theatre is only admissible in opera when it is subservient to the demands of the music and the libretto. This chapter will take issue with this assumption. In accepting that opera is a genre of theatre, it will identify those conventions and practices that have been central in the production of opera and it will consider too the documents that enable us to understand them and ask whether they might provide some guidance as to how opera should be performed today. It will also account for the rise of the modern stage director and question whether his or her work ‘defaces’ opera, and suggest ways in which we might decide this issue for ourselves.

Opera: the ideal of total harmony From its beginnings, opera has been what Franco Piperno calls a ‘selfcelebratory’ activity;3 princes used it to display their wealth and power, communities have customarily regarded the opera house as a mark of cultural eminence, and we often celebrate milestones in both our public and [139]

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private lives by attending the opera. This means that the ritualistic dimensions of theatre-going tend to be more pronounced with opera than with other genres, so we expect to see on stage a spectacle that complements our sense of ritual and reflects a need for harmony and wholeness. Disharmony on stage violates opera’s ‘self-congratulatory’ function. For most of opera’s history, the aesthetic of production has been one in which all elements of performance work in total harmony, so that the stage represents an ideal world where everything coheres. According to an early Italian theorist, a successful performance incorporates ‘the arrangement and invention of the plot, the opinions, the style, the sweetness of the rhyme, the agreement of the voices and instruments, the exquisiteness of the singing, the lightness of the dancing, and the gestures . . . and painting has a great part because of the scenery and the costumes’.4 Two hundred years later, Goethe, who directed the Weimar Court Theatre between 1790 and 1817, claimed that opera creates a separate world. ‘When the opera is good’, he said, ‘it creates a little world of its own, in which all proceeds according to fixed laws, is felt according to its own spirit.’5 The harmony promised by opera allows us to free ourselves imaginatively from the imperfections of everyday life into a self-contained world that is more elevated and congruous. Even Wagner, who resisted the idea of escapist opera, prized the concept of seamless harmony, which is the fundamental concept behind his idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk or ‘total work of art’, in which dance (movement), tone (music) and poetry (words) surrender whatever makes them individual to find a new freedom in combination with each other. This amalgamation, aided by the visual arts, will then create a stage on which ‘everything that breathes and moves . . . seems to the actor . . . to embrace the whole of humankind’. Meanwhile ‘the public . . . forgets the confines of the auditorium, and lives and breathes now only in the artwork which seems to us as Life itself, and on the stage which seems the wide expanse of the whole World’.6 Today total harmony is not as consistent an aim in operatic production as it was during the three-hundred-odd years (1600–1920) that produced the majority of the repertoire we see today. But it is still of interest to determine how that harmony was produced and to ask whether it actually transported audiences into imaginative worlds different from the one in which they lived. In particular, we should understand what the function of these modes of theatrical production was in order to understand the different dramaturgical assumptions that underpinned the operatic forms of the past, and decide how far knowledge of historical practices should inform operatic production today.

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Opera and theatrical convention From the beginning opera was a theatrical enterprise. It grew from multiple sources: from the intermedi that were played between the acts of plays at celebrations in the Italian courts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries,7 from the improvised theatre of the commedia dell’arte, and from the attempts of the camerate – societies of learned scholars in Ferrara, Reggio, Vicenza and Florence – to revive ancient Greek tragedy. Composers themselves had theatrical ambitions; Jacopo Peri and Emilio de Cavalieri wished to show that music ‘could be employed on the stage not only as a static, decorative element but also to interpret and underline action and emotion’.8 Dramatic action was fundamental to the development of opera and the spectacle that gave it body made as great a claim on the audience’s eyes as music and words did upon their ears. Roger Savage has argued that the preoccupations of the early seventeenth-century stage – ‘dramatic impact, proper intelligibility, telling movement, apt design, ensemble on stage, synthesis of diverse talents’ – were those ‘of the best twentieth-century operatic staging’.9 Artists were exploring the new genre of opera and a figure similar to the modern director, the corago (named after the choregus of Athenian theatre, who was the person responsible for financing and organizing the chorus in Athenian festivals) emerged, whose activities were extensively described in a treatise of 1630.10 However this relatively fluid mode of theatre did not survive since, by the end of the century, the pressures of numerous opera productions meant that acting and staging lost their exploratory quality and became, out of necessity, conventionalized. We assume that a sweet, flexible and powerful voice is all an operatic singer needs for success, but initially singing was only one of the talents cultivated by performers of opera. An early seventeenth-century writer argues that ‘to be a good actor-singer one should above all be a good speaking actor’, because ‘the common run of theatrical audiences takes greater satisfaction in perfect actors with mediocre voice and little musical skill’.11 Priorities, however, changed as, by the early eighteenth century, singers’ voices had grown in power and opera seria required voices of exceptional versatility. Partly as a result of this, acting became formalized as singers adopted a system practised by actors of spoken tragedy, based on classical rhetoric, in which prescribed gestures, poses and postures were executed during passages of recitative. The meaning of these movements was clear to audiences and is still available to us in manuals of classical rhetoric and acting, which provided the actor with clear instructions as to how to execute each gesture and form each movement.12 Acting in such a system appears to be more a calculated than a spontaneous process and its aim is as much to impress

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the audience with dignified moral statement as to reveal character. Singers developed their performances from these instructions, from imitating their colleagues, as well as from the study of heroes in classical paintings. This combination of music and gesture may have endowed the stage with an air of elevated nobility, even sublimity.13 The grandeur of singers in opera seria was complemented and intensified by the sets within which they performed. From the mid-seventeenth century on, operas were performed against elaborate perspective sets centred on a single vanishing point; then, in the second half of the eighteenth century, on double and even triple perspectives. Audiences were entertained by the mechanical changes of scene, which often took place with the curtain raised. Not only did they witness the spectacle of backdrops and wings constantly changing, but the dimensions of the stage shifted as operas were played with scenes alternating between ‘short’ (shallow) and ‘long’ (deep) perspectives, the short scenes allowing the long scene sets to be changed behind them if necessary. Librettists had to request from the impresario a list of how many scene changes were required (which could be as many as thirteen),14 and to construct the dramatic action accordingly, alternating interior (short) scenes with exterior (long) scenes – a dramaturgical consideration that is clearly evident in the organization of Don Giovanni and even, as Alessandra Campana has shown, as late as Puccini’s Manon Lescaut.15 Lavish productions were common in the theatres of the wealthier European courts, so that in the most grandiose productions, such as the lustrous staging of Il pomo d’oro at the Habsburg Court in 1673, music was only one element, perhaps even a lesser one, in the extravagant spectacle.16 The splendour of the production, the opulent costuming, the gestures of the singers, and the chorus with its unified gestures and movements would have created an impression of munificent harmony that reflected both the glory of the monarch who owned the theatre and the workings of the well-governed state. Surviving evidence suggests opera seria was presented through performances that placed a premium on dignity, refinement and the articulation of the noble and ideal rather than on the expression of the actual. But how frequently the ideal was realized is up for question. Opera stimulated a substantial literature in which history, instruction and criticism were mixed and numerous complaints could be heard about poor training, careless diction and superfluous gesticulation. Benedetto Marcello’s amusing satire Il teatro alla moda (Venice, 1720) dismisses opera as a site of triviality, vanity and incompetence.17 Francesco Algarotti, in an influential essay published in Venice in 1755, dismissed singers as ‘unqualified and grossly defective in the first principles of their art’, gauche in gestures, indistinct in diction and clumsy in movement.18 Furthermore, much scenery was purely decorative, arbitrary, or executed with lack of skill. The spectacle of a singing-actor

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appearing like a giant at the back of the stage due to the forced perspective, Algarotti insisted, was ‘very incongruous and offensive to a discerning spectator’. Such comments should not be taken at face value, but evidence suggests that while opera production might have aspired toward harmony, it was frequently not achieved. Arguments have been made in favour of restoring eighteenth-century performance practice.19 Certainly no modern director should ignore the meaning that can be gleaned from historical practices, but whether they should be adopted wholesale is questionable. The acting and staging conventions described above were products of a production system different from our own. Until the last quarter of the eighteenth century, opera houses would stage new works with only the occasional revival; this meant that singers were faced with unfamiliar material whenever they were hired. They may have known the words and action of the new operas because multiple composers set the same libretti to music, especially those by Metastasio (1698–1782), but the music was invariably new. Standardized gestures were employed because rehearsal time was limited and they provided a readymade language that enabled the performers to embody the role quickly and effectively in a way that was instantly understood by audiences. However, their meaning is lost today. The speed with which productions were prepared also necessitated conventional staging practices. Blocking (the organization of people on stage) was restricted to characters standing in a semicircle in which a singer’s position was determined by rank within the company, and by the relationship of stage right or stage left to the position of the royal box in the auditorium.20 The chorus, which was utilized more in the lavish productions of trag´edie lyrique at the French court than in Italian opera seria, made a ceremonial entry, but then, by most accounts and visual representations, stood in a semicircle, providing a static backdrop to a static action.21 To a modern eye, the conditions of baroque performance would convey a limited and stilted notion of stage production, but in their time they worked and enabled unfamiliar operas to be staged swiftly and coherently. In this theatre there was no individual to do the job of the modern stage director, because there was no need. The conventions governing performance meant that everyone knew what was expected of them without direction and, if coordination was required, it could be provided by the librettist, choreographer, stage designer, or even the composer. The system of static staging and elaborate gesture in opera seria did not go unchallenged. By the middle of the eighteenth century the composer Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714–1787), composing in a less formal musical style, found it outmoded. In conjunction with others, including the castrato Gaetano Guadagni, who had trained in London with the great English actor

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David Garrick, famous for his more natural approach to performance, Gluck produced a series of ‘reform’ operas, which required simpler and more spontaneous gestures from the performers.22 The habits of tradition are, however, hard to break. Over the next century aesthetic and technological changes would thoroughly transform the operatic stage, but as late as 1915 an acting handbook by an American singer, who claimed to have had much experience in European opera houses, insisted that the adoption of fixed stances and gestures to represent emotions and motivation was still the most appropriate way in which to represent operatic emotions on stage, long after the genre of opera seria in which they were developed had disappeared from the repertoire.23

Staging Romantic opera in the nineteenth century One of the reasons why opera seria did not stay in the repertoire after the eighteenth century may be the restrictiveness of its staging, which became dated as Romantic opera became dominant during the first half of the nineteenth century. In French grand opera in particular the most formative and antagonistic movements of the nineteenth century, the industrial revolution and Romanticism, worked hand in hand. Mechanization, and technical advances in scenic design and lighting created a stage on which the Romantics’ fascination with arcane historical and geographical locations (as opposed to the generic settings of opera seria that were often interchangeable from one opera to the next) could be realized in hitherto unprecedented detail. Documentation of operatic production is more consistent for the nineteenth than the eighteenth century, and it was a great age for dramatic criticism; from William Hazlitt and Th´eophile Gautier to George Bernard Shaw and Eduard Hanslick, critical reviews provided extended discussion of the theatrical aspects of operatic performance. Memoirs, diaries and letters appeared with increasing frequency, and these too provide plentiful anecdotal evidence. Above all, the productions themselves were documented with considerable precision. This documentation can be found in livrets sc´eniques or disposizioni sceniche, published in France from the 1830s and Italy from the 1850s, which contained detailed technical descriptions of the productions of the most important operas. Initially the livrets were booklets that set out the ground plan of the sets and basic blocking of the performers, with instructions as to how to construct scenic effects, but, as the century advanced, the booklets became books and specified the movements of the principals, chorus and extras in such detail as to provide a virtual blueprint of the staging. When read with pictures of the sets, an accurate reconstruction of

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nineteenth-century performance practice seems viable. On the evidence of these books, theatrical considerations were always to the fore in staging opera. Singers were encouraged to adopt gestures that were clear and simple, and were instructed in matters of tone, emphasis and vocal quality in dialogue, while blocking of movements gave insights into character motivation and clarified the spine of the action. The arrangement of the chorus and sets suggests that consistent attempts were made to achieve a high degree of realistic illusion. In contrast to the stasis of the earlier opera seria, principals, chorus and extras were in constant motion in a staging designed to intensify the impact of the music, underscore the dramatic values of the work and convey the inner dynamic of the action. The illusion of life and change not only animated the production, but served as a means whereby the predominantly conservative political ethos that characterized much grand opera was offset by a sense of revolutionary volatility and passion in the chorus.24 These production books allow us to deepen our understanding of the action. Attention to the minutiae of staging is so precise that a movement or gesture gives insight into character, or the massing of the chorus indicates how political power shifts from one party to another. The production book for the premiere of Verdi’s Otello at the Teatro alla Scala Milan in February 1887 indicates that the staging was prepared with immense care and precise attention to the nuances of Boito’s libretto and Verdi’s score. The chorus in particular is fluid and mobile: in the turbulent first act of Otello its movements were used to create picturesque effect and reinforce the pace, rhythm and dynamics of the music. Historicist touches, such as the instruction to the actors who fight to familiarize themselves with the swordsmanship of the fifteenth century, are frequent;25 the blocking of the principals, especially in Acts II and III, suggests an elaborate and troubling game of the hunter pursuing the hunted; while details such as the prescription of a mist for the garden that provides the background for Act II show awareness of the poetic potential of scenic design. Verdi contributed to and mostly approved of the production. Giulio Ricordi, the compiler of the production book, insisted that all performers follow its proscriptions rigidly: ‘It is absolutely necessary that the artists understand the production book completely and conform to it. Likewise, management should not allow changes of any kind in the costumes: . . . there is no reason why they should be changed according to the whims of this or that artist.’26 But should performers be obliged to do this? From a purely practical point of view, requiring the absolute submission of any artist to external requirements is a guarantee of lifelessness on stage. Even in the production book of Otello Ricordi contradicts himself when, with regard to Iago’s Credo, it is stated that ‘The actor who cannot find a way to put across this piece of music

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and poetry with his own talent will never succeed in giving even a mediocre performance if he must be guided by a production book.’27 It should also be borne in mind that not everyone admired the staging of the first production of Otello,28 suggesting the model in the production book should not be unthinkingly followed. It seems too that acting was inconsistent. At the start, Boito, quoting Hamlet’s advice to the players, adjures the singers to suit ‘the action to the word, the word to the action’; nevertheless, both the chorus and the principals, Emilia especially, are instructed to engage in gestures that are straight out of the gestural language of melodrama, which was a byword, even in the late nineteenth century, for exaggerated acting. Even Ricordi’s injunction not to change the costumes is suspect when it is clear from the disposizioni sceniche of productions of others of Verdi’s operas that the composer himself approved of changes in costumes and sets as his ideas about his operas changed.29 The value of production books to the theatre historian is obvious; they provide quite a complete picture of what occurred on stage and make it clear that theatrical considerations were taken very seriously in the production of opera. But even though these books were initially intended to provide instructions to provincial companies who wished to produce the opera themselves, they can now only be admitted as historical documents. To consider them as blueprints for later productions is to misunderstand the way the imagination works in the theatre and to deny the process of change. Indeed, the progress of the work of Verdi’s great contemporary, Wagner, in both the German and international repertoire was impeded largely because of his wife Cosima’s insistence that productions of the music dramas at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus should follow the increasingly outmoded models that Wagner had established. But Wagner did not see his productions as definitive. He was dissatisfied with the first complete production of Der Ring des Nibelungen, which he directed at Bayreuth, because he had hoped for a production that emphasized the mythological and symbolic aspects of the action but was constantly frustrated by the historicist literalism of the sets and costumes and felt that his direction ‘led ultimately only to the birth of an ordinary child of the theatre’.30 His approach to staging and characterization was in fact improvisatory; indeed, often to the frustration of his singers who were not accustomed to this technique, he would change the blocking and characterization from one day to another.31 From the comments of Heinrich Porges, who attended all rehearsals of the Ring, it was apparent that the production was not constructed according to a set of precise instructions from a preconceived model, but formed in the moment-tomoment work of rehearsals, impelled by a single ‘divinely inspired’ figure – Wagner himself – who could energize his artists ‘to give material form to the ideal images which [his] genius had hitherto conceived of only as

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possibilities’.32 But while Wagner seems to have been a whirlwind of admonition and instruction during rehearsals for the Ring, Porges also points out, perhaps contradictorily, that ‘he never went out of his way to display his own creative powers; what most delighted him was when a singer hit on the right way of his own accord, so that the dramatic art-work gave the impression of a self-created, living breathing organism’.33 These passages suggest that whatever makes a performance compelling and holds the audience’s attention may lie beyond the reach of pre-planned direction. In the course of the nineteenth century, opera production had become so complex that, first in larger opera houses and then everywhere, it became necessary to appoint a member of the theatre administration or a librettist or designer to coordinate all aspects of the performance. These individuals, usually referred to as r´egisseurs or metteurs en sc`enes,34 were responsible for ensuring unity and balance in the production and for coaching singers who required a basic training in acting. But towards the end of the century the director changed from being a coordinator and coach to an interpretative artist. As productions in both spoken and lyric theatre became more elaborate and detailed, power was increasingly invested in the director, so that by the second half of the century audiences could be attracted to the theatre by the name of the director alone. Charles Kean (1811–68) in London, Franz von Dingelstedt (1814–81) in Germany and Austria, and Georg II, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen (1826–1914), whose detailed and purportedly historically accurate productions of Shakespeare and the German classics were an international sensation, became the stars of their theatres, anticipating the modern stage director.

Opera as naturalistic ensemble Until the late nineteenth century, most theatre, spoken or lyric, was presented in the Romantic–realistic style, which appealed to the broadest range of audiences possible and achieved its apogee in the production of grand opera. It was primarily a socially conformist art, but over the turn of the century a significant sector of theatre developed that appealed to minority, even niche audiences. It staged a drama that explored with considerable intimacy the complexities of the human psyche, and, a decade or two later, that articulated a deep antipathy toward the authoritarianism of late-imperial Europe. This historic change in the function and context of theatre necessitated new means of representation, which led to a heightened awareness of production and performance as artistic practices in their own right and not purely as means of presenting a dramatic text efficiently.

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One of the earliest experimenters whose work did much to transform theatrical practice was the Russian director and actor, Konstantin Stanislavski (1863–1938), who understood that the audience’s attention is not fastened to the stage by the externals of production, but by the actor, whose function in performance is to realize the unconscious forces that motivate his or her character, with no concern for conventional forms of theatrical expression. Stanislavski’s ‘system’, a complex set of exercises and examinations conducted by actors on themselves and their roles, enabled them to discover their own creative powers and, as soloists and ensemble, to draw the audience into the inner action of the drama. The power to do this came exclusively from the actor and from the relationship between actors on the stage: ‘In the art of representation,’ Stanislavski wrote, ‘it is the character’s thoughts and passions that are shown.’35 Although Stanislavski as co-founder of the Moscow Art Theatre is thought of in the context of spoken drama performed in an intimate environment, for the last two decades of his life (1918–38), he ran the Bolshoi, later the Stanislavski, Opera Theatre Studio, in which he provided singers with the same creative environment as he had done for speaking actors. The intense physical effort demanded by operatic singing might seem incompatible with the internal acting cultivated by Stanislavski, but he saw no such contradiction. For him each actor had to find a rhythm unique to the role and to the actor playing it. In opera, actors did not have to search for this, because rhythm is determined not by the actor but by the conductor. As a result, according to Stanislavski, acting in opera ‘is easier than drama. In opera everything must be controlled by one rhythmic idea, which is already implicit in the score. The main thing in opera is to subordinate all the separate and physically correct actions of all the characters to one ready-made tonality, expressing the nature of the feelings by sound. All that remains to be done is to embody it in truthful images.’36 It was through surrender to this tonality that singers gained access to an in-depth exploration of their character. Records of Stanislavski’s productions in the Studio37 indicate that he elicited performances that were sensitive, finely nuanced, completely realized and melded into seamless ensemble. He felt free to cut any element that drew attention away from the human drama and encouraged singers to create detailed back-stories for their characters. In Puccini’s La boh`eme, set in Paris in the 1920s, he urged singers to use the orchestra to read the volitional lives of their characters. Music should not dictate movement but arouse sequences of emotions in the performer, which may change from performance to performance. In this way the singer’s imagination was refreshed and became the force that drove the production. Singers were enjoined to identify a ‘spine’ of action that gave unity to their

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interpretation and highlighted the theme of the action; hence, the ‘spine’ of Act II was ‘Mimi and her happiness’, of Act IV of the Bohemians beginning to understand ‘the reality of life’. The director’s job was to coordinate the performance so that the ‘spine’ became clear. Stanislavski complained that most singers have little respect for the theatre; they ‘treat it with disdain, taking pride in the fact that they are singers and not just actors’,38 a false dichotomy he endeavoured to annul. But his work had little immediate impact. The stages and auditoria of most opera houses were too large for the intimacy he sought, and his approach required an extensive rehearsal period, one that not even the most wellendowed state theatres were able to provide due to the pressure on them to sustain a constantly changing repertoire. His principles were first fully realized by Walter Felsenstein (1901–75), who, as director of the Komische Oper in East Berlin between 1947 and his death in 1975, received sufficient funding to develop a company in which productions could be rehearsed for several months. As a result, singers, as Felsenstein put it, had the opportunity ‘to reveal the entire life of the character, beyond the stage action and the text’, which led to the audience becoming so involved that their imagination made ‘the character even more real than his acting alone could do’.39 Felsenstein argued that opera inhabited a different experiential sphere from spoken drama, one in which singing was the natural means of expression. The singing-actor, Felsenstein insisted, should convince the audience that singing is a necessity, that there is no other way in which the drama could be expressed. ‘Singing is exalted expression, concentration on its highest level’ and singers, searching for the most powerful motivation in their characters, should employ their total physique and incorporate their ‘breathing, intonation, and rhythmic flow’ into the realization of the character. In this way, the performer became what Stanislavski called the ‘creative fashioner’. Like Stanislavski, Felsenstein considered that the one obstacle in the way of achieving this was the narrow process of training for opera singers, in which concentration was focused exclusively on vocal development, with no attention to theatrical or even, for that matter, musical values. Felsenstein’s impact was more widespread than Stanislavski’s, not only because he trained influential directors such as G¨otz Friedrich (1930–2000) and Joachim Herz (1924–2010), but because his productions were played in repertory for several seasons at the Komische Oper and were widely seen on tour. His personality as a director was not strongly felt, because his concern was that ‘the score and all the instructions contained therein must be unmistakably communicated to the audience; I am opposed to all arbitrary revisions, updated versions, and experiments that go against the character of the work’.40 He was an operatic fundamentalist, who by attending to even the most minute details in the score – ‘Every eighth note,

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every change of tempo, every dynamic indication is a stage direction in itself’ – rejected the habits and practices that had come to constitute a performance ‘tradition’. In its place he offered what he called the ‘humanization of opera’, in which the singers perform not as puppets, but as human beings. Nothing in a Felsenstein production was abstract; each event on stage emerged ‘only from a concrete situation that allows nothing other than singing at this moment’. The most far-reaching implication of Stanislavski and Felsenstein’s theatre practice was their erasure of the idea, implicit in nineteenth-century staging and championed by figures such as Cosima Wagner though not her husband, that performance is an exactly repeatable experience and all the director need do is to follow a preconceived model. Instead, the quality of any performance rests on its difference from those that had come before and on the director having created the circumstances that allow each actor-singer to realize the full depths of the character.

Symbolic abstraction An alternative tradition to the social and psychological realism of Stanislavski and Felsenstein is the lyrical abstraction of the Swiss scenographer Adolphe Appia (1862–1928) and his greatest heir, Wieland Wagner (1917–66). Appia recognized that Richard Wagner’s own stagings of his music dramas had failed to realize his ideal of the Gesamtkustwerk because the different theatrical systems were working at odds with each other. In particular, Appia insisted that the adaptation of perspectival painting, a method developed for the two-dimensional plane, to the three-dimensional stage space was contradictory; scenographers and directors should instead exploit the communicative and expressive properties of space as space. Appia also rejected the Romantic realism of nineteenth-century scenography because it was based upon a naturalistic aesthetic that was not appropriate to much opera – least of all the mythic and symbolic works of Wagner. In a series of influential theoretical texts Appia imagined a stage for symbolic action alone, in which the physical environment was merely suggested and abstract space and the play of light encouraged the audience’s imagination. His theory of light as the mediating element between the architectural fixity of theatrical space, the temporal flow of music, and the mobility of the singer, capable of imbuing space with the dynamic and emotional fluidity of the music, demonstrated a unique understanding of the specific nature of opera as a theatrical form.41 Appia did little practical work, mainly because lighting technologies were not sufficiently advanced in his day to realize his ideas adequately, but his published designs, especially for Wagner, suggested

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that the director’s imaginative contribution could be equal to that of the composer or librettist, and showed a new way of thinking about theatre as an aesthetic form, and about the achievement of aesthetic unity through reduction rather than accumulation. The full potential of Appia’s vision was realized by Wagner’s grandson Wieland when he reopened the Bayreuth Festival in 1951 with an abstract production of Parsifal in which the setting comprised almost pure space, with no more than ‘four dull-gold vertical brushstrokes indicating the pillars of the Grail temple, a spider’s web tracery for Klingsor’s domain’.42 Light played in infinite variations, ritualistic elements of the action were heightened, and attention directed to a numinous domain beyond the physical world. In the words of theatre historian Patrick Carnegy, ‘The work had been transformed into a dream play.’43 By the mid-1960s, Wieland had reconfigured the entire Wagnerian canon in this way. Both Appia and Wieland Wagner met opposition because the stage world they evoked looked so different from the one that Wagner had conceived, though it is now clear that both realized better than Wagner himself the seamless aesthetics of the Gesamtkunstwerk. Neither was aligned with the more radical strains of the twentieth-century artistic revolution.

Disrupting harmony The heated objections to much operatic production over the last several decades arise from the work of artists whose work is as alien to the naturalism of Stanislavski and Felsenstein as it is to nineteenth-century stage practice or the aesthetics of Appia and Wieland Wagner. Until the end of the nineteenth century opera had developed theatrical forms and languages which, while not always completely distinct from those of the spoken theatre, were regarded as integral to opera, and as broadly applicable to most forms of opera in the repertory (so that an eighteenth-century opera buffa by Mozart would be staged according to the same principles as a mid- or late nineteenth-century Romantic opera by Verdi or Massenet). Since that time, however, operatic production has often adopted modes of theatrical expression that have been developed in wider theatrical practices, rather than cultivating its own, and twentieth-century librettists and composers have similarly conceived their works with an awareness of the various theatrical styles on offer. In the 1890s and the following decades theatre became a crucible for almost every experimental artistic movement – symbolism, expressionism, Dada, surrealism, theatre of cruelty, neue Sachlichkeit (new objectivity), Bauhaus formalism, constructivism, socialist realism, epic theatre – and examples of operatic works consciously employing almost all of

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these theatrical styles can be found. With regard to production, the accumulative effect of this multivalent revolution has been referred to as the ‘retheatricalization of the theatre’, a process through which the theatre no longer views its prime purpose to be the mere transmission of a dramatic text or operatic score, but the pursuit of ‘the idea or fundamental concept that theatre represents an art sui generis’.44 Accordingly, the text or score no longer has privileged status in the theatrical performance; whereas in Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk all aspects of production were supposed to serve the work that he had composed, in the modern theatre they do not necessarily do so. Production may conflict with the music and libretto. Harmony is no longer an automatic goal. The modern operatic establishment has been both open to experimental theatre and resistant to it: open because it has to be as the contemporary repertoire is so narrow that opera companies, under pressure to repeat familiar works, must look for new ways in which to stage them; resistant because the disruptive strategies of experimental theatre disturb the ethos fundamental to traditional opera-going. Serious modern theatre has no place for self-congratulation, but operatic production has historically tended to placate audiences rather than disturb them. As Felsenstein wrote: ‘There seems to have been an unwritten law that operas whose dramatic message would interfere with complacent enjoyment of the music – works that attacked and disquieted the audience with their truth – had to be smoothed down and made pleasurable by revisions and interpretations.’45 He re-staged classics such as La traviata, Carmen or Les Contes d’Hoffmann so as to bring out the social reality and tragic pathos that had been smothered by generations of traditional stage business, and so revealed opera as a genre that neither confirmed the values of the status quo nor willingly collaborated in its social rituals. But while Felsenstein still sustained the integrated aesthetic of a style of operatic production that was always respectful to the text, his successors found artistic ways to mark their difference from the established values of opera. We live in a society that is conscious of its historical injustices and failures as well as its achievements and recognizes that these are reflected in the imaginative works of the past. For example, while it is not plausible to extract from Wagner’s Ring a message calling for world domination, one cannot ignore the totalitarian uses to which this work was put, and directors find themselves obliged to reflect this in subsequent productions. Furthermore, operas become classics not because they express timeless truths but because each generation discovers its own truth within the work, and stage direction is a means of articulating that truth. A key figure in conceiving a theatre of inquiry that related works of the past to the contemporary world was Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956). Like

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Stanislavski he is best known for his work in spoken theatre, but he initially crafted his highly influential conception of epic theatre in conjunction with the composer Kurt Weill as they worked on their opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Leipzig, 1930). In notes that followed the publication of the libretto, Brecht described a theatre that explicitly rejected the seamless union of the different theatrical elements: ‘The invasion of the methods of epic theatre into the opera first leads to a radical division of the elements . . . Music, text and setting must each learn better how to stand by itself.’46 By highlighting difference and unresolved conflicts between these elements, Brecht hoped to arouse audience awareness of similar conflicts in society. Brecht considered that ‘dramatic theatre’, a designation which included Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk, lulled audiences with assurances, but that epic theatre invited them to question the world; while action in dramatic theatre is organic and continuous, in epic it is episodic; while dramatic theatre assumes humans are passive and unchangeable, epic assumes they are active and capable of change.47 Epic theatre is the opposite of ‘self-congratulatory’, though productions in epic mode are common in opera houses today. In part this is because epic stage techniques modernize aspects of opera that might otherwise seem dated and archaic; the works of Handel, Gluck, Weber, Meyerbeer and others acquire a freshness and renewed appeal when they are staged in a manner that draws attention, through disjunction, to the theatrical conventions upon which they were structured. To acknowledge and enjoy the historical features of an opera makes us more aware of the time and environment that produced the opera and opens our minds to compare them to our own time and to explore the issues dealt with by the action in our own terms. While it is possible to trace the influence on opera production of individual experimental artistic modes for much of the twentieth century, operatic theatre today is eclectic in presentation; directors rarely work according to the principles of an artistic manifesto or even consciously adopt the forms and styles of established artistic modes. Hence, one of the most influential productions of recent decades, Patrice Ch´ereau’s centenary production of Wagner’s Ring at Bayreuth in 1976, in updating the action to the mid-nineteenth century centred on themes of commerce, industry and economic injustice, which were central to Brecht’s interest in the theatre, but they were interpreted by a cast that pursued the moment-to-moment psychological style of acting developed by Felsenstein rather than Brecht’s distancing approach to acting. The eclectic nature of operatic direction today offers audiences particular challenges in understanding and evaluating productions as there are no norms against which they can be set. In the nineteenth century, Romantic

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realism provided, reassuringly perhaps, a uniform production style; then naturalism, symbolism and even the epic theatre were based upon aesthetics that are not too difficult to grasp. But there is little conformity among the most prominent directors working today. How does one come to terms with this? Here Peter Brook might be of help. He has remarked that the greatest theatre stays in the memory less as coherent action, more as a series of striking images which are emblazoned on our memory.48 Theatre is as much a visual as an aural medium, and operatic productions that speak to us most directly are those that respond most imaginatively to the score and articulate effectively the central theme of the action. Hence, Verdi’s La traviata has customarily been presented with opulent sets and costumes, which the audience is expected to find attractive. However, this approach is surely erroneous as it implies that Verdi celebrated the Parisian haute bourgeoisie, whereas he had no time for it. When Willi Decker produced La traviata at the Salzburg Festival (2005),49 that action was played out not in a Parisian salon, but against a curved blank wall, stretching the entire width of the stage, at one end of which there is a surreally large clock. The disquieting setting both resembled the orchestra of an ancient Greek theatre, but also suggested a prison. The set exuded emptiness, the clock the debilitating passage of time, and the ever-present chorus exemplified human cruelty and vindictiveness. What emerged from this setting and staging was not a sentimental tale of a girl who has gone astray, but an elemental tragedy of a women driven to her death by despair. Unorthodox visual approaches can be unsettling. The American director Robert Wilson (b. 1941), whose work has some affinities with the symbolist tradition, employs blank, luminescent cycloramas, dancers in slow motion, sharply etched but often baffling scenic images, and symbolically clad singers posed in hieratic postures. The images employed by Wilson can rarely be totally accounted for, but if we accept their presence and allow them to work on our imagination, the degree to which we sense these images to be working effectively might be taken as a measure of the production’s success. This will vary from individual to individual. Hence, some will find that the minimalism of Wilson’s production of Madama Butterfly 50 lessens the intensity of the action, but others, who respond readily to his formalistic staging and focus on a few precisely defined details, will consider the production evokes as complete an impression of Japan as a more realistic one would. Often it is difficult to accommodate to unfamiliar approaches. Over two seasons (2009–10), the Los Angeles Opera produced a Ring, directed by Achim Freyer (b. 1934), which, as the individual music dramas were produced, was marked by a protracted struggle with those who found the pictorial approach, which incorporated elaborate and arcane symbolism,

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absurdist comedy, pop art, folk theatre and seemingly static staging, to be a violation of Wagner’s work. Freyer, who had been trained by Brecht, had little time for the seamlessness of the Gesamtkunstwerk. However, when the individual dramas came to be performed as a cycle, Freyer’s narrative strategy became clear and what initially seemed to be arbitrary and trivial reappeared as necessary and even as a reconstitution of Wagner’s myth. Perhaps the most disquieting aspect of contemporary operatic production, often referred to as Regietheater, is the apparent disregard directors have for traditional canons of beauty and notions of heroic conduct that were associated with opera for generations. This is because for the last several decades directors from Germany and central and eastern Europe have exercised the strongest influence over stage direction in opera. Their work shows an intense suspicion of the appeal that spectacle exercises on audiences and of the values embodied in the institution of opera, primarily because of the uses to which these were put during the decades before, during and after World War II. But whether their dismissal of these values amounts to the ‘trashing’ of opera is highly questionable. Take, for example, the work of a director such as Peter Konwitschny (b. 1945), many of whose productions seem deliberately to flout notions of dignity and seriousness in performance. He has set Lohengrin in a schoolroom (Hamburg, 1998);51 in his G¨otterd¨ammerung (Stuttgart, 2000) Siegfried and, some of the time, Br¨unnhilde indulge in extended horseplay;52 his Aida (Graz, 1995) has no onstage chorus, the entire action being played out as a domestic drama, while his Tristan und Isolde (Munich, 1998)53 begins as a Noel Coward comedy. His strategy is to stretch the audience’s credibility to the utmost but in each instance, as the action progresses from farcical knockabout to tragic confrontation, by the sheer working of contrast the tragedy gains in power or moves towards a redemptive vision that is oddly moving. ‘Trash’ is not a word one can use easily to describe such an experience.

Conclusion It is the lack of a norm that differentiates performance in opera houses today from previous times. Until the early twentieth century, there was one style in which an opera was presented. Verdi might have approved changes from one production to another, but the dominant style of Romantic realism would prevail. Modern opera knows no such unity, but is marked by a variety of styles, some of which can strike us as a gloss on the action rather than an attempt to give it theatrical life. A brief search on the Internet will reveal a wide range of critical opinions on modern directors, many of

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which, perhaps even the majority, are hostile. But the ideal of a harmonious production is far from dead, as can be seen in the work of directors such as Ian Judge, Jonathan Kent or Robert Carsen. The stage director who disrupts the harmony of the operatic whole certainly attracts more publicity and has acquired a powerful position in the contemporary operatic establishment. A production that disturbs its audience is not good just because it does that; indeed, if a director’s interest is solely to arouse controversy, the resulting work is unlikely to be successful. But the unorthodoxy of current operatic staging is unlikely to lead to the death of opera, as an irate conservative critic claimed after seeing Robert Wilson’s production of Aida at Covent Garden in 2003.54 The world is still divided over the degree to which theatre should participate in the production of opera, but if, as the critic of Handel cited earlier would have it, production is to be ‘servant’ to the ‘master’ of music, we can be fairly certain that its future is dim. If, however, we acknowledge that exciting performances can result when each artist involved is allowed to make a full and vigorous contribution, even when it disrupts our expectations, its future is still promising.

Notes 1 Frederick. J. and Lise-Lone Marker, ‘Retheatricalizing Opera: A Conversation with Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’, The Opera Quarterly 3/2 (Summer 1985), p. 37. 2 Winton Dean, ‘Production Style in Handel’s Operas’, in Donald Burrows (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Handel, (Cambridge University Press, 1997), p. 257. 3 Franco Piperno, ‘Opera Production to 1780’, in Lorenzo Bianconi and Giorgio Pestelli (eds.), The History of Italian Opera, Part II, Vol. IV: Opera Production and Its Resources, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 3. 4 Marco da Gagliano, ‘Preface to Dafne’, in Carol McClintock (ed.), Readings in the History of Music in Performance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979), pp. 188–9. 5 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe quoted in A. M. Nagler (ed.), A Source Book in Theatrical History (New York: Dover, 1959), p. 438. 6 Richard Wagner, The Art Work of the Future and Other Works, trans. William Ashton Ellis (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Tr¨ubner & Co., 1895; repr. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993), p. 185.

7 See especially Chapters 2 and 5 of Nino Pirrotta and Elena Povoledo, Music and Theatre from Poliziano to Monteverdi, trans. Karen Eales (Cambridge University Press, 1982). 8 Nino Pirrotta, Music and Culture in Italy from the Middle Ages to the Baroque (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984), p. 225. 9 Roger Savage, ‘Prologue: Daphne Transformed’, Early Music, 17/4 (November 1989), pp. 484–93; 488. 10 Roger Savage and Matteo Sansone, ‘Il Corago and the Staging of Early Opera: Four Chapters from an Anonymous Treatise Circa 1630’, Early Music, 17/4 (November 1989), pp. 494–511. 11 Savage and Sansone, ‘Il Corago’, p. 501. 12 They are conveniently collected for the modern scholar in Dene Barnett’s exhaustive anthology, The Art of Gesture: The Practices and Principles of 18th Century Acting (Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universit¨atsverlag, 1987). 13 See, for example, Richard G. King, ‘“How to be an Emperor”: Acting Alexander the Great in opera seria’, Early Music, 36/2 (May 2008), pp. 181–202.

157 Opera and modes of theatrical production 14 Mercedes Viale Ferrero, ‘Stage and Set’, in Lorenzo Bianconi and Giorgio Pestelli (eds.), History of Italian Opera, Part II, Vol. V: Opera on Stage, trans. Kate Singleton (University of Chicago Press, 2002), pp. 1–123; 7; 80. 15 See Alessandra Campana, ‘Look and Spectatorship in Manon Lescaut ’, Opera Quarterly, 24/1–2 (Winter–Spring 2008), pp. 4–26. 16 For a detailed description of this production see Robert A. Griffin, High Baroque Culture and Theatre in Vienna (New York: Humanities Press, 1972), pp. 83–115. 17 Benedetto Marcello, ‘Il teatro alla moda’, trans. R. G. Pauly, The Musical Quarterly, 34/3 (July 1948), pp. 371–403, and 35/1 (1948), pp. 85–105. 18 Francesco Algarotti, An Essay on the Opera, ed. R. Burgess (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2005), p. 34. 19 Andrew V. Jones, ‘Staging a Handel Opera’, Early Music, 34/2 (May 2006), pp. 277–88; 281–2. 20 Antonia Banducci, ‘Staging a trag´edie en musique: A 1748 Promptbook of Campra’s Tancr`ede’, Early Music, 21/2 (May 1993), pp. 180–90; 184. Roger Savage argues that, for Metastasio, the importance of the role would be a major concern in staging. Savage, ‘Staging an Opera: Letters from the Caesarian Poet’, Early Music, 26/4 (November 1998), pp. 589–90. 21 See Banducci, ‘Staging a trag´edie en musique’ for an account of eighteenth-century operatic staging based upon one of the few remaining prompt books. 22 Daniel Heartz, Haydn, Mozart and the Viennese School, 1740–1780 (New York and London: Norton, 1995), p. 191. 23 George Edward Shea, Acting in Opera (London and New York: Shirmer, 1915; repr. New York: Da Capo Press, 1980). 24 On the politics of grand opera see especially Chapter 2 of Jane F. Fulcher, The Nation’s Image: French Grand Opera as Politics and Politicized Art (Cambridge University Press, 1987). 25 Hans Busch (ed. and trans.), Verdi’s Otello and Simon Boccanegra (revised version) in Letters and Documents, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), Vol. II, p. 515. 26 Ibid., Vol. II, p. 488. 27 Ibid., Vol. II, p. 528. 28 See F. Hueffer’s review of Otello. He found the production ‘not . . . particularly magnificent, especially with regard to the storm scene in act 1’, in ibid., Vol. II, pp. 703–4.

29 See especially Natalia Grilli, ‘Le immagini per il Simon Boccanegra di Verdi’, in M. Conati and N. Grilli (eds.), Simon Boccanegra di Giuseppe Verdi (Milan: Ricordi, 1993), pp. 187–259, in which Verdi’s conception of Simon Boccanegra clearly changed as the opera matured in his imagination. 30 Selected Letters of Richard Wagner, trans. and ed. Stewart Spencer and Barry Millington (London and Melbourne: Dent, 1987), p. 897. 31 James Deaville (ed.) with Evan Baker, Wagner in Rehearsal 1875–1876: The Diaries of Richard Fricke, trans. George. R. Fricke (Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon, 1998), pp. 67–8. 32 Heinrich Porges, Wagner Rehearsing the Ring, trans. Robert L. Jacobs (Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 2. 33 Ibid., p. 29. 34 Throughout this chapter I have used the term ‘stage director’, which is commonly in use today. 35 Stanislavski, quoted in Jean Benedetti, The Art of the Actor (New York: Routledge, 2007), p. 115. 36 Konstantin Stanislavsky, Stanislavsky on the Art of the Stage, trans. David Magarshack (New York: Hill and Wang, 1961), pp. 169–70. 37 These are available in the form of scenarios, translated and edited by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood, in Stanislavski on Opera (London and New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1975). 38 Konstantin Stanislavski, My Life in Art, ed. and trans. Jean Benedetti (London and New York, 2008), p. 330. 39 Peter Paul Fuchs (ed. and trans.), The Music Theater of Walter Felsenstein (New York: Norton, 1975), p. 29. 40 Ibid., p. 42. 41 Adolph Appia, Musique et le mise en sc`ene (1897), translated as Adolphe Appia’s Music and the Art of the Theatre, trans. Robert W. Corrigan and Mary Douglas Dirks (Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1962). 42 Patrick Carnegy, Wagner and the Art of the Theatre (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2006), p. 288. 43 Ibid. 44 Erika Fischer-Lichte, History of European Drama and Theatre, trans. Jo Riley (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), p. 285. 45 Fuchs, Music Theatre, p. 136. 46 Bertolt Brecht, ‘The Modern Theatre is the Epic Theatre’, in John Willetts (ed. and trans.), Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic (London: Methuen, 1992), pp. 37–8. 47 The complete list of antitheses between the epic and dramatic theatres can be found in ibid., p. 37.

158 Simon Williams 48 Peter Brook, The Empty Space (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990), p. 152. 49 Giuseppe Verdi, La traviata. DVD. Deutsche Grammophon. 00440 073 4196. 50 Giacomo Puccini, Madama Butterfly. DVD. Opus Art. OA0937 D. 51 Richard Wagner, Lohengrin. DVD EuroArts.B000Q7ZKVQ.

52 Richard Wagner, G¨otterd¨ammerung. DVD EuroArts. B00068WRH0. 53 Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde. DVD Image Entertainment. B000059H8H. 54 drama/3606273/A-rampant-case-ofegomania.html.

7 Opera and the technologies of theatrical production nicholas ridout

Flying machines In the opening scene of Peter Sellars’s production of John Adams’s Nixon in China the audience derives special delight from a simply achieved scenic effect. After an opening chorus celebrating the successes of the Chinese Revolution – ‘the people are the heroes now’ – a two-dimensional painted replica of the front half of an aeroplane (The Spirit of ’76) is ‘flown’ into the stage. A three-dimensional and thus functional stepladder is wheeled into place so that when the figures of Richard and Patricia Nixon open the ‘door’ in the ‘plane’, they can step out of the simulated flying machine and into the solid real world of the playing space, pausing, of course, on the steps, to allow photographs to be taken and applause to be offered. This was a moment that gave this spectator particular pleasure at a performance of a revival of the production at English National Opera in 2006, nearly twenty years after its premiere at the opening of a new opera house in Houston, in October 1987. It would appear that this pleasure was also felt at the premiere, however, as the Los Angeles Times notes in its review of the opening night: He [Peter Sellars] gives us a marvelous coup de theatre with the onstage arrival of the presidential jet (when Nixon steps down the gangway, he elicits applause from the Houstonians as well as the mock-Chinese welcoming committee).1

I want to start by trying to account for the particular, theatrical pleasure of this moment, as a way of opening out into a wider discussion of the technologies of opera production in the theatre. The theatrical technology at work in Sellars’s production is both an instance of and a comic reference to the stage technologies around which opera, as a public theatrical event, originally took shape. When opera emerged from the courts and into the public theatres of Venice in the 1630s it did so as a spectacular entertainment, in which the effects which could be achieved by means of stage technologies were as significant a part of the production as music or singing. The problem of opera’s relationship with the technologies of theatrical production may [159]

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largely be attributable to a tension between its early conditions of production and later visions of what constitutes a proper or serious art form. This later vision wants opera to shed or suppress residues of its earlier life as ‘mere’ spectacle – ‘eye-candy’ for the decadent – so as to lay claim to a moral value associated with high art. But, as the history of operatic production shows, the form has a habit of betraying itself repeatedly, often, in fact, of appearing trivial and ostentatious (or merely spectacular) in precisely those moments at which it reaches for some kind of transcendence. The argument of this chapter traces aspects of this tension, in which opera is forever trying to transcend its character as spectacle, by making use of precisely those technologies that most obviously make it a spectacle. I will suggest that this paradoxical relation to theatrical technologies is what involves nearly all opera production in the ‘baroque’. To explain what I mean by this I will pursue a little further the analogy between Sellars’s production of Nixon in China and the early opera to which the term ‘baroque’ is more commonly applied. In these operas of the seventeenth century, mimetic representations of imaginary or mythical worlds appeared on stage in the form of paintings on two-dimensional panels. Additional effects – particularly, of course, the various narrative interventions of the deus ex machina type – could be achieved by the use of ‘flying machines’. These were elements of stage scenery which could be raised and lowered in and out of the stage, and which could thus carry gods and other narrative interventionists into the space of the spectacle. Both early opera itself and the scenographic practices associated with it have subsequently been assigned to the art-historical category of the ‘baroque’.2 This term, widely applied to a range of artistic practices (including music, painting, theatre, sculpture and architecture) from the late sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth century, is notoriously capacious in its application, almost to the point of uselessness, except perhaps as a shorthand periodization. Claude V. Palisca warns, for example, in his essay on the topic in The New Grove, that ‘Adoption of the term should not obscure the fact that there is no unity of either idiom or creative direction in this period.’3 Nevertheless, there are two aspects of baroque opera and scenography which stand over and above stylistic considerations, and which may be useful in developing further the connection between Sellars’s late twentieth-century production and the work of stage designers and producers of ‘baroque’ opera. First, the achievement of scenic effects by means of new stage technologies may be understood as spectacular demonstrations of the powers of human thought and imagination, at a time when humanist science was challenging the authority of religious doctrine. When Giacomo Torelli achieved a complete change of scenery in a single mechanical action by operating all the machinery from a central drum beneath the stage – at

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the 1641 performance, at the Teatro Novissimo in Venice, of Sacrati’s La finta pazza – he was displaying, both actually and metaphorically, his capacity to perform miracles and to create a world. Secondly, this kind of technological and creative display had a political dimension. In the initial phase of opera’s development, in the Florentine and Mantuan courts, productions served to glorify the ruler who had commissioned them and, as the form developed, became a key element in the politico-aesthetic repertoire of Europe’s absolutist courts from the Vatican to Versailles. As Ellen Rosand notes, the early use of opera as political spectacle in Florence and Mantua will ‘find analogues in Barberini Rome [and] find an echo later in the Paris of Louis XIV, where each one of Lully’s and Quinault’s trag´edies lyriques began and ended with an encomium to le roi soleil’.4 The value of retaining use of the term ‘baroque’ to describe such theatrical practices is that it still captures some sense of the particular relationship between illusion and power that is at work here.5 The idea that opera might, in its staging, demonstrate and affirm the capacity of the state, and of humans working for the state, to lay claim to mythic achievements – magical transformations, flight and space travel, creating whole worlds – seems to be revived, not without irony, in Sellars’s staging of Adams’s opera. The irony arises perhaps most pungently from our knowledge that the rulergod glorified in this opening sequence was later to fall spectacularly from grace as a result of a sordid combination of burglary and recorded telephone calls. Such irony is by no means incompatible with a baroque sense of the relationship between illusion and power, for in the baroque theatre the spectator is a willing accomplice in the fabrication of the illusion, and this feeling of being ‘in on the act’ is part of the theatrical pleasure. Power is displayed and asserted, yet simultaneously reveals itself to be the product of an illusion, a visual and mechanical invention of the human mind. ‘In a Torelli theater,’ claims Norman Klein, ‘these machines were designed to make a spectator feel complicit in two places at once – both as audience and as stage manager.’6 Spectatorial delight in the baroque theatre, then, is composed of two pleasures: the pleasure of being awed by the illusion, and the pleasure of having produced the awesome illusion oneself (both in that the spectator is conscious of her playful manipulation of her own perception in order to allow illusion its effect, and in the broader identifications such spectators might make with the human producers of such wonders). The baroque stage celebrates magical, superhuman, godly achievements, while, in the very same gesture, it delights in revealing them as illusion. The very act of opera production, then, might be understood as holding together in a single action the most grandiose claims and the most frank admission of the use of trickery to substantiate them. Indeed one might conclude that nearly all opera lives in this perpetual and perilous oscillation

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between aesthetic grandeur and mere kitsch, and that in its use of theatrical technology perhaps all opera is baroque at heart. How might this help us understand what is going on when the audience applauds the appearance of the plane in Nixon in China? What Sellars offers is a flying machine that simulates a flying machine: a simple scenic element that represents an aeroplane. In baroque opera the flying machine might reasonably be understood as a material and practical representation of opera’s own mission to transcend both the limits of stage representation and the fallen historical condition of post-mythic humanity judging itself against the powers and beauties of mythological antiquity. It also, clearly, represents human technological aspirations to bridge the gap between the mythological world and the real one. It constitutes an attempt to reach beyond this world and into the skies. Of course, in an opera first produced in 1987, dramatizing events of 1972, the meaning of such a representation of technological aspiration will be different. Sellars’s use of a baroque stage device points to a history of technological development: both because human flight has become an everyday matter and because manned space flight has just (at the time of the fiction) succeeded in leaving this world behind, in its symbolic claiming of the moon. At the same time it points, almost self-mockingly, to the limits of technological development in opera production. The old way is still the best way to represent a flying machine. It repeats the gesture of the baroque flying machine, in that it points simultaneously to what it can and what it cannot achieve: look what we can do / look what we wish we could do, but can’t. Herein lies at least part of the pleasure I experienced in London and, I assume, the delight that provoked the audience at the Houston premiere into applause for this simple scenic accomplishment. A further, and related, satisfaction arises, I think, from the bringing together of the two- and threedimensional elements, in which the stubbornly practical ‘real’ element of the steps enhances, through proximity and contact, the ‘reality effect’ of the meticulously painted two-dimensional ‘plane’. The delight comes from knowing the ‘plane’ is two-dimensional, but savouring the ingenuity (the production’s and our own) that allows us to take its two for three. It is clear that the simulation of three-dimensional objects (like buildings) in two dimensions (on stage flats) has been a core project for opera scenography since its inception. What is perhaps surprising, and needs some further explanation, is that such effects can continue to provoke admiration among audiences habituated to far more ‘convincing’ simulations of reality than those available to the public of the seventeenth century. This would seem to be an especially pressing question in relation to Nixon in China, an opera that presents itself as precisely attuned to ‘contemporaneity’ and concerned, at least in this opening scene, with the global effects of technologies of visual

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representation. What follows this spectacular arrival of the modern deities is Nixon’s opening aria celebrating the instant transmission of ‘News’, in which intercontinental air travel (‘We stopped in Hawaii for a day / And Guam, to catch up on the time’), the moon landing (‘I was put in mind / Of our Apollo astronauts’) and the ubiquity of television (‘The three main networks’ colors glow / Livid through drapes onto the lawn’) are all summoned up as emblematic of the ‘history’ being made here.7 As Peggy Kamuf suggests, this ‘history’ is in fact a symptom of a kind of endless a-historicity, in that it is, especially as presented in this opening scene of the opera, a ‘media event’: By ‘media event’ we have come to understand this sort of empty image in which the camera records its own intervention at the center of an action that is thereby thrown off-center in an endless divergence from itself. In this sense, media events do not ever happen; they only recur.8

A ‘media event’ may be readily detected, I would suggest, by the manic urgency with which it protests its historical significance. One familiar way in which ‘media events’ do this is musical. The music that introduces, and sometimes even underscores, television news, for example, is music in a constant state of rhetorical over-excitement, almost tripping over its own rhythmic feet in its haste to get to the point, yet forever announcing, like a demented herald, the earth-shattering to come, that must never come, always be coming. There is more than a passing echo of this in Adams’s music here, which seems to teeter on the edge of self-parody while still maintaining some of the rhetorical charge to which it probably, deep-down (Wagner-deep) aspires. Kamuf characterizes this music in precisely such terms: As if one were hearing the mechanical clatter of a newsroom, the background soundtrack of television news broadcasts, or the pulsing of a telegraphic signal as it used to be represented in the old newsreels . . . The rhythms and harmonics . . . are perfectly adjusted to these effects of telegraphic and televisual media, although one ought not invoke here any mimetic or representational model.9

This might lead a literal-minded producer to seek to represent visually that to which the music is ‘perfectly adjusted’. Indeed, considering the extensive use made by Sellars himself of just such technologies in other productions (such as his 1994 The Merchant of Venice for the Goodman Theatre, Chicago) and his own published thoughts on the future of opera, it is additionally surprising (as well as satisfying) that Sellars does not. The new technologies suggest new vocabularies; the new societies demand them. Is there an art form which is various and organic and subtle enough

164 Nicholas Ridout to comprehend the social imperatives and questions of identity that confront the next generation? Maybe it’s film. Probably it’s video. But if the issue finally arrives as the point of living people in a room together all at once, include film, press on with video, and let’s make opera.10

The implication seems to be that opera’s capacity to answer the social and aesthetic desires of a future generation, as imagined by Sellars, will depend upon its capacity to welcome the incorporation of film and video into its apparatus of production. The fact that he does not incorporate them in Nixon in China, when he clearly could, and where logic might suggest he should, is what tightens the specific signification of the ‘flying machine’ in such a way as to foreground the possibility that opera may be incapable of incorporating, aesthetically, something that is both technically and practically perfectly easy to accommodate. For lurking behind the ‘flying machine’ and the pleasure it brought is the suspicion that there is something in opera’s relationship to technology, or to technologies of representation more particularly, that is deeply troubled and problematic. Perhaps opera is in fact neither ‘various . . . organic . . . subtle enough’ to do what Sellars hopes it might. The pleasure derived from the ‘old way’ may be intimately associated with a historical knowledge about the impossibility of any ‘new way’ of doing it. Here again the suspicion that opera itself will always be baroque is not far away.

Technology and spectatorship To take forward this idea of opera as always baroque it seems worth turning briefly to consider a body of operatic work which might be said to represent an exemplary attempt to transcend the conditions of its own production in the service of a fully autonomous, philosophically serious artistic project; a project, furthermore, that no one should dare compare with the mere spectacle that theatrical technologies so easily produce, let alone think of as ‘baroque’. But even here, in the operas of Richard Wagner, the move to transcendence is invariably impeded by the way that production trips over its own technologies, and achieved only through the knowing coparticipation of spectators who, far from being overwhelmed or carried away – as Wagner, supposedly, intended – are actually just going along for the ride. Wagner’s contribution to the development of opera is routinely discussed as if his own productions in the Festspielhaus at Bayreuth (the theatre he had built specifically for this purpose) had actually realized the transformation of theatrical experience that Wagner apparently sought, with his plans for a darkened auditorium, a covered orchestra pit and other innovations

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designed to direct audience attention exclusively to the stage. What is decisively excluded here (in the fantasy of Wagnerian success) is the contingency, multifocality and sheer complexity of theatrical signification and spectatorial attention. The assumption that Wagnerian production ‘succeeds’ fails to account for the multiple ways in which theatrical representation always already ‘fails’. This means that Wagner’s work, as construed in much writing about it, tends to immerse, overwhelm and transcend in precisely the terms that Wagner desired, and, indeed, as Wagner’s own writings on the subject also sought to do. Even Patrick Carnegy, in a recent book devoted specifically to Wagner as an artist of the theatre, succumbs to the intended effect. He cites Wagner setting out what he imagined his innovations, particularly those of the covered orchestra pit and the double proscenium arch, would achieve. The new arrangement of stage and auditorium, Wagner wrote: reveals the distant scene to [the spectator] with the unapproachability of a dreamlike vision, while the spectral music, rising up from the ‘mystic abyss’ like vapours wafting up from the sacred primeval womb of Gaia beneath the Pythia’s seat, transports him into the inspired state of clairvoyance in which the scenic picture becomes the truest reflection on life itself.11

Commenting on this claim, Carnegy notes that ‘[w]ith allowance for a degree of poetic excess, this was an extraordinarily accurate representation of what was to be achieved in the completed Festspielhaus’.12 Yet he later qualifies what looks like a full endorsement for the effectiveness of Wagner’s scenic innovations, noting that ‘The “illusion” may have been far from perfect but was found by most visitors to have been as persuasive – within the conventions of representation accepted by contemporary audiences – as Wagner had wanted.’13 In other words it seems as though the audiences at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus were not really subjugated to the power of the illusion, but that, aware of conventions of representation, they went along with what was offered them, participating in its fabrication through their own perceptual activity. This suggests that the success of a theatrical technology does not depend entirely upon the technology itself, but upon the relationship it establishes with the spectators for whom its effects are intended. There is a reciprocal relationship between technology and perception which gives rise to specific historical spectatorial experiences. I would further suggest that in this relationship there is always a gap – a gap which it is the task of perception to manage – between transcendent ambition and the mundane reality of theatrical production. Thus the most spectacular moves in stage technology simultaneously transcend material constraints and point right at them. The complicity of the spectator (to use Klein’s term) in the production of illusion in opera is an essential component in the technology. That’s baroque.

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Jonathan Crary tracks how the widely accepted understanding of Wagner’s theatrical impact was discursively constructed. His consideration of Wagner is part of a wider investigation of the ways in which the visual technologies of the nineteenth century gave rise to new ways of understanding human perception; Crary’s work sees technology and perception in recipocal relations. Eug`ene V´eron sets the tone, Crary suggests, in 1878, writing that Wagner organized the theatrical event ‘in such a way that the spectator would be exclusively preoccupied with the spectacle and could not be distracted by foreign impressions . . . and nothing could divert their attention from the point on which it should be concentrated’.14 Crary goes on to show how this claim becomes ‘pervasive’ in writing about Wagner, offering as an exemplary case of such writing an article by Charles and Pierre Bonnier published in the Revue wagn´erienne in 1887: Detailing the well-known features that produced Wagner’s ‘mystical abyss’ – the multiplication of proscenium arches, the convex curvature of the ‘roof ’ concealing the orchestra, and the darkness of the theatre, the Bonniers describe a breakdown of standard perspectival expectations so that there is no rationalizable or metric relation between the position of a spectator and the events on stage. . . . This dissociation between stage and audience is further enhanced by the extreme contrast between the brightness of the stage and the darkness of the rest of the theater, which make the stage seem like ‘a luminous detached rectangle.’ This isolated zone of brightness, they insist, produces a fixation of the eyes on the same points throughout, and the gaze of the viewer can be ‘easily dominated.’ The overall organization of the ‘theatrical apparatus,’ they conclude, ‘compels attention and controls sensorial perception.’15

Ultimately, this leads, according to Crary, to the idea that Wagner’s theatre constitutes an early attempt to achieve, without the requisite technology, the effects on audiences that are normally attributed to cinema – those of the ‘phantasmagoria’.16 The ‘phantasmagoria’ was originally a kind of magic lantern show which produced images of ghosts, but the term was later adopted by Theodor Adorno to describe Wagner’s work in terms of a manipulation of images designed to conceal how they are produced. Adorno identifies such work more widely with the productions of the ‘culture industry’ and thus with the operation of the commodity in a capitalist economy, as a product which acquires a fantastical life of its own in the process of hiding the fact that it is the product of human labour. Crary cites Paul Souriau speculating that ‘perhaps a new Wagner will soon write an opera for the magic lantern – an opera of dreamlike music and fantastic and virtually imaginary tableaus’.17 By the beginning of the 1930s, however, the audience is no longer so easily dominated, if, that is, they ever really had been. To put it more

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precisely, new relations between technology and perception have given rise to new spectatorial experiences and expectations, and new ways of thinking and talking about those experiences have taken shape. In an article published in 1969, Theodor Adorno remarks that ‘about forty years ago, audiences began to chuckle about Lohengrin’s swan and the Germanic beards in The Ring’.18 The point here is not, really, that the beards ever fooled anyone. The beards here stand for theatre’s insistent inadequacy as an illusionistic medium, which was just as evident in Wagner’s day as it was in the 1930s or as it is today. Although significant advances in theatre lighting technology since Wagner’s day have greatly increased the theatre’s capacity to isolate, dazzle and otherwise overwhelm an audience, it remains the case that the conditions of both production and reception in theatre work strongly against the imposition of a hypnotic relation. Even in the darkened houses and among the disciplined publics of the twentieth-century theatre, both the ‘primacy of the social’19 as part of the theatre-going experience and the multiplicity of activities making demands upon the spectator’s attention prevent the kind of absorption that much film criticism attributes to cinema spectators. To put it simply, thinking about opera as though it were film allows criticism to develop a fantasy of an opera that ‘works’. Thinking about opera as theatre, on the other hand, permits an understanding of opera as never quite working, or not quite in this way. Instead of transporting the spectator almost against her will, opera depends upon the spectator collaborating with the technologies of theatrical production in a pleasurable experience of ‘failure’ to which I am continuing to attach the term ‘baroque’, and in which the ‘workings’ of technology are as much a part of the spectatorial experience as is the ‘work’ – the opera – itself.

Look, no hands Still, the notion that some kind of new technology – whether it is the fantasy technology of Wagnerian opera itself or something more mundane like the long-playing record – might save opera from the theatre and its inevitable ‘failures’ is remarkably persistent. In the 1969 essay from which I have already quoted above, Adorno argues for the long-playing record as an improvement, for opera, on the conditions of production that obtain in the opera house: It allows for the optimal presentation of music, enabling it to recapture some of the force and intensity that had been worn threadbare in the opera houses [by people chuckling about beards]. Objectification, that is, a

168 Nicholas Ridout concentration on music as the true object of opera, may be linked to a perception that is comparable to reading, to the immersion in a text . . . One of the essential properties of operas, particularly such as those from the later period by Wagner and Strauss, is long temporal duration: they are sea voyages. LPs provide the opportunity – more perfectly than the supposedly live performance – to recreate without disturbance the temporal dimension essential to operas.20

Key to this formulation is the notion that music is ‘the true object of opera’. This should not be taken simply to mean that it is the music that matters and the staging that is merely incidental (although, as we shall see, this is implicit in some views of contemporary opera production), but rather that the purpose and the subject matter of opera is the experience of music: from Orfeo to Die Meistersinger, by way of Die Zauberfl¨ote. For Adorno, the LP offers access to a complex engagement with opera-as-music, because it permits repetition and thus familiarity. The listener who possesses the LP is able to determine and manipulate the temporality of her experience, explore the opera as she might a novel, freed from the temporal constraints of ‘live performance’. The LP, and after it the CD, becomes the medium in which the opera –whose own temporality has exceeded the frame of the bourgeois ‘night out’ – finds itself in its proper form. That opera might find its historical destiny in the recording consumed at home is perhaps final confirmation of Souriau’s vision and Adorno’s own proposition that, in Wagner’s work, opera was aspiring to the condition of cinema: that its own full realization ultimately depended upon transcending the conditions of theatrical production. All this depends, of course, on a fidelity to the notion of opera as ‘the work’, rather than as ‘work’. What must be encountered, in the ideal performance (and most likely in the ideal circumstances that the theatre can never provide but which the living room sound system might) is ‘the work’ as the compositional achievement, in which the ‘work’ that has gone into its production is entirely occluded. In order for ‘the work’ of opera to ascend to its own formal destiny as ‘Opera’, it must somehow leave behind the divided labour through which it has come into being. In order to maintain its status as ‘the work’ of art, it must disavow the actual heterogeneity of its constitution. It must deny the extent to which different labour practices are essential to its production, just as the commodity, for Adorno, must hide its origins in human labour, and just as, again for Adorno, Wagner’s covered orchestra pit quite literally sought to make work (the production of musical sound by the orchestra) invisible. In the theatre this is very hard. It is not simply that the presence of both musical and dramatic/literary elements in the work is both audible and visible, however hard you try to hide it in devices such as covered orchestra pits. All kinds of other theatrical technologies and

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their associated labour keep obtruding. Thus beyond the division of compositional labour in the work (between composer and librettist), there is a division of production and performance labour (between conductor and director), and further divisions according to the industrial organization of the theatre itself (painters, electricians, carpenters, costume-makers) and their hierarchical stratifications (chief electrician, deputy stage manager, principal, chorus, assistant director). The passage of opera from the theatre to the record collection, on the other hand, is the passage from the scene of production to scene of consumption, in which the work of the work more readily disappears, and the contribution of labour to the value of the commodity is fetishized in the grasp of the collector/consumer. In the theatre, opera must work especially hard to secure such a passage and thereby maintain its position as art. Part of this work may be found deep in the rhetorical devices of public discourse on opera production today, in which enormous critical privilege (and institutional authority) is accorded to those working on the production of musical elements of the event, at the expense of those working on its theatrical realization. It is the theatrical producer (usually freelance) who routinely faces the contumely of the critical establishment, whereas it is the conductor (often part of the management of the house, if not its senior representative) who is generally understood as the guardian of ‘the work’. The ‘work’ of the producer is often construed as a challenge to the integrity of ‘the work’ itself, as a contamination by means of the introduction of heterogeneous elements of the purity of the operatic art. This phenomenon is usually understood to arise because theatrical producers or directors are forever introducing unnecessary, contentious or gratuitous interpretive strategies into the event, working, we are told, against the musical logic of the work, undermining, deconstructing and otherwise spoiling what would have been a perfectly good night out had they not been too clever by half and learned, instead, to leave well alone. This kind of discourse is at its most intense, perhaps inevitably given the profound self-identifications that seem to be at stake, in relation to productions of Wagner and, above all, of Wagner’s Ring. The true Wagnerian is almost always betrayed by the theatrical realization of the work. Bernard Levin, writing in The Times about the opening of G¨otz Friedrich’s production of Das Rheingold at the Royal Opera House in London, is exemplary in his distaste for the production and his admiration for the conductor: Wherever I went in the opera house, I could hear the same words again and again: ‘It’s all right if you keep your eyes closed’. Ah, but it was all right if you kept your eyes closed. The victor ludorum of this Ring is without doubt Bernard Haitink. It is customary to match new Ring conductors at Covent

170 Nicholas Ridout Garden against the two greatest post-war ones: Kempe and Solti, the first full of beauty and delicacy, the second all fire and pulse, both entirely valid. I rather think that from now on we shall be comparing those who come after to Haitink, who owes nothing to either of those two great exemplars, but has coined his own currency.21

The idea that you should keep your eyes closed in the opera house has become common currency among the opera-going public. While ‘Germanic beards’ are no longer viable, nothing offered in their stead has yet proved acceptable. Whatever treats may be in store for the ears, the eyes are always going to be sore. And it keeps getting worse. Three years later a new Ring cycle begins at the Royal Opera House, again conducted by Bernard Haitink, this time in a production by Richard Jones. Although some critics, including The Times’ own Rodney Milnes, hail the production for its dramatic intelligence and invention, Levin, just back from Bayreuth and already fuming about Kirchner’s production there, is thrown into fresh paroxysms of fury: hand on heart, I swear that when the respective two stupendous roars of rage came in Bayreuth and in Covent Garden which denoted the appearance from behind the curtains of the production team, I heard sounds that I had never heard in any opera-house before, and I hope will never hear again. For those sounds – one in placid Bavaria and one in even more placid WC2 – said as clearly as a champion elocutionist, that we had been swindled, and not only swindled, but piddled upon.22

It is clear from Levin’s rhetorical devices that it is ‘the work’ itself that is at stake: the idea that the audience has been ‘swindled’ rests upon the notion that there exists a known quantity to which they might feel themselves entitled, which has been maliciously replaced by something else, of lesser or negligible value. The value inheres in ‘the work’, which can only be devalued by the intervention of ‘the producer’. In the idea that the audience have been ‘piddled upon’ we hear the familiar ressentiment expressed towards elitist intellectuals on behalf of ordinary opera-goers: familiar from all the other ways in which the culturally and economically privileged bemoan the incessant assaults upon their rights and pleasures launched by their various bˆetes noires (bureaucrats, intellectuals, the state, Brussels). It is also a case of projection: to piddle on the audience is to piss on the work. In its enthusiasm for Haitink and its apparent hostility to Jones, the audience, at least in Levin’s estimation, appoints itself, along with the conductor, as co-custodian of ‘the work’, which is in constant danger from irresponsible management and producers bent on desecration. To be ‘piddled upon’ is to share with the work the indignity that, in an ungratefully vulgar contemporary world, marks (or even constitutes) its superior cultural value,

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upon which musicians and audiences alike are unanimously agreed. It is a mystery to Levin, though, how this holy alliance of singers, the ‘gentle’ conductor and the audience is always compelled, in a kind of masochistic fantasy, to accede to the will of the almighty ‘producer’: Why, when a new Ring is in contemplation, is the producer the figure to whom all must bow, and by whom conductors, singers and other riff-raff (including audiences, of course) are not consulted? When the Covent Garden Ring was about to be unfurled, Bernard Haitink, who was to be the conductor (and a marvellous conductor he was), gave an interview. Four times in that interview, he expressed most gently, as is his wont, anxiety about the production. Why had not the conductor been consulted, and regularly consulted, as the production took shape?23

What is actually showing up in this discursive trope is not a public hostility to interpretive innovation as such, but a structural cleavage in the mode of production. The conductor conducts the work: he is a mechanism for the transmission of that which is already presumed to exist. The producer, however, produces something that did not previously exist. As such, then, the work of the producer is in excess of and thus superfluous to ‘the work’ itself. The producer just gets in the way. The production stands between the work and the audience. In the visibility of its labour it can only be too much. In its deployment of the heterogeneity that constitutes the production of opera it unpicks the wholeness of the work. All that it can add is an undoing. It undoes opera as art. As Lawrence Kramer observes: Opera is no longer art, exactly; it is a heterogeneous patchwork of media contributions, no one of which has automatic priority in shaping either aesthetic value or cultural meaning.24

Kramer is quite right, of course (and perhaps his observation is another way of saying that opera is always baroque) in that there is no intrinsic reason why any of the particular media contributions should claim priority over the others. But once the realities of opera production in the theatre are taken into account, the ideology of the priority of the (musical) ‘work’ over its mere ‘production’ in the theatre ensures that it is the musical contributors who exercise hegemony. All attempts to preserve the integrity of ‘the work’ and of the form of opera as such will therefore proceed by means of the denigration of theatrical labour. The hierarchies whose apparent (and only apparent) overthrow is so garishly bemoaned by Bernard Levin remain firmly intact: it is in the hands of the conductor rather than the ‘ideas’ of the producer that ‘aesthetic value and cultural meaning’ ultimately reside. The outrage which greets the apparent inversion of this particular hierarchy rather confirms the ideological tenacity of the hierarchy itself. It is, like all

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ideological products, entirely natural, automatic. It rests upon a fantasy that can only be sustained if all evidence of the complex labours that went into the production of the performance are out of sight and out of mind. The problem with the technologies of the theatre is that they keep drawing attention to themselves and the labour they embody.

Showing your hand In this concluding section I want to explore what might be achieved by giving deliberate play to this tension between the work and its workings, between ‘opera’ and the technologies of theatrical production. From at least as long ago as the 1970s theatre has been using technologies of recording and reproduction – most notably video – in order to examine the nature of its own technologies of production. The act of introducing one technology, such as video, into the frame of another, such as the theatre, has the immediate and, for some, destabilizing effect of revealing the fact that the theatre itself is a technology, or at least an ensemble of technologies. It draws attention to the fact that the material presented has been ‘worked upon’, that it does not simply appear there. It gets in the way, one might say, of the kind of unmediated experience of ‘the work’ that Levin demands. This demand requires that we abandon the particular pleasures arising from the pleasurable oscillation between illusion and knowledge, between the grand and the kitsch,25 that, I have suggested, characterizes the experience of opera, and which makes it perhaps always already baroque. The work of the Wooster Group may be offered as an example of a practice that keeps this oscillation in play. A collective of artists working from a base in New York since the 1970s, the Wooster Group produces theatre in which technologies of mediation are central to a self-reflexive engagement with performance and representation.26 In recent productions – House/Lights (1998), To You, The Birdie! (2001), Poor Theatre (2004) and Hamlet (2006) – the company has used film and video as source material for performance. During this period the technique of attempting to copy, live and in the moment, film and video material screened during the performance has become increasingly prominent as both method and thematic of the work. Theatrical mimesis – theatre’s most basic technology – becomes the subject of both investigation and entertainment. In House/Lights, for example, it is only intermittently apparent to a first-time audience that much of the action on stage is produced by attempts to copy, move for move, scenes from a 1964 movie, Olga’s House of Shame, while also performing Gertrude Stein’s play Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights. In To You, The Birdie!, sources of such copying include dance performances by

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Martha Graham, visible to the performers on stage from TV monitors only partially visible to some of the audience. In Poor Theatre, however, the mimetic relationship facilitated by technologies of reproduction comes centre stage, as the company works towards a re-performance, from the video record, of the last 20 minutes of Jerzy Grotowski’s Akropolis. The black and white film is shown in a video copy projected onto screens so that it is fully visible to the audience. It would hardly be controversial to suggest that the kind of theatre that the Wooster Group is currently making is shaped by the ubiquity of technologies of audio-visual mediation and representation. One might go a little further and suggest that the use of these technologies is not just a matter of a response to their social ubiquity (their presence in every living room, for example) but also an engagement with changes in the mode of theatrical production itself. Hidden within both opera and theatre production is the widespread use of recording devices to assist in development, rehearsal and revival. The video camera has entered the space of theatre production: it is in the rehearsal room, along with the prompt book. Equally significant, but almost completely invisible within opera production, is the CD. The director and designer (and many other members of the production team, too) will routinely use recordings of ‘the work’ as the basis for imaginative engagement with it, discussion with one another. That is to say that knowledge of the work and experience of it are largely dependent upon technological reproduction. If we are to ask what opera today might be made of, we will find that these recordings are as much a part of the process as the score, the prompt book, the orchestral part or the costume drawing. Despite this, the technology of the LP or its successor, the CD – the means of production and consumption of opera through most of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries – never appears on the operatic stage. While theatre itself continues (as if it ever ceased) reflecting upon the nature of its own powers, it seems suddenly strange (if inevitable) that opera, which so often seems to gesture in its very content to just such reflexivity, has so far been unwilling, on the stage at least, to consider music (and its production) as its own ‘true object’.27 Perhaps the Wooster Group’s production of Francesco Cavalli’s La Didone 28 might be regarded as a response to Peter Sellars’s invitation – ‘include film, press on with video, and let’s make opera’. Cavalli’s opera, first produced in Venice in 1641, with a libretto by Gian Francesco Busanello, is a version of the classical story of Dido and Aeneas, in which the Trojan fugitive, on his way to fulfil his destiny and found the civilization that was to become Rome, lays anchor in Carthage where he falls in love with the queen, Dido. The Wooster Group’s La Didone links Cavalli’s opera with a 1965 Italian science fiction B-movie called Terrore nello spazio. In the

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film a group of human space travellers (played on stage by regular Wooster Group performers Kate Valk (Sanya), Scott Shepherd (Wess) and Ari Fliakos (Mark)) descends onto an alien planet whose inhabitants, who know that their planet is dying, try to kill and possess the bodies of the humans, in order to escape the planet and thus survive. As in earlier Wooster Group productions, actors produce action by imitating the action on screen (in this case flat screens with the Italian film playing). In addition live feeds are intercut with and superimposed onto the recorded material, so that the Dido material being performed live can inhabit the same screen as the movie action (both the film itself and its theatrical copy). This combination of material is no mere ironic juxtaposition of high opera with trashy entertainment, but, as we have seen, almost scrupulously faithful to the baroque origins of the work, in its simultaneous embrace of the exalted and the supposedly second-rate. More than that, the two works parallel one another in terms of both ideas and action. Both involve a visit to an alien environment (the planet, Dido’s Carthage) and the risk of being possessed (by aliens, by love) and compelled to abandon the journey. Both involve betrayal and death: once dead and possessed by aliens the space travellers appear unchanged, and work, unnoticed, to betray their (apparent) former companions to the alien plot, while in the Dido narrative Aeneas betrays Dido by leaving her to resume his journey (and to found Rome), and Dido seeks her death in despair at this betrayal (in Cavalli’s version Dido fails to complete her suicide and a happy ending is achieved in which she marries a former lover, Jarbas). In effect, each narrative is an allegory of the other. The two narratives fuse on screen at key moments: Dido’s suicidal aria doubling as Sanya’s horrified response to the vision of an alien monster, as Valk (as Sanya) and Hai-Ting Chinn (as Dido) are framed together. It is therefore the screen which performs acts of synthesis between elements of the theatrical production. Although there are moments of synthesis of this kind, in which music, gesture, video, acting are pulled together, their purpose is not to make one element or logic dominate, but rather to retain their distinction at the moment of combination. The work as a whole thus continues to function as what we have already seen Laurence Kramer call ‘a heterogeneous patchwork of media contributions’ or what Henry Sayre, writing about collaborations between John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg and between Robert Wilson, Philip Glass and Lucinda Childs, called ‘the new Gesamtkunstwerk’, productions that radically differ from the Wagnerian conception of the Gesamtkunstwerk in which the arts all fuse together, because in these new works ‘the arts co-exist in the same time and space independent of one another’.29 This is true not only of the constitutive elements (song, speech,

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gesture, image, etc.) but also of the two forms that precede and constitute the Wooster Group production, namely baroque opera and science fiction movie. The two forms contribute equally, their thematic material and narrative structures emerging as uncannily alike, and neither occupies a hierarchical position in relation to the other (as in the familiar high culture / low culture opposition). Unlike conventional allegory, in which a literal and surface narrative tends to be regarded as standing for an identically shaped narrative with more profound meanings, neither narrative claims precedence over the other. They are as shallow or as deep as each other. Both performance forms share, above all, a fascination with other worlds, with mythical or fantastical creatures (space aliens and witches as well as gods and space travellers). Opera, we might start to imagine, is not just about the revival of classical theatrical form (Greek tragedy, specifically) but it is also the expression of a desire for transcendence that is both heroic and comic: heroic in its representation of human beings with transcendent, superhuman or extraterrestrial powers or aims (those of the gods or those of NASA), and comic in the gap between the transcendence that it seeks to represent on the one hand, and the limitations of terrestrial and human technologies available to represent it on the other. In this sense, the ‘true object’ of opera might turn out to be ‘technology’ as such: human attempts to manufacture and use the tools that might permit them to transcend the limitations of earthly existence, tools that include real spaceships and spectacular fake aeroplanes, as well, of course, as opera itself. The ‘true object’ of opera, on this account, then, is opera: its own ambitions to produce, by means of the technologies of theatre, human self-transcendence as spectacle.

Notes 1 Martin Bernheimer, ‘Gala Opera Premiere: John Adams’ “Nixon in China”’, Los Angeles Times, 24 October 1987. 2 See, in particular, Heinrich W¨ollflin, Renaissance and Baroque, trans. Kathrin Simon (London: Collins, 1964). 3 Claude V. Palisca, ‘Baroque’, in Stanley Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Vol. II (Macmillan: London, 2001), p. 753. 4 Ellen Rosand, Opera in Seventeenth Century Venice: The Creation of a Genre (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991), p. 11. For more on baroque opera scenography see Dunbar H. Ogden, The Italian Baroque Stage: Documents by Giullio Trolli, Andrea Pozzo, Ferdinando Galli-Bibiena,

Baldassare Orsini (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1978). 5 For a more substantial historical consideration of the politics of baroque opera, see Geoffrey R. Martin, ‘The Role of Culture in Global Stuctural Transformation’, International Political Science Review, 18/2 (1997), pp. 153–66. 6 Norman Klein, From the Vatican to Vegas: A History of Special Effects (New York: The New Press, 2004), p. 30. 7 John Adams, Nixon in China: An Opera in Three Acts, libretto by Alice Goodman. Vocal Score (New York: Hendon Music, 1999), Act I, Scene i. 8 Peggy Kamuf, ‘The Replay’s the Thing’, in David J. Levin (ed.), Opera Through Other

176 Nicholas Ridout Eyes (Stanford University Press, 2002), p. 89. 9 Ibid., pp. 83–4. 10 Peter Sellars, ‘Exits and Entrances: On Opera’, Artforum, 26/4 (1989), pp. 23–4; 24. 11 Richard Wagner, cited in Patrick Carnegy, Wagner and the Art of the Theatre (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), p. 75. 12 Carnegy, Wagner, p. 75. 13 Ibid., p. 103. 14 Eug`ene V´eron, cited in Jonathan Crary, Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle and Modern Culture (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999), p. 252. 15 Crary, Suspensions of Perception, p. 254. 16 Theodor W. Adorno, In Search of Wagner, trans. Rodney Livingstone (London and New York: Verso Books, 1991), pp. 85–96. 17 Crary, Suspensions of Perception, p. 254. 18 Theodor W. Adorno, ‘Opera and the Long-Playing Record’, in Essays on Music, ed. Richard Leppert, trans. Susan H. Gillespie (Berkeley, London and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002), p. 284. 19 Gay McAuley, Space and Performance: Making Meaning in the Theatre (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999), pp. 248–52. 20 Adorno, ‘Opera and the Long-Playing Record’, p. 284. 21 Bernard Levin, ‘The Eyesore and the Ecstasy’, The Times, 21 October 1991. 22 Bernard Levin, ‘A Sound for Sore Eyes’, The Times, 11 November 1994.

23 Ibid. 24 Lawrence Kramer, Opera and Modern Culture: Wagner and Strauss (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press), 2004, p. 26. 25 This is the logical conclusion to be drawn from the ideologies implicit in Levin’s position. 26 For more on the Wooster Group, see David Savran, Breaking the Rules: The Wooster Group 1975–1985 (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1988); Johan Callens (ed.), The Wooster Group and Its Traditions (New York and Oxford: Peter Lang, 2005); and Andrew Quick (ed.), The Wooster Group Work Book (London and New York: Routledge, 2007). 27 I am posing this as a problem for the production of existing, canonical opera. A wide range of post-operatic experimentation has of course engaged with questions of technology, mediation and representation in a variety of ways (Stockhausen, Cage, Reich, Ashley, Goebbels, Berio), but the forms of these experiments have generally not made their way back into the older repertoire as part of the standard apparatus of operatic production. 28 At the Kaaitheater in Brussels, as part of the 2007 Kunstenfestival des Arts. 29 Henry Sayre, The Object of Performance: American Avant-Garde since 1970 (University of Chicago Press, 1989), p. 109.

part three


8 The dramaturgy of opera laurel e. zeiss

Opera is a multivalent art form: it combines dramatic and literary traditions with vocal and instrumental music and the visual and plastic arts to tell a story. One recurring question in opera studies is exactly how do these diverse modes of expression interact with one another? In an art work that brings together multiple, and possibly competing, expressive ‘systems’ what creates structure and makes an opera cohere? Is the poetry the primary purveyor of narrative and form? Is the music the chief dramatic and structural agent? If so, do recurring melodies or tonalities take primacy in determining form? Or should we be concerned with formal coherence at all? How critics and musicologists have answered the above questions – in fact, even the questions raised – depends upon which of opera’s domains has been given precedence and what analytical approach has been taken. At various points in opera studies’ history, incongruencies and frictions between expressive systems have been smoothed over in favour of demonstrating synthesis, tonal progressions have received more attention than texts, thematic relations across a work more priority than individual numbers. Which parameter has been used as a starting point has resulted in a number of seemingly conflicting, yet overlapping, findings to questions of form. In short, opera’s musico-dramatic structures stand in counterpoint to one another, a counterpoint that the field of opera studies itself reflects.

Dramatic and literary structures Because opera is a drama enacted on a stage, it shares some structural devices with spoken plays. Operas, like plays, frequently are divided into separate acts and scenes, divisions that can be emphasized by pauses or intervals, set changes, musical interludes and the like. Yet ‘opera’, as composer Virgil Thomson rightly claims, is more than ‘a play with music laid on’.1 Its multifaceted nature prompts, demands even, structures that differ from both instrumental music and spoken drama. Firstly, the sustained tones of singing take more time than regular speech. Therefore, as poet-librettist Dana Gioia notes, ‘opera demands immense narrative compression’;2 and, as Verdi advised his librettist Francesco Maria [179]

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Piave, ‘the poetry can and must say all that the prose does, and in half the words’.3 Secondly, the sounds of the words matter. Admittedly, sonic qualities play a role in dramatic poetry as well, but in opera sounds have a practical component because they impact performability. It is difficult to sing high pitches, for example, on certain vowels. Additionally, in many styles of opera, unlike in a play, characters ‘speak’ simultaneously, sometimes at great length. Lastly, operatic conventions, particularly musical ones, also shape the work. Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart’s collaborator, addresses some of the above challenges in the preface to Le nozze di Figaro, which he adapted from Le Marriage de Figaro a controversial French play by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais. Da Ponte remarks: I did not make a translation of this excellent comedy, but rather an adaptation or, let us say, an extract. To this end, I was obliged to reduce the sixteen characters of which it consists to eleven, two of which may be performed by a single person and I had to omit, apart from an entire act, many a very charming scene and a number of good jests and sallies with which it is strewn, in place of which I had to substitute canzonettas, arias, choruses, and other forms and words susceptible to music.4

So how does a librettist make an opera’s words ‘susceptible to music’? By employing many of the same literary devices that poets use – rhyme and metre, assonance, alliteration and anaphora (beginning verses with the same word or phrase). A number of scholars, such as Tim Carter and John Platoff, have insisted on the importance of understanding dramatic and poetic structures as starting points for the consideration of operas. Indeed, Carter writes that ‘One might plausibly write a history of opera on the basis not of its composers but, instead, of its librettists. Arguably, they were the driving force behind many of the genre’s developments in subject matter, plot and even structure.’5 As a result, the work of such scholars questions many long-held assumptions about operatic forms. Their analyses of opera buffa reveal that many structures, particularly musical contrasts that were previously attributed to the composer, actually stem from the libretto.6 Platoff’s study of buffa arias, for instance, touches on all the elements mentioned in Da Ponte’s preface and demonstrates how poetic devices shape these numbers. Many contain a list or a ‘catalogue’ of some kind, which is emphasized through anaphora and rhyme. The texts usually progress through regularly metred stanzas to more rambling, free constructions, and from longer line lengths to shorter ones. As Platoff notes, ‘sentences give way to phrases, then to one- or two-word groups’.7 The poetry, then, helps create a sense of acceleration to a climactic epigram. Musical devices, such as shorter and shorter phrases based on repetitive rhythms, follow suit. Leporello’s ‘Catalogue’ aria in Mozart’s Don

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Giovanni, and Don Giovanni’s own ‘Fin ch’han dal vino’ both exemplify this form. Poetic structures therefore guide dramatic and musical ones. Thus the poet may alter the rhyme scheme or line lengths to signal a changed dramatic situation or the entrance of a new character, especially in lengthier ensembles. Metre and prosody – the number of syllables per line and where the accentuated syllables fall within the line, especially the location of the final accented syllable – may also determine the rhythmic and harmonic structures of the music. In Italian libretti, for instance, the penultimate syllable is customarily accented (verso piano). Poets interweave versi piani with lines that conclude with an accented syllable (verso tronco) to create variety and delineate poetic structures. This fosters two- or four-bar units, with cadences occurring on accented syllables. Many opera libretti alternate between stanzas with metre and rhyme and less structured verse. Throughout much of opera’s history, metred and rhymed poetry was customarily rendered as melodic arias and ensembles. In some eras, certain verse forms were allied with specific musical forms. Two short stanzas customarily signalled a da capo aria, three contrasting stanzas a two-tempo form, interlocking couplets a duet, and so on. Blank verse and prose, on the other hand, prompted more speech-like, declamatory music and consequently different types of musical structures. Arguably the irregular line lengths and accentuations in Wagner’s libretti allowed him to move from separate numbers to more motivically driven throughcomposition (see page 191), what he called ‘endless melody’.8 Thus the words provide the basic framework for the narrative and the music, on both the macro- and micro-levels.

Music and text combined: arias, ensembles and recitative While some operatic criticism focuses on libretti,9 the music in an opera obviously plays a central expressive and structural role. Indeed, the belief that music serves as the primary dramatic and formal agent pervades opera studies. Many commentators assert, as Joseph Kerman does, that an opera’s music ‘determine[s] the dramatic form’ and provides the principal ‘articulation[s] . . . from point to point and in the whole’.10 One common dramatic ‘articulation’ that the music enhances is the alternation between reflection and action via the juxtaposition of more musically stable passages with those that are less so. Moments of reflection and intense emotional reactions often have been (and still are) configured as arias, the musical equivalent of a monologue. Depending on the style of opera, action and dialogue can be musically rendered as ensembles, as

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recitatives, or by withdrawing music altogether and shifting to ordinary speech. Monologues: arias

Certain styles of opera depend extensively upon arias. Dramatically, these sections reveal the subjective perspective of a single character. Arias often depict a character’s internal reactions to external events. In fact, in the 1700s dramma per musica, what we now call opera seria, featured one extended soliloquy after another. In this way, opera resembles a novel with a thirdperson narrator more than a play; the audience is privy to the characters’ private thoughts, thoughts which might not be spoken aloud in real life but that are musically voiced. Particularly in serious works, arias foster the audience’s identification with the characters’ dilemmas and/or suffering. Musically, these extended passages for solo singer feature more sustained, lyrical vocal lines accompanied by the orchestra and often have a clearly audible pulse. Particularly during the late 1600s through the 1800s, arias also were more harmonically stable than the surrounding music because they started and concluded in the same key. Musical coherence was and is created via tonal structure, repetition of melodic and rhythmic material, or other means. Internal conflicts or debates (often a feature of operatic plots) are delineated via contrast – departures from the aria’s home key, new melodic material, even a new tempo or metre. One strand of opera studies has focused on the structures of arias, some writers extending structural analysis to consider how individual numbers follow or depart from conventional musical forms. A chain of analysts has investigated the phrase structures or ‘lyric prototypes’ in Rossini’s and Verdi’s arias, for example.11 Another thread is how musical structures intersect with verbal content and dramaturgical functions. Mary Hunter’s study of opera buffa arias considers formal patterns, but also how these connect to representations of class and gender; James Hepokoski addresses similar questions in his examination of the generic and musical references in the dying Violetta’s ‘Addio del passato’ in Verdi’s La traviata, suggesting, for instance, that its faltering waltz rhythm refers back to Violetta’s heyday as a society courtesan.12 Both Gilles de Van and Carolyn Abbate have addressed how narrative arias that present a ‘story’ within the opera (such as Senta’s Ballad in Wagner’s Der fliegende Holl¨ander), employ strophic forms, with the same tune for each verse, to convey a sense of the primal and inevitable.13 Arias may have other musical and dramatic functions, in addition to those already mentioned. If a composer employs a lot of textual repetition in an aria, its dramatic purpose shifts from conveying the content of the text to portraying the depth of the overriding emotion perhaps, and/or to demonstrating the skill of the singer. In other words, instead of highlighting

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the semantic content, what is being said, attention turns to how the aria is saying it and/or how deftly it is being performed. The multiple soliloquies of opera seria have dual purposes. It was customary for each of the main characters to have five to seven arias. These numbers can reveal different facets of the character or, depending on the plot, a character’s persistent rage or grief. At the same time, they also showcase different aspects of the singer who sings them – the compass of the performer’s voice and performative skills. In other words, music, particularly the power of the voice, trumps the words and narrative function. Dialogues: ensembles, recitative and speech

Opera, obviously, does not rely on monologues alone. Drama requires conflict, usually conflict between characters not just within them. Several genres of music regularly depict interactions between characters. Ensembles

Unlike in a play or a movie, in an opera more than one character can ‘speak’ intelligibly at the same time. These passages, known as ensembles, range from two or three to even eight or nine characters singing simultaneously. Ensembles typically convey conflict between characters and/or its resolution. However, external dialogues may alternate with internal reactions or simultaneous monologues. While Eboli, Filippo and Rodrigo may sing together in Verdi’s Don Carlos, they are not ‘speaking’ to each other: Eboli expresses remorse for betraying the queen, Filippo the king curses his mistake, and Rodrigo decides the time has come for overt political action. Similarly, when Prince Ramiro and Cenerentola first encounter each other in Rossini and Ferretti’s version of the Cinderella tale, the two characters express their inner rapture before conversing briefly. The duet returns to internal reflections during its final section. This duet exemplifies another frequent dramatic and musical process in presenting alternating individual statements that then are layered or combined in some fashion. Contrasting melodic and rhythmic material underscores characters who hold conflicting perspectives. Shared material, particularly when sung in parallel thirds and sixths, evokes agreement or a shared goal. As Ferrando attempts to seduce Fiordiligi during the duet ‘Fra gli amplessi’ in Mozart’s Cos`ı fan tutte, for example, each character challenges the other’s tonality, tempo and metre. When Fiordiligi finally succumbs, however, divergent material and musical tension give way to homogeneity and tonal stability. Ensembles may also depict characters brought together by a shared circumstance or entangled in the same catastrophe. Dead Man Walking (Jake Heggie, 2000), an opera about a man on death row and those affected by his actions, contains a sextet near the end of the first act between various

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characters who are about to appear before the pardon board. The families of the victims’ parents want the prisoner to be executed, the inmate’s mother wants his life to be spared, and the nun who has been visiting the prisoner tries to comfort them all. Different musical ideas, underpinned by repetitive rhythms in the orchestra, converge but do not clash. The music underscores that while the murderer’s and the victims’ families hold opposite positions, all face loss and grief.14 The assessment of ensembles has been a contested subject in opera studies, in part because they reflect how opera’s various domains may not align cleanly. Often these passages end with stable music that returns to the initial tonality or arrives clearly on a new one. Moreover, characters may sing similar music even if they are in disagreement with each other or are experiencing contrasting emotional reactions. Why does this happen? The music requires resolution and stability even if the dramatic situation does not. Harmonic instability, at least before the late 1800s, was expected to resolve. Yet, as Roger Parker and Carolyn Abbate point out, harmonic resolutions do not always coincide with dramatic ones. The much-lauded Act II finale of Le nozze di Figaro, for instance, returns to the ‘home’ tonality of E flat major for a considerable stretch of time and at a considerable volume, even though the action depicts two opposing groups.15 Additionally, the various musical domains within an ensemble also can seem out of sync. In his assessment of the same finale, James Webster concedes that the passage’s tonal stability appears to be at odds with the dramatic situation, but adds that its constancy seems contradicted by other musical gestures such as repeated dissonances over a tonic pedal, syncopations, and abrupt changes in textures, dynamics and rhythms. He asks whether, ‘in fact, one might well feel that there are too many strong cadences at the end of Act II, too hectically cascading over each other for effective closure’.16 While analysts may differ on how opera’s systems interact within ensembles, one school of critics advocates doing away with ensembles altogether. Richard Wagner and, consequently, many later composers and aestheticians have eschewed simultaneous utterances in favour of dialogic or monologic forms, arguing that ensembles impede dramatic progress and verisimilitude.17 Scholars also have tended to view ensembles that highlight musical heterogeneity, such as the Quartet in Verdi’s Rigoletto, as more ‘dramatic’, and ones that are more homogeneous in character, such as the Sextet in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor or the Quartet in Beethoven’s Fidelio, as less so. Melodic and rhythmic heterogeneity, the argument goes, constitutes a closer union between words, action and music. Carl Dahlhaus, however, asserts that ensembles in which characters sing the same or similar melodies are just as dramatic, since they ‘accentuate the astonishment common to all’ or, like the Dead Man Walking sextet described above, they

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foreground a ‘common feeling of being trapped in a situation they cannot unravel’.18 To him, they represent one of opera’s advantages. Such moments in a spoken play would be fleeting. Music, he argues, can extend ‘a fraught silence . . . [and] highly charged feelings . . . long enough for the emotional confusion to sink in fully’ and grant these moments their proper emotional and narrative weight.19 While Wagner implies that music’s ability to create ‘resounding silence’ applies only to orchestral sounds, Dahlhaus extends this capability to ensembles.20


Recitative also reflects opera’s multivalent nature. If music sometimes overshadows the words in ensembles and arias, in recitatives the opposite can seem true: words, action and convention trump music. The syllabic textsetting, melodic contours and brief, irregular rhythms imitate those of speech. Because recitative has been perceived as undramatic, ‘half-music’, it largely has been ignored by analysts. When taken into consideration, though, recitative can add fresh perspectives on a work’s structure and its dramaturgy. Both Wendy Heller and Beth Glixon argue, for example, that Monteverdi’s confinement of Nero’s abandoned empress Ottavia to recitative in L’incoronazione di Poppea serves a crucial dramatic purpose. To Heller, the genre serves to highlight Ottavia’s ‘lack of desirability’, especially in comparison to the ‘languid chromaticism’ and the ‘florid melodiousness’ displayed by the opera’s other female characters, Poppea and Drusilla.21 While Heller suggests that recitative renders Ottavia unsympathetic and unattractive, Glixon takes a different point of view. She asserts that the contrast between the austerity of Ottavia’s music and the easy beauty of Poppea’s portrays Poppea’s tuneful rhetoric as being ‘“full of air” . . . persuasive only in a fleeting evanescent way’.22 Although they arrive at different conclusions, both writers acknowledge recitative’s central role in conveying the conflict between fidelity and pleasure that courses through the opera. Even though recitative may sound improvised or as lacking melody and structure, it frequently contains motivic repetitions and an overall tonal or modal trajectory. Recitatives, particularly orchestrally accompanied ones, also may quote material from a previous number or foreshadow a section to come. As Heller has demonstrated, motifs from Ottavia’s Act I lament resurface in her later farewell to Rome, ‘Addio Roma’.23 To give another example, the accompagnato that precedes Elettra’s aria Act I ‘Tutte nel cor’ in Mozart’s Idomeneo lays the groundwork for one of the aria’s distinctive features – a reprise that begins, by eighteenth-century standards, in the ‘wrong’ key. The return of the A section commences in C minor, a step

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below the tonic D. Practically every phrase of the prior recitative reiterates material a major second below or above its original statement.24 Another recurring debate in opera criticism is why have recitative at all? Why not incorporate speech? Recitative provides contrast, yet helps maintain the illusion that characters are ‘speaking’ in song. Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s explanation reflects this aesthetic: An opera which would be only an unbroken sequence of airs would tire almost as much as a whole single air of the same length. We must divide and separate the airs by words; but these words should be modified by music. The ideas should change, but the language must continue the same. This language being once given, to change it in the course of a piece would be to speak half French, half German. The passage from speech to song, and reciprocally, is too unequal; it shocks the ear and verisimilitude at the same time . . . Now the recitative is the means of uniting song and words; it is that which separates and distinguishes the airs, which rests the ear, astonished by what preceded, and disposes it to taste what follows: in sum, ’tis by the assistance of the recitative that what is only dialogue, recital, narration in the drama may be rendered without going out of the given language, and without displacing the eloquence of the airs.25

Even so, some genres of opera, such as op´era comique, operetta and Singspiel, incorporate speech rather than recitative. In certain eras and national traditions, the use of spoken dialogue differentiates lighter works from grander serious ones. In some cases, composers and critics consider a particular language too unwieldy for recitative. Many German writers from the 1700s, for instance, assert that their mother tongue lacks the ‘good accents’ and ‘singing quality’ needed to make recitative intelligible.26 Other writers, like John Gay in his preface to The Beggar’s Opera, suggest that whilst it is perfectly normal for people to sing songs in real life, speech is more natural for representing conversational exchanges or conducting business.27 Speech and m´elodrame

One of the advantages of speech is that it takes less time than singing, so more information can be conveyed in a shorter amount of time. The original version of the opera Carmen, for instance, employs spoken dialogue and, as Susan McClary points out, these spoken exchanges reveal more about Don Jos´e’s background, including a propensity for violence.28 Frequently, the shift from spoken dialogue to full-fledged music signals a heightened emotional response. To continue with Carmen, Don Jos´e, unlike the other characters, speaks rather than sings throughout much of the first act; it is not until Mica¨ela brings him a letter from his mother that he is moved to song. This sudden outburst, combined with the earlier disclosures

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about his past, reveals a gap between his public and his private personae and suggests that he has been holding his emotions in check. It also foreshadows impetuous decisions to come.29 Recitativo obbligato, parlante, arioso and other shades of grey

Depending on the prevailing aesthetic of the time, an opera may or may not feature strongly contrasting musical styles and the dramaturgical functions of various types of music may or may not be sharply delineated. Friedrich Neumann’s study of eighteenth-century theoretical treatises shows that while early in the century an aesthetic of contrast (as much difference as possible between recitative and aria) prevailed, by the end of the century theorists advocated less stark transitions between arias, ensembles and the surrounding music.30 The music of composers such as Gluck, Traetta, Jomelli, Mozart and Salieri reflects this shift. Recitativo obbligato (orchestrally accompanied recitative) and parlante (declamatory vocal lines underscored by melodic orchestral music) became much more common. Gluck, Mozart and Rossini, for instance, incorporate various ‘shades’ of orchestrally accompanied recitative. At times, the strings merely sustain sostenuto chords underneath the voice, a texture that has been called a ‘numinous accompagnato’.31 The orchestra also can alternate with the vocal line, its brief interjections acting as audible punctuation marks to the voice’s statements. The instruments may also have longer phrases that can return in varied form over the course of a scene.32 Accompagnato also reveals how perceptions of musical textures can shift over time. Modern critics tend to view recitative as a single category and associate it almost exclusively with dialogue and narrative, while eighteenth-century theorists emphasized the expressive function of orchestrally accompanied recitative over its narrative role. Almost uniformly, writers of the 1700s describe accompagnato as a genre whose primary purpose is not to give plot information but to depict characters in volatile emotional states.33 Shifting musical aesthetics meshed with or were perhaps prompted by changes in narrative structures. As Scott Balthazar has shown, the self-examination and internal moral dilemmas that dominate Metastasio’s libretti were gradually replaced by plots driven by ‘extended sequences of consequential events’.34 Characters began to be developed via onstage actions (rather than reflective soliloquies or second-hand accounts of events), including planning future actions that come to fruition later in the story, making cause and effect more readily apparent.35 This change in how narratives were constructed inevitably led to changes in musical structures. Semplice, recitative sparsely accompanied by the basso continuo, gradually faded from the scene. Decreased reliance on recitative coincided

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with increased reliance on orchestral music as a structural and narrative tool.

Atmosphere, continuity, interiority and narration: the role of the orchestra Perhaps more than any other domain in an opera the orchestral music can take on a wide range of structural and dramaturgical roles. Its main purpose may be to provide harmonic and rhythmic support for the vocal lines, as in bel canto arias whose melodies require intense listening. Even in this, though, the orchestral material can vary a great deal; it can double the voice, present rhythmically independent material that interlocks with the vocal line, or offer its own countermelodies. Because the orchestra itself combines different timbres, its music may encompass all three of these functions by parcelling them out to different instrument groups. In addition to interacting with the vocal line, the orchestral music may also interact directly with the words, ‘illustrating’ the text by ‘painting’ the semantic content of specific words or phrases. Even when not tied to specific words, the orchestral music often establishes atmosphere and mood, or occasionally geographical context. Contrasting tone colours in Monteverdi’s Orfeo differentiate the underworld from the upper one, for instance. Preludes and interludes in nineteenthcentury and twentieth-century operas frequently set the scene. The action of Puccini’s Il tabarro, for example, takes place primarily on a barge on the river Seine. The rocking prelude in 12 features a rising and falling 8 melody that mimics the ebb and flow of the water’s currents. Similarly, the sweeping gestures and wide tonal space that open La fanciulla del West are intended to portray the breadth of the California forests; the prelude also contains a cake-walk, a dance associated with America at the turn of the nineteenth/twentieth century. The latter becomes associated with banditin-disguise Dick Johnson. Thus, the overture may foreshadow future events by presenting themes that become significant later in the drama, either literal melodies and/or other musical and dramatic conflicts. The overture to Don Giovanni does both. In addition to literally introducing music that will be heard during the opera’s denouement, its juxtaposition of minor and major, and serious and comic styles permeates the rest of the work. Similarly, Carmen’s prelude aurally enacts the conflicts between carefully prescribed order and its transgression, the societal majority and the Other that figure so strongly in the work.36 In addition to preludes and interludes, orchestral music may come to the forefront to depict external action, especially music that the characters

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themselves hear as music, such as marches or dances, or it may be deployed to create ‘sound effects’ (the sounds of ‘cannons’ in Tosca, for example). Orchestral material can have practical functions as well; a postlude gives a character time to exit, for instance, or to accomplish some other stage action. From the Romantic age onward, however, instrumental music in an opera frequently denotes interiority. This practice reflects a larger trend during the 1800s of viewing instrumental music in general as capable of conveying the ineffable – spiritual or emotional states that lie beyond words. Wagner’s claim in his treatise Oper und Drama outlines this perspective, one that has greatly influenced operatic analysis: The orchestra has its own peculiar, its endlessly expressive faculty of speech which it indisputably possesses . . . the faculty of uttering the unspeakable. That which poetry could not speak out is imparted to the ear precisely by the language of the orchestra.37

Indeed, in some cases, the orchestral music seems to represent the character’s subconscious – what the character is truly thinking and/or what the character cannot yet verbalize. Puccini uses this technique prominently several times in Tosca. Two syncopated and chromatic motifs underscore Angelotti’s frantic search for a hiding place. After the painter Cavaradossi offers to help the escaped prisoner, Cavaradossi’s lover Tosca enters to set up an assignation. While the two converse, the orchestra sounds motifs associated with Angelotti, indicating that the painter has more pressing concerns. When Tosca is questioned concerning the whereabouts of the fugitive later in the opera, the motif associated with his hiding place emerges in the orchestral music before she finally reveals his whereabouts. The orchestra then acts as an omniscient narrator – one who knows all, sees all, and can express it. In fact, Wagner likened the orchestra to the oracle at Delphi.38 Rather than an omniscient narrator, some ‘read’ the orchestral material as an independent persona, who perhaps acts as a sympathetic listener or interrogator to the character and his or her vocal line. Edward Cone and James Webster argue that the vocal line and orchestral music together constitute the authorial voice of the composer.39 The characters, perhaps, see and hear ‘as in a glass darkly’: the composer, the analyst and the audience ‘face to face’. Carolyn Abbate, on the other hand, takes a more postmodern, less author-centred approach. Drawing on the literary theories of M. M. Bakhtin, she suggests that operatic music ‘speaks’ polyphonically, in the sense of presenting many different voices, including a purely musical one.40

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According to Wagner, the orchestral material is what makes his operas cohere: ‘The orchestra thus takes an unbroken share, supporting and elucidating by every hand: it is the moving matrix of the music, from whence there thrives the uniting bonds of expression.’41 The orchestral music can take on a structural role within an opera, by presenting recurring material that acts as a frame for the voice and a signpost or, more aptly, an ‘earpost’ for listeners. Recurring material can be either local or global; thus, as with the libretto, the orchestral material shapes a work’s structure on both the micro- and macro-levels. The ritornello in a baroque da capo aria, for instance, initiates and closes the aria thereby separating it from the surrounding recitative; segments of it may also alternate with vocal statements during the aria’s course. Orchestral material can also provide continuity over a wider span of music, particularly if the vocal line is more declamatory in nature. In Jan´acˇ ek’s operas, for example, where the syllabic setting of the vocal lines conforms closely to the rhythms and inflections of Czech speech, the orchestra frequently repeats one or two motifs across a scene, continuity in the orchestral fabric balancing irregularities in the vocal line. Motifs may be confined to a single scene or they may reappear later. In operas by Wagner, Puccini, Britten and others, motifs may recur throughout an opera (or operas in the case of the Ring cycle). Wagner’s cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen and his other late works derive much of their music from reiterating a complementary collection of motifs in various dramatic contexts. Short melodies or melodic fragments, dubbed leitmotifs, or guiding motifs, by Wagner’s defenders, serve as unifying structural devices, but also accrue symbolic meanings as they become associated with a specific person, place, object or idea. Leitmotifs acquire their associations in a variety of manners. They may accompany the entry of a character or the description of an object in the vocal line, or they may underscore stage action. Sometimes the melodies are heard in the orchestra first and gain a more precise meaning much later. In Die Walk¨ure, for instance, the leitmotif known as the ‘love theme’ is reiterated in the orchestra throughout the first act whenever Sieglinde and Siegmund look at each other, yet its meaning is not verbally articulated until the two reveal their attraction to each other at the act’s close. Leitmotifs are rhythmically and melodically distinctive enough to be recognizable, even when layered with other motifs, but also adaptable enough to transform. In many cases, composers do not simply restate the leitmotifs in their original form; they vary them orchestrally, harmonically and rhythmically. As mentioned above, leitmotifs can serve to ‘elucidate’ a character’s internal thoughts, but also help depict a person’s maturation and/or the long-term consequences of prior events. The opposite can also be true. In Pell´eas et M´elisande Debussy deliberately chose to retain M´elisande’s motif in its original form for dramaturgical purposes: ‘Notice that the main motif

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which accompanies M´elisande is never altered. It comes back in the fifth act unchanged in every respect because in fact M´elisande always remains the same and dies without anyone . . . having understood her.’42 Recurring motifs may also have broader, less concrete associations, such as recalling an earlier moment in the drama. In addition, their referential nature may also shift or even fade over the course of the work. Wagner’s statement, ‘the orchestra thus takes an unbroken share, supporting and elucidating by every hand’ and creates ‘a moving matrix’, also alludes to an opera’s overall structure: is it primarily, as he would have it, ‘unbroken’ and through-composed or separated into a series of ‘numbers’? Both approaches have implications for how the audience perceives time moving within a work.

Numbers, through-composition and temporality Operas can be an assembly of musical units referred to as ‘numbers’, usually arias and ensembles that have clear beginnings and endings and often contain some kind of internal musical repetition. Like building blocks in different colours and shapes that can be stacked or glued together to create a tower or another object, these musical sections when presented sequentially with transitions create the opera as a whole. Yet because numbers sound musically complete, they also can be extracted from broader dramatic context and performed as concert pieces, or another aria can be substituted, a common practice in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.43 One debate in opera studies is how interdependent and interrelated these ‘building blocks’ are. A number of studies examine how conventional musical forms, as well as the strengths and preferences of the singers who premiered the roles, influence ‘numbers’ just as much as if not more than dramaturgical concerns.44 Through-composed operas reside on the other end of the structural spectrum. Through-composition, as the term suggests, stresses musical and dramatic continuity. Rather than sharply contrasting lyrical units linked via recitative or speech common in ‘numbers’ operas, through-composed works attempt to keep the action and music pressing forward without pauses. Vocal lines tend to be more declamatory. Cadences are downplayed; musical textures are more homogeneous and offer few or no applause points. Between these two extremes lies much middle ground. Even Wagner’s works arguably contain numbers (e.g. the Liebestod in Tristan und Isolde, or ‘Der Augen leuchtendes Paar’ in Die Walk¨ure). Yet when it comes to the assessment of musico-dramatic structures by critics, middle ground can be difficult to locate. As previous sections in this essay have touched upon, Wagner’s operas, his critical writings and

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his aesthetics have cast a long shadow over the field of opera studies. Wagner’s advocacy of through-composition, recurring themes, continuous orchestral accompaniment and declamatory vocal lines has coloured perceptions of operas from all eras and all types of repertories. Wagnerian ideals have dominated what domains have been examined and which musico-dramatic structures have been privileged. As Roger Parker and Carl Dahlhaus note, Wagnerian through-composition has been treated as a ‘logical’ and ‘inevitabl[e]’ historical development. ‘Numbers’ operas, therefore, have been treated as ‘precursor[s]’ to supposedly more ‘naturalistic’ forms, despite the fact that for over two hundred years clearly delineated musical numbers served (and arguably still serve) as the genre’s structural paradigm.45 The transition from ‘numbers’ to more ‘through-composed’ works demonstrates how cultural values beyond the musical sphere also influence operatic structures and dramaturgies. Gary Tomlinson and Sandra Corse have examined how works from various time periods intersect with changing perceptions of subjectivity – the individual’s relationship to the physical and the metaphysical worlds.46 And operas and their structures also reflect various eras’ conceptions of temporality. During the 1600s and 1700s time was understood to be cyclical – naturally recurring cycles such as the phases of the moon and the seasons of the year governed human life. During the mid-1700s a more linear view of time emerged. Each irreplaceable moment progressed toward a future goal.47 The musical structures of Handel’s and Mozart’s operas mirror this cultural shift. Handel’s da capo form, which requires the first section of an aria be repeated after a short contrasting paragraph, conveys belief in the eternal nature of certain human emotions, as the music literally circles back on itself. In Mozart’s works, characters begin to be developed via action-oriented arias and ensembles rather than reflective soliloquies, a process which continues in Rossini and early Verdi. Wagner’s works handle time in a different manner, reflecting perhaps nascent theories of the unconscious, and the Romantic era’s emphasis on interiority and cultural memory. Leitmotifs not only connect to or ‘speak’ about the present (the current events depicted on stage), but also in some contexts anticipate coming events. Perhaps more importantly, leitmotifs recall past actions and states. Thomas Grey asserts that their most potent function is the evocation of things past, [their] ability to infuse the dramatic present with an epic history . . . [a] leitmotif, then, is not just the musical labeling of people and things (or the verbal labeling of motives); it is also a matter of musical memory, of recalling things dimly remembered and seeing what sense we can make of them in a new context.48

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They help weave past and present together, and present time as an unfolding continuum. In some more recent works, time does not unfold, but is instead bent, layered and folded. Operas by composers such as John Adams, Philip Glass and Daron Hagen present different layers of time simultaneously via musical contrast and the action on stage. Arguably these composers draw on Einstein’s theories of time, which state that the past, present and future reside in the same continuum and are in constant interplay. Act I, Scene i of The Death of Klinghoffer, for instance, layers sung ‘present action’ (the takeover of the ship) with sung recollections of the same events, while the next scene uses Sprechstimme and singing to portray the intersection of past and present, the mundane and the more abstract. How rapidly and how remotely the harmony changes also influences an audience member’s perception of how time unfolds in a work. No matter what structure an opera employs, for many analysts, harmonic motion and tension constitute a primary way operatic music becomes ‘dramatic’, a concept that again reflects the influence of Wagner and his defenders. According to Wagner, how a composer deploys tonalities is partly what makes the action intelligible to the audiences.49 The writings of some critics suggest that the music itself has a narrative.

Musical plots? Tonal plans, sonata forms and other trajectories Does the music in an opera have its own plot and trajectory? Exactly how autonomous is it? If the music is indeed the primary dramatic carrier, what it says and exactly how it says it are a matter of debate. Even though Wagner argued for Gesamtkunstwerk (a unified, collective art work), Wagner’s formulation that the action on stage and the words represented ‘deeds of music made visible’ and his remarks concerning musical coherence (quoted in part above) arguably give music, the orchestral material in particular, pride of place. His writings imply that the music alone could convey an opera’s plot, that it could be as self-sufficient as a symphony.50 This perspective has greatly influenced operatic analysis, as critics sought to show that an opera’s music has a unified ‘plot’ or at least a musical trajectory that underpins the verbal and visual one. Critics seeking to demonstrate coherence often focus on the tonalities an opera employs. Many argue that harmonic relationships within a lengthy ensemble or over the span of an act can foster a sense of forward momentum. Almost all commentators remark on Mozart’s use of keys during the Act II finale of Le nozze di Figaro, for instance. Tim Carter calls it ‘a masterpiece of

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tonal planning that creates a firm structure through no less than 940 bars of music and despite all the twists and turns of the action’.51 This passage, which encompasses about 25 minutes of music, incorporates multiple metre and tempo changes, allusions to dances, entrances and exits of characters, much stage action and various dramatic complications. The finale begins in E flat major, moves to the dominant, B flat, then to the more remote G major to emphasize Figaro’s surprise entrance. Next it travels through a circle of fifths to return to its original starting point, E flat major. According to Carter, this progression of keys not only provides ‘tonal coherence’, but also serves a dramatic purpose. To him the tonal return, ‘suggests that by the end of the finale things are more or less back where they were at the beginning, with Figaro and Susanna’s wedding no nearer fruition’.52 Many extend the concept of ‘tonal planning’ to an opera as a whole. A number of musicologists have posited that operatic music encompasses overarching tonal progressions or large-scale tonal dissonances that need to be resolved. Siegmund Levarie asserts that the four acts of Figaro constitute a gigantic I–II–V–I tonal sequence, and that Verdi’s Il trovatore progresses from E major to E flat minor, for example.53 Charles Rosen notes that Mozart’s later operas begin and end in the same key, yet the lengthy ensembles that close acts preceding the final one close in contrasting keys. He argues that Mozart’s tonal choices create tensions comparable to those generated by the modulatory development sections of sonata forms. The return to the key of the overture at an opera’s close resolves ‘all the preceding dissonance like a recapitulation of a sonata . . . [and] serves as a cadence to the entire opera’.54 Rosen is not alone in applying standard musical forms to operatic music. Alfred Lorenz, seeking to demonstrate that Wagner’s works have more depth of form than the audible interplay of referential motifs, argues that the music incorporates large-scale musical structures, such as bar (AAB) or arch form. Lorenz derives his analyses in part from Wagner’s somewhat cryptic comments about poetic-musical periods in Oper und Drama.55 Although now largely discredited, the structuralist writings of both Lorenz and Levarie stem from a time when Wagner’s essays and operas strongly influenced opera studies. More recently, musicologists have turned away from searching for tonal plans and motivic correspondences in preWagner repertoire to consider how the immediate dramatic situation and practical matters such as orchestration and the range and tessitura of the singers involved govern the tonal progressions an opera contains. On the one hand, claims for tonal plans have been supported in part by primary sources. Bryan Gilliam’s study of Strauss’s sketches for Elektra shows that harmonic ideas (a progression from D minor to C major/C minor) preceded thematic ones.56 Antonio Salieri recounts how he planned out the keys for

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all the numbers before he actually began to compose. On the other hand, the reminiscences of Salieri and other composers also suggest that singers’ ranges played a crucial role in harmonic choices.57 Precisely what conditions determine an opera’s ‘tonality’ is also debated: must it begin and end in that key? Must the tonality recur prominently and in similar dramatic circumstances? What roles do closely related tonalities play? Should the key in which numbers start be given precedence, or the key in which they end? Martin Chusid argues, for instance, that D flat should be considered the ‘principal tonality’ of Rigoletto, because certain crucial numbers conclude rather than begin in that key; D flat also serves as the tonality in which Monterone utters the all-important curse.58 Whether or not certain operas are ‘in’ a particular key, some composers do deploy tonal ‘conflicts’ for dramaturgical purposes. Strauss’s choice of keys with no common tones (except enharmonically) for the leading characters in Salome creates musical tension and highly chromatic tonal space. The title character is associated with C sharp major, while John the Baptist’s anchor is C major. As the infatuated young woman tries to wrest control, the prophet rejects her physical and tonal advances and strives to return ‘home’. Some analysts argue for ‘associative tonalities’, keys that, as the term suggests, are connected with specific characters or concepts. In the highly symbolic Pell´eas et M´elisande, Debussy uses keys a tritone apart, C major and F sharp major, to portray darkness and light, respectively. The opera closes in C sharp major; several analysts argue that the score gradually modulates sharpward towards this tonal goal.59 Wagner’s Tannh¨auser and Britten’s Billy Budd incorporate similar clashes of tonalities: sensuality and spirituality and their tonal corollaries conflict – E major and E flat major in the former; B flat major and B minor in the latter. Analyses of Billy Budd exemplify how considerations of a single domain by different writers can result in contrapuntal views. Although most scholars argue that tonalities carry symbolic import in Billy Budd, they disagree about what certain keys represent. To Mervyn Cooke, B flat major represents ‘salvation and reconciliation’; B minor symbolizes oppression, instability and the threat of mutiny; and A major connotes unadulterated goodness and beauty. Philip Brett associates the B flat major–B minor opposition with Vere’s confusion, and suggests that the return of B flat at the opera’s conclusion represents forgiveness. Arnold Whittall argues that the score’s tonal ambiguities embody doubt and the corrupting effects of war, from which no one and, by extension, no key is exempt. Cooke, Brett and Whittall also differ on what evidence should be considered when assessing keys. What weight should the librettist’s and composer’s personal lives receive? Should how the composer uses the same tonalities in other works be factored in?60

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While some works rely on specific keys as structural and/or symbolic devices, atonality, tone rows and rhythms can be deployed in a similar fashion. In John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles atonality defines the realm of the ghosts, tonality the world of the play within the opera. Mark Adamo juxtaposes twelve-tone and tonal music in Little Women in order to contrast what he calls ‘narrative music’ and ‘character music’, textures comparable to recitative and aria. Mikel Rouse employs percussion ostinati, rhythmic canons and large-scale cross-rhythms as structural devices in his opera Dennis Cleveland. These rhythmic layers, which go in and out of phase, underpin a largely consonant surface.61 Again, the question remains – do these intricate rhythmic devices make the work cohere, add complexity, or both? Other contrasts and repetitions

The same facets that give any type of music structure or form can be found in an opera: repetition, variety and contrast. Aspects such as melody, harmony and texture create both unity and variety. Although the preceding discussion has reflected opera studies’ fascination with orchestral motifs and tonalities, these are not the only parameters that can develop and transform or play a dramaturgical and/or structural role. So can rhythms, orchestral colours and vocal lines. In La traviata, Violetta’s vocal line alters in character and range as her disease progresses, for example. A composer may also exploit vocal contrasts in service of characterization. Oscar the flighty page in Un ballo in maschera sings coloratura, a choice that sets him apart from the more down-to-earth characters. The multiplicity of domains and the diverse ways these art forms can be deployed give operas a complexity and ‘density’ that spoken dramas lack.62 Just the music alone encompasses an array of colours, textures and structures. As David J. Levin argues, opera as a genre benefits from an ‘excess of expressive means’, any of which can create meaning and form.63 Although opera studies have traditionally focused primarily on music–text relationships, writers such as Levin have started examining scenic elements and staging in more detail, particularly how they do and do not intersect with an opera’s other domains.

Friction or cooperation? How do these ‘systems’ or ‘texts’ align? Another crucial dramaturgical question is how do opera’s expressive ‘systems’ or ‘texts’ align? Are they cooperating with one another or creating

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friction? And if the latter is it deflating or invigorating? As noted earlier, opera studies has been heavily influenced by Wagner’s ideal of Gesamtkunstwerk, which states that the art forms in an opera should be both selfsufficient yet inextricably linked. Yet even Wagner concedes this fusion is difficult to achieve. Increasingly critics have taken a step back from Wagner’s ideals and have explored the disjunctions between opera’s various signifiers, especially divergences between staging and the other art forms. Rather than trying to minimize or resolve these frictions, postmodern critics such as Abbate and Levin argue that opera’s ‘unruliness’ and multiplicity should be celebrated.64 Certainly there are times when the words, music and action seem out of sync with one another. Musicologists debate about the messages (and the merits) of works such as L’incoronazione di Poppea and Cos`ı fan tutte in part because the great beauties of the music seem at odds with the deceptive actions portrayed.65 Franco Zeffirelli admits in his autobiography that his grandiose Hollywood-style staging of Antony and Cleopatra for its premiere overwhelmed Samuel Barber’s intimate music.66 Joseph Kerman finds the music that accompanies the defeat of the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberfl¨ote and the ending of Il trovatore too short and too perfunctory.67 At times, Alice Goodman’s elegant poetry for Nixon in China seems designed to be read rather than sung. And, as discussed elsewhere in this volume, non-literal stagings frequently create a sense of estrangement and distance from (rather than absorption in and identification with) plot events and characters. As Carolyn Abbate and Joy Calico have recently argued, opera is a temporal art form that entails the physical and the metaphysical, the noumenal and the sensuous, individual moments and the whole. In a live performance, audience members experience it from transient moment to moment.68 In the moment it does not seem to matter that Figaro’s assumption of Susanna’s melody occurs on the dominant rather than the tonic or that musical beauty overrides verisimilitude in Lucia’s Sextet. If all domains aligned precisely would the experience be as satisfying? Therefore counterpoint and complementarity might be a better model for operatic dramaturgies and structures, rather than the unity and coherence Wagner purports. Some works and productions point up the frictions between the domains, while others damp them down. Each of an opera’s ‘texts’ plays a role in its musico-dramatic construction and its dramaturgy; it operates within its own conditions and exigencies, but it also intersects with or impinges on the others – creating a counterpoint that varies within a single work as well as from work to work, genre to genre, and performance to performance.

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This counterpoint extends to the field of opera studies itself. Opera’s multivalent nature accommodates, perhaps even necessitates, a multiplicity of analytical approaches.

Notes 1 Virgil Thomson, Music With Words: A Composer’s View (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989), p. 59. 2 Dana Gioia, ‘Sotto Voce: Notes on the Libretto as a Literary Form’, in Nosferatu: An Opera Libretto (Saint Paul, MN: Greywolf Press, 2001), p. 72. 3 As translated by Charles Osborne, The Complete Operas of Verdi (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977), p. 332. 4 As translated in Tim Carter, W. A. Mozart: ‘Le nozze di Figaro’, Cambridge Opera Handbooks (Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 96. 5 Tim Carter, Monteverdi’s Musical Theatre (Hartford, CT: Yale University Press, 1982), p. 47. 6 Carter, Chapter 5 of Figaro; John Platoff, ‘Musical and Dramatic Structure in the Opera Buffa Finale’, Journal of Musicology, 7 (1989), pp. 191–230. 7 John Platoff, ‘Catalogue Arias and the “Catalogue Aria”’, in Stanley Sadie (ed.), Wolfgang Amad´e Mozart: Essays on his Life and his Music (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996), pp. 296–311; 300–2 in particular. See also Platoff ’s ‘The Buffa Aria in Mozart’s Vienna’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 2 (1990), pp. 99–120. 8 Richard Wagner, ‘Zukunftsmusik’ (1860), trans. Robert L. Jacobs, in Three Wagner Essays (London: Eulenberg Books, 1979), pp. 40–1. 9 Some other representative examples: Patrick J. Smith, The Tenth Muse: A Historical Study of the Opera Libretto (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970); Daniela Goldin, La vera fenice: librettisti e libretti tra Sette e Ottocento (Turin: Piccola Biblioteca Einaudi, 1985); Jens Malte Fischer (ed.), Oper und Operntext (Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1985); Arthur Groos and Roger Parker (eds.), Reading Opera (Princeton University Press, 1988). 10 Joseph Kerman, Opera as Drama, rev. edn (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), pp. 9–10. See also pp. 7 and 214–15. 11 For example, Friedrich Lippmann, ‘Verdi e Bellini’, in Atti del 1◦ congresso internationale di

studi Verdiani 1966 (Parma: Istituto de Studi Verdiani, 1969), pp. 184–96; Julian Budden, The Operas of Verdi, rev. edn, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992); Joseph Kerman, ‘Lyric Form and Flexibility in “Simon Boccanegra”’, Studi Verdiani, 1 (1982), pp. 47–62; Harold S. Powers ‘“La solita forma” and “The Uses of Convention”’, Acta Musicologica 59 (1987), pp. 65–90; Scott Balthazar, ‘Rossini and the Development of the Mid-Century Lyric Form’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 41 (1988), pp. 102–25; Steven Huebner, ‘Lyric Form in Ottocento Opera’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 117 (1992), pp. 123–47. 12 Mary Hunter, Chapters 4 and 5 of The Culture of Opera Buffa in Mozart’s Vienna: A Poetics of Entertainment (Princeton University Press, 1999); James A. Hepokoski, ‘Genre and Content in Mid-Century Verdi: “Addio, del passato” (La traviata, Act III)’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 1 (1989), pp. 249–76. 13 Gilles de Van, ‘Musique et Narration dans les Op´eras de Verdi’, Studi Verdiani, 6 (1990), pp. 18–54; Carolyn Abbate, Chapters 1 and 3 of Unsung Voices: Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton University Press, 1991). 14 This sentence draws on the composer Jake Heggie’s comments about this scene. And Then One Night: The Making of ‘Dead Man Walking’, (documentary film), produced and directed by Linda Schaller (KQED and the San Francisco Opera Association, 2001). 15 Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker, ‘Dismembering Mozart’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 2 (1990), pp. 187–95; 188–90 and 194–5. 16 James Webster, ‘Mozart’s Operas and the Myth of Musical Unity’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 2 (1990), pp. 205–7. 17 Richard Wagner, Oper und Drama (1851), translated as William Ashton Ellis (trans.), Richard Wagner’s Prose Works, Vol. II: Opera and Drama (1893; repr. Lincoln: University of ¨ Nebraska Press, 1995); and Wagner, ‘Uber das Opern Dichten und Komponieren in Besonderen’ (1879), translated as ‘On Opera Libretti and Composition’, in Charles Osborne

199 The dramaturgy of opera (ed.), Richard Wagner: Stories and Essays (London: Peter Owen, 1973), pp. 113–28. 18 Carl Dahlhaus, ‘The Dramaturgy of Italian Opera’, in Lorenzo Bianconi and Giorgio Pestelli (eds.), The History of Italian Opera, Part II, Vol. VI: Opera in Theory and Practice, Image and Myth, trans. Mary Whittall (University of Chicago Press, 2003), pp. 96 and 133. 19 Dahlhaus, ‘Dramaturgy’, p. 95. See also his discussion of simultaneity on pp. 132–5. 20 Wagner, Three Essays, p. 40; Dahlhaus, ‘Dramaturgy’, pp. 95–6 and 133–4. 21 Wendy Heller, Emblems of Eloquence: Opera and Women’s Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2003), pp. 152–60, 171–4 and 177. 22 Beth Glixon, review of Emblems of Eloquence: Opera and Women’s Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice by Wendy Heller, Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music, 12 (2006), 5.2. 23 Heller, Emblems of Eloquence, pp. 154–6. 24 For more on relations between accompagnati and set pieces, see Laurel E. Zeiss, ‘Permeable Boundaries in Mozart’s Don Giovanni ’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 13 (July 2001), pp. 115–39. 25 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, ‘R´ecitatif ’, in Dictionnaire de musique (Paris: 1768; reprint, Hildesheim: G. Olms, 1969). As translated by William Waring in A Complete Dictionary of Music, consisting of a copious explanation of all words necessary to a true knowledge and understanding of music (London, 1770; repr. New York: AMS Press, 1975). (Translation modified slightly.) 26 Georg Benda, ‘Ueber das einfache Recitativ’, Magazin der Musik, 1 (1783). For a summary of late eighteenth-century German views on simple recitative, see Thomas Baumann, ‘Benda, the Germans, and Simple Recitative’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 34 (1981), pp. 119–31. 27 John Gay, introduction to The Beggar’s Opera: As it is Acted at the Theatre-Royal in Lincolns-Inn Fields, 2nd edn (London: John Watts, 1728). 28 Susan McClary, Georges Bizet: ‘Carmen’, Cambridge Opera Handbooks (Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 45 and 72. 29 For more in-depth discussion of these issues, see McClary, Carmen, pp. 45–6, 71–2 and 77–80. ¨ 30 Friedrich-Heinrich Neumann, Die Asthetik des Rezitativs: Zur Theorie des Rezitativs im 17. ´ und 18. Jahrhundert, Collection d’Etudes Musicologiques / Sammlung

Musikwissenschaftlicher Abhandlungen ´ (Strasbourg: Editions P. H. Heitz, 1962), pp. 27–35. 31 For example, Reinhard Strohm, ‘Rezitativ’, in Ludwig Finscher (ed.), Die Musik Geschichte und Gegenwart (Kassel: B¨arenreiter, 1998). 32 Laurel E. Zeiss, ‘Accompanied Recitative in Mozart’s Operas: “The chef d’oeuvre of the Composer’s Art”’, PhD dissertation (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1999), pp. 72–118. See also Zeiss, ‘Permeable Boundaries’, p. 121. 33 Christian Gottfried Krause, Von der musikalischen Poesie (Berlin: 1753; repr. Leipzig: Zentralantiquariat der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 1973), pp. 132–5; J. A. Scheibe, Critischer Musikus (Leipzig, 1745; repr. Hildesheim: G. Olms, 1970), p. 748; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, ‘R´ecitatif oblig´e’, in Dictionnaire de musique; Johann Georg Sulzer, ‘Recitativ’, in Allgemeine Theorie der sch¨onen K¨unste, 4 vols., 2nd edn (1792–94; repr. Hildesheim: G. Olms, 1969), Vol. IV, pp. 5–6; Heinrich Christoph Koch, Versuch einer Anleitung zur Composition, von Heinrich Christoph Koch (Leipzig, 1782–93), pp. 236–7; John Brown, Letters on the Italian Opera: Addressed to the Hon. Lord Monbaddo, 2nd edn (London: T. Cadell, 1791), pp. 12–17; Georg Benda, ‘Ueber das einfache Recitativ’, Cramer’s Magazin der Musik, 1/2 (1783), p. 750. 34 Scott Balthazar, ‘Aspects of Form in the Ottocento Libretto’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 7 (1995), p. 31. 35 Balthazar, ‘Aspects of Form’, pp. 31–5. 36 McClary, Carmen, pp. 62–6. 37 Wagner, Opera and Drama, pp. 315–16 (translation altered). 38 Thomas S. Grey, ‘Leitmotif, Temporality, and Musical Design in the Ring’, in Thomas S. Grey (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Wagner (Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 103. 39 Edward T. Cone, The Composer’s Voice (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), pp. 1–56; and James Webster, ‘The Analysis of Mozart’s Arias’, in Cliff Eisen (ed.), Mozart Studies (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), p. 124. Webster expresses a more nuanced view in his article ‘Cone’s “Personae” and the Analysis of Opera’, College Music Symposium, 29 (1989), pp. 44–65. 40 Carolyn Abbate, ‘Elektra’s Voice: Music and Language in Strauss’s Opera’, in Derek Puffett (ed.), Richard Strauss: ‘Elektra’, Cambridge Opera Handbooks (Cambridge University Press, 1989) and Unsung Voices. 41 Wagner, Opera and Drama, p. 335.

200 Laurel E. Zeiss 42 Claude Debussy, letter of 5 May 1918 to Edwin Evans. As translated in Roger Nichols and Richard Langham Smith (eds.), Claude Debussy: ‘Pell´eas et M´elisande’, Cambridge Opera Handbooks (Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 186. 43 For a study of this phenomenon, see Hilary Poriss, Changing the Score: Arias, Prima Donnas, and the Authority of Performance (Oxford University Press, 2009). 44 For example, Philip Gossett, ‘Verdi, Ghislanzoni, and Aida: The Uses of Convention’, Critical Inquiry, 1 (1974), pp. 291–334; Hunter, The Culture of Opera Buffa; Powers, ‘“La solita forma” and “The Uses of Convention”’; Suzanne Aspden, ‘The “Rival Queans” and the Play of Identity in Handel’s “Admeto”’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 18 (2006), pp. 301–31; Stephen LaRue, Handel and His Singers: The Creation of the Royal Academy Operas (1720–1728) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995); Linda Tyler, ‘Aria as Drama: A Sketch from Mozart’s “Der Schauspieldirektor”’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 2 (1990), pp. 251–67. 45 Roger Parker, ‘On Reading Nineteenth-Century Opera: Verdi through the Looking-Glass’, in Groos and Parker (eds.), Reading Opera, pp. 291–301; Dahlhaus, ‘Dramaturgy’, pp. 113–15 and 127–8. 46 Gary Tomlinson, Metaphysical Song: An Essay on Opera, Princeton Studies in Opera (Princeton University Press, 1999); Sandra Corse, Operatic Subjects: The Evolution of Self in Modern Opera (London: Associated University Presses, 2000). 47 Karol Berger, Bach’s Cycle, Mozart’s Arrow: An Essay on the Origins of Musical Modernity (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2007). 48 Grey, ‘Leitmotif ’, pp. 109 and 114. See also Karen Painter, ‘Ritual Time in Wagner and Wagnerian Opera’, in Sven Oliver M¨uller (ed.), Oper im Wandel der Gesellschaft: Kulturtransfers und Netzwerke des Musiktheaters im modernen Europa, Die Gesellschaft der Oper 5 (Vienna: B¨ohlau, 2010), pp. 179–96; Christian Merlin, Le Temps dans la dramaturgie wagn´erienne: contribution a` une ´etude dramaturgique des op´eras de Richard Wagner (Bern: Peter Lang, 2001). 49 James Treadwell gives a balanced view of the role of Wagner’s concept of poetic-musical periods in ‘The Urge to Communicate: The Prose Writings as Theory and Practice’, in Grey (ed.), Cambridge Companion to Wagner, pp. 186–7.

50 Abbate argues rightly that this is a misinterpretation of what Wagner means by ‘symphonic’. Carolyn Abbate, ‘Opera as Symphony, a Wagnerian Myth’, in Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker (eds.), Analyzing Opera: Verdi and Wagner (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1989), pp. 92–124. 51 Carter, Figaro, pp. 118–19. 52 Ibid., p. 118. For counterviews of Carter’s analysis, see Abbate and Parker, ‘Dismembering Mozart’, pp. 187–95; Webster, ‘Mozart’s Operas’, pp. 197–218; John Platoff ‘Myths and Realities about Tonal Planning in Mozart’s Operas’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 8 (1996), pp. 3–15. 53 Sigmund Levarie, ‘Le Nozze di Figaro’: A Critical Analysis (University of Chicago Press, 1952), pp. 233–45; and ‘Key Relations in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera’, 19th-Century Music, 2 (1978–79), p. 143. 54 Charles Rosen, The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven (New York: W.W. Norton, 1972), pp. 302–6. See also Andrew Steptoe, The Mozart–Da Ponte Operas: The Cultural and Musical Background to ‘Le nozze di Figaro’, ‘Don Giovanni’ and ‘Cos`ı fan tutte’ (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), pp. 160, 190–5 and 232–42. 55 Alfred Lorenz, Das Geheimnis der Form bei Richard Wagner, 4 vols. (Berlin: 1924–33). For his application of these principles to Mozart’s works, see ‘Das Finale in Mozarts Meisteropern’, Die Musik, 19 (1927), pp. 627–32. 56 Bryan Gilliam, ‘Strauss’s Preliminary Opera Sketches: Thematic Fragments and Symphonic Continuity’, 19th-Century Music, 9 (1986), pp. 176–88; and ‘The Annotated Elektra Libretto: Strauss’s Preliminary Musical Thought’, in Richard Strauss’s ‘Elektra’ (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991). See also Charlotte Erwin, ‘Richard Strauss’s Presketch Planning for Ariadne auf Naxos’, The Musical Quarterly, 67 (1981), pp. 348–65; 349–51. 57 John A. Rice, Antonio Salieri and Viennese Opera (University of Chicago Press, 1998), pp. 120–1. 58 Martin Chusid, ‘The Tonality of Rigoletto’, in Abbate and Parker (eds.), Analyzing Opera, pp. 241–61. See also discussions of these questions in Edward T. Cone, ‘On the Road to “Otello”: Tonality and Structure in “Simon Boccanegra”’, Studi verdiani, 1 (1982), pp. 72–98; Webster, ‘Mozart’s Operas’, pp. 205–16. 59 Carolyn Abbate, ‘Tristan in the Composition of Pell´eas’, Nineteenth-Century Music, 5 (1981), pp. 117–41; Richard Langham

201 The dramaturgy of opera Smith, ‘Tonalities of Darkness and Light’, in Nichols and Smith (eds.), Debussy: Pell´eas. 60 Mervyn Cooke, ‘Britten’s “Prophetic Song”: Tonal Symbolism in Billy Budd ’, in Mervyn Cooke and Philip Reed (eds.), Benjamin Britten: ‘Billy Budd ’, Cambridge Opera Handbooks (Cambridge University Press, 1993); Philip Brett, ‘Salvation at Sea: Billy Budd’, in Christopher Palmer (ed.), The Britten Companion (Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 138–42; Arnold Whittall, ‘“Twisted Relations”: Method and Meaning in Britten’s Billy Budd’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 2 (1990), pp. 145–71; 146 and 169–71. 61 Kyle Gann, ‘Music: An Opera That’s a Talk Show That’s a Philosophy’, The New York Times (28 April 2002), section 2, col. 1, p. 29. 62 Kerman, Opera as Drama, p. 224. 63 David J. Levin, Unsettling Opera: Staging Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, and Zemlinsky (University of Chicago Press, 2007), p. 26. 64 Levin, Unsettling Opera, pp. ix–xviii and 1–35. 65 For examples of differing views of Monteverdi’s opera, see Iain Fenlon and

Peter N. Miller, The Song of the Soul: Understanding Poppea, Royal Musical Association Monographs no. 5 (Cambridge: B. Jordan, 1992); and Heller, Chapter 4 of Emblems of Eloquence. Concerning Cos`ı fan tutte, see Edmund Goehring, Three Modes of Perception in Mozart: The Philosophical, Pastoral, and Comic in Mozart: ‘Cos`ı fan tutte’, Cambridge Studies in Opera (Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. xiii–xv and 1–52; Scott Burnham, ‘Mozart’s felix culpa: Cos`ı fan tutte and the Irony of Beauty’, Musical Quarterly, 78 (1994), pp. 77–98; Hunter, The Culture of Opera Buffa, pp. 273–96; and Bruce Alan Brown, W. A. Mozart: ‘Cos`ı fan tutte’, Cambridge Opera Handbooks (Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 163–81. 66 Franco Zeffirelli, Zeffirelli: The Autobiography of Franco Zeffirelli (New York: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986), pp. 219–20. 67 Kerman, Opera as Drama, pp. 222–3. 68 Carolyn Abbate, In Search of Opera (Princeton University Press, 2001); and Joy H. Calico, Brecht at the Opera (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2008), pp. 140–63.

9 Genre and poetics alessandra campana

The question of genre might appear more attuned to the interests of the natural sciences than to opera studies: to the need to identify a specimen in terms of genus and species, and to name and list each item into ordered sets, with thoroughness and precision. And yet such laborious collecting and classifying is unavoidable in the realm of opera too, as attested by the copious and disparate typologies offered by musicological dictionaries.1 So, what is opera in terms of genre? Since the concept of genre refers quite simply to kind or sort, then we have to ask first of all what sort of art (and craft) is opera? How does it define itself: as a kind of music? Or, perhaps, as a kind of theatre? Then, a second question emerges as soon as we try to account for a specific work from the past, or if we decide to compose or produce an opera: which sort of opera is this opera? These basic questions already invoke a theory of opera (or what historically has been described as a ‘poetics’, after Aristotle’s own genre-defining text of that name on literary and dramatic theory). Genre, in other words, is a term that pertains to abstract conceptualizations of opera whose coordinates may not necessarily coincide with specific cases. Rather than retracing the exhaustive paths of musicological dictionaries in enumerating all the genres of opera, these pages will instead offer a transversal historiographical and theoretical account. Also, rather than adopting the literary discourse of genre theory in a search for how it can be relevant to opera, this chapter will pose the problem the other way around and ask what opera can do for genre theory. The first section returns to the questions above in order to introduce theoretical issues invoked by the term ‘genre’. This is followed by a historiographical outline of generic definitions in opera. The closing section returns to theoretical discourse on genre and maps out some possible intersections between concerns typical to opera studies and their relevance more broadly for genre theory, in particular in relation to performance. The first question concerning the definition of opera as a genre already poses a problem. The temptation of course is to defer generalizations, and look at the considerable variety of possibilities in their singularities. After all, the entire corpus of operas ranges over four centuries, many countries and [202]

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languages, not to mention hugely diversified economic and sociocultural conditions. Indeed, the multiplication of generic categories evidenced in the dictionaries is a clear indication of this reality. But this specific context – this chapter in this volume – demands a starting definition and a commitment to a set of delimitations. Thus this chapter adopts the following broad definition: opera as a genre is the staging of an encounter between music and theatre, an encounter that demands that the borders between the two arts are continually redefined. In the course of opera’s history these borders, norms and limits have taken the shape of clusters of conventions. Conventions can in turn be defined as the connection between the artefact of opera and the practical, specific conditions of its production and reception. Conventions regulate all aspects of opera and all procedures in the making of opera. They can be observed in the formal components of the music, such as recitatives and arias, in the number and ranking of singers, in the shape of theatre buildings, in the topics and titles of libretti, in the way a composer proceeds when setting a text to music, and then of course in the audience’s behaviour, patterns of dissemination and so forth. Indeed, opera and, especially, the making of opera imply the labour and creativity of so many talents that a certain standardization of procedures and distribution of tasks arise out of sheer necessity. Conventions originate as answers to the contingent, practical needs of making opera recognizable, communicable, viable and enjoyable; as imaginary solutions to real problems, they are the interface between artistic endeavour and ideology, between aesthetics and politics. In responding to historically concrete necessities, such as the changing conditions of operatic production, availability of new technologies for the stage and so on, these conventional clusters are always flexible. Genre, then, is an abstraction or, better, a conceptualization of the conventions that respond to these historical contingencies (and poetics are usually attempts to codify and justify such conventions for the benefit of both producers and consumers). Going back to the initial question – what kind of artefact is opera? – the answer is ultimately an ever-changing solution to the perceived necessity for opera to maintain its own identity, to preserve its status as a recognizable, autonomous specimen. The second question about the genres of opera is perhaps too easily dismissible as an enterprise worthier of the collector than the historian. Deciding what the genres of opera are seems to imply a self-indulgent cataloguing and naming bliss: like the work of Borges’s geographer, whose obsession for detail makes the map as large as the land it aims to describe, the epistemological system would exceed and misunderstand what it tries to describe. The pedantry of such an operation is celebrated even in Hamlet, in the comic vignette of Polonius’s catalogue of the forms of drama:

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‘tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited’.2 However, it is obvious that genre is inherent to opera, especially in view of its acknowledged conventionality. Thus, if we return to our working definition, whereby the artefact and event of opera are the result of negotiations between music and theatre, these negotiations necessarily give rise to multiple and flexible solutions, which often demand very different kinds of categorization. Among the sixty or more operatic genres listed in music dictionaries, ranging from ‘azione teatrale’ to ‘Zeitoper’, from ‘grand opera’ to ‘semi-opera’, some terms are more useful than others. Moreover, some labels seem to indicate formal properties (e.g. ‘op´era comique’, which describes both a form combining singing and speech and the institution which presented such works), others relate to subject matter (e.g. ‘Zeitoper’, which refers to operas produced in Weimar Germany whose plots dealt with contemporary sociopolitical issues), and some define medium (e.g. ‘radio opera’). Terms such as ‘Romantic opera’ appear both as general historiographical category and – in the writings of E. T. A. Hoffmann, Carl Maria von Weber and Wagner – as a definition of German opera on supernatural subject matter. In general, the sheer number of generic labels gives a clear sense of the impossibility of thinking of opera, either historically or systematically, without the category of genre.

The enigma of exemplarity It is already clear that both questions – opera as a genre and the genres of opera – contain the seed of a paradox that threatens to undo the whole matter from the inside. Firstly, any definition of genre invokes the tracing of a clear-cut model, of an ideally pristine and stable conceptualization that can act as a stencil, a paragon. As Derrida famously put it, ‘genres are not to be mixed’, thus also manifesting the tendency of genre discourse to become a law, a law that aims at preserving the purity of a genre, avoiding the dissolving of its borders, the diluting of what matters most for its specificity and recognizability.3 Opera’s identity as a genre, however, relies from the start on mixing, as a contamination of music and theatre, music and word, singing and acting, showing and telling. Thus it defines itself historically and systematically as a hybrid, challenging at the outset the foundational law of genre discourse. Secondly, in an essay that has become seminal for literary genre theory, Tzvetan Todorov argued that genres are inescapable on the basis of two sets

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of considerations: 1. any transgression from generic convention requires (and reinforces) a generic norm that can be transgressed, and 2. a work that transgresses generic norms in turn becomes an example, another variation to the genre’s conventions, itself establishing a norm.4 Opera semiseria (‘half-serious opera’), for instance, appeared in the later eighteenth century possibly as a result of influences from the new sentimental literature as well as bourgeois drama. Opera semiseria borrowed as much from op´era comique as from Italian models, and eventually crystallized to become a new genre in its own right, with its own conventions. For, despite the differing attitudes of composers, librettists and producers towards conventions, it is impossible for artistic invention not to rely on standardized, tested solutions. Each single opera then refers somehow to a larger group of operas in several of its constituent parts, despite moments in the history of a genre when composition seems to be ruled by the centrifugal tendency to elude genre boundaries, the obvious example here being the Wagnerian music drama. Yet, what most blatantly offsets the logic of exemplarity underlying the definition and enumeration of opera’s genres is the way each is always the product of a combination of several practices, deeply invested in its own set of conventions: text and performance, but also writing and event, composition and interpretation. Whether we consider a unique text (the score) and its multiple performances, or a number of textual traces (different versions of the score and libretto, but also staging instructions, commentaries, reviews, etc.) and multiple performances, it is quite obvious that the score and libretto’s generic label does not necessarily coincide with their performance and reception. Tragic, serious opera could easily become comedy or farce in performance. Even more so than literary genres, the hybridity of opera, and its dialogue with the demands of production and performance, contains the possibility of genre being disrupted.5 The operation at the core of genre definition is always fundamentally undermined precisely by the very terms that make opera a genre.

Reinventions and rebirths The first two centuries of opera are generally narrated in terms of opera’s ‘genrification’ – that is, of its crystallization into a specific, identifiable genre. The very beginning in particular is marked, according to some accounts, by the invention of a proper musical idiom: opera emerges as a distinct genre ‘when a kind of music appropriate for dramatic dialogue was invented’.6 Around the turn of the seventeenth century a series of ‘favole in musica’

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[fables in music] were staged at the courts of Florence, Parma and Mantua, often occasioned by official weddings and celebrations. In these new musical dramas mythological characters such as Eurydice, Orpheus and their bucolic cohorts of musical shepherds and nymphs expressed their predicaments in sung declamation, at times giving way to elaborate and ornate singing. There couldn’t be a more appropriately elegant beginning: the subject matter, inherited from literary pastoral and tragicomedy, solved several issues at once. By thematizing music-making in the character of Orpheus this new kind of drama licensed not only characters singing at each other, but also the prerogative of celebrating the rhetorical, performative, affecting power of music. Paradigmatic in this regard is the Prologue from Monteverdi and Striggio’s Orfeo (Mantua, 1607), where ‘Musica’ herself appears on stage to declare from the outset a poetics of opera as the combination of the power to stir emotions with the desire to narrate a story.7 Thus, self-reflectively, opera from the start is a mix and is about the mixing: an alchemic combination and an erudite experiment after the manner of the Ancients that accesses the world of the gods. The beginning of opera is indissolubly linked with the economic system and the cultural politics of late Renaissance courts, thus embracing the ritual celebration and validation of princely power, and consolidating a cultural capital whose legacy was forcefully traced back to classic antiquity. This propensity for myth is, for Mladen Dolar, central to opera in general: ‘On the one hand [opera] presents a fabulous past transcending time, beyond time, a past raised to the temporality of the fantasy; on the other hand it invents new forms by means of which the myth can find a dramatic realization and a corresponding new social function and hence, in its very above-time nature, introduce a new temporality.’8 These first musical dramas of course did not emerge out of nowhere: precedents can be traced in the intermedi, choruses, dances and songs that were part of dramatic spectacles and of improvised comedies throughout the sixteenth century, as well as in musical experiments in dramatic recitation, or in dramatic expression in madrigals. Little music has survived, but evidence of this wealth of music on the stage is provided by the rich corpus of commentaries, treatises and theoretical pronouncements that circulated during this period. With few exceptions, these writings shared their concerns with the broader discussion about literary genres, which were defined and measured against sets of norms extrapolated from classic antiquity, and in particular Plato and Aristotle – the latter’s Poetics remaining the touchstone for any dramatic theory for the next two centuries.9 Despite a declared longing for the lost perfection of classic tragedy, however, these first instances of opera consist of anything but a return to Greek tragedy in an antiquarian or archaeological sense. ‘Tragicomedy’, ‘pastoral feast’,

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‘fable in music’ are but a few of the generic labels invented, foregrounding how hybridization affected several traits at the same time, ranging from subject matters, endings and dramatic structure to poetic forms and styles. The irretrievable, impossible past to which these early operas aspire is swiftly dealt with early on: in the Prologue to Euridice (1600) the poet Rinuccini has Tragedy herself declare from the outset that ‘No longer of blood shed by innocent veins . . . unhappy spectacle to human sight, do I sing now on a gloomy and tear filled stage. . . . Behold I change my gloomy buskins and dark robes to awake in the heart sweet emotions.’10 Appropriately for the celebration of a royal wedding, tragic myth is given a happy ending.

Seventeenth century: public and m´etier

If the beginning of opera is best described as a series of experiments spanning the course of several decades, then the decisive shift is identified with a precise event, in the way of a birth. For the carnival season of 1637, the S. Cassiano Theatre in Venice offered to the paying audience not the usual improvised comedy, but rather L’Andromeda, a poetic drama on a classical topic fully set to music. The oft-noted novelty was that the theatre opened to a paying public of much broader sociocultural composition. What is even more remarkable about L’Andromeda – the aspect that has elevated this event of 1637 to the status of the beginning of the genre – is how it started a new economic model, a feat celebrated in the preface to the libretto, printed a few months later in order to commemorate the premiere.11 Thus the beginning of opera as a public spectacle is marked as the elaboration of a poetics (a drama on an elevated subject matter, fully set to music) in conjunction with an economic system. The latter remained more or less unchanged over the whole history of the genre, and can be described at least at this stage as a functional cohabitation of bourgeois market economy with aristocratic cultural policy.12 This is also the time when Italian opera acquires a relatively stable formal outline, one that will survive for another couple of centuries.13 Venice was obviously a fertile terrain: in the decade after L’Andromeda three more theatres were devoted to the new genre, with about fifty new productions. And yet from this moment opera also became a transnational cultural phenomenon. The circuits of dissemination were diverse and wide: from royal and aristocratic circles, to itinerant professional companies, from Jesuit colleges to academies. Opera spread throughout Europe both as an ‘Italian’ product and also as a ‘native’ musical theatre. Thus in France enthusiasm for the new form along with resistance to cultural imports made necessary the creation of a legitimately ‘French’ opera. The first ‘com´edie franc¸oise en musique’ performed in France, La Pastorale

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d’Issy (1659) represents, in the declaration of the librettist Perrin, a deliberate effort at providing the model for a future French opera. Despite the librettist’s lengthy critique of Italian opera, the influence of earlier Italian pastorals is unmistakable.14 Just a decade later Louis XIV charged Perrin with the direction of the Acad´emie d’Op´era, a role that was soon taken over by the composer Jean-Baptist Lully, who fully institutionalized opera in France as both public and courtly entertainment, and fixed the conventions of an exclusively French genre, the trag´edie lyrique, sanctioned by the centralizing cultural policies of French absolutism. The history of opera in England on the other hand includes from the outset both the staging of Italian and French imports and attempts at creating native hybrid genres. The cosmopolitan and mercantile society of London, where the monarchy held less cultural sway than in France, offered a fecund milieu for the coexistence of multiple influences and for the intersection of a variety of staged entertainments, including a genre known as ‘semi-opera’. A deftly English invention, in semi-operas the musical setting affects only subplots involving characters of lower standing, whereas the core plot is realized as spoken drama carrying the legacy of Shakespearean theatre, pretty much unaffected by the extravagancies of singing. Semi-operas survive in opera historiography as the one indigenous, if short-lived, contribution of the English stage, in particular thanks to the success of Purcell’s Fairy Queen and King Arthur.15 Eighteenth century: rules and reforms

By the end of the seventeenth century, the models and conventions of opera that had been established so quickly appear to reach the exhaustion of their communicative power. In Italy, for example, the emergence of an extensive critical literature evidences the fundamental instability of the genre. Much operatic practice was shaped by its adherence to a market economy, and hence to a constant search for variety and novelty, whilst upholders of opera as a genre sought to counter this with an aesthetic validation often measured against classical ideals. The poet and critic Giovanni Mario Crescimbeni, a leading figure in the reformist Arcadian movement of late seventeenthcentury Italy, declared that opera had obliterated the development of a true Italian tragedy based on the Aristotelian distinction between tragedy and comedy: ‘In order to charm with novelty the jaded taste of the audiences, sickened equally by the baseness of comedies and the gravity of tragedies, the creator of operas put the two together, monstrously combining kings, heroes, and other illustrious characters with jesters, servants, and men of the lowest rank. This confusion of characters was the reason for the complete breakdown of the rules of poetry . . . which lost its purity, being required to serve the music.’16 More generally, academicians and literati

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lamented the excessive intricacies of plots and idiotic multiplication of arias, repeatedly spoke of corruption and decline, and urged reform of the genre.17 Corruption was instantiated at first in this mixing of comedy and tragedy, and later in the way singing obliterated the meaning of the words in the singers’ exhibitionist demands over the integrity of the drama and of the music. Opera survived because of its capacity continuously to adapt its hybridization of theatre and music; but this capacity is contained by a parallel normative discourse that defines its purpose in terms of purity and integrity. Viable reconfigurations of opera emerged during the first quarter of the eighteenth century, in particular with the work of the poet and librettist Pietro Metastasio. Seeing his own work as part of the movement to reform opera according to classical principles, Metastasio contributed to the shaping of so-called opera seria (‘serious opera’), a genre defined by its tragic register (although not tragic outcomes) and historical subjects. His twenty-seven libretti came to constitute a reservoir for hundreds of opere serie produced all over Europe during the course of more than a century.18 In his cogent review of the history of criticism and theory of Italian opera, Di Benedetto has observed that as soon as Metastasian opera seria became an accepted model it also generated criticism from literati and academicians. The canonization of the model, favoured by the position of Metastasio himself as Caesarian poet at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor in Vienna, coincided with charges of obsolescence. The main objections concerned the very features that made these libretti so successful: the historical subject matter is often abstruse; the split between recitative and aria ends up undermining any sense of continuity; the two-stanza aria text, commonly set in music as a ‘da capo’, leads to an excess of vocal ornamentation, cadenzas, word repetition, and an overall musical extravagance deemed detrimental to the drama.19 The extraordinary dissemination throughout Europe of opera seria was accompanied by the progressive polarization of serious and comic genres, and not only in Italian opera. It might be claimed that at this time operatic genres came to be defined mainly identification of content, form and sociocultural milieu. A typical opera seria and opera buffa (but also a trag´edie lyrique and an op´era comique) by mid-century appear as very different artefacts, fully institutionalized within their own specialized theatres, companies, professional practices, production systems and audiences.20 Opera seria (as well as the French trag´edie lyrique) is the province of kings, heroes and gods, sung by virtuoso star singers and castratos mostly at court theatres. Comic opera instead develops as a predominantly bourgeois entertainment for a paying audience: it inherits the legacy of improvised spoken comedy both in the social realism of subject matter and in the less stylized,

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acting-based performance and singing, its libretti structured on a more flexible usage of recitative and set pieces.21 What the two had in common, at least until the end of the century, are the composers, who would obviously treasure a commission in any genre. During the second half of the century critiques of Metastasian opera were accompanied by an increase in the production of comic opera. Comic genres – opera buffa, but also vernacular varieties such as burletta or ballad opera in Britain, Singspiel in Germanspeaking lands, and op´era comique in France – flourished in part because of the topical relevance of their language and stories, but also because of their openness to hybridization. All these comic genres absorbed and re-utilized thematic, formal and performance trends taken from a range of models and sources – spoken theatre, art music and popular song, popular and court dance and, in the rich corpus of opera-within-opera, even academic criticism.22 The performance of an opera buffa, Pergolesi’s La serva padrona (1733) by an Italian troupe in Paris in 1752, is usually considered to be the occasion starting one of the most boisterous critical debates of the eighteenth century, involving some of the doyens of the French Enlightenment such as Denis Diderot and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The so-called Querelle des Bouffons was fought over Italian and French opera. The debate can be summed up as different perceptions of the weight of music versus that of theatre – both an aesthetic and an institutional weight. Italian opera was accused of favouring the pleasurable excesses of music at the expense of the clarity and communicability of drama and of the verisimilitude of acting and staging. The same institutional organization of opera was therefore accused of being subservient to the pleasing of the audience, to the star power of the singers, and to the selling of subscriptions. The da capo aria – stylistic and formal pillar of the repertoire – was in fact deemed the culprit in its privileging of vocal virtuosity over the credible unfolding of the drama. The other side of the diatribe predictably accused French opera and its regard for classic tragedy as dull and lifeless. Ultimately what was lamented as dreary lack of musical invention and uninteresting singing was the by-product of the attempt at salvaging ‘drama’ in its institutionalized manifestation, which meant classic tragedy. But promoters of Italian opera buffa such as Rousseau and Diderot praised its naturalness and directness, contrasting its simple tunefulness to the lifeless declamatory style of the singing in French opera.23 The Encyclop´edistes’ preference for the natural style found an advocate in the Italian writer and critic Ranieri de’ Calzabigi, who in Vienna set out to reform the conventions of opera seria in collaboration with the court composer Gluck. The two operas that testify overtly to this programme were Orfeo ed Euridice (1762) and Alceste (1767), both accompanied by a set of declarations that critique, in more or less veiled terms, the crucial

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elements of Metastasian dramaturgy. These elements are identified with the high-flung rhetoric of Metastasio’s similes, and the stylization of da capo forms and of chains of exit arias.24 The preface to Alceste has come to represent one of the rare manifestos of operatic poetics and, as such, a capstone in opera historiography, often quoted as a precedent to Wagner’s theoretical writings a century later. Read another way, however, this polemical stance was retracing the well-trodden path of criticism levelled against opera for over a century. After the usual list of abuses enacted by singers and by the music, it advocates the primacy of dramatic intent and Aristotelian verisimilitude, and all in the name of ‘good sense’, ‘reason’ and ‘beautiful simplicity’.25 The declared goal, once again, is to restore some purity of dramatic purpose. Various historians have suggested that Gluck’s and Calzabigi’s reform, especially in light of the dramaturgical novelty of their two operas, is consistent with a specifically Viennese, 1760s hybridization of Metastasian models. Both Gluck and Calzabigi at the time were involved in projects of adaptation of French trag´edie lyrique, Italian opera, and dramatic ballets choreographed by Gasparo Angiolini, and worked with singers such as the castrato Guadagni, renowned for his uncommon attention to acting.26 Moreover, despite the enthusiasm that a word such as reform might inspire, the ideological thrust of this operatic reform is hardly progressive in sociopolitical terms, and not only because it was financed and backed by the theatre director of the Austrian Empire. Rather, it might be argued that, shaped into a less stylized and more approachable theatrical register, opera more efficiently consolidates its ritualized celebration and validation of aristocratic order – all this, once again, in the name of reason and of the beautiful simplicity of the classics.27 Nineteenth century: invention and convention

The history of opera as genre and of the genres of opera during the nineteenth century is often described as a progressive and unstoppable detachment of operatic forms from pre-existing generic conventions. Both the repertory of operas composed at this time and the apparatus of critical writings, declarations and poetics, manifest an increasing tension between the specificity of the artefact and its generic label. Opera studies has consistently supported this narrative. For instance, after an initial phase marked by a certain embarrassment at the utter conventionality of early nineteenth-century Italian opera, Verdian scholarship (especially in its Anglo-American configuration) has been mostly preoccupied with demonstrating the composer’s unique ability to suggest, but in the end defy, expand or refute, generic conventions.28 The culmination of this process, and the tacit premise of a historiography of originality and genius, is represented by Wagner’s musical and critical output, where

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music drama is emancipated both from existing genres and from having to be a genre itself. In addition to employing the term Musikdrama to oppose to opera in the theoretical treatise Oper und Drama, Wagner incessantly sought for appropriate terms for each of his works: ‘romantische Oper’ for Der fliegende Holl¨ander and Lohengrin; ‘Handlung’ for Tristan und Isolde, ‘B¨uhnenfestpiel’ (‘stage festival play’) for the Ring, and ‘B¨uhnenweihfestspiel’ (‘stage-consecrating festival play’ or ‘sacred festival drama’) for Parsifal.29 Composers and librettists following Wagner would adopt a similarly eclectic range of categorizations to avoid pre-constituted generic moulds: for example, Massenet’s operas are variously identified as sayn`ete (theatrical interlude), op´era romanesque, ´episode lyrique, miracle, haute farce musicale, com´edie chant´ee and op´era f´eerie. Some find explanations for this widespread historiographical trend in the continued influence of Romanticism: its aesthetics of subjective expression, and its insistence on originality and uniqueness as the defining values of artistic endeavour.30 ‘Every poem is its own genre’, the early Romantic critic Friedrich Schlegel insisted.31 However, one might also privilege a different story of operatic genre in the nineteenth century: one that looks at the changing economic structures of Europe and North America where opera, as an ‘authored’ commodity, is increasingly included in bourgeois public rituals of ‘conspicuous consumption’. Despite or because of the increasing complexity and professional specialization of the labour required by operatic productions, the composer is now accorded status as the sole maker of the work; the guarantor of its artistic authenticity. Originality thus ensures both the work’s status as art, autonomous from the demands of the market, and, at the same time, its exchange value. By the second half of the century, theatres around Europe and the Americas also regularly offered old works, thus initiating the practice of repertoires including new compositions next to old favourites: as operas from the past slowly but steadily made their way back onto the stage they operated a shift in the meaning of genre. Repertoire does not only shape singing styles and pedagogy, casting and in general the professional formation of composers and librettists. Also, most importantly, it comes to constitute a reservoir for the writing of national art histories and a receptacle of staged geopolitical traits, ritually enacted and reiterated in opera theatres.32 A closer look at the repertoire itself might reveal how the pervasive and irreversible dissolution of clear generic borders, demarcations and definitions runs parallel to different conceptions of the cultural and syntactical significance of generic conventions. James Hepokoski has juxtaposed the century-long process of dissolution of genres in nineteenth-century Italian opera to the persistence of conventional small-scale ‘fixed forms’, such as cabaletta, romanza, racconto, mad scene, couplet, prayer and so forth.33

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Verdi, the case in point, famously invoked Shakespeare as inspiration for a ‘fusion of genres’; his search for dramatic variety brought him to advocate the accumulation and juxtaposition of dramatic effects regardless of their generic connotation.34 Meanwhile, however, he continued for most of his long career to rely on conventional ‘fixed forms’, which according to Hepokoski carry dramatic significance precisely because of their deliberate adoption. Expanding a little on Hepokoski’s point, it might be argued that ‘fixed forms’ inherit the symbolic baggage of genre: rather than defining and ‘labelling’ a whole opera, now clusters of musico-dramatic conventions regulate smaller units or even scenes, assuming a function similar to that of genre. Prayers, mad scenes, narratives, oaths and curses, to name just a few, traverse the nineteenth-century repertory, from Italy and France to Germany and Russia, irrespective of generic labels, but not merely as musical forms. Their conventionality embraces acting, singing and staging, as well as text and music, and renders them recognizable, recyclable and citable. In Germany Wagner’s theoretical disavowal of the very idea of genre was accompanied by the elaboration of what he constructed as a novel and revolutionary poetics. The programme of a mythic reunification of the art of the future with the arts of the ancients, possible only through the reuniting of all the aspects of the music drama under the creative vision of the composer, is elaborated around the 1850s, soon after the composition of works rooted in the ways of German Romantic opera (Der fliegende Holl¨ander, Tannh¨auser, Lohengrin). Wagner’s writings shape the story of his creative output into an evolution: With Rienzi I still only intended to write an ‘opera’ . . . Then of necessity I was obliged . . . to progress gradually to the total abolishment of the operatic form I had inherited. The unconscious knowledge of those traditional forms so influenced me still in my Fliegende Holl¨ander that an attentive observer will recognize how it affected my arrangement of the scenes; only gradually, with Tannh¨auser, then more decisively with Lohengrin, in other words with my growing awareness of the nature of my material and its necessary means of representation, did I free myself wholly from that formal influence.35

Thus the early works’ necessary dependence upon inherited conventions and recognizable idioms (‘an arbitrary conglomeration of single, small song forms’) would be gradually effaced in the name of present and future freedom of expression and radical autonomy. The lasting contribution of Wagner’s programme to the aesthetic and history of opera will be this crude staging of an opposition of truthful expressive means, naturally springing out from the very poetic material, against the artificiality of pre-existing musical forms, forcefully and haphazardly overlaid onto the ‘drama’. Such an ideal might still be seen at work in the writings of Hugo von Hofmannsthal

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in the twentieth century. Working on the libretto for Die Frau ohne Schatten, his fourth collaboration with Richard Strauss, he wrote to the composer drawing his attention to the generic uniqueness of each of the operas of Mozart and Wagner. Disparaging Meyerbeer and Puccini for producing ‘a series of works in the same genre’, he urged Strauss not to repeat himself in their new collaboration.36 The most powerful validation of the Wagnerian programme – of its philological and philosophical claims but also, unwittingly, of the role of the composer as prophet of the art of the future – was Nietzsche’s 1872 The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music.37 Nietzsche’s enthusiasm soon turned into feverish disapproval, but The Birth of Tragedy has remained an influential text, especially for its central historiographical argument: the connections between music drama and Greek tragedy. Similarly to the ‘inventors’ of opera in Renaissance Italian courts, Nietzsche designates Greek tragedy as the aesthetic model for modern art,38 achieved through the conjunction of theatre and music, of the power of representation (the Apollonian) and the absorbing, all-encompassing force of expression (the Dionysian). Still under the spell of Tristan und Isolde, he surrenders his far-reaching vision for the future of music drama to Wagner. The spell will be broken just a few years later, possibly in fact by the new Festival theatre in Bayreuth: by the very machinery of make-believe that was put in place, like an embarrassing materialization of bad faith. His provocative glorification of Bizet’s Carmen is particularly revelatory: not so much as an alternative ideal of music drama, but rather as the occasion to include considerations of generic conventions in his aesthetic programme. An antidote to Wagnerian mystifications, this 1875 op´era comique becomes evidence of his full absolution of operatic conventions as necessary to a modern, anti-metaphysical art: ‘Every mature art possesses a host of conventions as a basis: in so far as it is a language, Convention is a condition of great art, not an obstacle to it . . . Every elevation of life likewise elevates the power of communication, as also understanding of man.’39 Despite his critique of generic normalization, Hofmannsthal knowingly drew on eighteenth-century opera in his collaborations with Strauss on Der Rosenkavalier (1911) and Ariadne auf Naxos (1912/1916). The latter, for instance, juxtaposes opera seria and commedia dell’arte in a witty homage to the early eighteenth-century practice of inserting comic interludes derived from commedia dell’arte between the acts of an opera seria. Hofmannsthal’s turn to historical genres can be considered an anticipation of broader tendencies in early twentieth-century opera, particularly associated with neoclassicism. Paradoxically, this restoration of historical genres is often associated with modernism’s tendency towards artistic self-referentiality.

215 Genre and poetics Twentieth and twenty-first centuries: the long ending

In reviving historical genres the works in question were no longer associated with living conventions of musical or dramatic language or performance. If a general trend can be detected at all for the generic history of opera composed in the last one hundred years, it might be described as the further dissolution of the conventions that had regulated the presentation of opera so far, and of the defining traits of opera itself as a genre. Opera’s identity is primarily consigned to the intentions of the composer and librettist who chose to assign the generic label of opera to their works. But the weakening of stylistic, formal and idiomatic conventions does not entail a corresponding weakening of the institutional conventions related to the production system. Opera, author-based and often experimental, is founded more and more on a system of production and dissemination organized according to industrial models.40 Moreover, new technologies such as sound recording and playback, film, live broadcasting and digital technologies have impacted the world of opera as soon as they have become available. With each attempt at fixing the transient in opera they modify conventions of dissemination, consumption, production and composition.41 The sense of opera’s progressive dissolution and even death as a genre is what informs most historiographical accounts of this past century. William Ashbrook and Harry Powers started and ended their influential study of Turandot with the claim that Puccini’s last and unfinished work coincides with the end of (Italian) opera: ‘Turandot occupies a special place in the Italian repertory, for it is indeed the end of the Great Tradition; it is aesthetically and culture-historically inconceivable that genuinely new works still mining that vein can be created.’42 If this ‘Great Tradition’, restricted as it is to the lineage Rossini–Bellini–Donizetti–Verdi–Puccini, might look exceedingly narrow as a historiographical category, one need only look at Adorno’s oft-quoted 1955 essay on ‘Bourgeois Opera’, in which he states that ‘opera in and of itself has, without considering its reception, come to seem peripheral and indifferent’.43 More recent accounts have inherited these tropes of end and crisis as a way to account for opera’s broader relation in the twentieth century with its own past and past-ness. Heather Wiebe takes this ‘end’ as a starting point for a meditation on obsolescence and museum collecting in the context of Stravinski’s and Auden’s The Rake’s Progress (1951).44 Paul Griffith’s account for the Oxford Illustrated History of Opera demarcates this crisis in more practical terms: the history of twentieth-century opera is therefore ‘only very partially a history of twentieth-century opera, i.e., of the genre’s life during the century’.45 According to Griffith, the end of the ‘great tradition’ is followed by sparse modernist experiments that

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idiosyncratically and self-reflexively explore the dramatic yield of musical syntax, technique, language and conventions of the past (Debussy, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Berg). If Griffith writes about post-war experiments in opera mostly as ‘opera’ in quotation marks – an ironic iteration of the old genre, a way to revive it ‘in a kind of life after death’46 – many European postwar avant-garde composers tended to shun the category of opera altogether as historically compromised, preferring labels such as music theatre, ‘scenic action’ (Nono), ‘musical action’ (Berio), ‘anti-opera’ (Kagel) or even ‘antianti-opera’ (Ligeti), although the aesthetic experiments of these composers remained constrained by the institutional apparatus of opera. A somewhat innocent reappropriation of the term ‘opera’ will be possible on the other side of the pond and a bit later, such as in Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s 1976 Einstein on the Beach, or Robert Ashley’s 1970s ‘television operas’. With its own end in sight, however, opera as a genre has maintained, even after World War II, a strong hold on cultural public life, firstly by way of new productions of titles from the repertoire, but also with a continuous if scant stream of new operas. More recent works seem to test the very possibility of belonging to the genre of opera, to the point that the label often refers just to its institutional identity – in other words, to a commission from a prestigious opera house. So for instance Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Anna Nicole for Covent Garden (2011) subverts any obvious expectation of dramatic content and, as an experiment in hybridization of musical theatre with reality TV, incorporates tabloid news and celebrity gossip. Tod Machover’s Death and the Powers (2011), also labelled as opera, challenges one of the core tenets of operatic performance of the previous four hundred years by replacing the singers’ bodies on stage with robots.47 Even more radically, Fausto Romitelli and Paolo Pachini’s ‘video-opera’ An Index of Metals (2003) does away with the stage altogether and places the voice in the midst of an intensely dramatic web of sonorities, in dialogue with abstract video images.48 More interesting perhaps nowadays is the question of performance and medium, which interacts with production and consumption in ways similar to genre conventions in, say, the eighteenth century. Thus Emanuele Senici has suggested that for modern-day audiences different styles of theatrical production have assumed the identificatory function once accorded to genres: The traditional-decorative genre (Zeffirelli at the Met), the ‘back-to-the-ancient’ or better to ‘the original’ (the recovery of old set designs such as Sanquirico’s or the little theatre in Drottningholm), the actualizing-modernist genre (especially in Germany: Berghaus, Kupfer, Friedrich, but also Ch´ereau at Bayreuth), the abstract genre (from Wieland

217 Genre and poetics Wagner to Bob Wilson), the gestural-postmodern (Morris, Sellars, Carsen) and so forth.49

The emphasis on directorial vision in contemporary productions is also matched by novel patterns of distribution and consumption: Regietheater is no longer a national-cultural event, but is distributed worldwide by DVD recordings, live broadcasting, streaming, YouTube clips. New modes of spectating (the laptop screen in an airport lounge) have expanded but not supplanted old ones (a gallery seat in a theatre). Similarly, this expansion and diversification do not supplant or subvert the inherent conventionality of opera. The issue of genre, then, seems to have irrevocably shifted from the work to the patterns and conventions of production, distribution and consumption. It is now a matter of understanding which new sets of imaginary solutions to real questions are posed as interfaces between art and ideology, aesthetics and politics.

Opera – genre – theory At just over four hundred years old, opera is a relatively young and shortlived genre, especially if compared to, say, the illustrious millennial histories of tragedy and comedy. Predictably, then, declarations of opera’s poetic intent, but also delimitations of its confines and its medial specificity as a genre, have intersected with larger arguments about genre and poetics in the fields of literature, theatre, music, the visual arts and more recently film and TV. Literary studies, and now especially film and television studies, continue to offer new elaborations and theorizations of the significance of genre. Opera historiography instead has so far manifested a cautious attitude towards overarching accounts of genre. The overall tendency is to study particular cases, texts, works, places or times. That is to say, the field has quite uniformly privileged the historical contingencies of opera and its genres, the fluidity and ephemerality of its texts and performances, the exceptional rather than the normative, shying away from those macro-historical, long-term comparative surveys demanded by the study of genres.50 On the other hand, especially in investigations of operas from the past, genre has operated as a silent, barely acknowledged premise against which a work’s value is measured. It might even be claimed that the historiography of opera has unswervingly relied upon genre definition as a foundational category. Genre definition ostensibly underlies a variety of considerations, ranging from musical-analytical to dramaturgical, from broader accounts of spectacle and ideology, to production systems and institutions, patterns

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of dissemination, printing and so forth. However, it would appear that the most complex and nuanced historical accounts seldom manifest the need to go back to the genre categories from which they stemmed, in order to modify, confirm or refine them in the newly elaborated historical terms. Thus genre is perilously on the verge of becoming the abstract receptacle of social, economic and aesthetic conventions, with the function either of an originating principle, or of the foil against which the creativity of a composer is celebrated. For example, Mozart operas traditionally appeared both to depend upon and to outclass, musically and dramaturgically, ideologically and aesthetically, the genres to which they belong. In turn, these genres – usually Singspiel, serious and comic opera – are circularly defined in terms of those common and repeatable traits that the composer managed both to evoke and overcome.51 Furthermore, research focused on generic convention often suffers from scarcity of source material: to return to the previous example, it is extremely difficult to gather a general sense of the phenomenon of mid-eighteenth-century comic opera in Europe – the patterns of its circulation and dissemination, and the reasons and ways the genre branched into several micro-variants and forms of entertainment. All we are left with are pale traces of what it might have been: sources such as manuscript scores (where they even survive) and printed libretti, when read in conjunction with commentaries and reviews, appear to stand in distant relation to their performances. Emanuele Senici has exposed the tendency of opera studies to dwell on a work’s peculiarity, to insist on its rupture with norms and conventions, as the inheritance of a nineteenth-century philosophy of art.52 But if we include considerations of the performative aspect of opera, then we might see this search for novelty also in terms of broader medial and communicative issues, not to mention economic ones. In this sense, novelty is also dictated by the imperative to counter the progressive loss of signification brought about by over-familiarity, and thus to avoid so-called automatization, or, in other words, the audience’s boredom with an obsolete commodity. The inclusion of singers’ improvisation and ornamentation may be explained as the means whereby opera has addressed the danger of such automatization, by containing the ever new. Moreover, the little changes introduced into the very texture of a genre performance after performance, night after night, are often undetectable from the distant point of view of the historian, centuries later. What we see now are only faded traces of bigger shifts and changes, of what we like to call departure from conventions. Despite all these difficulties, some genres of opera have received dedicated in-depth studies. For example, Stefano Castelvecchi and Emanuele Senici have written extensively about the genre of sentimental opera, which flourished in Italy (and France) between the end of the eighteenth and the

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early nineteenth century. Their scholarship not only testifies to the distinctive identity of the sentimental genre in works such as Paisiello’s Nina, rather than its being an occasional hybrid of serious and comic, but also traces its complex genealogy throughout eighteenth-century English, French and Italian bourgeois literature and drama and, most cogently, reads it in its historic context for its sociocultural significance.53 Another example is the multi-authored volume dedicated to eighteenth-century op´era comique, a genre that is as extensive and influential to the history of opera as it is indefinable – ‘un genre qui ne l’est pas’ (a genre that is not) as a contemporary critic disparagingly remarked.54 The editor and contributor Philippe Vendix declares in the opening pages that the goal is to make sense of the world of eighteenth-century op´era comique at large rather that delving into particular cases. This generalizing effort, the attempt to create a panoramic view, is cleverly compensated by the multiplicity of approaches offered by different scholars, and by the organization of the chapters both historically and systematically: in the end op´era comique, rather than being chiselled with a hatchet, is subtly and vividly evoked through a complex web of narratives and examples. So how can opera studies contribute to the theoretical debate on genre? As mentioned at the outset, opera’s constitutive hybridity and its ephemerality seem to offset any attempt at finding stable generalizations. But, as these next closing paragraphs try to outline, opera’s contribution might lie elsewhere, and in particular in the way it brings to the fore, in its very mixture of music and theatre, a peculiar sort of historicity.

The shelf life of genre: from artefact to event

The emergence of opera in late sixteenth-century Italian courts appears to coincide, perhaps most fortuitously, with music printing. Since its inception opera is therefore also a textual practice; although scores and parts were most commonly simply handwritten well into the nineteenth century, libretti have existed and have been disseminated in print almost continuously during the whole genre’s history. How opera’s formation and development were related to print culture and economy is seldom discussed, but the point here is that the definition of opera as a genre has relied on specific textual practices, in part supplemented by printing (editions, specialized publishers, etc.). The same operation of composing an opera has come to coincide with its writing – that is, with the compilation of text and score. Conversely, all that has been traditionally reserved to oral practice and transmission (gestures, vocal delivery, staging) is situated at the margin of opera as a genre, considered somewhat complementary but not constituent of the work.55

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This writing, however, like that of any musical score, is of a peculiar kind, insofar as it is always at the service of its performance, or better performances. Thus, whichever generic markers are inscribed in the operatic texts, they are also continuously reinterpreted in performance. For example, what might be broadly defined as, say, a comic opera could a few years later become a quintessential Romantic tragedy, as in the case of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which followed a sui generis trajectory from farce to tragedy.56 Less notorious but possibly more widespread are cases such as Auber’s Le Cheval de bronze, which, premiered at the Op´era-Comique in 1835, was defined from the outset in terms of multiple generic traits (op´era comique but also op´era bouffe, and op´era f´eerie) and then, years later, transformed into an op´era-ballet.57 Moreover, the accidental character of performance at times adds unanticipated generic contaminations, or even, in the way of the Marx Brothers, subversive deviations from the expectations delineated by an opera’s genre. Tosca’s final jump off the ramparts of Sant’Angelo fortress is the prepared and expected tragic ending, one of the most obvious generic traits of Puccini’s operas. And yet, the famous instance when stagehands miscalculated the elasticity of the landing surface for the soprano means that tragedy can suddenly end in slapstick comedy. Genre theory, elaborated initially in the context of literary studies, is concerned with genres primarily as practices of textualization. Despite the widespread acknowledgement that genre always entails a process (as Todorov put it, ‘it is a system in constant transformation’), the foundational theories of genre are bound to text.58 Writing is thus seen as what provides material evidence of the process of genre, and a text is the container of all the written traces of this continual transformation. As a mix of orality and writing, opera brings to the fore how textuality is the very boundary and limitation of genre theory. Itself another praxis of writing, genre theory in turn cannot conceive of anything outside itself. But performance is not reducible to a text. It might be said, therefore, that the event-ness and the reiteration of performance constitute the only space outside the circular workings of genre and genre theory: a space that guarantees the possibility of creative and transgressive alterations of generic norms. Opera studies could contribute to genre theory by foregrounding opera’s fundamental difference from itself as a genre: that is, by making evident the internal instabilities of each artefact, in which textuality is but one component and is often dependent on other more powerful forces, such as medium and production system. In turn, genre theory might facilitate a reopening of the discussion on matters of operatic conventions: of how imaginary solutions shape opera’s production and consumption, in its contingent, historical manifestations.

221 Genre and poetics Notes 1 The entry for opera in Grove Music Online, for example, without any ambition of thoroughness, refers to more than sixty generic labels: azione teatrale, ballad opera, ballet de cour, ballet-h´ero¨ıque, burlesque, burletta, chamber opera, com´edie-ballet, divertissement, drame lyrique, dramma giocoso, dramma per musica, entr´ee, extravaganza, farsa, favola in musica, festa teatrale, film musical, grand op´era, interm`ede, intermedio, intermezzo, Lehrst¨uck, Liederspiel, madrigal comedy, M¨archenoper, masque, medieval drama, melodrama, melodramma, monodrama, musical, music drama, music theatre, number opera, op´era-ballet, op´era bouffon, opera buffa, op´era comique, op´era-f´eerie, opera semiseria, opera seria, operetta, pantomime, pasticcio, pastoral, pastorale-h´ero¨ıque, posse, puppet opera, puppet theatre, rappresentazione sacra, rescue opera, sainete, Schuldrama, Schuloper, semi-opera, sepolcro, serenata, Singspiel, Spieloper, tonadilla, tourney, trag´edie en musique, vaudeville, zarzuela, Zauberoper and Zeitoper. Howard Mayer Brown et al., ‘Opera (i)’, in Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, subscriber/article/grove/music/ 40726. Even more comprehensive if at times overzealous is the list in Wikipedia, which includes about 116 entries: http: // of opera genres. 2 William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2. 3 Jacques Derrida, ‘The Law of Genre’, trans. Avital Ronell, Critical Inquiry, 7/1, On Narrative (Autumn 1980), pp. 55–81. 4 Tzvetan Todorov, Genres in Discourse, trans. C. Porter (Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 13–26. 5 On the dilemma of genre in literary theory see in particular the debate issued since the 1970s around the journal Po´etique, to which contributed especially G´erard Genette, Tzvetan Todorov and also Jacques Derrida. Excerpts of some of these contributions are collected in David Duff (ed.), Modern Genre Theory (Harlow and New York: Longman, 2000). 6 Brown et al., ‘Opera (i)’. See also Tim Carter, Monteverdi’s Musical Theatre (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002), especially Chapter 2, ‘Music on the Late Renaissance Stage’. Peri’s preface to Euridice is quoted in translation in Tim Carter, The Seventeenth Century, in Roger Parker (ed.) Oxford Illustrated History of Opera (Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 11.

7 The libretto, with English translation, is included in the score L’Orfeo: favola in musica SV 318 / Claudio Monteverdi, ed. Claudio Gallico (New York and London: Eulenburg, 2004). ˇ zek, Opera’s 8 Mladen Dolar and Slavoj Ziˇ Second Death (New York and London: Routledge, 2002) p. 6. 9 Amongst the most influential early essays are Leone de’ Sommi, Quattro dialoghi in materia di rappresentazioni sceniche (MS, 1556); Battista Guarini, Il Verrato (1588); Angelo Ingegneri, Della poesia rappresentativa e del modo di rappresentare le favole sceniche (MS, 1598); Giovan Battista Doni, Trattato della musica scenica (1630). On Renaissance genre theory see Bernard Weinberg, A History of Literary Criticism in the Italian Renaissance (University of Chicago Press, 1961). For more exhaustive bibliographies see especially Renato Di Benedetto, ‘Poetics and Polemics’, in Lorenzo Bianconi and Giorgio Pestelli (eds.), The History of Italian Opera, Part II, Vol. VI: Opera in Theory and Practice, Image and Myth, trans. Mary Whittall (University of Chicago Press, 2003), pp. 1–71. 10 Iacopo Peri, Euridice: An Opera in One Act and Five Scenes. Libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini, ed. Howard M. Brown (Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 1981), p. xvi. 11 ‘L’Andromeda Del Signor Benedetto Ferrari. Rappresentata in Musica in Venetia l’Anno 1637. Dedicata all’Illustrissimo Sig. Marco Antonio Pisani’ (Venice, 1637). For a contextualized account see in particular Ellen Rosand, Opera in Seventeenth Century Venice: The Creation of a Genre (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991). 12 Lorenzo Bianconi, Music in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 182. 13 A more detailed account of issues of dramaturgy and versification is provided in Laurel Zeiss’s chapter in this volume, Chapter 8. 14 Pierre Perrin, the librettist and main ‘author’ of this Pastoral, wrote a lengthy declaration of poetics first as a letter to Cardinal Della Rovere (April 1659), then included in a reprint of the libretto as a preface. The letter is reproduced in Arthur Pougin, Les Vrais Cr´eateurs de l’op´era franc¸ais (Paris, 1881), pp. 56–68. 15 For a thorough and synthetic account, see Curtis Price and Louise K. Stein, ‘Semi-opera’, in Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online,

222 Alessandra Campana /subscriber/article/grove/music/25392. 16 Giovanni Mario Crescimbeni, La bellezza della volgar poesia (Rome, 1700), quoted in Di Benedetto, ‘Poetics and Polemics’, p. 17. 17 Di Benedetto, ‘Poetics and Polemics’, pp. 15–23; the protagonists of this flurry of critical activity were, among many others, ´ Saint-Evremond in France, Giovanni Mario Crescimbeni and Ludovico Antonio Muratori in Italy. 18 On the formal and prosodic features of Metastasian libretto see Paolo Fabbri, ‘Metrical and Formal Organization’, in Lorenzo Bianconi and Giorgio Pestelli (eds.), The History of Italian Opera, Part II, Vol. VI: Opera in Theory and Practice, Image and Myth, trans. Mary Whittall (University of Chicago Press, 2003), pp. 178–84. 19 Di Benedetto, ‘Poetics and Polemics’, pp. 42–3, with reference in particular to Francesco Algarotti, Saggio sopra l’opera in musica (1755), Esteban de Arteaga, Le rivoluzioni del teatro musicale italiano (1785), Saverio Mattei, La filosofia della musica (1781?), and then Ranieri de’ Calzabigi’s criticism. 20 The generic labels adopted in Italy undergo a wide array of changes and variations, depending on place and time. To simplify, a Metastasian libretto is often labelled dramma per musica, while a comic opera on a libretto by Carlo Goldoni is often labelled dramma giocoso per musica. 21 The ideological qualifications of this generic division are both obvious and much too complex historically to find room in this context. Two seminal studies provide the necessary conceptual coordinates: on opera seria, see Martha Feldman, Opera and Sovereignty (University of Chicago Press, 2007); on opera buffa see Mary Hunter, The Culture of Opera Buffa in Mozart’s Vienna (Princeton University Press, 1999). 22 On ‘meta-operas’ see Alice Bellini, ‘Music and “Music” in Eighteenth-Century Meta-Operatic Scores’, Eighteenth-Century Music, 6/2 (2009), pp. 183–207. Well-known eighteenth-century meta-operas are for example the double bill of Salieri’s Prima la musica poi le parole, and Mozart’s Der Schauspieldirektor, both premiered in 1786. 23 Denise Launay (ed.), La Querelle des bouffons, 3 vols. (Geneva: Minkoff, 1973). A summary of the debate is in Di Benedetto, ‘Poetics and Polemics’, pp. 29–30, and in Thomas Bauman, ‘The Eighteenth Century: Comic Opera’, in Roger Parker (ed.), The

Oxford Illustrated History of Opera (Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 91–4. 24 Some of Calzabigi’s writings can be read in Piero Weiss (ed.), Opera: A History in Documents (Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 115–20. 25 Preface to Alceste (1769 version), published and translated in Weiss (ed.), Opera, pp. 119–20. 26 Daniel Heartz, From Garrick to Gluck, John Rice ed. (Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press, 2004); Bruce Alan Brown, Gluck and the French Theatre in Vienna (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991). 27 A similar point is made by Richard Taruskin, according to whom operatic reforms (including Gluck’s and Wagner’s) are yoked to a project of conservative royalist politics: ‘like those [reforms] of the Florentine Camerata in the sixteenth century or Gluck in the eighteenth, Wagner’s was now no revolutionary exploit but a neoclassical revival under the protection of a crown, about as socially conservative a concept as the history of music provides’; in The Oxford History of Western Music, Ch. 10: ‘Deeds of Music Made Visible (Class of 1813, I)’; , retrieved February 2011. 28 See James Hepokoski, ‘In the Beginning’, review of Philip Gossett, Anna Bolena and the Artistic Maturity of Gaetano Donizetti (Oxford University Press, 1985), 19th-Century Music, 12/1 (Summer 1988), pp. 74–8; Hepokoski, ‘Genre and Content in Mid-Century Verdi: “Addio del passato” (La traviata, act III)’, The Cambridge Opera Journal, 1/3 (November, 1989), pp. 249–76. 29 See Lydia Goehr, ‘From Opera to Music Drama: Nominal Loss, Titular Gain’, in Thomas Grey (ed.), Richard Wagner and His World (Princeton University Press, 2009), pp. 65–86. 30 See Carl Dahlhaus, ‘The Dramaturgy of Italian Opera’, in Lorenzo Bianconi and Giorgio Pestelli (eds.), The History of Italian Opera, Part II, Vol. VI: Opera in Theory and Practice, Image and Myth, trans. Mary Whittall (University of Chicago Press, 2003), pp. 73–150. 31 Friedrich Schlegel, Literary Notebooks: 1797–1801, ed. Hans Eichner (Toronto University Press, 1957), p. 116. 32 For opera and national identity see Chapter 12 in this volume; more specifically for the nineteenth century, see Jann Pasler,

223 Genre and poetics Composing the Citizen: Music as Public Utility in Third Republic France (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009); Stephen Meyer, Carl Maria von Weber and the Search for a German Opera (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003). 33 Hepokoski, ‘Genre and Content in Mid-Century Verdi’. For an account of French operatic genres in the context of urban culture see Anselm Gerhard, The Urbanization of Opera: Music Theater in Paris in the Nineteenth Century, trans. Mary Whittall (University of Chicago Press, 1998). 34 Piero Weiss, ‘Verdi and the Fusion of Genres’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 35 (1982), pp. 138–56. 35 Richard Wagner, A Communication to My Friends (1851), quoted in English in Weiss (ed.), Opera (Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 197–9. 36 Letter of 18 August 1919, The Correspondence between Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, arranged by Willi Schuh, ed. Franz and Alice Strauss, trans. Hanns Hammelmann and Ewald Osers (London: Collins, 1961), p. 331. 37 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, in Basic Writings of Nietzsche, trans. and ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Modern Library, 2000), pp. 1–144. 38 On this see Tomlinson, Metaphysical Song, p. 169, fn. 10. 39 Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘The Will to Power in Art’, in The Will to Power, ed. Walter Kaufmann, trans. Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale (New York: Random House, 1968), No. 809. On Carmen see Friedrich Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner, in Basic Writings, pp. 609–53. See also Tomlinson, Metaphysical Song, pp. 109–26. 40 For opera production and the culture industry see for instance Mark Clague, ‘The Industrial Evolution of the Arts: Chicago’s Auditorium Building (1889–) as Cultural Machine’, The Opera Quarterly, 22/3–4 (2006), pp. 477–511; and James Steichen, ‘The Metropolitan Opera Goes Public: Peter Gelb and the Institutional Dramaturgy of The Met: Live in HD’, Music and the Moving Image, 2/2 (Summer 2009), pp. 24–30. 41 On opera’s remediation see the issue of The Opera Quarterly on ‘Mediating Opera’, edited by Melina Esse (26/1, Winter 2010), and in particular Christopher Morris, ‘Digital Diva: Opera on Video’, pp. 96–119. 42 William Ashbrook and Harry Powers, Puccini’s Turandot: The End of the Great

Tradition (Princeton University Press, 1991), p. 164. 43 Theodor W. Adorno, ‘Bourgeois Opera’, in Opera Through Other Eyes, ed. and trans. David Levin (Stanford University Press, 1994), p. 25. 44 Heather Wiebe, ‘The Rake’s Progress as Opera Museum’, The Opera Quarterly, 25/1–2 (Winter–Spring 2009), pp. 6–27. 45 Paul Griffith, ‘The Twentieth Century: To 1945’, and Griffith, ‘The Twentieth Century: 1945 to the Present Day’, in Roger Parker (ed.), Oxford Illustrated History of Opera (Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 279–349, here p. 279. 46 Ibid., p. 336. 47 deathandthepowers. 48 Details of An Index of Metals can be found on the catalogue of Cypres Records at 49 Emanuele Senici, ‘Typologie des genres dans l’op´era’, in Jean-Jacques Nattiez (ed.), Musiques: une encyclop´edie pour le XXI si`ecle, Vol. IV (Paris: Actes Sud, 2006), p. 518. For a synthetic critical history of twentieth-century opera production see David Levin, ‘Issues and Trends in Contemporary Opera Production’, in Stanley Sadie and Laura Macy (eds.), The Grove Book of Operas, 2nd edn (Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. xi–xviii. 50 A most felicitous case of this macro-historical ambition is the two-volume study of the novel, which traces the genre’s histories, disseminations and transformations spanning over millennia and the globe. Franco Moretti (ed.), The Novel, Vol. I: History, Geography, and Culture; Vol. II: Forms and Themes (Princeton University Press, 2006). 51 Several exceptions are represented by recent studies, most notably Hunter, The Culture of Opera Buffa. 52 Emanuele Senici, ‘Genre’, in Helen Greenwald (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Opera (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). 53 Emanuele Senici, Landscape and Gender in Italian Opera (Cambridge University Press, 2005); and Stefano Castelvecchi, ‘Sentimental Opera: The Emergence of a Genre, 1760–1790’ (PhD dissertation, University of Chicago, 1996); Castelvecchi, ‘From Nina to Nina: Psychodrama, Absorption and Sentiment in the 1780s’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 8/2 (July 1996), pp. 91–112. 54 Philippe Vendrix (ed.), L’Op´era-Comique en France au XVIIIe si`ecle, (Li`ege: Mardaga, 1992); ‘a genre that is not’ is from Jean Auguste Julien [Desboulmiers], Histoire du theater de

224 Alessandra Campana l’op´era comique (Paris, 1769), p. 1, quoted in Maurice Barth´elemy, ‘L’op´era-comique des origins a` la Querelle des Bouffons’, p. 9. 55 Printed staging instructions became increasingly common throughout the nineteenth century, especially in France and Italy, but they have never been deemed crucial enough to the status of the artefact to be included in modern critical editions. See on this James Hepokoski, ‘Staging Verdi’s Operas’ in Alison Latham and Roger Parker (eds.), Verdi in Performance (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 11–20. 56 See Nicholas Till, Chapter 10 in this volume.

57 This specific case of multiple genres is illustrated in the study by Herv´e Lacombe, ‘De la diff´erenciation des genres: r´eflexion sur la notion de genre lyrique franc¸ais au d´ebut du XIX si`ecle’, Revue de Musicologie, 84/2 (1998), pp. 247–62. 58 Todorov, Genres in Discourse, p. 15; on the inherent textuality of genre theory see Jeff Collins, ‘The Genericity of Montage: Derrida and Genre Theory’, in G. Dowd, L. Stevenson and J. Strong (eds.), Genre Matters: Essays in Theory and Criticism (Bristol and Portland, OR: Intellect, 2006), pp. 55–68; and Stephen Heath, ‘The Politics of Genre’, in Christopher Prendergast (ed.), Debating World Literature (London: Verso, 2004), pp. 163–74.

10 The operatic work: texts, performances, receptions and repertories nicholas till

In 1998 the American soprano Ren´ee Fleming fell foul of what one journalist has called ‘the style police’ at La Scala in Milan.1 Performing the title role in Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, Fleming encountered opposition from the conductor Gianluigi Gelmetti when she introduced some decorative appoggiaturas into her vocal lines. As Philip Gossett puts it in his account of the event, Gelmetti has ‘an exaggerated respect for notation’. Since composers like Donizetti normally left appoggiaturas to the intelligence of performers they did not write them into their scores, and Gelmetti had taken this as authority for refusing Fleming’s additions. The tensions that occurred in preparation for the performances led to a classic La Scala brouhaha on the opening night in which, in Gossett’s words, ‘general havoc reigned and Gelmetti collapsed’.2 The incident was caused by two contradictory understandings of the nature of the operatic score: an approach that understands the score as a prompt for performance, and a more fundamentalist understanding of the score as a quasi-biblical authority whose every letter must be observed in performance. In his study of nineteenth-century music the German musicologist Carl Dahlhaus argued that musical activity in that century could be divided into these two camps, characterized by Italian opera (but also including virtuoso instrumentalists such as Liszt and Paganini) and German instrumental music: Beethoven’s symphonies represent inviolable musical ‘texts’ whose meaning is to be deciphered with exegetical interpretations; a Rossini score, on the other hand, is a mere recipe for performance, and it is the performance which forms the crucial aesthetic arbiter as the realisation of a draft rather than the exegesis of performance.3

During the course of the twentieth century the text concept has increasingly been extended to musical forms (such as Italian opera) that may not originally have been conceived in this mould. Musicians of the ‘inviolable musical text’ school have leapt upon the efforts of scholars like Gossett himself who have produced authoritative editions of operatic works that had over the years become compromised by the circulation of inaccurate [225]

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scores and parts, or accretions of accepted performance traditions (such as traditional cuts or re-orchestrations). This has led to a kind of puritanical rejection of anything that is not contained in the authorized score in what the conductor Riccardo Muti calls ‘the cause of fidelity’.4 The textual authoritarianism of conductors like Gelmetti and Muti has a fervour that can perhaps be explained by the fact that, as Italians, they are committed to raising the status of nineteenth-century Italian opera, which has hitherto been assumed to lie outside the more Germanic concept of the coherent musical work. The purpose of this chapter is to examine some related questions that concern any study of opera. The questions are: 1. 2. 3. 4.

What constitutes the operatic text? What authority does the operatic text confer? What is the relationship between the operatic text and the concept of the operatic work? What historical forces caused the shift from a performance-based understanding of opera to a work/text-based understanding?

These questions are clearly interconnected to the extent that the (perfectly reasonable) desire for an ‘authoritative’ performance text is inevitably underpinned by assumptions about the relationship between a coherent work of art and the intentions of an (ideally single) ‘author’ who produced it. As musicologist John Butt puts it, historically the ‘creation of a definitive score and . . . the creation of an authorial figure was a collaborative venture’.5 The concepts of the work, of its legitimate text, and of authorship are mutually sustaining, and often circular. As we shall see, editors base their judgement of what an operatic score should contain upon assumptions about authorial intention that are themselves based upon other texts that are offered up as authoritative: sketches, a draft score, written exchanges between composer and librettist. One piece of this equation between authorial authority (the tautology here is, of course, significant), work and text cannot be removed without threatening the whole edifice. Hence such stringent efforts to police the boundaries of the authorized (in both senses of the term) text in traditional criticism: ‘The classical text’, wrote Roland Barthes, one of its most insistent persecutors, ‘closes the work, chains it to its letter, rivets it to its signified.’6

Reception histories For performing arts such as opera the relationship of text and performance raises some important ontological and epistemological questions about

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where the work of art can be said to reside. When we discuss Carmen, what is it that we are actually talking about? Most often we are talking about an ideal version of the opera that is enshrined in a ‘text’ of some sort – probably a published score. Musicologists are oddly reticent about discussing actual performances of works since these seem too contingent and ephemeral (or even, as Carolyn Abbate puts it, too ‘carnal and material’7 ). And could any one performance of Carmen be said to stand for the work itself? In which case, are there as many ‘Carmens’ as there have been performances of the opera (or even as many Carmens as there are people who view/ hear it?). Recognition of this possibility is one of the premises of the critical method known as ‘reception history’, an approach that considers the critical reception of a work in its own day and subsequently. Sometimes it is suggested that the reception of an opera is as much a part of the identity and meaning of an operatic work as anything that can be discerned from close textual analysis, or from discussion of the putative intentions of the author(s), and that subsequent understandings and interpretations can also become part of the identity of a work. In their book entitled Reading Critics Reading of 2001, a collection of essays employing the methods of reception history for opera and dance, Roger Parker and Mary Ann Smart note that ‘Whether from a new mistrust of analysis or – in some extreme cases – of any detailed explanation of the internal workings of pieces of music, or as a way of suggesting new and broader fields of meaning for those pieces, musicological conferences, journals, dissertations and books seem increasingly dominated by “reception studies”.’8 Wagner, inevitably, has fuelled a whole industry in the study of his reception and impact, not only in Germany but in countries as diverse as Austria, Britain, Portugal and the USA.9 The Wagner reception juggernaut has now reached Japan, where Japanese scholars are currently studying Wagner’s reception in late nineteenth-century Japan, where it was part of the broader promotion of Western culture by the modernizing Meiji restoration government. Interest in Wagner was led by the study of Western aesthetics by Japanese intellectuals, and by the equation by Japanese theatre scholars of European opera with traditional Japanese theatrical forms combining music and drama such as Noh and Kabuki. Wagner’s theoretical ideas and scores inevitably preceded actual performances of his music dramas; the first attempt at staging Western opera in Japan, a production of Tannh¨auser by university students in 1903, had to be abandoned, and Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice was substituted. In the same decade the first generation of Japanese composers trained in Western composition began to create their own versions of Wagnerian music drama, initiating a complex relationship between Western opera and Japanese culture over the following century.10

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Reception history also demonstrates how core perceptions of a work can be coloured by its subsequent interpretation. An opera like Mozart’s Don Giovanni, one of the first operatic works to have a virtually unbroken history of performance from its initial presentation in Prague in 1787 (albeit often in barely recognizable versions) offers a classic case. There is very little reliable information about the opera’s original presentation or reception, and views of the work were long dictated by the highly influential readings of the opera as a prototypically Romantic work by the German Romantic writer E. T. A. Hoffmann and the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard, both of whom viewed Don Giovanni as a kind of demonic Byronic antihero. For Hoffmann the opera revolved around the obsessive love–hate relationship between Giovanni and his nemesis Donna Anna, the woman whose father Giovanni murders when he attempts to defend his daughter’s honour against Giovanni. This Romantic reading has dominated the opera not only in matters of casting – with a preference for dark, saturnine bass-baritones as Don Giovanni and steely dramatic sopranos as Donna Anna (the great Wagnerian soprano Birgit Nilsson was a notable exponent of the role) – but in the basic presentation of the opera: throughout most of the nineteenth century the opera ended with the drama of Don Giovanni’s damnation, the concluding sextet in which the surviving characters offer a moralizing postscript being omitted on the grounds that it was purely conventional, and trivialized the opera. A recent book entitled The Don Giovanni Moment: Essays on the Legacy of an Opera traces the impact of the Romantic reading of the opera beyond the operatic stage, noting, for instance, the way in which Liszt’s piano transcription of music from the opera (the main way in which most people in the nineteenth century came to know the music of operas that they could not actually experience in the theatre) is dominated by the music of the spectral statue and Don Giovanni’s damnation.11 When people talk about an opera we always have to ask ourselves what version or idea of that opera they have in mind. Such interpretations often have a strongly ideological dimension. The young Danish scholar Magnus Tessing Schneider has shown, for instance, that there was a determined effort during the 1820s and 1830s to propagate a more cosy, Biedermeier, view of Don Giovanni to counter the prevalent Romanticizing of the opera. This was based on the publication of recollections of the original performers, from a somewhat dubious source, which supposedly confirmed that the opera had been presented in a light and humorous manner.12 Different ideological issues were at stake over the opera in England. Examining the history of the reception of Mozart in this country, Rachel Cowgill has shown how the belated presentation of Mozart’s operas in London (Don Giovanni was not seen on stage until

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1817) ‘triggered a sparring for authority in matters of musical taste between opera patrons from opposite sides of the metropolis’.13 Mozart was advocated by a group of middle-class city connoisseurs who supported ‘serious’ German music over the supposedly frivolous taste of the West End aristocracy, who preferred Italian opera. But not all of Mozart’s operas were approved of; although Cos`ı fan tutte enjoyed some vogue in Germany as an example of Romantic irony in the 1830s (albeit with re-written versions of the libretto),14 it was generally estimated to be shallow and immoral during most of the nineteenth century. A ‘history of opera’ published in London in 1862 makes no mention of the work;15 another published in 1905 dismisses its libretto as ‘mediocre in character’, and finds the music to be ‘conventional’.16 Hermann Kretzschmar’s influential Geschichte der Oper (History of Opera), published in Leipzig as late as 1919, states that it would be no loss if Mozart hadn’t written the opera: ‘it has a couple of good numbers, but in general it is no more than crumbs from the Italian table . . . The libretto is wretched.’17 In the case of Cos`ı fan tutte, critical judgement lagged behind that of performers, since the opera had been revived for the first time in its original form by the conductor Hermann Levi in Munich in 1896, and by Mahler in Vienna in 1900, part of a nostalgic fin-de-si`ecle aesthetic interest in eighteenth-century culture that envisaged Mozart as a delicate ‘rococo’ artist,18 often equating him with the painter Watteau (an association sustained subsequently on numerous Mozart record sleeves). But Cos`ı didn’t really gain full critical recognition until after World War II; astonishingly, it received its first performance at the Royal Opera in London as late as 1968. Having been notably iffy about the opera in 1956,19 Joseph Kerman now concedes that it is ‘the [Mozart] opera of choice today’;20 a work whose complex moral ambiguities are perhaps better recognized in our climate of postmodern relativism. The changing fortunes of Cos`ı fan tutte show that perceptions of a work may vary enormously, and that they are often determined by considerations other than the purely musical or dramatic, telling us more about changing cultural values than about a work itself. But the idea that there might be as many versions of an opera as there are performances or interpretations, or that subsequent interpretations might become an indelible aspect of that opera, is unsettling and counter-intuitive, and invariably leads us back to the comforting security of that originating text: the miniature score of Carmen that sits here on my desk, giving me the illusion that I can somehow grasp the opera Carmen in my hand (although, as we shall see, I am wrong to be so easily reassured). Those performances, we say, are only interpretations of the ‘work’ itself, a notion that was clearly enshrined as normative for a conservative opera composer such as Hans Pfitzner, for whom, writing in

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1929, there was a clear distinction between ‘work’ and ‘reproduction’, the latter of which was merely a means of allowing the work to be manifested, not an end in itself.21

Performance But there is surely a case for inverting the common-sense assumption that the performance exists to present the work as faithfully as possible by arguing that the ‘work’ serves as a pretext for a performance. As I argue in Chapter 3, the performance event, with all its messy contingency and materiality, is what it is all about. Before the mid-nineteenth century most composers would have been far more concerned about the success of the event than about that event’s relationship to some putative ideal ‘work’, whose afterlife would have been very uncertain. Verdi, writes Francesco Degrada, ‘didn’t conceive of his scores primarily as “texts”: as fully defined documents . . . he regarded them as practical tools’.22 Indeed, operatic scores were infrequently published in Italy before the mid-nineteenth century since the fixity of the printed text was not suited to the need for adaptability in practice.23 The famous 1609 printed score of Monteverdi’s Orfeo was intended as a document to commemorate the munificence of the Gonzaga rulers who had presented the opera rather than as a template for further performances.24 During Mozart’s lifetime only Die Entf¨uhrung aus dem Serail and Don Giovanni were published, in vocal score alone. The full score of Die Zauberfl¨ote was not published until 1814, twenty-three years after the opera’s premiere (and with substantial variants to the sung text in Mozart’s manuscript score and the published libretto), numerous performances of the opera having been based on hand-copied manuscripts up until 1813.25 It is no surprise that later in his life Rossini should have been alarmed by the suggestion of his publishers Ricordi that they produce a complete edition of his operas, since this would reveal the extent of his self-borrowings from one opera to the next. He had assumed, he said, that he had the right to re-use material from works that had otherwise sunk without trace, since an audience in Milan was unlikely to have seen an opera in Naples from which he might have recycled some material.26 Moreover, until the imposition of enforceable copyright laws in the mid-nineteenth century, composers had little pecuniary interest in the afterlife of their operas, which could be performed by anyone who could get hold of a version of a score. They could make more money by publishing arrangements of their operatic music for domestic consumption or for instrumental forces. But they had to be quick off the mark since unscrupulous orchestral players would often sell copies of their parts to arrangers, as Mozart suggests in a letter to his father shortly

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after the premiere of Die Entf¨uhrung aus dem Serail, writing: ‘Well I am up to my eyes in work, for by Sunday week I have to arrange my opera for wind instruments. If I don’t someone will anticipate me and secure the profits.’27 The flood of pirated arrangements of music from Die Zauberfl¨ote in the months after its premiere in 1791 indicate that on that occasion Mozart was unable to capitalize on his work.28 Before the concept of the ideal authored work became normative composers were always expected to write music to suit the voices of the singers with whom they were working, so that the distinctive vocal style of a particular singer – her range, her preferred tessitura, her technical strengths – may be found in very different roles, regardless of the character she is supposed to be portraying. In one notorious case Rossini wrote an aria for a seconda donna in his opera Ciro in Babilonia that consists of only one note in the vocal part (a repeated B flat). The explanation may be apocryphal – that Rossini determined that there was only one note in that singer’s voice that was acceptable – but the evidence in the score is irrefutable. Composers had also to accept that singers might bring their own favourite arias with them (known as arie di baule, or ‘suitcase arias’) to insert into an opera.29 Indeed, many composers, including Mozart, wrote such ‘insertion’ arias for singers. Mozart also substituted arias in his own works, as with Susanna’s two arias in Le nozze di Figaro when the opera was revived in Vienna in 1788. These performances had a singer performing the role of Susanna who had very different vocal characteristics from the original Susanna, Nancy Storace: Adriana Ferrarese, who was shortly to create the role of Fiordiligi in Cos`ı fan tutte. When, at the Metropolitan Opera in 1990, Cecilia Bartoli substituted Ferrarese’s arias for the more familiar Storace arias the director Jonathan Miller, otherwise noted for his insistence that the theatrical aspects of a work are not fixed by the original instructions, objected on the grounds that the new arias Mozart had inserted were not as dramatically effective as the originals.30 But operas were originally created for performers, not the other way round. Some 1725 instructions for the construction of a libretto make clear that the librettist’s task was also primarily to meet the needs and expectations of the singers, rather than to follow any abstract ideal of classical dramaturgy.31 When the great Italian comic playwright Goldoni first tried his hand at an opera libretto he was given a no-nonsense run-down on such rules: the first soprano (castrato), prima donna and tenor must sing five arias each, ‘a pathetic, a bravura, a parlante, a mezzo carattere, and a brilliant’. Solecisms were soon pointed out: ‘you make a lead singer exit without an aria, after a scena di forza, and this too is against the rules’.32 In a recent study Hilary Poriss has demonstrated that singers exercised, and audiences expected, a good deal of musical autonomy in Italian opera well into the twentieth century.33 The priority of effective

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performance may override other considerations for composers. Wagner put aside his deep-seated anti-Semitism (and faced the anti-Semitic opprobrium of others) when it came to the choice of conductors for his last opera Parsifal, accepting the Jewish Hermann Levi to conduct what he had described as ‘this most Christian of works’. Wagner’s anti-Semitic acolytes later argued that he only accepted Levi under duress since Levi was the conductor of the Munich Court Orchestra that was to play for Parsifal. But more recent scholarship shows that Wagner estimated Levi highly, even addressing him as his ‘alter ego’.34 Clearly artistic outcomes were more important than ideological purity.

The organic work Where did Pfitzner’s concept of the operatic ‘work’ come from? Writing in 1817 the German composer Carl Maria von Weber made a distinction between the Italian and the German approaches to musical performance: ‘Whereas other nations [i.e. the Italians] concern themselves with the sensual pleasure of isolated moments, [the German] demands a self-sufficient work of art, in which all the parts make up a beautiful unified whole.’35 This idea of the unified musical work is derived from Romantic aesthetics, which argued that there should be a deeper level of coherence below the surface of the literary or musical text. Thus the English poet Coleridge makes a distinction between works of art that are ‘assembled’ and those that have unity: ‘The plays of Beaumont and Fletcher are mere aggregations without unity; in the Shakespearean drama there is a vitality which grows and evolves itself from within – a keynote which guides and controls the harmonies throughout.’36 The musical terminology is significant, since it is also from the early nineteenth century that the formal structures of instrumental music came to assume their own authority, to which the other arts aspired. And inevitably this emphasis upon unity and coherence in music would impact on thinking about opera. Wagner writes of traditional number operas, in terms very similar to Coleridge’s strictures on Beaumont and Fletcher, as ‘arbitrary conglomerations of separate smaller forms . . . as opposed to drama, which, in content and form consists of a chain of organic members conditioning, supplementing, and supporting each other, exactly like the organic members of the human body’.37 Wagner advocated a ‘symphonic’ approach to opera composition, and offered examples of this in his own works, demonstrating retrospectively how even a conventional ‘number’ opera like Der fliegende Holl¨ander could be shown to be organic, claiming that all of the thematic material derived from the ‘motivic cells’ of Senta’s Ballad.38 Wagner’s approach

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was immensely influential, so that by 1865 a younger generation of Italian composers was also assuming the principles of German-style instrumental composition as the proper underpinning for opera: ‘Let us train ourselves on the symphony and the quartet in order to confront the challenge of opera’, wrote Verdi’s future librettist Arrigo Boito in that year.39 The abolition of secco recitative in early nineteenth-century Italian opera, and the increasing preference for through-composed forms over genres alternating speaking and singing, such as op´era comique or Singspiel, also indicate the movement towards an organic concept of the operatic work. Carmen, for instance, was written as an op´era comique with spoken dialogue; but once it was taken up by the Paris Op´era after Bizet’s death the spoken dialogue was set to music, in accordance with the requirements of the Op´era, converting it into a through-sung opera, and it was in this preferred form that it circulated more widely. Another telling sign was the increasing expectation from the later eighteenth century that the operatic overture should be related to the opera that it preceded, in some sense establishing the dramatic mood of the work that was to follow rather than ‘consisting of little more than festive noise’ (as Reinhard Strohm puts it).40 The new-style overture was adumbrated in the famous preface to the first edition of Gluck’s opera Alceste of 1769, a manifesto for operatic reform, in which the author writes, ‘I have felt that the overture ought to appraise the spectators of the nature of the action that is to be represented and to form, so to speak, its argument’, which Strohm suggests is a reference to the rhetorical concept of the argomento as the distillation of the subject matter of a speech.41 Whilst Rossini explored dramatically integrated orchestral introductions in many of his operas, Ricciardo e Zoraide and Ermione both incorporating a chorus singing from behind the curtain, some of his overtures were interchangeable, with no distinction being made between serious and comic works, much of the overture for Il barbiere di Siviglia having served previously for the serious operas Aureliano in Palmira and Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra.42 But already by the end of the eighteenth century the Austro-German operatic overture frequently included musical references to the ensuing opera, as in Mozart’s overtures to Don Giovanni, Cos`ı fan tutte and Die Zauberfl¨ote.43 For Kierkegaard the Don Giovanni overture was ‘impregnated with the essence of the whole opera’, just as Gluck had advocated.44 Although Beethoven notoriously took the injunction to present ‘the argument’ rather too literally in one of the four overtures he attempted for his opera Leonore/ Fidelio, for which the overture known as Leonore No. 3 offers a virtual condensation of the drama that is to follow, the imperative towards a more ‘symphonic’ conception of the whole operatic work meant that by the later nineteenth century the self-contained overture became increasingly redundant in works conceived in this mould – although this did not prevent

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Wagner from making stand-alone versions of his operatic preludes for the concert stage. The organic ideal is also evident in the increasing importance attributed to the conductor in nineteenth-century opera. Until well into that century operas were held together musically by either a keyboard player seated at the keyboard for recitatives (by custom the composer for the first three performances), or by the first violinist, or often both, with the keyboardist being responsible for the singers and the leader for the orchestral musicians – a situation that inevitably gave rise to musical conflict, accounts of which survive from as late as 1839.45 As musical scores became more complex the need for clear leadership was recognized, but it has been noted that early Romantic conductors such as Mendelssohn and Schumann beat time to maintain a clear tempo and togetherness, rather than to mould or shape a score musically.46 It was Wagner who introduced a more flexible conducting style, himself abandoning the use of metronome instructions in his scores after Tannh¨auser and insisting that tempo should be determined by the dramatic situation.47 By the end of the nineteenth century the modern concept of a conductor who provides overall musical coherence, able to balance the demands of the dramatic moment with an understanding of the underlying musical structure of a score, had established the conductor as the lynchpin of an approach to operatic performance in which musical priorities were foremost. Writing to Boito in 1891 Verdi insisted that everything in an operatic performance must be subordinate to the authority of the conductor, who had indeed become, in effect, the composer’s alter ego.48 For Wagner, the demand for organicism meant that the libretto (or ‘dramatic poem’ in Wagner’s terminology) must also match ‘the richness and complexity of symphonic form’.49 Wagner, of course, wrote his own dramatic texts, as did an increasing number of composers from the middle of the nineteenth century such as Berlioz, Mussorgsky, Boito, Jan´acˇ ek, Schoenberg, Berg and Tippett, an indication of the way in which composers came to want authorial control over all of the parameters of their work. This was fully in line with nineteenth-century aesthetic theory, which argued that the organic artistic work should be a revelation of a unique artistic personality. The German critic Herder had suggested that ‘one ought to be able to regard each book as the impression of a living human soul’,50 and Goethe attacked the use of the term ‘composition’ to describe Mozart’s Don Giovanni since composition implied the mere putting together of ‘individual parts of a machine’ rather than ‘an organic whole made alive and pervaded by a unified soul . . . How can one say that Mozart composed his Don Juan! . . . As if it were a piece of cake or a biscuit stirred together by eggs, flour and sugar!’51 The collective conditions of the production of opera make this faith in absolute authorial control a questionable proposition. But increasingly

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during the nineteenth century it was assumed that an opera should indeed convey the character of its primary creator, now invariably associated with the composer (just as the era’s literary critics attempted to reinstate ‘Homer’ as sole author of the Iliad and Odyssey.52 ) If you look at an eighteenthcentury Italian opera bill it will announce in large letters that La clemenza di Tito is by Metastasio, with music by X (in smaller letters). To some extent this reflected the relative social status of librettists and composers, librettists usually being educated literary men whereas composers were considered to be lower-status craftsmen. But by the nineteenth century it is clear that the author(s) of the libretto – like the Hollywood film there were often several writers, as for Carmen and Rossini’s Guillaume Tell – are secondary (although it has been suggested that certain later nineteenth-century French operas gained circulation primarily because of the literary renown of their librettist, the novelist Zola53 ). As always, it was Wagner who created the conditions for himself at Bayreuth where his authorial realm could extend from first conception to final execution. It may therefore seem surprising that he didn’t conduct his mature music dramas himself. But this was because Wagner needed to be able to stand outside the performance to gauge its total effect. And he clearly directed his performances by proxy. There is a slightly comical picture of Wagner poking his head through an opening in the orchestral cover at Bayreuth to give instructions to his conductor, somewhat like the dwarf Alberich muttering commands into the ear of his sleeping son Hagen in Gotterd¨ammerung. By the end of his career Verdi had also assumed a dominating role in the production of his works, insisting when he was working on Aida upon the ‘unified’ work, ‘in which the idea is ONE, and everything must converge to form this one’, dismissing the idea that singers, or even conductors, might make a creative contribution to the work of opera since there must be ‘only one creator’.54 The musicologist Edward Cone once suggested that, in opera after Wagner, ‘the continuity of the orchestral sound and of the musical design constantly refers to an all-inclusive persona surveying the entire action from a single point of view’, like the ‘omniscient author’ in a novel.55 But there is a tension between these two different conceptions of artistic coherence, one based upon the individual character of the work itself, the other based upon the identity of its author. A characteristic of Romantic theatre aesthetics was that, in opposition to the classical ideal of a universal theatrical language suitable to conveying universal truths, with generalized, conventional locations and conventional musical-dramatic forms, each work should have its own specific historical or geographical ‘local colour’. Romantic composers seized this opportunity to incorporate ‘local’ or historical musical styles into their works, often drawing from relevant folk or ethnic musics. Later nineteenth-century critics such as Wagner duly complained that they

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thereby introduced a mishmash of alien musical styles that negated a work’s internal coherence and the uniqueness of the composer’s voice.56 Eventually the circle was squared between the distinctive character, or ‘tinto’, of the individual work and the authorial voice of the artist by such critical strategies as identifying different stages in a composer’s development, or seeking a composer’s underlying musical (or dramaturgical) characteristics, in the way that Gary Tomlinson, for instance, has attempted to construct an overview of Verdi’s musical-dramatic character by identifying ‘numerous large-scale correspondences’ among Verdi’s various operas.57

Repertories and canons The concept of the autonomous musical work enshrined in an authoritative musical text began to become normative not only for composers but also for critics and audiences during the early part of the nineteenth century. Some of the earliest instances of the demand for fidelity to text related to the operas of Mozart. In a review of Don Giovanni in 1815, E. T. A. Hoffmann condemned the practice of performing Don Giovanni as a Singspiel with spoken dialogue and cuts, writing that ‘It is an eternal truth that one should not fiddle with a poetic work that has emerged directly from the inner heart . . . Don Juan will always appear disrupted into parts and pieces when not given faithfully according to the original score.’58 Rachel Cowgill has demonstrated that calls for Don Giovanni to be performed according to Mozart’s intentions were also prevalent amongst musical cognoscenti in London in the 1820s,59 and Jennifer Hall-Witt has shown that from the 1840s onwards British music critics increasingly used terms such as ‘text’ and ‘work’ when demanding that operas be performed whole and unadulterated.60 The emergence of issues around the status of the operatic work and its text came to be of particular importance in the first half of the nineteenth century due to the progressive laying down of a fixed repertory of operatic works from the past in place of the production of predominately new works – a tendency described by Lydia Goehr as the creation of ‘an imaginary museum of musical works’.61 As William Weber has commented recently, scholarship on the development of the operatic repertory and canon is still surprisingly limited,62 and historians of opera give different accounts of when operatic works first started to remain in the operatic repertory from their inception. Operas from the seventeenth century by Lully and his contemporaries were still being revived in Paris in the 1750s, which Weber has suggested was due to their association with the glories of the regime of Louis XIV at a time when the French monarchy was needing to

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reassert its authority;63 but their performance clearly had more to do with political than artistic considerations (as was a revival of Rameau’s Castor et Pollux at the Op´era in celebration of the Bourbon restoration in 1814).64 Yet continuity does, indeed, seem to have been more common in France than elsewhere: the French operas of Gluck, first presented in the 1760s and 1770s, continued to be performed in Paris into the 1820s. But neoclassicism survived in France much longer than elsewhere (think of the longevity of the painter Ingres), and with the full advent of Romanticism Gluck’s operas fell out of the repertory in the 1830s. When Berlioz mounted productions of the French versions of Orfeo in 1859 and Alceste in 1861 these were amongst the first acts of historical recuperation of the operatic repertory, laying down the accepted starting point for the repertory for the next hundred years (although Katherine Ellis argues that Gluck never became fully ‘canonic’ during the nineteenth century, despite the efforts of Wagner and Berlioz65 ). Roger Parker suggests that Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia (1816) was the first opera to enter the repertory permanently;66 other historians give the title to Don Giovanni. Weber argues that although there was a growing repertory of old operas in most countries by the mid-nineteenth century, there was ‘no effort to historicize or canonize them’ comparable to the historical canonization of the orchestral repertory.67 Weber here draws on a distinction made by Joseph Kerman between the fixing of a performance repertory (driven by the preferences of performers and audiences) and the critical establishment of a canon of great works that are judged to be exemplary, often based upon scholarly editions of works rather than performance. The distinction is typified in the publication in France of a series entitled ‘Chefs-d’oeuvres classiques de l’op´era franc¸ais’ in the 1870s, and from 1895 of a Rameau edition. Both had the explicitly nationalistic aim of promoting the past glories of French music after the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870–71, and were seen as a riposte to the monumental German Bach editions; neither had much impact upon the performance repertory.68 This distinction between performance repertory and historical canon can also be charted in two books on opera published in England in 1862 and 1905. Sutherland Edwards’s History of the Opera from Monteverdi to Donizetti is mainly an assemblage of historical texts on opera, gossipy accounts of the contemporary opera world, and descriptions of some favourite operas, with very little attempt to offer any musical or dramaturgical analysis of the works described, or to provide a coherent overview of the development of the form (although it does adopt a typically nineteenth-century narrative of ‘progress’ when describing Rossini’s development as a composer).69 Forty years later the title of Arthur Elson’s A Critical History of Opera, giving an account of the rise and progress of the different schools, with a description of the masterworks in each (1905) indicates

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that a canonical approach was now firmly in place. From this moment there would be an increasing alignment between the critical and performance canons. The reasons for the establishment of a historical performance repertory remain far from clear. In general it may reflect the greater historical consciousness of the nineteenth century, although there were in fact few examples of the kind of historical recuperation that Mendelssohn performed for Bach, or Wagner and Berlioz for Gluck, until Levi and Mahler at the end of the century. Rather, an increasing number of operas simply remained in the repertory. From the perspective of production, the gradual shift away from highly conventionalized modes of production to productions that were supposed to respond to the unique geographical locations and historical periods of each individual work meant that rather than being able to recycle stock theatrical scenery for new productions theatres had to provide new sets for each new opera.70 This made it more economical to keep works in the repertory for longer. From the perspective of performance, a similar move away from a shared set of musical and performance conventions towards the unique and coherent work made it increasingly difficult for performers to learn and perform as many new works. From the perspective of audiences, Jennifer Hall-Witt has argued that the fixing of the repertory may have to do with an expanding middle-class audience whose musical knowledge and taste was less secure than the aristocratic audience that had previously dominated; such an audience will be less confident about engaging with new works, and will have a preference for ‘older, classical works whose value has been proven over time’.71 Whatever the reasons, we can certainly say that the modern operatic repertory, now undoubtedly seen as a canon of great works, was more or less established by the First World War, ensuring that from this date opera would be fixed in aspic as a museum art form. It is true that certain once-canonical composers such as Meyerbeer and Gounod, whose busts still accompany those of Mozart and Beethoven in so many nineteenth-century opera house foyers, have subsequently fallen out of favour, and that others have been rehabilitated due to changing critical tastes. The promotion of Mussorgsky, for instance (despite his limited and problematic operatic output), reflects his retrospective status as proto-modernist. His contemporary RimskyKorsakov revised his scores to smooth out the rough edges and make his operas conform to late nineteenth-century taste; today we prefer the rough edges. Jan´acˇ ek, once viewed as a marginal nationalist composer, has been brought into the mainstream by some vigorous championship (although he can still empty the house at Covent Garden). Revisions of the canon also take place due to the revival of otherwise lost performance traditions: the Italian bel canto repertory, whose dramatic possibilities were rediscovered

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by Maria Callas in the 1950s; baroque opera as a result of the historically informed performance movement. Until relatively recently the repertory started with Gluck’s Orfeo (1762), and it still comes as shock to look at the 1969 edition of Kobb´e’s Complete Opera Book, its various editions since 1922 serving as a weathervane of the mainstream repertory, and to find that ‘Opera Before Gluck’ merits no more than 28 pages out of the book’s overall 1,250 pages. No mention is made in this section of Cavalli, Lully, Rameau, Handel or Vivaldi, to name but a few significant opera composers in the first 150 years of opera. Monteverdi’s Orfeo is dutifully described, but it is clear the book’s editor Lord Harewood doesn’t really know what to say about it; there is no entry on Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea.72 The revival of pre-classical performance traditions, and the more recent extension of the operatic repertory back in time, are clearly a compensation for the failure of all but a handful of post-1918 operas to enter the repertory, and the resultant need for other ways of providing novelty. The most remarkable addition to the repertory is perhaps that of the operas of Handel. These were long thought to be unperformable after the extinction of the castrato in the nineteenth century, and in the light of the musical and dramatic ideals of the Romantic era. In 1862 Sutherland Edwards pronounced that ‘Handel’s Italian operas are now quite obsolete . . . there is no chance of any one of his operas ever being reproduced in a complete form’, judging them ‘meagre and dull’ with ‘poor and thin’ orchestration.73 Notwithstanding, a Handel revival took place in Germany in the 1920s. In part it reflected the broader post-war cultural turn to neoclassicism (more accurately in music ‘neobaroque’),74 but it was almost certainly also a nationalistic compensation for the unfortunate fact that Bach, the composer conventionally revered as the father of German music, had never written any operas. The revival started in G¨ottingen, where Rodelinda was presented in 1920 before being taken up by a further twenty-five opera houses in Germany. The operas were heavily adapted by the director of the G¨ottingen Handel Festival, Oskar Hagen, to suit contemporary tastes, the Handel scholar Winton Dean describing Hagen’s version of Serse as ‘a grinning parody’, although Hagen’s versions were still being performed in Germany well into the 1960s.75 In Britain, the other country to lay claim to Handel, the canon of Handel operas was presented by a dedicated Handel Opera Society between 1955 and 1985, drawing upon the revival of male falsetto singing in England to present the operas in ways that were closer to Handel’s vocal casting, although only in recent years have male sopranos such as David Daniels or Philippe Jaroussky developed the range and flexibility to tackle the roles sung by the great castrati such as Farinelli and Senesino. By 1985 the increasing tendency for mainstream opera companies to present Handel’s operas

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made the Handel Opera Society redundant; the English National Opera in London now likes to call itself ‘the undisputed House of Handel’.76 The current fashion for Handel operas – and to a lesser extent for the even more dramaturgically alien semi-operas of Purcell – perhaps reflects the contemporary theatrical climate of what is often called ‘post-dramatic’ theatre,77 which has enabled us to appreciate theatrical forms that do not conform to the precepts of Aristotelian dramaturgy, even if the cheeky postmodern theatricality of many contemporary Handelian productions is at odds with the rather more sober ‘adherence-to-text’ ethic of the historically informed performance musicians in the pit. (Richard Taruskin has demonstrated that the ideal of ‘objectivity’ that used to inform the performance of early music had much more to do with a modernist ideology of dispassionate, noninterpretive performance than with the improvisatory approach of baroque musical performance.78 )

Textualization In a repertory based on a constant diet of new operatic works, such works are known primarily through performance. A museum repertory, on the other hand, depends upon the survival of works through texts that become divorced from the performance conventions, both musical and theatrical, from which they arose. This demands reliable performance scores so that interpreters can be certain of what the original creators intended, and at the same time opens the need for interpretation of those scores as the original performance contexts and meanings of the work recede into the distance. Look at a score of a Handel opera and all it sometimes contains is a figured bass and unornamented vocal line, relying on knowledge of baroque performance practice to fill in the gaps (which is what Sutherland Edwards clearly lacked). Awareness of the incompleteness of texts from the past led to attempts to textualize those aspects of new works for which textualization had hitherto not been thought necessary, in particular in relation to performance. The German sociologist Max Weber saw this increasing tendency towards notational fixity as part of the broader social trend towards rationalization and specialization in modernity. James Hepokoski describes the production of the score for Verdi’s Falstaff, in which two members of the La Scala orchestra edited the detailed performance markings in the score – a classic instance of Max Weber’s specialization through division of labour – as ‘the product of thoroughly industrialised editorship’.79 This textualization of the operatic score could extend to other parameters. Composers of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries considered ornamentation to be the prerogative of the performer. Although

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Rossini increasingly wrote out some of the more florid coloratura in his later operas, it was Verdi who, in his scores from Macbeth onwards, started to write his preferred appoggiaturas into the score. As Philip Gossett points out, if we follow the logic of the textual authoritarians Verdi invented the appoggiatura!80 Textualization spread to theatrical production too. By the early nineteenth century it had become common for theatres in France to publish production books with a detailed record of the staging of an opera, including stage plans, costume drawings, and written descriptions of the action on stage. The practice was part of the packaging of opera for reproduction. Operas that were performed in Paris were often subsequently presented in provincial French opera houses, which received not only a score, but instructions for assemblage. But the livret de mise en sc`ene (or livret sc´enique) is also indicative of an increasing sense of the posterity of a work. As the prolific French librettist Scribe wrote to his publisher about the use of production books: ‘The proper traditions are henceforth impossible to forget, and it is regrettable that such work was not done long ago.’81 The practice was picked up in Italy, where, Marian Smith has suggested, composers were increasingly losing control over theatrical presentation as musico-dramatic conventions were loosened, in particular those in which musical gestures would have indicated conventional dramatic gestures.82 Although Wagner considered that the opera composer still controlled the ‘physical production’ on stage through his music, fixing it ‘beyond all risk of error’ and effecting a ‘transmigration of the poet’s soul into the body of the player’,83 by the end of the century Verdi’s publisher Ricordi was issuing detailed disposizione sceniche of the original productions of operas such as Otello, insisting, with admonitions and threats, that the disposizione were binding.84 Hepokoski sees this as further evidence of ‘corporationally administered modernity’,85 but, as Marian Smith notes, it is often the case that rules are codified in this way only when authority is dying or threatened.86 And, indeed, the laying down of a fixed canon of operatic works has tended to encourage interpretive divergence from traditional theatrical practices as a way of introducing novelty into a static repertory, rather than fidelity to original templates. But the extended textualization of the parameters of operatic performance also impacts upon the debate about the ontology of the operatic work. David Rosen argues that ‘if the drama consists of at least three components – text, music, visual aspects, all “authorially sanctioned” – I see no principled way of claiming that some of them are intrinsic to the text of the work while others lie outside it.’87 The logic of this would be that, just as the musical performance of Handel or Mozart is now often informed by the research of the historically informed performance movement, so should theatrical production be. But the question of what is ‘authorially

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sanctioned’ is not so easy to answer. Verdi, certainly, was not at all happy about the some of the more fashionably naturalistic tendencies of the later nineteenth-century stage, and complained that the production book for Otello was ‘trop moderne’.88 Although Wagner’s widow Cosima insisted on preserving Wagner’s productions of his operas after his death, Wagner himself was clearly dissatisfied with his own stagings of his operas. Where should we turn for authorial sanction in these instances? Roger Parker, on the other hand, has taken our openness to theatrical innovation as a cue to suggest that we should get over our slavish Werktreue attitude to the musical text too; why, he asks provocatively, if a production of Le nozze di Figaro is set in Elvis Presley’s Graceland, should Cherubino not sing a song by Elvis rather than ‘Voi che sapete’?89 And it is indeed the case that the performance of baroque opera at least has been increasingly subject to musical interpolations, instrumental re-arrangements and other kinds of improvisatory playfulness (an example of which is described in Nicholas Ridout’s account of the Wooster Group’s performance of Cavalli’s La Didone in Chapter 7 in this book): a belated recognition that baroque opera is not dependent upon the same ideologies of musical coherence or text-bound performance as is Romantic and post-Romantic music. Some recent productions of Mozart’s operas have also been willing to take more playful liberties with at least the recitatives, as Mozart himself must surely have done.90

Historicism The hegemony of Romantic aesthetics gives rise to two tendencies during the nineteenth century. Firstly, as we have seen, there is the movement of the art form itself to meet the prevailing ideology, and the application of such ideals to performance. And then there is the retrospective recuperation of earlier forms of opera by practitioners, critics and scholars applying the aesthetics of the organic work to previous operas, extending further backwards the historicism of Wagner’s own co-option of the practices of Gluck and Mozart as dialectical steps towards his own music dramas. Composers such as Berlioz, Wagner, Mahler and Richard Strauss adapted the works of Gluck or Mozart to conform to nineteenth-century musico-dramatic criteria, and Philip Gossett has noted that the effect of the cuts that used to be standard in the performance of bel canto operas (excising musical repetitions, lengthy recitatives or arias at undramatic points) was to push such works further along the preferred stylistic continuum: ‘Cuts that deform Rossinian symmetries make the operas sound more like Donizetti; cuts that tighten Donizettian dramaturgy makes the operas sound more like early Verdi’, and so forth.91

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Historians similarly construct a progressivist narrative in which composers such as Mozart, Handel or Monteverdi are deemed acceptable insofar as they can be shown to be striving towards the ideal of the organic work. Thus Paolo Gallarati finds that Mozart treats the operatic act ‘as a single indissoluble organism’,92 and Mozart’s adaptation of sonata form to the construction of large-scale dramatic forms is cited by critics such as Joseph Kerman and Charles Rosen as evidence of an increasing integration of the complex constructions of instrumental music to opera (although the argument may be circular to the extent that historians of sonata form suggest that it may itself be developed from opera buffa in the first place). But in truth the structure of sonata form may be said to be inherently anti-dramatic to the extent that its repetition of musical material from the beginning of a movement in the recapitulation could be said to negate the principle of dramatic development. Mozart actually used fully developed sonata forms infrequently in his operas, and his most extensive use of the form is in the opera seria Idomeneo, usually for arias rather than for the dramatic ensembles that are exemplary for Kerman and Rosen. In his last opera, Die Zauberfl¨ote, Mozart virtually abandoned sonata form for more dramatically progressive, if less structurally integrated, forms. Another critical approach seeks coherence in tonal planning (see Chapter 8). But the suggestion that a composer like Mozart carefully maps all the key areas in his operas according to an overall tonal design has also been the subject of much critical revision recently.93 There is a clear mismatch between the idea that certain keys have their own inherent meaning (D major or minor are conventionally the keys of vengeance in baroque opera, a convention of which Mozart makes much use in serious vengeance arias such those of Elettra in Idomeneo, the Count in Figaro and the Queen of Night in Die Zauberfl¨ote, or in parodic instances such as Don Bartolo’s aria in Figaro) and the way in which such signifying use of keys might then fit into an overall key structure. And there were other constraints on tonal planning. Mozart’s great rival Antonio Salieri once revealed how he mapped out the keys of an opera upon the basis of the libretto, stating that ‘I decided first on the key appropriate for the character of each vocal piece’. Discussing this statement Julian Rushton notes that, in addition to conventional key associations, composers had also to take into account what keys would work best for the vocal range of particular singers, and what keys would work best for the appropriate instrumentation of a number, all of which militate against consistent tonal planning throughout a work.94 Moreover, composers were often willing to make adaptations to key ´ Lopez-Cobos, ´ structures to suit different singers. When the conductor Jesus another stern advocate of textual ‘fidelity’, came to make a performing

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edition of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor he expressed disgust at the traditional practice of transposing particular arias down to make them easier to sing: ‘I consider it a musical crime to change or even destroy the tonal plan of a great masterpiece for the sake of being able to sing with greater ease a handful of notes (which are not even in the original).’95 But the reason for these traditional transpositions was that pitch, like time, was variable throughout Europe in the nineteenth century. Italian pitch was up to a tone lower than in northern Europe. When Italian operas were performed in northern Europe lower keys were adopted for the more demanding numbers so that singers could perform the music effectively – practices which composers and conductors accepted since effectiveness was prior to considerations of structural coherence.96 The operas of Handel, clearly, cannot be restored by appeal to the quasisymphonic narrative. But one of the grounds for the great Handel scholar Winton Dean’s heroic attempt to rehabilitate Handelian opera in the 1960s, to counter the prevalent view that Handelian opera seria consists of a string of unconnected numbers, was to suggest that Handel achieved ‘the fusion of the loose strands of the opera into an indissoluble musical and dramatic unity’.97 And, plunging back to the origins of opera, Robert Donington claimed to find precisely the formal organic coherence that Coleridge attributed to Shakespeare in his analysis of Monteverdi’s Orfeo, when he identified Monteverdi’s apparent deployment throughout the opera of a motif first presented in the opening Toccata: ‘The recurrence of modest thematic material may be quite an important factor in giving Orfeo precisely what earlier extended works in monody lack: an effect of organic growth and uniformity.’98 Peter Kivy, however, dismisses Donington’s evidence for thematic unity in Orfeo, but clearly subscribing to the same set of values draws from this the conclusion that, since the opera therefore lacks musical coherence, ‘it fails (although magnificently) to bring true musical form to the drama’.99 These claims for coherence as signs of the integrity of the art work based upon authorial intention in pre-Wagnerian opera are extremely problematic, since they can be countered by almost everything we know about the actual practices of operatic production at the time. Not only was effective performance paramount, but operas were assembled by collectives (not to mention the frequent contribution of the censors, who in many instances, such as those of Verdi’s operas Stiffelio, Rigoletto or Un ballo in maschera, could substantially alter the dramaturgy of a work on political, religious or moral grounds). In this respect the opera industry worked more like the film studio system today. Impresarios rather than composers called the shots, and in Italy singers were paid more than composers, which was a clear indication of their relative status. Michael Talbot and Reinhard

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Strohm have both noted that it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that the concept of composer-centred (rather than genre-centred) musical history became predominant.100 Moreover, despite the increasing control composers exercised over their works, the multiple authorship of opera has remained common throughout the twentieth century. Philip Brett has shown, for instance, how the libretto for Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes was the outcome of a process in which several writers, and Britten and Peter Pears, who played the title role, struggled to agree on how the story should be presented. Brett concludes that ‘There could be no better parable in the twentieth century of the social process by which operas come into existence, or, alternatively, of the bankruptcy of the modernist model of criticism based solely on the composer and the score.’101

Intertextuality It is not my intention to deny that composers employ musical devices of many different kinds to create coherence and meanings within operatic works. But it is unhistorical to universalize the practices of a particular era as being normative. Moreover, although sometimes those devices are purely formal, and sometimes meaning is created from within the work by the chain of syntactical, textual or dramatic associations created, as often as not such meanings are derived from outside the work. Thus Daniel Heartz notes a recurrent motif of a ‘descending chromatic fourth’ running throughout Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which he suggests Mozart’s audience would have recognized as a signifier of ‘pain, suffering and death’ because of its derivation from settings of the ‘Crucifixus’ section of the Mass.102 This motif provides the opera with a distinctive thematic coherence, but its purpose is not purely formal; it conveys meaning, and its meaning derives from a larger pool of musical meanings upon which Mozart could draw. In what is called ‘topic’ theory, analysts show how even the most abstract musical scores are riddled with musical signs of this nature. A classic instance is Wye James Allenbrook’s identification of the way in which Mozart employed the social, physical and affective connotations of eighteenthcentury dance forms to convey meaning in his operas. In Figaro’s aria ‘Se vuol ballare’ in Le nozze di Figaro, in which Figaro, furious at having learned that his master Count Almaviva has designs on Figaro’s fianc´ee Susanna, addresses the absent Count with the words ‘If you wish to dance, little mister Count, go ahead, but I’ll play the tune’, Mozart moves from an elegant aristocratic minuet to an ungainly bourgeois contredanse as Figaro imagines how the Count will be forced to hop and leap to his tune. In the Act I finale to Don Giovanni Mozart juxtaposes a triple-time minuet, a

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duple-time contredanse and a compound-time waltz (a more rustic dance) to convey an image of social disorder. Moreover, critics also recognize that works of art often derive their meanings from references, explicit or subtle, to other works of art, often described as ‘intertextuality’. Mary Hunter, for instance, points to Mozart’s quotation of music from two contemporary comic operas in the Act II finale to Don Giovanni as an example of one of the ‘pleasurable game of cross-identification’, and goes on to note that such games are not limited to quotation alone: characters, singers, even whole genres are co-opted in opera buffa’s ‘conversation with its repertory’.103 Debussy’s Pell´eas et M´elisande can be seen as just such an extended conversation with Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde: many of its more radical aspects were conceived in explicit opposition to the spell of ‘old Klingsor’ (as Debussy described Wagner), but Carolyn Abbate has also described Debussy’s references to Tristan as creating ‘a sort of hidden commentary on Pell´eas’.104 And intertextual references extend beyond the operatic repertory – inevitably so when so many operas are remediations of existing literary sources. We cannot understand Mozart’s early opera La finta giardiniera unless we recognize that it belongs to a whole genre of sentimental operas derived from the English novelist Samuel Richardson’s tear-jerking novel Pamela. But sources may be more diffuse: in a recent study of the ‘texts, intertexts and contexts of Madame Butterfly’ the authors go further in dissolving the centrality of Puccini’s opera based on the Butterfly story, asking the question ‘How central to our enquiry is Puccini’s opera? Is it the privileged Butterfly text, or is it just one among a number of cultural artefacts that we are examining?’105 Thomas Mann once suggested that in the Ring Wagner had to invent a ‘prehistory’ for his leitmotivic system so that he could pretend that he could re-invent music ab initio, without recourse to conventional meanings. ‘He could not step into the music in medias res, for the music required its own prehistory, just as deep-rooted as that of the drama . . . Back to the beginning, to the beginning of all things . . . It was not just the music of myth that he, the poet-composer would give us, but the very myth of music itself.’106 But musical and theatrical works are always saturated with references and meanings that are not exclusively their own. However, whilst it is unhistorical to try and make all works of opera conform to nineteenth-century precepts, it is equally unhistorical to dismiss the claims of the organic art work altogether. The Romantic ideal of the organic art work must be seen as a very real response to the fragmentation and mechanization of industrial society, and to the objectification and alienation of the human subject in the modern world. The organic work offers a representation of a sought-after world that is coherent and meaningful, and in which all of the parts are related and interdependent. Musical organicism, as Roland

247 The operatic work

Barthes once suggested, offers itself as a substitute for the desired wholeness and autonomy of the listening subject.107 And there is a clear correlation between the nineteenth-century ideal of the psychological coherence of autonomous dramatic characters and the striving for organic musical construction of a work, the balance of musical coherence and development seeming to reinforce the balance of psychological coherence and character development that underpins the ideal bourgeois subject who is represented on the nineteenth-century operatic stage. In twentieth-century opera this balance is often undermined by an objectification of musical structures (as in Schoenberg or Berg) that negates the illusion of the autonomous subjectivity of the operatic characters, or by the use of musical parody and pastiche to fragment the musical and psychological coherence of operatic characters (as in Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Poulenc’s Les Mamelles de Tir´esias, or Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and The Rake’s Progress), both of which tendencies may be seen as responses to the increasing reifications of modernity.

And what is a text anyway? The concept of the operatic work that depends upon textualist arguments relies upon the belief that the attributes of coherence can be found in unadulterated texts – or, in musical parlance, scores – and that these texts are in some sense self-sufficient: that they adequately fulfil the intentions of their authors. But it is often impossible to settle what constitutes an authoritative text. Musical and dramatic works are often made on the hoof, and there are inevitably different versions. In many arts the ‘work’ itself often doesn’t exist in a pure or ideal form: plays by Shakespeare (Hamlet, King Lear), symphonies by Bruckner or films by Orson Welles, for instance, exist in variant forms. None of these variants can be accorded the status of the most ‘authentic’ version, and changing valuation of such variants clearly reflects shifting critical tastes and ideologies. Few operas are without problematic textual variants, and choices have to be made. Gluck’s Orfeo, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Wagner’s Tannh¨auser, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, and Britten’s Billy Budd all exist in variant forms; only eight out of Verdi’s twenty-six operas exist in unique versions. Do we perform the first versions of Verdi’s Macbeth and Simon Boccanegra on the grounds that they are more musically consistent, or do we perform the revised versions which represent Verdi’s more mature thoughts on the two operas? The scenes Verdi inserted in Macbeth in 1865 are certainly magnificent, but they point up the rawness of much of the writing in the earlier version. In the end the decision will be based upon interpretative

248 Nicholas Till

artistic judgements. And this is no less true of the work of the editor of operatic texts. Let us look in more detail at one of the most fiercely disputed of recent operatic editions, that of Bizet’s Carmen, edited for the publishers B¨arenreiter by Fritz Oeser in 1964. The sources upon which any performance text for Carmen are based are various: Bizet’s drafts; a printed vocal score that was sent to the printers before the first performance in 1875, and published one week after that event; the manuscript conducting score; and then a full score published after Bizet’s death, with recitatives added. The complications arise because the 1875 vocal score contains a number of passages that are missing from later versions, reflecting the fact that Bizet made cuts and alterations during the rehearsal process. In preparing his edition Oeser made a classic assumption that Bizet’s original drafts must be the most ‘authentic’ signifier of his intentions. A critical edition, Oeser argued, ‘must restore all those alterations that owe their origins to the dissentions of the first stage rehearsal, and present the authentic form of the work by opening the cuts’.108 But there is just as much ground for accepting those alterations as Bizet’s preferred solution based on what worked in the theatre, as opposed to the often impractical ideas dreamed up in the study. Most composers are very well aware of this: making adaptations to his opera Le Proph`ete, Meyerbeer noted ‘the difference between an opera that comes from one’s head, and the one that one sees in the theatre’.109 As Roger Parker writes of the multiple versions of a Donizetti opera he was editing, ‘The more one becomes aware of this type of activity, the more arbitrary it seems to choose one particular stage of a work to present as its “base text”.’110 ´ Lopez´ On what grounds, then, are editorial decisions made? For Jesus Cobos the decision to restore the ‘original’ keys found in Donizetti’s score for Lucia is valorized by a classic appeal to tonal structure. But, as Winton Dean pointed out apropos of Oeser’s now infamous edition of Carmen, many of the restorations (and, indeed, interpellations and even tempo markings) made by Oeser are based not upon musical principles, but upon his dramaturgic belief that Carmen is genuinely in love with the toreador ´ Escamillo.111 If Lopez-Cobos is basing his decision upon a typically formalist premise, Oeser is basing his decision upon humanist psychologizing. (We can contrast questions such as ‘is Carmen really in love with Escamillo?’ to Susan McClary’s more structuralist analysis of the sexual relationships in the opera, based on the cultural positions that the various characters represent, so that her question ‘Is Jos´e really the main character in the opera?’ is based not upon psychology, but upon her judgement that, to the extent that Jos´e stands for the position of ‘normalcy’ with which the original audience would have identified, he is, as it were, the frame through which we view the otherness of Carmen.)112

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The lesson here is that, for a great many operatic works, even coming up with a text demands a set of complex interpretative judgements. Discussing the impact of this understanding upon the editor’s search for an authoritative edition, James Grier writes that ‘Opera depends on the collaboration of many specialists for its production, and the editor who would disregard their participation and seek, instead, the composer’s text alone, not only denies the fundamentally social nature of the genre but also runs the risk of producing an a-historical edition.’113 Grier’s warning leads us back to one of the primary lessons of this chapter: ‘always historicize’.

Notes 1 Edward Seckerson, ‘The Last Diva’, www. features/reneacutee-fleming-the-last-diva425963.html. 2 Philip Gossett, Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera (Chicago, IL and London: University of Chicago Press, 2006), p. 303. 3 Carl Dahlhaus, Nineteenth-Century Music, trans J. Bradford Robinson (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1989) p. 9. 4 Gossett, Divas and Scholars, p. 123. 5 John Butt, Playing with History: The Historical Approach to Musical Performance (Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 100. 6 Roland Barthes, ‘Theory of the Text’, in Robert Young (ed.), Untying the Text: A Poststructuralist Reader (London: Routledge, 1981), pp. 31–47; 33. 7 See Carolyn Abbate, ‘Music: Drastic or Gnostic?’, Critical Inquiry, 30/3 (Spring 2004), pp. 505–36; 529. 8 Roger Parker and Mary Ann Smart (eds.), Reading Critics Reading: Opera and Ballet Criticism in France from the Revolution to 1848 (Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 1. 9 See, for example, Amanda Glauert, ‘The Reception of Wagner in Vienna, 1860–1900’, in Barry Millington and Stewart Spencer (eds.), Wagner in Performance (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992). pp. 120–9; Burton W. Peretti, ‘Democratic Leitmotivs in the American Reception of Wagner’, 19th-Century Music, 13/1 (Summer 1989), pp. 28–38; Maria ´ The Reception of Jo˜ao Rodrigues de Araujo, Wagner in Portugal: From the Dawn of Wagnerism to its Apogee (1880–1930) (n.p.: Lambert Academic Publishing, 2010); Emma

Sutton, Aubrey Beardsley and British Wagnerism in the 1890s (Oxford University Press, 2002). 10 Suguru Sato, ‘The History of Opera Performances in Japan from 1903 to 2011’; Yuki Itoh, ‘Understanding Opera through Noh and Kabuki: Some Aspects of Opera Reception in Japan at the Beginning of the 20th Century’. Papers presented at Japanese Society for Theatre Research Panel: ‘Japan and Music Theatre’; FIRT/IFTR Annual Conference, Osaka, 11 August 2011. 11 Thomas S. Grey, ‘The Gothic Libertine: The Shadow of Don Giovanni in Romantic Music and Culture’, in Lydia Goehr and Daniel Herwitz (eds.), The Don Giovanni Moment: Essays on the Legacy of an Opera (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), pp. 75–106. 12 Magnus Tessing Schneider, ‘The Charmer and the Monument: Mozart’s Don Giovanni in the Light of the Original Production’, PhD dissertation, University of Aarhus, 2008 (unpublished). 13 Rachel Cowgill, ‘“Wise Men from the East”: Mozart’s Operas and their Advocates in Early Nineteenth-Century London’, in Christina Bashford and Leanne Langley (eds.), Music and British Culture, 1785–1914: Essays in Honour of Cyril Ehrlich (Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 39–64; 42. 14 See Edmund J. Goehring, ‘Much Ado about Something, or Cos`ı fan tutte in the Romantic Imagination: A Commentary on and Translation of an early Nineteenth-Century Epistolary Exchange’, Eighteenth-Century Music, 5/1 (March 2008), pp. 75–105. 15 Sutherland Edwards, History of the Opera from Monteverdi to Donizetti (London: W. H. Allen, 1862).

250 Nicholas Till 16 Arthur Elson, A Critical History of Opera, giving an account of the rise and progress of the different schools, with a description of the masterworks in each (London: Seeley and Co., 1905), p. 101. 17 Hermann Kretzschmar, Geschichte der Opera (Leipzig: Breitkopf & H¨artel, 1919), p. 241. 18 See Ken Ireland, Cythera Regained: The Rococo Revival in European Literature and the Arts, 1830–1910 (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 2006). 19 Joseph Kerman, Opera as Drama, new and revised edn (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988), p. 92. 20 Joseph Kerman, Opera and the Morbidity of Music (New York Review of Books, 2008), p. 137. 21 Quoted in Carl Dahlhaus, ‘The Dramaturgy of Italian Opera’, in Lorenzo Bianconi and Giorgio Pestelli (eds.), The History of Italian Opera, Part II, Vol. VI: Opera in Theory and Practice, Image and Myth, trans. Mary Whittall (University of Chicago Press, 2003), pp. 73–146; 97. 22 Francesco Degrada, ‘Critical Performance’, in Alison Latham and Roger Parker (eds.), Verdi in Performance (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 147–50; 147. 23 Eleanor Selfridge-Field and Donald W. Krummell, ‘Printing and Publishing of Music’, in Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (eds.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edn, Vol. XX (London: Macmillan, 2001), p. 363. 24 See Iain Fenlon, ‘Monteverdi’s Mantuan “Orfeo”: Some New Documentation’, Early Music, 12/2 (May 1984), pp. 163–72. Fenlon suggests that the 1615 edition, with the dedication to the Gonzagas removed, may have been issued to meet a demand for study of the work, rather than for performance. 25 See Michael Freyhan, The Authentic Magic Flute Libretto: Mozart’s Autograph or the First Full-Score Edition? (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2009). 26 Richard Osborne, The Master Musicians: Rossini (London and Melbourne: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1986), p. 305. 27 20 July 1782. Emily Anderson (ed. and trans.), The Letters of Mozart and his Family, 3rd edn revised by Stanley Sadie and Fiona Smart (London: Macmillan, 1985), p. 808. 28 Otto Erich Deutsch, Mozart: A Documentary Biography, trans. Eric Blom, Peter Branscombe and Jeremy Noble (London: Simon and Schuster, 1990), pp. 412–15.

29 See Jennifer Brown, ‘On the Road with the “Suitcase Aria”: The Transmission of Borrowed Arias in Late Seventeenth-Century Italian Opera’, Journal of Musicological Research 15 (1995), pp. 4–23. 30 See Roger Parker, Remaking the Song: Operatic Visions and Revisions from Handel to Berio (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2006), pp. 42–3. 31 Herbert Lindenberger, Opera: The Extravagant Art (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1984), p. 105. 32 Quoted in Martha Feldman, Opera and Sovereignty: Transforming Myths in Eighteenth-Century Italy (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2007), p. 9. 33 See Hilary Poriss, Changing the Score: Arias, Prima Donnas, and the Authority of Performance (Oxford University Press, 2009). 34 Laurence Dreyfus, ‘Hermann Levi’s Shame and Parsifal ’s Guilt: A Critique of Essentialism in Biography and Criticism’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 6/2 (July 1994), pp. 125–45. 35 Carl Maria von Weber, Writings on Music, ed. John Warrack, trans. Martin Cooper (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 206–7. 36 S. T. Coleridge, Lectures and Notes on Shakespeare and Other Dramatists (London: Oxford University Press, 1931), p. 240. 37 Richard Wagner, ‘A Communication to my Friends’, in Richard Wagner’s Prose Works, William Ashton Ellis (trans.), (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Tr¨ubner and Co., 1895), Vol. I, p. 367. 38 Ibid., p. 370. 39 William Ashbrook, ‘The Mefistofele Libretto as a Reform Text’, in Arthur Groos and Roger Parker (eds.), Reading Opera (Princeton University Press, 1988), pp. 268–87; 272. 40 Reinhard Strohm, ‘Sinfonia and Drama in Early Eighteenth-Century opera seria’, in Thomas Bauman and Marita Petzoldt McClymonds (eds.), Opera and the Enlightenment (Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 91–104; 91. 41 Ibid., p. 92. 42 See Philip Gossett, ‘The Overtures of Rossini’, 19th-Century Music, 31 (July 1979), pp. 3–31. 43 See Daniel Heartz, ‘Mozart’s Overture to “Titus” as Dramatic Argument’, The Musical Quarterly, 64/1 (January 1978), pp. 29–49, for a survey of the strategies Mozart employed in his operatic overtures. 44 Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, trans. David F. Swenson and Lilian Marvin Swenson

251 The operatic work (Princeton University Press, 1971), Vol. I, p. 126. 45 Lorenzo Bianconi and Giorgio Pestelli (eds.), History of Italian Opera, Part II, Vol. V: Opera on Stage, trans. Kate Singleton (University of Chicago Press, 2002), p. 152. 46 Clive Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice 1750–1900 (Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 394. 47 See Richard Wagner, On Conducting: A Treatise on Style in the Execution of Classical Music, trans. William Reeves (New York: Dover Books, 1989). 48 Bianconi and Pestelli, Opera on Stage, p. 153. 49 See Carolyn Abbate, ‘Opera as Symphony: A Wagnerian Myth’, in Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker (eds.), Analyzing Opera: Verdi and Wagner (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1989), p. 101. 50 Cited in Martha Woodhouse, The Author, Art, and the Market: Reading the History of Aesthetics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), p. 55. 51 Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe, ed. J. K. Moorheard, trans. John Oxenford (London: Dent, 1970), conversation of 20 June 1831, p. 415. 52 Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (London and New York: Routledge, 1982), pp. 17–20. 53 Christophe Charle, ‘Opera in France, 1870–1914: Between Nationalism and Foreign Imports’, in Victoria Johnson, Jane F. Fulcher and Thomas Ertman (eds.), Opera and Society in Italy and France from Monteverdi to Bourdieu (Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 245–61; 250. 54 Quoted in Hans Busch, Verdi’s Aida: The History of an Opera in Letters and Documents (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1978), pp. 4–5. 55 Edward T. Cone, The Composer’s Voice (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1974), pp. 29, 35. 56 See Ralph P. Locke, Musical Exoticism: Images and Reflections (Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 28. 57 Gary Tomlinson, ‘Macbeth, Attila, and Verdi’s Self-Modelling’, in David Rosen and Andrew Porter (eds.), Verdi’s ‘Macbeth’: A Sourcebook (Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 270–83; 271. 58 E. T. A. Hoffmann, Schriften zur Musik (Munich: Winkler-Verlag, 1963), pp. 297–8.

59 Rachel Cowgill, ‘Mozart Productions and the Emergence of Werktreue at London’s Italian Opera House, 1780–1830’, in Roberta Montemorra Marvin and Downing A. Thomas (eds.), Operatic Migrations: Transforming Works and Crossing Boundaries (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), pp. 145–86. 60 See Jennifer L. Hall-Witt, ‘Representing the Audience in the Age of Reform: Critics and the Elite at the Italian Opera in London’, in Bashford and Langley (eds.), Music and British Culture, pp. 122–44. 61 Lydia Goehr, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music (Oxford University Press, 1994). 62 William Weber, ‘Art, Business, Canon and Opera: Two New Studies’, The Opera Quarterly, 25/1–2 (2009), pp. 157–64; 163. 63 William Weber, The Great Transformation of Musical Taste: Concert Programming from Haydn to Brahms (Cambridge University Press, 2008), pp. 72–3. 64 Katherine Ellis, Interpreting the Musical Past: Early Music in Nineteenth-Century France (Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 7. It was in fact a heavily adapted version of Rameau’s opera. 65 Katherine Ellis, Music Criticism in Nineteenth-Century France: ‘La Revue et Gazette musicale de Paris’, 1834–80 (Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 80. 66 Parker, Remaking the Song, footnote p. 145. 67 Weber, ‘Art, Business, Canon and Opera’, p. 162. 68 Ellis, Interpreting the Musical Past, p. 128. 69 Edwards, History of the Opera, p. 163. 70 A tendency already recognized by the director of the Vienna court opera in 1792 when he wrote in a memo to the new emperor Franz II that the taste for new sets had ‘spoiled the public, which expects new sets almost every week’. John A. Rice, Mozart on the Stage (Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 177. 71 Hall-Witt, ‘Representing the Audience’, p. 130. 72 Gustave Kobb´e, Kobb´e’s Complete Opera Book, edited and revised by the Earl of Harewood (London: Putnam and Co., 1969). 73 Edwards, History of the Opera, pp. 168–9. 74 Hellmuth Christian Wolff, Die H¨andel-Oper auf der modernen B¨uhne (Leipzig: Deutsche Verlag f¨ur Musik, 1957), p. 9. 75 Winton Dean, ‘Handel’s Serse’, in Thomas Baumann and Marta Petzoldt McClymonds (eds.), Opera and the Enlightenment (Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 135–67; 166.

252 Nicholas Till 76 77 Hans-Thies Lehmann, Post-Dramatic Theatre, trans. Karen J¨urs-Munby (London: Routledge, 2006). 78 Richard Taruskin, Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance (Oxford University Press, 1995). 79 James Hepokoski, ‘Overriding the Autograph Score: The Problem of Textual Authority in Verdi’s “Falstaff ”’, Studi Verdiani, 8 (1992), pp. 13–51; 15. 80 Gossett, Divas and Scholars, p. 304. 81 H. Robert Cohen and Marie-Odile Gigou, Cent Ans de mise-en-sc`ene lyrique en France (env. 1830–1930): One Hundred Years of Operatic Staging in France (New York: Pendragon Press, 1986), p. xlv. 82 Marian Smith, ‘The Livrets de Mise-en-Sc`ene of Donizetti’s Parisian Operas’, in Francesco Bellotto (ed.), L’opera teatrale di Gaetano Donizetti: Proceedings of the International Conference on the Operas of Gaetano Donizetti (Bergamo: Commune di Bergamo, Assessorato allo spettacolo, 1993), pp. 371–91; 376. 83 Richard Wagner, ‘The Destiny of Opera’, in Richard Wagner, Actors and Singers, trans. William Ashton Ellis (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), pp. 131–55; 151. 84 See James Hepokoski, ‘Staging Verdi’s Operas: The Single “Correct” Performance’, in Alison Latham and Roger Parker (eds.), Verdi in Performance (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 11–20; 13. 85 Hepokoski, ‘Staging Verdi’s Operas’, p. 13. 86 Smith, ‘The Livrets de Mise-en-Sc`ene of Donizetti’s Parisian Operas’, p. 376. 87 David Rosen, ‘On Staging that Matters’, in Latham and Parker (eds.), Verdi in Performance, pp. 28–37; 29. 88 Hepokoski, ‘Staging Verdi’s Operas’, p. 16. 89 Parker, Remaking the Song, p. 6. 90 For example, Le nozze di Figaro, Paris Op´era, 2006. 91 Gossett, Divas and Scholars, p. 263. 92 Paolo Gallarati, ‘Mozart and Eighteenth-Century Comedy’, in Mary Hunter and James Webster (eds.), Opera Buffa in Mozart’s Vienna (Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 98–111; 108. 93 See James Webster, ‘Mozart’s Operas and the Myth of Musical Unity’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 2/2 (July 1990), pp. 197–218. See also Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker, ‘Dismembering Mozart’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 2/2 (July 1990), pp. 187–95.

94 Julian Rushton, ‘Buffo Roles in Mozart’s Vienna: Tessitura and Tonality as Signs of Characterisation’, in Hunter and Webster (eds.), Opera Buffa in Mozart’s Vienna, pp. 406–25; 412. See also John Platoff, ‘Myths and Realities about Tonal Planning in Mozart’s Operas’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 8/1 (March 1996), pp. 3–16, in which Platoff points out that even if composers plan their operas tonally they may not do so with the intention or expectation that an audience will be aware of such tonal planning, or that it will be meaningful to them. 95 Henry Pleasants, Opera in Crisis: Tradition, Present, Future (London: Thames and Hudson, 1989), p. 60. 96 Ibid. 97 See Winton Dean and John Merrill Knapp, Handel’s Operas 1704–1726, revised edn (Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 6. 98 Robert Donington, ‘Monteverdi’s First Opera’, in Denis Arnold and Nigel Fortune (eds.), The Monteverdi Companion (London: Faber and Faber, 1968), pp. 257–76; 261. 99 Peter Kivy, Osmin’s Rage: Philosophical Reflections on Opera, Drama, and Text (Princeton University Press, 1988), p. 93. 100 Michael Talbot, ‘The Work-Concept and Composer Centredness’, in Michael Talbot (ed.), The Musical Work: Reality or Invention? (Liverpool University Press, 2000), pp. 168–96. Reinhard Strohm, ‘Looking Back at Ourselves: The Problem with the Musical Work-Concept’, in Talbot (ed.), The Musical Work, pp. 128–52; 148. 101 Philip Brett, ‘Sex, Politics and Violence in the Librettos of Peter Grimes’, in Mary Ann Smart (ed.), Siren Songs: Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Opera (Princeton University Press, 2000), pp. 237–49; 237–8. 102 Daniel Heartz, ‘“Che mi sembra di morir”: Donna Elvira and the Sextet’, Musical Times, 122/1661 (July 1981), pp. 448–51. 103 Mary Hunter, The Culture of Opera Buffa in Mozart’s Vienna: A Poetics of Entertainment (Princeton University Press, 1999) p. 30. 104 Carolyn Abbate, ‘“Tristan” in the composition of “Pell´eas”’, 19th-Century Music, 5/2 (Autumn 1981), pp. 117–41; 141. 105 Jonathan Wisenthal (ed.), A Vision of the Orient: Texts, Intertexts, and Contexts of Madame Butterfly (University of Toronto Press, 2006), p. xii. 106 Thomas Mann, Pro and Contra Wagner, trans. Allan Blunden (London: Faber and Faber, 1985), pp. 188–9. 107 Roland Barthes, ‘Lesson in Writing’, in Roland Barthes, Image Music Text, trans.

253 The operatic work Stephen Heath (London: Fontana, 1977), pp. 170–8. 108 Winton Dean, ‘Review: The True “Carmen”?’, Musical Times, 106/1473 (November 1965), pp. 846–55; 848. 109 Alan Armstrong, ‘Gilbert-Louis Duprez and Gustav Roger in the composition of Meyerbeer’s Le Proph`ete’, Cambridge Opera Journal 8/2 (July 1996), pp. 147–65; 164. 110 Roger Parker, ‘A Donizetti Critical Edition in the Postmodern World’, in Bellotto (ed.), L’opera teatrale di Gaetano Donizetti, pp. 57–68; 64. In Parker’s critical edition of Donizetti’s Poliuto, he notes the sources as: two

autograph manuscript scores; three partial autograph scores; three manuscript copies, one with autograph corrections by Donizetti; three printed sources; two autograph libretti; one manuscript libretto; and one printed libretto; all of which differ from each other. Donizetti, Poliuto, ed. William Ashbook and Roger Parker (Milan: Ricordi, 2000). 111 Dean, ‘The True “Carmen”?’, pp. 854–5. 112 Susan McClary, Georges Bizet: ‘Carmen’ (Cambridge University Press, 1992). 113 James Grier, The Critical Editing of Music: History, Method, and Practice (Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 206.

part four


11 Opera and gender studies heather hadlock . . . if woman had no existence save in the fiction written by men, one would imagine her a person of the utmost importance; very various; heroic and mean; splendid and sordid; infinitely beautiful and hideous in the extreme; as great as a man, some think even greater. But this is woman in fiction. In fact, as Professor Trevelyan points out, she was locked up, beaten and flung about the room. A very queer, composite being thus emerges. Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. virginia woolf, a room of one s own (1929) 1


Virginia Woolf’s contrast, between the centrality of women as represented in fiction and their virtual absence from the roster of those who have created fictional representations, may readily yet incompletely be adapted for the history of opera. It is easy enough to insert operatic heroines into Woolf ’s sardonic parade of martyrs, dominatrices and self-sufficient charmers: ‘Certainly, if we consider it, Violetta must have had a way about her; Carmen, one would suppose, had a will of her own; Susanna, one might conclude, was an attractive girl.’2 And, as in the history of literature, women have been all but absent from the operatic activities that received scholarly attention before the late 1980s: few traces remain of women composing, staging, theorizing about or paying for opera. Yet at the same time it would be absurd to describe women as ‘all but absent from [opera’s] history’, when women – not only as dying heroines but as living divas – have been so central to this art’s fascination for audiences, patrons, enthusiasts and critics. Despite that centrality, however, feminist perspectives on opera – by which I mean perspectives that analysed, interrogated and challenged the ideas about femininity, masculinity, sexuality, love, family and authority upon which operas rely, and which operas have helped circulate and perpetuate – did not emerge until the late 1980s. This essay will attempt to trace how scholarship on gender and sexuality in opera has developed since that time, and show how interdisciplinary theories of gender and sexuality have informed opera scholarship. The field of opera and gender studies reflects a general shift in feminist humanistic scholarship away from a more or less exclusive focus on women/femininity, toward a broader set of questions about the constructions and deployment of gender and sexuality categories. In the discussion that follows, I use the rubric ‘feminist opera studies’ to refer to the study of gender and sexuality in operas by men and women, in the careers of male as well as female artists, and in representation/performance of masculinity

258 Heather Hadlock

as well as femininity. I risk this term because I regard it as fundamentally a feminist project to de-naturalize and de-essentialize gender, to critique sex and gender identity categories, and to analyse and challenge the heteronormative frameworks in which notions of “natural” gender and sex roles are maintained as universal, unequal, mutually defining and mutually reinforcing. “Feminist opera studies” thus encompasses, in my admittedly utopian view, the sometimes competing and mutually neglectful domains of women’s history, gay history, feminist theory and queer theory. The first stage of feminist musicological research in the 1970s and early 1980s, which focused on female composers of Western art music, discovered only two opera composers, Francesca Caccini (1587– after 1637) and Ethel Smyth (1858–1944).3 History records even fewer female librettists, impresarios, stage directors and opera conductors. More recently scholars have uncovered a cluster of female librettists and composers in Paris between 1770 and 1820, and at least three late nineteenth-century women, Louise Bertin and Augusta Holm´es in Paris, and Ingeborg von Bronsart in Germany.4 The activities of female opera composers and directors since the mid-twentieth century remain to be explored. The search for lost female opera composers continues to raise valuable questions about canon, values and historiography, to enrich our repertoire, and to add detail to the history of opera’s development. Nevertheless, opera scholarship informed by feminist and gender studies did not fully take flight until the late 1980s, when it widened its focus from the search for female composers to the representation of women and femininity in canonic works. This turn towards interpretation, informed by literary theory and film studies, shaped the questions and challenges that would eventually push the field towards two issues that preoccupy it today: firstly, a critique of the assumptions that feminist scholarship on gender means studying ‘women’ and ‘femininity’ and, secondly, a new engagement with women’s history, this time focusing on singers rather than composers. Feminist criticism of canonic works was one of the most significant directions in the ‘New Musicology’ of the 1980s, and opera studies proved a central arena for it. Opera’s literary and theatrical dimensions, commercial milieu and collaborative systems of production – the very qualities that made it a poor fit with the values of absolute music and high modernism – made it a perfect object for new questions about music’s place in the ‘web of culture’. ‘Reading opera’ would mean examining libretti and music as bearers of cultural values, including values about gender, love, virtue, family and nation.5 Into this intellectual ferment came the 1988 English translation of Catherine Cl´ement’s polemical, charming and infuriating Opera, or, The Undoing of Women (1979). Cl´ement retold opera’s stories from the feminist perspective of a ‘resisting reader’, emphasizing both their mundane

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dimensions of sexual politics and class struggle, and their mythic/archetypal aspects.6 Cl´ement interpreted opera’s doomed heroines in religious terms, as scapegoats who bear the spectators’ individual and collective guilt. Drawing on L´evi-Strauss’s structural analysis of myth to discern patterns in operatic plots (including the woman-as-outsider, the father–son rivalry, the family romance), she argued that tragic heroines embody the ‘abject’, by whose expulsion society reaffirms its coherence and purity. Her readings also drew on psychoanalytic theories to interpret the diva as a maternal figure, suggesting that opera’s ritual re-presentations of feminine death permit the spectator to affirm his separation from and mastery over the mother. Cl´ement’s most controversial move was deliberately to privilege the literary aspects of opera, proposing that music and spectacle serve primarily to short-circuit the audience’s critical response. Musical pleasure might coat a bitter pill of bourgeois misogyny, but silent reading would restore detachment and enable feminist critique.7 Of the Violetta–Germont duet in Act II of La traviata, for example, Cl´ement wrote: You think it is a touching duet between a wounded father and a suffering woman? Then listen to the words, see the truth [emphasis added]. The father of the family is marrying off Alfredo’s sister. The noble feelings he concedes to the prostitute are of no interest to him. Except in one way: it is how he will be able to trap her. That is where the ignominy begins. Listen to him describe, with tender, peaceful music, the little pure, and virginal girl . . . 8

Cl´ement claimed that opera marshals the power of narrative, theatre and music to make the audience desire the heroine’s death as both inevitable and beautiful. Susan McClary extended this argument to include musical strategies for depicting female madness, violence, sexuality and exoticism: with chromaticism, coloratura and manipulation of formal convention, composers could offer first the ‘pleasure and danger’ of disorder and then the relief of harmonic resolution and formal closure.9 Cl´ement’s book produced a paradoxical double response: an ‘aha!’ that she had articulated something obvious and central (women die!), and at the same time a nagging feeling that she had missed the point (but opera is not about that!). While it would be an overstatement to describe the next decade of feminist opera studies exclusively as a response to Cl´ement, her assertions and assumptions did provoke extensive debate, critique, rebuttal and refinement through the 1990s. Mary Ann Smart’s editorial introduction to Siren Songs: Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Opera offered an insightful overview and meditation on the state of opera and gender studies in the second half of that decade.10 Scholars of the nineteenth- and early twentiethcentury repertoire focused their critiques on two of Cl´ement’s assumptions: firstly, psychoanalytically based theories of the dynamics between singer,

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voice and listener in operatic performance; and, secondly, an implicitly heterosexual politics of operatic spectatorship. Meanwhile feminist research on pre-Romantic repertoires, which Cl´ement had not considered in her feminist analysis, challenged both her equation of the high/dominant voice with femininity and her tragic model of catharsis through the heroine’s undoing.

Singer, voice and listener Readings of operatic heroines as ‘undone’ for the enjoyment of the bourgeois spectator resonated with certain tenets of feminist film theory, particularly the presumption that the masculine (free, empowered) gaze of an author/apparatus/spectator exercises ‘mastery’ over the feminine (immobile, constructed, gazed-upon) object.11 Both Susan McClary in her Carmen book and Lawrence Kramer in his essay on Salome compared musical structures to a camera’s controlling gaze: devices for framing feminine excess so that the male viewer/listener might enjoy it with impunity.12 But does opera produce such comfort and security? Listening may equally well be figured as an experience of vulnerability, a temporary loss of self in submission to a voice and, by extension, to the singer who produces it. The difference between seeing and hearing a singer drives the plot of Balzac’s novella ‘Sarrasine’ (1830), whose protagonist, a sculptor, falls in love with the singer ‘La Zambinella’ at the opera. Initially her delicate appearance inspires fantasies of that conquering male gaze: ‘Sarrasine wanted to leap onto the stage and take possession of this woman . . . the distance between himself and La Zambinella had ceased to exist, he possessed her, his eyes were riveted upon her, he took her for his own.’13 Yet her voice undoes this illusion of mastery: this agile voice, fresh and silvery in timbre, supple as a thread shaped by the slightest breath of air, rolling and unrolling, cascading and scattering, this voice attacked his soul so vividly that several times he gave vent to involuntary cries torn from him by convulsive feelings of pleasure which are all too rarely vouchsafed by human passions. He was presently obliged to leave the theater. His trembling legs almost refused to support him. He was limp, weak as a sensitive man who has given way to overwhelming anger. He had experienced such pleasure, or perhaps he had suffered so keenly, that his life had drained away like water from a broken vase. He felt empty inside, a prostration similar to the debilitation that overcomes those convalescing from serious illness.14

Balzac replaces the objectified image with a more disturbing yet more erotically specific fantasy of the listener’s ‘undoing’ by a feminine voice.

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(Later in the story, Balzac corrects this apparent gender reversal by revealing that ‘La Zambinella’ is no woman but a castrato: ‘her’ penetrating voice substitutes – perversely, and with tragic consequences – for the phallic authority of which ‘he’ has been deprived.) Connections between the voice, the body and the feminine may be traced back to Freud’s theories of infantile development and the formation of an individual subjectivity based on self-awareness and the awareness of sexual difference. While the infant initially experiences itself as one with the Mother in a pre-linguistic realm dominated by vocal sonority, the body, impulse and pleasure, it becomes aware of its own bodily separateness and eventually acquires language, passing thus into the Father’s realm of words, meanings, rules, systems and prohibitions. The basic premise that ‘language’ is paternal while ‘voice’ is maternal generates a chain of gendered binarisms that would oppose the male composer to the female singer, the writing hand to the singing voice, meaningful discourse to meaningless music, arguments to enchantments. Opera studies drew on literary theories of voice as both medium and message, grain and utterance, atavistic ‘cry’ and civilized meaning.15 The price of access to the paternal/social realm is the acceptance of taboos against the mother and, by extension, against the feminine, which comes to be figured as ‘lack’ in contrast with the active agency of ‘the phallus’.16 These taboos in turn produce fantasies of lost authenticity, nostalgia both for the maternal voice and for a ‘voice-self’ silenced by language, culture and paternal inhibition.17 As this summary suggests, most literary and scholarly writing on opera figures ‘the operatic voice’ (whether emerging from women or castrati) as female. Ironically, the feminist move of attending to female voices has tended to leave male voices – their presumably transcendent authority, stability and god-like detachment – almost uninterrogated. Low male voices remain all but inaudible in analyses of ‘the operatic voice’ and its meanings and functions within culture. An important first step away from this was Carolyn Abbate’s 1993 essay ‘Opera, or, the Envoicing of Women’, which challenged the habitual equating of female characters and performers with actual women.18 Her argument unfolded through readings of the film Mascara (in which male transvestites lip-sync to operatic music) and of Strauss’s Salome, extending these works’ central motifs of veils, masquerade, gender transgression and delusion to encompass the constructed and performed nature of all operatic femininity, both on and off stage. This essay raised the possibility of regarding every diva, regardless of sex, as a female impersonator. Abbate further proposed that the recordings to which Mascara’s transvestites lip-sync are operatic ‘texts’, and that (female) singers, perhaps more than composers, should be regarded as opera’s authors. The genderoriented analysis in ‘Opera, or, the Envoicing of Women’ reflected broader

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tensions in musicology between conceptions of music as a textual system and music as event, and anticipated Abbate’s eventual framing of the question in terms of ‘gnostic’ and ‘drastic’ modes.19 The implications of these two strategies – de-essentializing the diva’s femininity, and elevating her to the status of author/creator of operatic experience – continue to be worked out in current scholarship.

Sexual politics of spectatorship The tacit presumption (or official fiction) of a straight male spectator for opera has been challenged from feminist, gay and lesbian perspectives. Traces of what opera might mean for female listeners may be discerned in literature and popular fiction, which typically caricature women as valuing opera for its prestige rather than truly ‘hearing’ it (a privilege reserved for sensitive men). This reflects opera’s importance as an arena for conspicuous consumption and social competition, increasingly feminized activities since the nineteenth century.20 Yet there were exceptions: Flaubert’s Emma Bovary, for one, wonders at the opera ‘Why had she not resisted and supplicated, like Lucia?’21 Feminist writers including George Eliot, Willa Cather and Margaret Atwood created divas to embody the values of freedom, self-determination and artistic discipline. The heroine of Margaret Atwood’s Lady Oracle (1976) recalls how as an obese teenager she loved the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts: For a while I wanted to be an opera singer. Even though they were fat they could wear extravagant costumes, nobody laughed at them, they were loved and praised. Unfortunately I couldn’t sing. But it always appealed to me: to be able to stand up there in front of everyone and shriek as loud as you could, about hatred and love and rage and despair, scream at the top of your lungs and have it come out music. That would be something.22

Lesbian-feminist poet Adrienne Rich, on the other hand, suggested in 1978 that opera would no longer do as vehicle for resistant female voices: the music on the radio becomes clear – neither Rosenkavalier nor G¨otterd¨ammerung but a woman’s voice singing old songs with new words, with a quiet bass, a flute plucked and fingered by women outside the law.23

What a cluster of patriarchal clich´es Rich could evoke and reject with just two operatic titles: lesbian desire as false and titillating spectacle, female aging as doom, the beauty of feminine renunciation, the death-drive, the

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necessity of apocalypse. ‘Women’s music’ subcultures of the 1970s and 1980s rejected classically trained voices – with their connotations of elitism, whiteness and a narrow range of stylized feminine personae such as coy girl, siren or victim – in favour of natural (rough, weak or untrained) voices and ‘natural’ (unglamorous and/or sexually non-conformist) personae.24 The significance of opera in urban gay male subcultures has been an open secret since the late nineteenth century, and probably much earlier: the opera house was always a forum for the dandies, aesthetes and men of fashion among whose ranks wealthy men could both conceal and indulge same-sex desires. Yet the flip side of this ‘open secret’ was a strict taboo on public acknowledgement of homosexuality among the ranks of opera (and art music) composers.25 The illegality and stigma of homosexuality required musicians, critics and admirers of opera to deny and suppress traces of nonheteronormative sexuality in the lives and works of composers. The most extreme operatic case is Benjamin Britten, whose biography and reception are marked with the suppressions, elisions and substitutions typical of what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick unforgettably called the ‘epistemology of the closet’.26 Philip Brett’s article ‘Britten and Grimes’ (1977) was the first to name the possibility of reading Britten’s damaged and persecuted hero as a sympathetic and critical evocation of the homosexual in a homophobic society: ‘There is every reason to suppose that . . . it is to the homosexual condition that Peter Grimes is addressed.’27 Over the next twenty-five years, Brett developed increasingly bold analyses of sexuality in Britten’s operas, including internalized homophobia in Billy Budd, stigma and scapegoating in Peter Grimes, and mutually defining themes of pederasty and exoticism in The Turn of the Screw and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.28 Britten’s life, art and critical reception emerge in Brett’s essays as case studies of how the closet functioned on the individual level as a psychological category, and on the social level as a disciplinary force.29 The most systematic and influential exploration of opera’s ‘closets’, and most overt challenge to presumptions of spectatorial heteronormativity, came from Wayne Koestenbaum, whose The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire (1993) wove together a high-spirited ethnography of gay male opera fans with queer readings of plots, arias and characters.30 Following Koestenbaum’s initial ‘outing’ of opera, the 1990s were a prolific coming-out phase for queer opera studies.31 The ‘opera queen’ subfield produced a set of tropes about the affinity of queer subjects for opera: that the excess of opera compensates for the repressions of the closet, and that cross-gender identification (between queens and divas, or queens and heroines) subverts the genre’s apparently heterosexual content.32 Similarly, lesbian critics in the 1990s celebrated opera – particularly works with trouser roles – as a transgressive space where lesbian

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spectators might adore women on stage, and relish love scenes between women.33 In this celebratory school of criticism, operatic music creates a utopian sound-space in which ‘perversity’ is cleansed of its negative charge. These tropes, however, became rather stale with repetition, and by the end of the 1990s seemed temporarily exhausted. Gay and lesbian perspectives were all but absent from two international feminist opera studies conferences in 2006 and 2007.34 The present challenge facing queer opera studies is: now that opera has come out, what next? How shall queer theory and opera studies inform each other in an ‘out’ way?35 The increasing fragmentation of conceptions of identity make it harder to propose theoretical models of reading ‘as a woman’ or ‘as an opera queen’. At any rate, it is impossible to return to the ‘masterful male gaze/mastered feminine object’ paradigm, or to assumptions that opera’s primary cultural work is to soothe masculine/dominant-cultural anxieties. At times it has seemed that feminist criticism had set in motion a sort of critical carousel, its ponies oscillating endlessly between undoing and envoicing, victimization and empowerment, objects and subjects, oppressive master-plots and resistant voices. Any assertion of one side may be more or less automatically countered by the other. But it may be more productive to regard these oppositions as two poles between which opera’s energy cycles, renewing itself. Questions originally formulated about ‘women in opera’ – undone, or envoiced? objects or subjects? – have drawn us closer toward opera’s central, sentimental paradox: that its performers exercise power most effectively through performances of abject powerlessness. The dynamic is as old as the genre itself, traceable back to Orfeo’s ‘true prayer’ and Arianna’s ‘true lament’.36

Opera and gender before Romanticism While nineteenth-century scholars were critiquing Clement’s apparently transhistorical claims about voices, spectatorship, authority and desire within the Romantic repertoire, feminist scholars of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century opera were building their own questions and hypotheses about how gender and sexuality had worked in earlier periods. Early feminist studies of baroque opera offered ‘Cl´ementian’ reading of heroines’ excess and containment, and indeed female voices of defiance and seduction ring through opera’s history. Although the very first operas had concerned themselves with the musician-divinities Apollo and Orpheus, a woman’s expression of emotional extremity through song quickly became central to the genre. The aria ‘Lasciatemi morire’, from Monteverdi’s L’Arianna (1608), represents the fons et origo for the lamenting heroine as a

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musical and theatrical topos.37 Female laments, usually motivated by sexual betrayal, encompass erotic nostalgia, despair, noble wrath and ignoble vindictiveness. Two early opera stars, Virginia Ramponi Andreini (‘Florinda’) and Anna Renzi, were especially celebrated for their compelling laments.38 Wendy Heller’s research on Venetian opera has amply demonstrated how women’s voices in baroque opera functioned as instruments of political ambition and sexual power.39 Suzanne Cusick reads Francesca Caccini’s La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’ isola d’Alcina (1624–25) as allegory about the misuse of feminine song and sexuality: the ‘wicked’ sorceress Alcina’s spell over Ruggiero must be broken by a ‘good’ (patriarchally identified) sorceress, Melissa.40 Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea turns an episode of Roman history into another ‘sorceress myth’, with Poppea as a modern Venus of ambition and blithe destructiveness, and Love himself as her champion. In the later seventeenth century, operatic portraits of feminine sensuality, power and vulnerability become increasingly complex in such iconic figures as Lully’s Armide and Purcell’s Dido. Yet if the heroine’s archetypal character, psychology and experiences persist across opera’s history, the heroes, supporting characters and social worlds around her have changed drastically over time. Though the meanings attached to vocal timbres since the early nineteenth century have been so consistent as to seem natural and inevitable, research on gender and sexuality in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century opera has revealed the connotations attached to vocal timbres to be historically and geographically specific. Opera carries and constructs gendered meanings not only in its libretti and musical conventions but in its very material: singing voices and gendered bodies. Scholars of baroque opera have crafted new paradigms for understanding gender and sexuality in their repertoire, based fundamentally on the arguments of Thomas Laqueur that the early modern period did not conceive of the masculine and feminine as fixed opposites. Rather biological sex and gender were imagined as a continuum, a ladder with adult masculinity at the top and adult femininity and childhood on the lower rungs.41 Each body and gendered subject was understood to begin at the bottom of the ladder and grow up to its proper stage. The fully achieved masculine subject would be emotionally and sexually continent, acting on principle rather than feeling, while the feminine subject was seen as sensual, narcissistic and impulsive, driven by passions such as desire, pity and vindictiveness. The fascinating danger was that subjects might not maintain their proper places: ambitious, passionate women might surpass the normal limits of ‘femininity’, while undisciplined men might slide back down into the ‘effeminate’ realm of feeling and self-indulgence. This conception of sex and gender complicates the sexual politics of baroque opera for modern audiences, as does the use of castrati in both male and female roles.

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In contrast to its active, ambitious heroines, seventeenth-century opera’s heroes perpetually sink into lasciviousness and passivity. A central theme in seventeenth-century opera is the emasculating effect of love, a conceit reinforced by the preference for castrato singers and the fascination of high voices, both alone and in pairs. Eric Chafe and, more recently, Rachel Lewis have argued that the castrato casting of Nero in L’incoronazione di Poppea conveys his effeminized state, while Ellen Rosand adds that Ottone’s laments, and the hypocrisy and crime into which he descends, further supports Poppea’s theme of the corrupting effects of love on men. Roger Freitas has shown that castrati were erotic objects in life as on the stage.42 In the mid-seventeenth century, the florid duet for two high voices became an essential component of Italian operatic scores, so that even ‘heterosexual’ love scenes are complicated by ‘homovocal’ sonorities.43 The result is a labyrinth of ambiguously sexed and gendered situations, co-created in performance by poets, composers, performers and audiences. In Metastasian opere serie of the eighteenth century, themes of unmanning, effeminacy and erotic deception gave way to more hygienic plots celebrating the hierarchy of a legitimate leader and grateful subjects. Serious opera became a political theatre of endorsement for absolutism, in which the castrato as king, general or conqueror represented masculine and patriarchal authority. Yet the eighteenth-century castrati are perhaps the most extreme examples of the gap between what Abbate called ‘plotcharacter’ and ‘voice-character’, or what Gumbrecht calls the dimensions of ‘meaning’ and ‘presence’ in live performance.44 The castrato’s character may have ‘meant’ order, patriarchy, legitimacy, but the singer ‘presented’ androgynous and sexually ambiguous enjoyments: an artificially engineered body, a non-reproductive sexuality, and a voice combining feminine timbre with masculine technical and social mastery. Contemporary reactions ranged from adoration to abjection as fans showered them with money and gifts while critics, reformers and satirists made them the epitomes of Italian opera seria’s ‘unnatural’, anti-dramatic, performer-centred aesthetic.45 On the side of meaning, the opera seria hero embodied unproblematic masculinity – on the side of presence, everything but that. The castrati as a surgically, socially and culturally constructed ‘third sex’ continue to be subjects of both popular fascination and feminist investigation. In contrast with the blurring of masculine and feminine attributes in serious opera, comic opera is organized around a clear, even exaggerated contrast between the two. The essential comic pair in opera buffa (and its cousins the French op´era comique, German Singspiel, Spanish zarzuela, etc.) consists of a bumbling bass and a clever girl, stock characters as old as Roman comedy and descended, in their operatic forms, from semi-improvised intermezzi and street theatre and Renaissance commedia dell’arte. Comic

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opera’s timeless ‘battle of the sexes’ plots provided opportunities for exploring modern class themes, emplotting bourgeois critiques of aristocratic power in stories about male–female relationships. Voice-type and musical idiom defined character through stereotypes: each new soubrette and basso buffo was ‘shadowed’ by earlier incarnations of the types. At the same time, eighteenth-century comic opera includes some of the genre’s most psychologically complex and individual characters. The women in Mozart’s operas represent the pinnacle of this buffa achievement.46 Many comic operas rely on the old joke of unmasking feminine docility as women’s strategy for running the world, as in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia when Rosina explains, ‘I’m docile, I’m obedient, I’m affectionate . . . But if you cross me, I’ll play one hundred tricks to get my way!’47 The ‘sassy girl’ in opera buffa is distinguished by rapid syllabic declamation, lack of deference, cynicism and fearlessness. She frankly acknowledges women’s sexual power, scolding gentler women for their na¨ıvety and submissiveness, and promising to teach them better ways to manage men. In Rossini’s comedies this type begins to gain social status and vocal authority, becoming a bourgeoise rather than a maidservant or peasant. Rossini also preferred for comedy the coloratura mezzo, whose chest tones and commanding technique leave behind the adorably feminine bossiness of the soubrette. If opera buffa exaggerates femininity in order to affirm its power, the opposite is true of the genre’s treatment of masculinity. Mary Hunter has argued that opera buffa’s master narrative is the carnivalesque one of ‘uncrowning the king’: exposing the ruler’s selfish motives and the arbitrary basis of his power, correcting his excesses, and re-integrating him into society.48 The primary male type, therefore, is an officially powerful master whose exaggerated faith in his own authority, intelligence and charisma contributes to his downfall by the combined efforts of the subordinate characters. The secondary buffo male, often cast as the servant or sidekick of the first, is the clown or stooge who grumbles over his circumstances without being able to improve them. His subordinate status and haplessness render him more endearing than villainous, and he typically wins the audience’s sympathy by being the character who addresses us directly, breaking the ‘fourth wall’ to comment on other characters. The beginning of the nineteenth century was a time of many drastic shifts in operatic style and convention, among which the obsolescence of the castrati and the emergence of the modern diva and tenor have been a primary focus for scholarship on opera and gender. The population of castrati was aging and dwindling in the 1810s and 1820s, but during these decades women could still win praise in new heroic roles.49 Praise for male and female musico singers was a classically based rhetoric of androgyny that compared them to Apollo and Orpheus, divinities whose charisma operated

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above and beyond sexual difference. Yet this period saw an increasing dissatisfaction with musico heroes, whether played by castrati or women, and after 1820 individual singers and performances were increasingly vulnerable to criticism as ‘foppish’ or ‘unmanly’. By the early 1830s, it seemed that a woman in a male role must inevitably turn her character into an effeminate parody.50 Under the influence of comic and semi-serious opera at home, and French opera abroad, Italian serious opera was moving away from its traditional aria-centred dramaturgy to incorporate duets and ensembles. When high-voiced heroes and heroines began to sing together at length it became impossible to ignore their similarities of timbre and expression, and while the collapsing of vocal and sexual difference in these duets provoked pleasure (a sense of luxury, of voluptuousness, of suspended time), it also provoked a longing for contrast and differentiation.51 This un-pleasure could be manifest as boredom, aural fatigue, vague distaste for the music, or (more subtly) in audiences’ partisanship for one or the other singer in a pair such as Sontag–Malibran or Sontag–Pisaroni. Fans’ obsessions with differences between singers – adoration of one and vilification of the other – is a perversely logical solution to the problem of voices being too similar. The newly polarized codes of masculinity and femininity in Italian Romantic operas of the late 1830s emerged against this background of sentimental-serious opera’s ‘mimetic crisis’, in which the pleasures of similarity between heroine and musico hero began to be overshadowed by the anxiety of non-differentiation. The period 1830–35 stands as the moment when modern expectations about the proper relation between voice and gender came to appear natural and inevitable. The castrati were replaced by modern ‘divas’, super-feminine celebrities who as tragic heroines quickly claimed the greatest fame, prestige, and narrative and musical interest. This period was also distinguished by the appearance of the first star tenors, beginning with David and Nozzari in Naples in the 1820s and followed by Duprez and Nourrit in Paris in the 1830s.52 But if the installation of tenor heroes soothed anxieties produced by ‘effeminate’ similarity between heroes and heroines, it did not thereby restore an ideal of ‘masculine’ strength and mastery. On the contrary, the new-style tenors were unprecedented voices of masculine vulnerability: emotional to the point of hysteria, helpless before ever more brutal persecution by fate and by hostile masculine powers.53 The mid-nineteenth century saw the establishment of the modern (that is, tragic-Romantic) operatic canon, with its themes and spectacles of Oedipal struggle, doomed heterosexual romance and ritualized feminine death. Within that canon, Italian and French repertoires continue to receive the most attention from scholars of gender and sexuality, with German opera a distant third. The neglect of Wagner has been a persistent and curious

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feature of English-language feminist opera studies.54 Wagner expressed his theories about music, poetry and drama in such gendered (yet cryptic) phrases as ‘Music is a woman . . . What kind of woman must true music be?’55 If Wagner’s proclamations about the ‘true woman’, and plots celebrating ‘faithfulness unto death’ and ecstatic self-sacrifice tend to strike today’s feminists as embarrassingly regressive, we have lost sight of aspects of Wagnerism that the ‘New Women’ and suffragists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries did see. Feminist ardour for Wagner at the turn of the twentieth century had three bases: the power of his music to excite strong feeling and transfigure everyday life; Wagnerian heroines as strong-willed, idealistic women; and Wagnerian divas as models of female seriousness and dedication to an artistic vocation.56 Apart from Salome and some of Britten’s operas, twentieth-century opera remains relatively under-examined by feminist and gender-oriented scholars. Literary studies (and, to a degree, other subfields of musicology) have explored the fin-de-si`ecle crisis in conceptions of gender and sexuality, including the first modern feminist movements and anxieties around the ‘New Woman’; new heights of artistic interest in the femme fatale, often in conjunction with oriental subjects and imagery; the emergence of homosexual identities and corresponding fears of homosexuality and masculine degeneration; and psychoanalysis and psychoanalytically informed ways of understanding gender, sexuality and personality. Puccini scholars are increasingly investigating his work in light of Italian anxieties about modernity, including the perceived degeneration of modern masculinity.57 In opera, as in the other arts, femininity, masculinity and perversity were primary metaphors through which early twentieth-century artists reacted to social changes that seemed to point towards the collapse of rational or natural order.

Present and future directions Feminist opera scholarship remains in a relatively early stage of interrogating its own tacit premises that gender is something women (and homosexual men) have and/or do. With a few exceptions, the study of gender and sexuality in opera continues to mean the study of female roles, images and performers. International conferences on ‘The Arts of the Prima Donna’ in 2006 and on ‘Technologies of the Diva’ in 2007 focused even more exclusively on women than had the 1995 Stonybrook conference on ‘Representing Gender and Sexuality in Opera’.58 However, these conference topics do mark a significant shift within work on women in opera since the early 2000s: namely, a move away from studying representations of ‘the feminine’

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and toward studying women as performers both in history and in the contemporary opera world. In the emerging subfield that we might call ‘diva studies’, feminist theory and women’s history intersect. Feminist research on singers presents methodological challenges in that the historical record preserves a largely male-authored discourse, so that the object (whether singer, voice or body) is almost always filtered through a dominant-cultural sensibility. Prima donnas played the role of ‘woman’ off stage as well as on stage and have tended to present themselves as unworldly, idealistic, chaste and capricious, so that singers in interviews, memoirs and autobiography often appear as fictional as the characters they play(ed). The study of opera singers is as much the study of fantasies and ideologies attached to performances of femininity as it is the study of historical women.59 In exploring the paradoxical status of performers as both objects (of the spectator’s gaze) and self-fashioning subjects, research on opera singers intersects with feminist work on popular music stars and celebrity culture. The relatively new turn towards studying singers, male and female, brings opera scholarship into contact with ethnomusicology and popular music studies, which have developed theories of the singing voice as a bridge between a singer’s private self and the outer world, giving – or imagined to give – audible presence to an otherwise inaccessible interiority.60 The most powerful voices inspire not merely enjoyment but identification, collapsing the distance between singer and listener: ‘the singer is expressing what I (the listener) feel’, singing not ‘to me’ but ‘for me’.61 Sex- and genderoriented criticism continues to return to Barthes’s essay ‘The Grain of the Voice’ for inspiration in theorizing the qualities that endow voices with gendered personae, and make the singer more than a neutral conveyor of melody, lyrics or meaning.62 Barthes’s essay remains a point of reference and inspiration for considerations of how timbre, tone colour and vocal ‘weight’ complicate our perception of a voice’s sexed, gendered and racialized body of origin. Finally, critiques of the woman-focused approach to research on gender have opened up new, potentially productive paths to studying masculinity and androgyny as gender roles that are as constructed, as policed and as rich in cultural meanings as femininity. Such a turn will involve examining male roles, vocality and performers through the critical lens of ‘manliness as a masquerade’ rather than an essential quality.63 One might, for example, set out to test assumptions about how specifically feminine is the ‘diva’ persona: is there a difference between divas and divos, given that male opera stars can be as highly paid, as temperamental, as commodified as objects of erotic fantasy, and as admired for superhuman musical artistry as female stars? Is the physical and emotional vulnerability that defines ‘the diva’ the same vulnerability that creates the ‘drastic’ quality of all

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live musical performance, or does something unique remain about the mystique of the female opera star? Feminist theories of female performers as objects and manipulators of the audience’s gaze now provide a foundation for interrogating performances of non-feminine gender, and of genders beyond a binary conception of masculine/feminine. Ultimately, they lead to and demand an analysis of the complex and erotically charged dynamic between spectators and all performers.

Notes 1 Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1929), p. 45. 2 Woolf ’s examples were Cleopatra, Lady Macbeth and Rosalind. Woolf, Room, p. 44. 3 On Caccini, see Suzanne Cusick, Francesca Caccini at the Medici Court: Music and the Circulation of Power (University of Chicago Press, 2008). On Ethel Smyth’s career and operas, see J. Bernstein, ‘“Shout, shout, up with your song!”: Dame Ethel Smyth and the Changing Role of the British Woman Composer’, in Jane Bowers and Judith Tick (eds.), Women Making Music: The Western Art Tradition, 1150–1950 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986), pp. 304–24; Elizabeth Wood, ‘Gender and genre in Ethel Smyth’s operas’, in Judith Lang Zaimont et al. (eds.), The Musical Woman: An International Perspective, (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1987), pp. 493–507; Kathleen A. Abromeit, ‘Ethel Smyth, The Wreckers, and Sir Thomas Beecham’, Musical Quarterly, 58 (1989), pp. 196–211; Elizabeth Wood, ‘The Lesbian in the Opera: Desire Unmasked in Smyth’s Fantasio and F´ete galante’, in Corinne E. Blackmer and Patricia J. Smith (eds.), En travesti: Women, Gender Subversion, Opera (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), pp. 285–305. 4 Jacqueline Letzter and Robert Adelson, Women Writing Opera: Creativity and Controversy in the Age of the French Revolution (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2001). See Anselm Gerhard’s chapter on Bertin’s La Esmerelda in The Urbanization of Opera: Music Theater in Paris in the Nineteenth Century, trans. Mary Whittall (University of Chicago Press, 2000); Karen Henson, ‘In the House of Disillusion: Augusta Holm`es and La montagne noire’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 9/3 (1997), pp. 233–62; Melinda Boyd, ‘Opera, or the

Doing of Women: The Dramatic Works of Ingeborg von Bronsart (1840–1913)’, PhD dissertation, 2002. 5 For an early example of feminist reading of a libretto, see Nelly Furman, ‘The Languages of Love in Carmen’, in Roger Parker and Arthur Groos (eds.), Reading Opera (Princeton University Press, 1988), pp. 168–83. 6 Catherine Cl´ement, Opera, or, The Undoing of Women, trans. Betsy Wing (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988). Judith Fetterley, ‘The Resisting Reader’ (1978) in Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar (eds.), Norton Companion to Feminist Criticism (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 2007), pp. 443–7. 7 This argument was not new with Cl´ement, though she was the first to use it to critique gender ideologies in opera. See Theodor W. Adorno, ‘Bourgeois Opera’, trans. D. Levin, in D. Levin (ed.), Opera Through Other Eyes (Stanford University Press, 1994), pp. 25–44. 8 Cl´ement, Undoing, p. 63. 9 On Lucia, Salome and Carmen, see Susan McClary, Feminine Endings (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991); see also Susan McClary, Georges Bizet: ‘Carmen’ (Cambridge University Press 1992), pp. 29–43. For a critique of McClary’s analysis of Lucia, see Mary Ann Smart, ‘The Silencing of Lucia’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 4/2 (July 1992), pp. 119–41. 10 See Mary Ann Smart (ed.), Siren Songs: Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Opera (Princeton University Press, 2001). 11 Laura Mulvey, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, Screen, 16/3 (Autumn 1975), pp. 6–18. Re-published in Laura Mulvey, Visual and Other Pleasures (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989). 12 Susan McClary, ‘Excess and Frame: The Musical Representation of Madwomen’, in Feminine Endings, pp. 80–111; McClary, Bizet:

272 Heather Hadlock ‘Carmen’. See also Lawrence Kramer, ‘Culture and Musical Hermeneutics: The Salome Complex’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 3/2 (1990), pp. 269–94. 13 Honor´e de Balzac, ‘Sarrasine’, reprinted in Roland Barthes, S/Z, trans. Richard Miller (New York: Hill and Wang, 1974), pp. 238–9. 14 Balzac, ‘Sarrasine’, p. 239. 15 Lesley C. Dunn and Nancy A. Jones (eds.), Embodied Voices: Representing Female Vocality in Western Culture (Cambridge University Press, 1994). See also Matthew Head’s discussion of the maternal voice evoked in piano music and early Lieder in ‘“If the pretty little hand won’t stretch”: Music for the Fair Sex in Eighteenth-Century Germany’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 52/2 (Summer 1999), pp. 235–44; and Linda P. Austern and Inna Naroditskaya (eds.), Music of the Sirens (Indiana University Press, 2006). 16 Joke Dame, following Barthes’s analysis of ‘Sarrasine’ in S/Z, attributes the castrato’s power to his uncanny combination of a phallic voice emerging from a castrated body, Freud’s very epitome of ‘Lack’. See Joke Dame, ‘Unveiled Voices: Sexual Difference and the Castrato’, in Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood and Gary C. Thomas, Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology (New York: Routledge, 2006), pp. 144–5. 17 Michel Poizat, The Angel’s Cry: Beyond the Pleasure Principle in Opera, trans. Arthur Denner (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992). Kaja Silverman similarly argued that classic cinema makes the female voice an object of fetishistic desire and dread; see Kaja Silverman, The Acoustic Mirror: The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988). 18 Carolyn Abbate, ‘Opera, or, the Envoicing of Women’, in Ruth Solie (ed.), Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 225–58. 19 See Carolyn Abbate, ‘Music: Drastic or Gnostic?’, Critical Inquiry 30/3 (2004), pp. 505–36; Hans U. Gumbrecht, ‘Production of Presence, Interspersed with Absence’, in Karol Berger and Anthony Newcomb (eds.), Music and the Aesthetics of Modernity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), pp. 343–56. See also M. Duncan, ‘The Operatic Scandal of the Singing Body: Voice, Presence, Performativity’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 16/3 (November 2004), pp. 283–306.

20 Ruth Solie, Music in Other Words: Victorian Conversations (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004). 21 Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, trans. M. Mauldon (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 221. On women’s reactions to a star tenor in nineteenth-century Paris, see Karen Henson, ‘Victor Capoul, Marguerite Olagnier’s Le Sa¨ıs, and the Arousing of Female Desire’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 52/3 (Autumn 1999), pp. 419–63. 22 Margaret Atwood, Lady Oracle (New York: Ballantine Books, 1987; originally published McClelland and Stewart, 1976), p. 83. On the trope of the diva’s song as feminist voice, see Susan J. Leonardi and Rebecca Pope, The Diva’s Mouth: Body, Voice, Prima Donna Politics (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1996). 23 Adrienne Rich, ‘Twenty-One Love Poems: XIII’, The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974–1977 (New York: Norton, 1978). 24 See Judith Peraino, Listening to the Sirens: Musical Technologies of Queer Identity from Homer to Hedwig (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2005), pp. 152–76; and Jane Bernstein, ‘“Thanks for my weapons in battle – My voice and the desire to use it”: Women and Protest Music in the Americas’, in Jane Bernstein (ed.), Women’s Voices Across Musical Worlds (Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 2004), pp. 166–86. 25 On American opera composers Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, Marc Blitzstein, Aaron Copland, Ned Rorem and Virgil Thomson, see Nadine Hubbs, The Queer Composition of America’s Sound: Gay Modernists, American Music, and National Identity (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2007). 26 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1990). 27 Philip Brett, ‘Britten and Grimes’, Musical Times, 117 (December 1977), reprinted in Philip Brett, Music and Sexuality in Britten: Selected Essays (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2006), p. 20. 28 See Brett, Music and Sexuality in Britten, specifically ‘“Grimes is at his exercise”: Sex, Politics, and Violence in the Librettos of Peter Grimes’, ‘Salvation at Sea: Britten’s Billy Budd ’, ‘Britten’s Bad Boys: Male Relations in The Turn of the Screw’, ‘Britten’s Dream’ and ‘Eros and Orientalism in Britten’s Operas’.

273 Opera and gender studies 29 On the operations of the closet within musical cultures and individual musicians’ lives, see Brett, Wood and Thomas, Queering the Pitch, and Peraino, Listening to the Sirens. 30 Wayne Koestenbaum, The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire (New York: Vintage Books, 1994). See also Paul Robinson, ‘The Opera Queen: A Voice from the Closet’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 6/3 (1994), pp. 283–91. 31 See for example Terry Castle, ‘In praise of Brigitte Fassbaender (a musical emanation)’, in Terry Castle, The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), pp. 200–38; Samuel D. Abel, Opera in the Flesh: Sexuality in Operatic Performance (Boulder, CO and Oxford: Westview Press, 1997); Blackmer and Smith (eds.), En travesti. 32 For an examination of queer opera fandom of a past era, see Mitchell Morris, ‘Tristan’s Wounds: On Homosexual Wagnerians at the Fin-de-Si`ecle’, in Sophie Fuller and Lloyd Whitesell (eds.), Queer Episodes in Music and Modern Identity (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002), pp. 271–91. 33 Castle, ‘In Praise of Brigitte Fassbaender’, pp. 200–38. See Corinne E. Blackmer and Patricia J. Smith, ‘Introduction’, in Blackmer and Smith (eds.), En travesti, pp. 1–19; Margaret Reynolds, ‘Ruggiero’s deceptions, Cherubino’s distractions’, in Blackmer and Smith, En travesti, pp. 132–51; and Patricia J. Smith, ‘Gli enigmi sono tre: The [d]evolution of Turandot, Lesbian Monster’, in Blackmer and Smith, En travesti, pp. 242–84. 34 ‘Arts of the Prima Donna’, organized by Rachel Cowgill and Hilary Poriss at the University of Leeds in June 2006, and ‘Technologies of the Diva’, organized by Gabriela Cruz and Karen Henson at Columbia University in March 2007. 35 Rachel Lewis addresses this question briefly in ‘What’s Queer about Musicology now?’, Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture, 13 (2009), pp. 43–53. 36 See Monteverdi’s letter to Alessandro Striggio of 9 December 1616, translated in Denis Stevens (ed.), The Letters of Claudio Monteverdi (Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 110. 37 See Susan McClary, ‘Constructions of Gender in Monteverdi’s Dramatic Music’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 1/3 (November 1989), p. 207; Suzanne Cusick, ‘“There was not one lady who failed to shed a tear”: Arianna’s Lament and the Construction of Modern Womanhood’, Early Music, 22/1 (February

1994), pp. 21–32, 35–8, 41–5; Ellen Rosand, ‘The Descending Chromatic Tetrachord as Emblem of Lament’, Musical Quarterly, 65/3 (1979), pp. 346–59. 38 On Virginia-Florinda, see Emily Wilbourne, ‘La Florinda: The Performance of Virginia Ramponi Andreini (1583–1630/1)’, PhD dissertation, New York University, 2008. 39 Wendy Heller, Emblems of Eloquence: Opera and Women’s Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2003). 40 Suzanne Cusick, ‘Of Women, Music, and Power: A Model from Seicento Florence’, in R. Solie (ed.), Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 281–304. 41 On the ‘situational’ model of gender at work in seventeenth-century opera and vocal music, see Bonnie Gordon, Monteverdi’s Unruly Women: The Power of Song in Early Modern Italy (Cambridge University Press, 2004) and R. Lewis, ‘Love as persuasion in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea: New Thoughts on the Authorship Question’, Music and Letters, 86/1 (2005), pp. 16–41. For a consideration of gender in seventeenthcentury vocal repertoires outside of opera, see Todd M. Borgerding (ed.), Gender, Sexuality, and Early Music (New York and London: Routledge, 2002). 42 Eric T. Chafe, Monteverdi’s Tonal Language (New York: Schirmer Books, 1992); Lewis, ‘Love as Persuasion’, pp. 16–41; E. Rosand, Monteverdi’s Last Operas: A Venetian Trilogy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007); Wendy Heller, ‘Reforming Achilles: Gender, “opera seria”, and the Rhetoric of the Englightened Hero’, Early Music 26/4 (1998): 562–8, 571–2, 574–5, 577–8, 580–1; Roger Freitas, ‘The Eroticism of Emasculation: Confronting the Baroque Body of the Castrato’, Journal of Musicology, 20/2 (2003), pp. 196–249; Roger Freitas, Portrait of a Castrato: Politics, Patronage, and Music in the Life of Atto Melani (Cambridge University Press, 2009). 43 For a brief comparison of modern possibilities for reviving castrato roles, see Dame, ‘Unveiled Voices’. 44 Carolyn Abbate, Unsung Voices: Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton University Press, 1991); Hans U. Gumbrecht, ‘Production of Presence, Interspersed with Absence: A Modernist View on Music, Libretti, and Staging’, trans. Matthew Tiews, in Anthony Newcomb and Karol Berger (eds.), Music and the Aesthetics of

274 Heather Hadlock Modernity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), pp. 343–55. 45 See Martha Feldman, ‘Denaturing the Castrato’, The Opera Quarterly 24/3–4 (Summer–Autumn 2008), pp. 78–199; Wendy Heller, ‘Reforming Achilles: Gender, “Opera Seria” and the Rhetoric of the Enlightened Hero’, Early Music 26/4 (November 1998), pp. 562–8, 571–2, 574–5, 577–8, 580–1; Suzanne Aspden, ‘“An infinity of factions”: Opera in Eighteenth-Century London and the Undoing of Society’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 9 (1997), pp. 1–19. 46 Recent feminist scholarship on Mozart’s female characters includes Wye J. Allanbrook, Mary Hunter and Gretchen A. Wheelock, ‘Staging Mozart’s Women’, in Smart (ed.), Siren Songs, pp. 47–66; Jessica Waldoff, Recognition in Mozart’s Operas (Oxford University Press, 2006); Kristi Brown-Montesano, Understanding the Women of Mozart’s Operas (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2007). Nicholas Till, Mozart and the Enlightenment (London: Faber and Faber, 1992) includes substantial discussion of Enlightenment ideas about marriage, family, and gender roles. 47 ‘Io sono docile, son respettosa, son obbediente, dolce, amorosa . . . ma cento troppere primo di cedere faro´ giocar.’ Cesare Sterbini, Il barbiere di Siviglia in Marco Beghelli and Nicola Gallino (eds.), Tutti i libretti di Rossini (Milan: Garzanti, 1991). 48 Mary Hunter, The Culture of Opera Buffa in Mozart’s Vienna: A Poetics of Entertainment (Princeton University Press, 1999). 49 See Marco Beghelli, ‘Il ruolo del musico’, in Franco C. Greco and Renato Di Benedetto (eds.), Donizetti, Napoli, L’Europa (Naples: Edizioni scientifiche italiane, 2000), pp. 323–36. On critical responses to Giuditta Pasta and Rosmunda Pisaroni in male roles, see Heather Hadlock, ‘Women Playing Men in Italian Opera, 1815–1830’, in Bernstein (ed.), Women’s Voices, pp. 285–307; on Rossini’s musico roles see Heather Hadlock, ‘Tancredi and Semiramide’, in Emanuele Senici (ed.), Cambridge Companion to Rossini (Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 139–58. 50 Nicola Tacchinardi, Dell’opera in musica sul teatro italiano e de’ suoi difetti (Florence, 1833). 51 See Heather Hadlock, ‘On the Cusp between Past and Future: The Mezzo-Soprano Romeo of Bellini’s I Capuleti ed i Montecchi ’, Opera Quarterly, 17/3 (Summer 2001), pp. 399–422.

52 See Gregory Bloch, ‘The Pathological Voice of Gilbert-Louis Duprez’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 19/1 (March 2007), pp. 11–31. 53 See Anselm Gerhard’s discussion of the ‘fainting hero’ in Rossini’s Guillaume Tell and other French grand operas in The Urbanization of Opera. 54 Two important exceptions are Abbate, Unsung Voices, pp. 206–50, and Elisabeth Bronfen, ‘Kundry’s Laughter’, New German Critique, 69 (Autumn 1996), pp. 147–61. See also Eva Rieger,‘Leuchtende Liebe, lachender Tod’: Richard Wagners Bild der Frau im Spiegel seiner Musik (D¨usseldorf: Artemis & Winkler, 2009). 55 Richard Wagner, Richard Wagner’s Prose Works, Vol. II: Opera and Drama, trans. William Ashton Ellis (1893; repr. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), pp. 112–15. 56 See Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark . . . See Elizabeth Wood, ‘Sapphonics’, in Brett, Wood and Thomas, Queering the Pitch, pp. 27–66. On an early nineteenthcentury Wagnerian diva as forerunner of the ‘New Woman’, see Stephen Meyer, ‘Das wilde Herz: Interpreting Wilhelmine Schr¨oderDevrient’, Opera Quarterly, 14/2 (1997), pp. 23–40. 57 See, for example, the Opera Quarterly issue on Manon Lescaut, 24/1–2 (Winter–Spring 2008); Alexandra Wilson, The Puccini Problem: Opera, Nationalism, and Modernity (Cambridge University Press, 2007); Jeremy Tambling, Opera and the Culture of Fascism (Oxford University Press, 1996). 58 See Rachel Cowgill and Hilary Poriss (eds.), The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century (Oxford University Press, 2009) and Karen Henson (ed.), Technology and the Diva: Opera and the Media from Romanticism to the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). 59 Mary Ann Smart, ‘The Lost Voice of Rosine Stoltz’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 6/1 (March 1994), pp. 31–50; Hadlock, ‘Women Playing Men’; Susan Rutherford, The Prima Donna in Opera, 1815–1930 (Cambridge University Press, 2006); and Susan Rutherford, ‘“La cantante delle passioni”: Giuditta Pasta and the Idea of Operatic Performance’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 19/2 (July 2007), pp. 107–38. 60 On the centrality of voice and vocality in queer theory-informed studies of music across genres, see Rachel Lewis, ‘What’s Queer About Musicology Now?’, Women & Music, 13 (November 2009), pp. 43–53.

275 Opera and gender studies 61 For an exposition of these theories in regard to popular music, particularly female pop singers, see Bonnie Gordon, ‘Tori Amos’ Inner Voices’, in Bernstein (ed.), Women’s Voices, pp. 187–207; and Lori Burns and M´elisse Lafrance, Disruptive Divas: Feminism, Identity, Popular Music (New York and London: Routledge, 2001). 62 Barthes adapted the ‘pheno-’ and ‘geno-’ distinction from Julia Kristeva’s Revolution in Poetic Language, trans. Margaret Waller (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984), pp. 86–9. Roland Barthes, ‘The Grain of the Voice’, in Image Music Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1978),

pp. 182–3. Joke Dame uses Barthes’s concepts of grain and authority to explore issues of gender and authorial voice in Joke Dame, ‘Voices within the Voice: Geno-text and Pheno-text in Berio’s Sequenza III’, in Adam Krims (ed.), Music/Ideology: Resisting the Aesthetic (Amsterdam: G and B Arts International, 1998), pp. 233–46. 63 See Cambridge Opera Journal, 19/1 (March 2007), a special issue on ‘The Divo and the Danseur’ ed. Karen Henson. On masculinity as performative, see Judith Halberstam, Female Masculinity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), pp. 1–44.

12 Opera and national identity suzanne aspden

It might seem curious to the average modern music lover that opera, that most elite of genres, came to be seen as music’s pre-eminent contributor to nationalism. This apparent contradiction derives, however, from two common misconceptions: on the one hand, that nationalism was essentially an expression of popular (nineteenth-century) revolt; on the other, that opera’s associations with the aristocracy should debar it from relevance to more general political concerns. Such misconceptions might seem appropriate for an ideology such as nationalism, which has always covered the traces of its invention by rewriting history in its own image, but opera too is defined by its continual reinvention of itself. Indeed, as both opera and nationalism are at heart concerned with origins and with representing themselves as originary – both defining themselves as ‘always already’, whether in theoretical or dramatic terms – their interaction can be symbiotic. The anxiety perpetually expressed in operatic criticism and theory about ‘naturalness’ (generic, vocal, aesthetic) is thus neatly complemented by nationalist ideology, the prime hegemonic strategy of which has been similarly to self-authenticate as inherent and instinctive. It is only in the latter part of the twentieth century that nationalism has been subject to stringent scrutiny as an ideology, its essentialist claims unpicked as historically contingent on (variously) incipient capitalism, industrialization, mass communication and the decline of religion. Scholars such as Ernest Gellner, Benedict Anderson, Eric Hobsbawm and Liah Greenfield have seen nationalism as an invention of the modern period (from c.1800 onwards), and have offered trenchant critiques of the ideology’s essentialist mystification. Nonetheless, with nation states remaining powerful political and cultural forces (despite the effects of globalization) and the right to national self-determination still invoked in pursuit of new political entities, the idea of the nation continues to be a significant social paradigm – and continues to be the principal way we parcel up history, whether operatic or otherwise. Ethno-cultural theories of national identity persist in the writings of Anthony D. Smith and others, though these pro-national authors generally eschew earlier organicist mysticism in favour of defining nations through shared culture.1 It is not impossible, of course, to see nations and nationalism both as relatively recent inventions and as sustaining their [276]

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vitality through imagined traditions that stretch back to ancient times.2 Indeed, it is this productive interaction of ideology and cultural history that is the chief breeding ground for art, including opera. Certainly, for both nationalism and opera, engagement with and shaping of a changing polity have been crucial to the definition and assertion of their cultural status – the persistence of both ‘national’ and ‘royal’ in the titles of opera houses (the changing titles of the Paris Op´era in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries are almost comic in this regard) attests to the longevity of this role, albeit from ostensibly antithetical perspectives. And while they seem mutually to reinforce myths of origin, their relationship can also throw that fictional status into relief.3 With such a complex interconnection between opera and nationalism, it is right that this chapter take a broad view of the association between the two, asking what it was about the history and nature of opera as a genre that made it such fertile ground for nationalism, and what opera contributed to ideas of national identity. In so doing it will also explore the ways musicological scholarship has approached modes and instances of nationalist expression in opera. As the study of nationalism itself has become more sophisticated, so musicologists have moved beyond the easy stereotype that ‘national’ music came about as a reaction from the peripheries to the hegemony of the canon – the view, as Richard Taruskin puts it, that composers from the nineteenth century on are ‘classified into four categories: Italian, German, French and “nationalist”’.4 Instead, scholars now examine the underpinnings of diverse musical expressions of ideology, even in composers, works and traditions at the heart of our supposedly universal musical language.5 The recent proliferation of studies on musical nationalism (and, more broadly, music and politics) demonstrates our growing realization that the approaches and assumptions of traditional musicology were strongly conditioned by such ideologies, and that we need to understand these assumptions if we wish also to debunk them. These studies bring to bear the full range of current musicological methodology, from archivally based expositions of the interaction between politics and musical production, to critico-theoretical explorations of notions of national identity in music that benefit from the layered appreciation of identity within nationalism which has characterized recent studies of the ideology. The musicological study of nationalism has not experienced the level of dispute characterizing philosophical and sociological approaches, undoubtedly because musicology is interested in nationalism’s and nations’ cultural expression rather than in their ontological status, so sidestepping that particularly contentious area of discussion. This is not, of course, to say that musicology has nothing to contribute to those broader debates;

278 Suzanne Aspden

indeed, as opera studies in particular demonstrates the importance of cultural performance for the formation of national identity, musicology seems to offer significant commentary on the constructivist–essentialist debate.

Origins The controversy between ‘ancient’ (essentialist) and ‘modern’ (constructivist) theorists of the nation has most impact on musicology in assumptions about the beginnings of musical nationalism, for musicologists commonly take the modern, political idea of the nation as their standard, and so discount any nationalist expressions that are not popular in origin.6 By this reading, musical nationalism only really commences with the French Revolution. But here two potentially complementary principles are useful: Smith’s ‘ethnosymbolist’ approach sees nations as having ancient, core elements around which they might wax and wane over time, while Hobsbawm points out that ‘national consciousness’ develops unevenly in any given society, with cultural nationalism preceding militant political campaigns, and mass support coming last.7 It is thus both valid and useful to look for nationalist cultural expressions prior to the inception of modern nationhood, for those early definitions give a strong sense of the process by which a nation is invented. In opera this process is particularly acutely expressed, because from its inception opera was itself associated with a quest for origins. While, in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, those origins were an idealized, mythical golden age, in the later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries opera’s conjoining of music and words prompted a quest for the origins of language. Such concerns suggest the universalizing tendency always present in analyses of the function and power of music, but opera’s linking of words with music, and its abiding association with politics, also provided a heady mix to encourage debate about relative cultural expression. In the seventeenth century, this debate was most clearly articulated in France, where the Italian infiltrations of Cardinal Mazarin and others on a political level, and of (most notably) Jean-Baptiste Lully musically, prompted an ongoing discussion of the musical principles distinguishing the genius of the two peoples. Georgia Cowart’s The Origins of French Musical Criticism, though not concerned with nationalism, demonstrates the lively interaction between politics and culture that fomented national navel-gazing on the part of French critics. French military campaigns in the Italian peninsula had provoked a paradoxical anxiety about perceived Italian cultural superiority throughout the sixteenth century. But Italian musical influence was not considered grounds for controversy until the seventeenth century, perhaps

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because the concept of ‘national style’ affected musical thought more slowly than it did literary understanding.8 From the late sixteenth century, however, both France and Italy set up distinctive musical endeavours focused on the belief that it was possible to revive the ancient power of music by reinstating a symbiotic relationship with language: vers and musiques mesur´ees and opera were part of the cultures’ respective solutions. In establishing such divergent approaches to a common truth claim, the seeds were also sown for comparison and dissent on grounds broadly ‘national’ because based on differences in language. Musical distinctions were fairly easily made – the measured, syllable-to-a-note strictness of the French style of Claude Le Jeune versus the harmonic audacity and vocal individuality of Italians such as Claudio Monteverdi, Carlo Gesualdo and Giulio Caccini – but even knowledgeable musicians who saw the advantages of each style wrote descriptions quickly shading from the technical to something less tangible. So one of Marin Mersenne’s correspondents, J. J. Bouchard, stated that for artifice, knowledge, and forcefulness of singing, for quantity of musicians, principally castratos, Rome surpasses Paris as much as Paris surpasses Vaugirard. But for delicacy, and una certa leggiardria [sic] e dilettevole naturalezza, the French surpass the Italians by far . . . 9

Inevitably, stylistic musical distinctions were also projected outwards onto the genius of the peoples: the French gamba player Andr´e Maugars (also pro-Italian) provided an assessment pithy enough to become a clich´e: ‘we sin in deficiency’, he claimed, ‘the Italians in excess’.10 Lully crystallized the conflict by personifying these competitive sentiments as Musique franc¸aise and Musique italienne in dialogue in his Ballet de la raillerie (1659). Lully’s witty juxtaposition of the different styles in his own compositions was a reflection of growing popular anti-Italianism. Opera, as the most identifiably Italian genre in Paris, was an easy target. The French rejections of Luigi Rossi’s Orfeo in 1647, just before the years of the Fronde (civil wars of 1648–53), and Francesco Cavalli’s Ercole amante in 1662 were both largely inspired by opposition to perceived Italian political influence. These rejections of the genre were balanced by attempts at co-option: the 1671 founding of a proto-nationalist Acad´emie d’Op´era was a prime example. Lully’s canny adaptation of his musical style to suit French tastes was another. Here, too (as scholars have more readily acknowledged), there were politico-aesthetic justifications for the genre’s French adaptation: opera, in its claim to classical origins on the one hand and exploitation of spectacle on the other, provided the perfect vehicle for conveying the mytho-historic significance and grandeur of the monarch. The development of trag´edie

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lyrique, as Downing Thomas and others have shown, facilitated presentation of Louis XIV as omnipresent, while at the same time (indeed, as a result of) removing his physical presence from the stage he had occupied so prominently as a dancer in the earlier com´edie-ballet. Lully made opera a French genre where previously it had been seen as an Italian import – and rejected or embraced accordingly. But perceived cultural differences continued to be aired via discussions of opera until the 1750s’ Querelle des Bouffons, and the later contention between supporters of C. W. Gluck and Niccolo` Piccinni. It is significant that complaint in the Franco-Italian debates was so strongly one-sided: the French (or at least French intellectuals), feeling themselves to be an identifiable cultural entity, sensed that definition of distinctions in taste and style was not only possible, but desirable. While Italian opera in this period certainly deployed classical (particularly Roman) myth-history to evoke a sense of political continuity, this was done in the service of individual city-states, rather than for an incipient nation, and critical concerns were generally similarly insular.11 In this sense, and whether or not we can think of pre-revolutionary France as a ‘nation’ in anything other than Smith’s ethnosymbolic sense, one can see at work two elements that have been identified as fundamental to the construction of national identity: on the one hand, a sense of ‘imagined community’ created through shared cultural institutions; on the other, a coalescence around perceived external threat, albeit primarily cultural. The importance of international hostilities as a spur to nationalist invention was particularly drawn out by Linda Colley in her 1992 study of eighteenth-century Britons. Although cultural investigations play a peripheral role in Colley’s book, she turns to English opera and that famous paean to Britishness, ‘Rule, Britannia’, to show that it was antipathy to foreign rivals (especially the French) that defined the British: ‘Britishness was superimposed over an array of internal differences in response to contact with the Other.’12 Opera might seem the least likely of genres for forging British identity, but the genre’s traditional associations with power meant that in Britain, too, it was a site of contention. For music in particular, the Restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660 brought an ‘invasion’ of French artists and styles that had an impact comparable to that of the Italians in Paris, with relations between foreign and native musicians by turns volatile and productive. Some French musicians worked with English counterparts in the London theatres: John Dryden’s collaboration with Louis Grabus on Albion and Albanius (1685), when Charles II asked for a French-style opera, contrasts with his later espousal of Henry Purcell for King Arthur (1691). The use of ‘English’ stories in these two works reflected as much the political allegorizing of the prince (a feature of Italian intermedi well before the invention of opera, and the English masque too) as it did

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an engagement with apparently national themes. In the eighteenth century, however, interest in indigenous topics became more consciously populist in orientation; indeed, from the 1730s on there were often concerted attempts to create operas appealing to the populace (or at least to the idea of ‘the people’) through deployment of identifiably ‘British’ (or English) stories. Thomas Arne provides a particular sense of continuity for eighteenthcentury operatic endeavour in Britain, but might also stand as an early example of the perils of espousing the nationalist ideology for composers. Arne’s early involvement in the English opera campaign of 1732–33 initiated a lasting interest in works with ‘national’ themes, including Alfred (1740), Eliza (1754), Britannia (1755), Thomas and Sally (1760) and The Fairy Prince (1771), as well as pieces based on canonic or traditional literature. Perhaps the longevity of Arne’s career carried this one step further, however, for he (like Lully for France) was credited by cultural nation-builders with creating an indigenous musical style. Arne’s sometime student, Charles Burney, the famous music historian, thus praised his melodic style as forming ‘an æra in English Music; it was so easy, natural and agreeable to the whole kingdom, that it had an effect upon our national taste’.13 However, such an association with a ‘natural’ national style held a danger of artistic redundancy of which later ‘nationalist’ composers (and those studying them) were to become all too aware: if the national style was deemed to be simply ‘natural’ for a composer, any venture he made into other stylistic arenas would carry with it a suspicion of insincerity, producing pastiche or plagiarism.14 Thus Burney was less than kind about Arne’s most successful work, the Italianate Artaxerxes (1762), and when Arne presumed to write another Italian opera, L’olimpiade (1765), Burney felt the creative pressure had grown insupportable: the doctor had kept bad company: that is, had written for vulgar singers and hearers too long to be able to comport himself properly at the Opera-house, in the first circle of taste and fashion . . . The common play-house and ballad passages, which occurred in almost every air in his opera, made the audience wonder how they got there.15

Even before the nineteenth-century denigration of mere ‘national’ music in favour of the universal and transcendent (a Germanocentric concept), Arne’s fate exemplified the dilemma for creators of indigenous opera who sought access to the international stage.

Popular nationalism in opera Although some composers might have begun to realize the dangers of being too closely associated with a particular national style, there was nonetheless

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an increasing appetite for national music in the later eighteenth century, deriving from disparate philosophical and political impetuses. Space was already created for it aesthetically, through the debates about French and Italian styles. The apparent contradiction between music as a marker of universal human origins (set out most notably by J. J. Rousseau in his Essai sur l’origine des langues) and as an expression of divergent tastes began to be reconciled in theories of distinct national and ethnic ‘genius’. Andr´e Batteaux, in his 1747 treatise Les Beaux Arts r´eduits a` un mˆeme principe, both asserted that ‘There is [one] good taste’, which alone leads us to la belle nature, and then made allowance for goˆuts en particuli`eres, on the basis that national divergence in taste was itself an affirmation of ‘the richness of nature, and . . . the reaches of the heart and the human spirit’.16 By the end of the century, with J. G. Herder, the ‘particular tastes’ of different nations were not the exception but Nature itself (and a product not just of language but also of geography). More significantly for the status of opera, the affirmation of these differing tastes through cultural expression validated the nation and reconciled individual and collective (state) identities by making the latter an extension of the selfhood of the former. The Herderian view of cultural nationalism also effected an important shift in operatic focus: as, for Herder, it was the common Volk and their culture which defined the nation, so his emphasis on national expression of folk culture encouraged its appropriation for the arts (including opera), though inevitably this tended to an idealized form of engagement.17 An interest in representation of the people within opera, which was to characterize the genre in the nineteenth century, was not only philosophical in origin. The most widely recognized nationalist ‘event’ was the French Revolution (1789–99), which manifested cultural ideals in radical political terms, and provided an overt imperative for broadly representative ‘national’ music. This imperative was particularly pronounced, as Elizabeth Bartlet has shown, under the ‘Terror’ (September 1793 to July 1794), when republican extremism prompted great artistic sensitivity to opera’s presentation of political messages. The Paris Op´era’s artistic representatives, conscious that their theatre had for so long been intimately bound to the aristocracy and royalty, strenuously asserted its populist revolutionary potential: ‘It is time for the French to enjoy with enthusiasm the pleasure of admiring their own exploits and to see staged their own glory’ claimed one petition to the Committee of Public Safety in February 1794.18 Opera’s traditional use of myth and ancient history as a means to legitimate monarchical rule was turned to new effect for the revolutionary genre. Not only recent events, but also classical (particularly republican) history was co-opted to express patriotic sentiments, and, inevitably (in keeping

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with the originary mystification of nationalism), both ancient and contemporary subjects were adapted to fit nationalist myth-making. This process of adaptation often reflected the anxieties of the Terror: so disillusionment with the early revolutionary glorification of individual heroism led to an emphasis on collective action (often at the expense of historical accuracy); within operatic narratives, individuals pointedly refused glory unless it was shared, or committed suicide for the success of the Revolution.19 The performance of national unity was particularly expressed in collective oath-taking, marking the new operas out as more than simply a passive experience for the audience, as many contemporary commentators recognized. Thus at a performance of Toute la Gr`ece: The spectators were themselves at one and the same time witnesses and actors; and when the Greek warriors on stage swore to conquer for their country’s sake, the French soldiers in the audience reacted by declaring ‘What they have sworn, we shall do.’20

This sense of the performative power of opera (in J. L. Austin’s sense of a ‘speech-act’), its potential to participate in social transformation, was not inconsistent with the Herderian principle that language reflects and constitutes any given society, and it marked out opera’s significance for nationalist developments in the nineteenth century.21 Modern awareness of the performative nature of identity (fostered particularly by Judith Butler), coupled with nationalist theorists’ recent tendency to discuss nationalism in terms of identity formation, creates a particularly rich theoretical basis for the understanding of opera in this period.22 Revolutionary opera’s patriotic scenes affected the musical design as well. While much in operatic language reflected pre-revolutionary idioms, the populist stance of the new works encouraged greater use of simple hymne and chanson style, along the lines of the Marseillaise or C ¸ a ira, and marches, too, were prominent; with fewer soloists (particularly women), there were also fewer airs, and the chorus assumed an increasingly central and dynamic role in, as Bartlet puts it, the effort to find ‘a musical equivalent of “fraternit´e”’.23 In their innovative use of harmonic language and orchestration, and their designs for new choruses (particularly choral oaths), composers seemed to indicate a desire to enact the Revolution technically as well as in plot and narrative design.24 In seeing the Revolution as a pivotal moment (and in failing to note the diverse modes of nationalism aside from its party-political expression), musicological studies of nationalism have been in danger of oversimplification: as scholars have recently begun to observe, we must be careful not to make too much of the Revolution watershed.25 But the Revolution’s impact was nonetheless significant: a critic writing in 1794 in the Journal de Paris

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national of the opera La R´eunion du dix aoˆut (a re-envisioning of real events of 10 August 1793) may have put it accurately when he said of the ‘dance of the porters of Les Halles’ that ‘four or five years ago, it was not possible to introduce such characters on stage without debasing them. In this work, on the contrary, their usual customs and attitudes are perfectly rendered, but without exaggeration.’26 An express desire for authenticity as a means to legitimating the republican nation distinguished these works – even where that ‘authentic’ self was a sanitized version of the truth (as another reviewer of this opera pointed out).27 This Herderian interest in the authenticity of popular expression extended beyond revolutionary France, even if it received particular impetus there. The comedic or peripheral use of lower-class characters, standard in opera buffa and other regional traditions in the eighteenth century, was gradually displaced by a more serious, Herderian emphasis on folk art as the font of national identity, which encouraged composers to rediscover not only musical but also cultural roots in a way that could find serious expression in opera. German opera composers of the mid-eighteenth century already drew judiciously on both Italian and French models (and also on the English, directly or through French sources), but were keen to create a native tradition. Both C. M. Wieland and J. G. Sulzer propounded the idea of a German national opera in the 1770s. An aspiration to populism was important in forming this tradition: the librettist C. F. Weisse favoured op´era comique’s ‘agreeable tales’ over the ‘cheap laughs’ of Italian comic opera, as they ‘had such catchy and singable tunes that they were quickly memorized and repeated by the public and enlivened social life’.28 His Die Jagd (1770), an influential work set by J. A. Hiller, used just such an everyday tale, pitting the honest peasantry against dissolute aristocrats (a sententious storyline going back at least to 1730s England) – although, of course, it was unlikely to have been seen in the theatre by any peasants. As important musically, as Hiller observed, was the way in which the juxtaposition of high and low characters encouraged the use of a range of musical styles.29 This vein achieved considerable popularity: Goethe subsequently observed that ‘a demon of realism had possessed the opera house’ in the 1770s.30 The incorporation of folk elements in German opera achieved its apotheosis in Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freisch¨utz (1821). Weber articulated his musical influences (Italian and French as well as German folk) quite consciously, but wrote the Volk idiom into the opera via the contrast between good (rustic peasantry) and evil. His references to genuine folk music were few – the Bridesmaids’ chorus, ‘Wir winden dir den Jungfernkranz’, is most notable – but generation of a topical atmosphere ensured the folk idiom had a broader significance. The anonymous author of the ‘Memoir of Carl Maria von Weber’ (in The Harmonicon, 2 (1824), pp. 13–14) neatly summed

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up the opera’s balance of appeals and the sense of Freisch¨utz as revelation as much as creation: The revival and improvement of beautiful ancient melodies, by so skilful a hand as Weber’s aided by powerful dramatic and scenic effect, which he understands so well, besides the attraction which so wild and extravagant a story could not fail to produce, have mainly contributed to render the Freisch¨utz popular.31

The folk influences were quickly amplified and expanded by commentators, culminating with J. C. Lobe’s 1855 recounting of a mythical conversation with Weber, making the composer into an originary and nationalist figure.32 Composers, librettists and their critics thus sought as much to create national myth as to harness existing folk stories. Of course, Wagner’s poetic invention of Der Ring des Nibelungen (begun in 1848) is the most famous of such enterprises, but many composers engineered traditional stories (or those that might be worthy of the name) in order to move the nationalist folk element to centre stage, rather than treating it as peripheral ‘local colour’. Mikhail Glinka’s idealization of Russian national character in A Life for the Tsar (1834–36) effected such a shift just as much as Wagner did in the Ring cycle or, in a different way, in Die Meistersinger.33 As these examples also demonstrate, nineteenth-century opera participated in the Romantic fascination with and appropriation of the distant past as a means of tracing the history of nations, employing medieval myth-narratives of foreign invasion and the heroic resistance of the people in order to define national origins.34

The rise of the chorus The treatment of folk subjects and medieval history as stories in themselves had the advantage not only of presenting popular ‘national’ tales, but also of seemingly democratizing the performance space, facilitating the chorus’s emergence from representative of monarchical authority and order or ancient Greek ideals to active participants, indeed protagonists. Again, musicologists’ increasing willingness to see music as performance rather than as idealized work, and to see the performative in opera’s social expression, has facilitated an increasingly sophisticated view of the chorus. While the chorus could seem to function simply, as Carl Dahlhaus put it, as ‘musical extensions of the stage decor’ (in Weber’s Der Freisch¨utz, for example), it often did far more than that. The chorus in Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (1829), while part of that work’s famous (if nebulous) ‘local colour’, also plays its part in both the opera’s musical structure and the plot’s story of the

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struggle for political liberation. The chorus could take a more active role, as it had in some of the so-called ‘rescue’ operas, or it could serve a structural role, affirming the philosophy of a drama, as does the prisoners’ chorus ‘O welche Lust!’ (O what joy!’) at the end of the first act of Beethoven’s Fidelio (1805).35 James Parakilas sees even the most basic, scene-setting function as indicative of the nineteenth century’s thoroughgoing reconceptualization of opera around the role of the chorus as representatives of ‘the people’. Philip Gossett, too, finds the chorus in Italian opera, from Rossini’s mature Neapolitan operas (1815–22) onwards, moving from a state of ‘collective anonymity’ to one of ‘collective individuality’, while Arthur Groos points out the significance of Wagner’s denomination of ‘das Volk’ rather than merely ‘Volk’ in Die Meistersinger as indicative of ‘a collective with a consciousness of itself and a will to action’.36 The chorus’s ideological function was by no means the same in all cases, its varied representation aligning with differing political interests, whether of societies or individual creators. For example, as Parakilas explains, in French grand opera the chorus characteristically expressed the struggle between antagonistic forces, thus foregrounding political dispute within the dramatic structure.37 The common division in grand opera into male and mixed choruses represented an ideological separation between the socially divisive action of male authority figures on the one hand and social cohesion on the other, or ‘“nature” in its social form’.38 Although the chorus’s deployment within that paradigm was remarkably diverse, one element uniting all the scene types Parakilas describes – conspiracy, procession and ceremonial, hymns – is a performative function. In the Italian peninsula, despite the ongoing importance of the star singer, the chorus also gradually developed a significant role, as well as a more complex, equivocal relationship to revolutionary principles (in keeping with the varied political affiliations of the Italian states). Not all nationalist Italian opera of the late eighteenth century was pro-revolutionary: Robert Ketterer observes the contrast between the republican sentiments of F. S. Salfi’s La congiura pisonia (1797) and those of S. A. Sografi’s and Domenico Cimarosa’s Gli Orazi e i Curiazi (1797), written for a Venice that keenly felt the threat of the Napoleonic armies, which ends with a populace divided over Orazio’s supposedly patriotic murder of his sister.39 The role of the chorus could be seen as a marker for the political stance of an opera in Italy. Thus in Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (1829), a prorevolutionary and chorus-dominated work written for Paris, modifications had to be made to pass the censors for its performance in northern Italy (still, like Tell’s Switzerland, under Austrian control). These included not only a changed title and location (Scotland evidently being deemed sufficiently remote by the censors), but also a watering down of politically

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sensitive sections of the text, including the final choral apotheosis to liberty: ‘Libert´e, redescends des cieux!’ became ‘Quel contento che in me sento / Non puo` l’anima spiegar’ (I cannot express the happiness I feel).40 However, the degree to which opera in nineteenth-century Italy participated in political debate is open to question: Roger Parker has recently suggested that, while operatic choruses such as ‘Va pensiero’ (the lament of the Hebrew slaves) in Verdi’s Nabucco subsequently came to represent Italian nationhood, ‘Italians in the heat of battle did not want, did not need to deal in metaphor’, preferring instead specially composed national choruses ‘that portrayed their present situation directly and without equivocation’.41 On the other hand, Philip Gossett has suggested that in Risorgimento Italy (c.1815–c.1871), because the chorus was readily marked out for expression of the popular spirit through a common discourse of nationhood, political subversion could be identified even through dense musical intertextuality or the most generalized allusions to liberty and tyranny.42 Verdi, Gossett suggests, was aware of the need for revolutionary directness, and eager to please in La battaglia di Legnano (1849).43 But he could also express the complexity of nascent Italian nationhood through a representation of the chorus in Simon Boccanegra that was by no means unequivocally positive: the maturity and unity of the citizen-chorus is hard-won.44 That it was the unison lyricism of ‘Va pensiero’ that subsequently came to represent the Italian Risorgimento indicates the ideological power of this musical form, suggesting as it did (falsely in Italy’s case) the unanimity of the people. Parakilas suggests that nineteenth-century opera was better able to become the drama of ‘bourgeois liberalism’ than the spoken theatre precisely because music could organize the crowd into a cohesive, representative body with a sustained and powerful voice. The works built around the institutional presence of a substantial chorus, which developed from the 1770s and 1780s at Paris’s Com´edie-Italienne, had assumed the dramatic identity and participation of this new force.45 Musical language was as important to the chorus’s effect as its corporate physical presence on the stage: with a generic history quite distinct from the theatrical – indeed, particularly associated with either religious observance or popular music – choral music could lend to opera an element of historicity not otherwise available, and particularly a vein of high seriousness or transcendence in its associations with religion. Handel had already discovered this in his oratorios, which exploited the diverse associations of choral music to provide dramatic differentiation between Christians and heathens, and so (for contemporaries) bolster the moral integrity of British Protestantism. And even a composer who made so little use of the chorus as Wagner realized the effectiveness of their historicizing religious overtones: his opening deployment and subsequent quotation of the Bachian chorale in

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Die Meistersinger sacralizes the destiny of the German people through music in a manner given explicit confirmation by Hans Sachs’s statement that art and the people must develop together.46 Of course, the nineteenth-century chorus’s structural and musical significance harked back (as revolution-inspired works generally did) to the communal, rather than just the ideologically national (in a way again in keeping with an important strand of musical thought). But the effective practice of such communal expression, whether in daily life (1,000-strong Messiahs in London or the Deutscher S¨angerbund choral societies and the Volkfest in Germany) or on the stage, necessarily involved more specific, organized constituencies, and an ideological celebration of collective identity that was increasingly nationalist, rather than merely national.47 Charles Tilly reminds us that ‘the phenomenon of identity is not private and individual but public and relational’.48 Nineteenth-century opera’s use of the chorus was thus significant for articulating the dynamic play of identity between the individual and varying types and levels of ‘national’ representation, as nationalism emerged as a dominant ideology. The presence of the chorus undoubtedly signalled not only an interest in popular and communitarian issues, but more particularly a sense of the opera house’s situation in the city – a space rapidly expanding in population and significance (economic as well as social) throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. To represent ‘the people’ on stage was to acknowledge not just a generalized ideal nation, but the specific impact of urban constituencies, whose sense of identity was undoubtedly rendered more acute by their proximity to a host of (unknown) others: as Richard Taruskin has observed with regard to the growth of Russian urban life, ‘there could be no Russian nationalism without Russian cosmopolitanism’.49 Throughout eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, in keeping both with the emphasis on language as essential to national self-definition and with the old association of opera with prestige, indigenous language ‘national theatres’ appeared – in small, Eastern European capitals, as well as in major centres such as Vienna (1776), Berlin (1786) and Prague (1881).50 The Prague National Theatre’s dedicatory motto, ‘N´arod sobˇe’ (The nation to itself), inscribed above its proscenium arch, marks the reflexivity of the enterprise and the sense (at once made possible by and facilitating that reflexivity) of the theatre’s legitimacy in speaking for the nation.51 Such intense reflexivity encouraged nationalist librettists and composers to saturate their works with symbols, which were all the more significant for their audience precisely because their meaning was only fully available to the initiated.52 The creation of such theatres (the lengthy building process itself freighted with meaning for cities and nations coming of age)

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inevitably spurred on indigenous creativity.53 A variety of indigenous composers who forged a ‘national’ style were of significance for their country’s musical development, though they were largely ignored beyond; Moniuszko (1819–72) in Poland, Erkel (1810–93) in Hungary, and the Czech, Smetana (1824–84).

Universality and monumentality: the case of Wagner The importance of the chorus to nineteenth-century opera serves as a marker for some distinctive continuities among the period’s various nationalist enterprises, and reinforces the ideological symbiosis of opera and nationalist politics. It is significant that the chorus could both ‘[allow] nineteenth-century opera to dramatize issues of irreducible difference among social groups’ (Parakilas), and act as the ‘collective voice . . . [taking] us at once into the public realm’ (Arblaster). The chorus’s linking of the topical or ethnic with a more idealized universal spirit was pertinent to nationalist ideology, enabling it to invoke while also transcending the local or specific, often in a manner designed to prophesy national greatness. Ralph Vaughan Williams’s assessment of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger confirms this productive (and, particularly for this work, ill-omened) tension: Here is no playing with local colour, but the raising to its highest power all that is best in the national consciousness of his own country. This is universal art in truth, universal because it is so intensely national.54

What Vaughan Williams tapped into was the by-then common reification of German composition as ‘absolute music’ and the German spirit as inherently musical. The universalizing absolute aesthetic, long simply accepted as truth, has only recently come to be questioned (along with concomitant concepts, such as that of the autonomous musical art work); volumes such as the 2002 collection Music and German National Identity demonstrate (as they undermine) the diverse forms of German musical hegemony fostered through this ideal in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – and still surviving today. Universal transcendence thus became a nationalist expression in Germany, asserted through the supposed monumentality not just of Beethoven’s symphonies but of weighty national scholarly editions.55 Although the mantle of universality and the musically absolute seemed to fit linguistically specific opera less readily than it did genres such as the symphony or the quartet, opera facilitated the monumental expression of nationalism better than any other genre. While an appeal to the universal might seem to trump the merely national, Vaughan Williams was right to recognize the alchemical nature of the combination in Wagner’s works.

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Where Weber had had his nationalist heroism bestowed on him posthumously, Wagner actively sought it out. Wagner’s own political engagement, by turns decidedly practical (manning the Dresden barricades in 1849) and avowedly intellectual, dovetailed with his creation of the Plan for the Organization of a German National Theatre for the Kingdom of Saxony (1848) and conception of the monumental set of operas Der Ring des Nibelungen, first performed as a cycle in 1876.56 Important to Wagner was the Romanticist (but also nationalist) idealism which married the metaphysical and philosophical to the practical and the everyday. Thus he made an easy link between victory in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 and his plans for his Festspielhaus for the Ring when he wrote to his ardent supporter Ludwig II of Bavaria: ‘Now that we have saved the body of Germany, what we have to do next is to fortify the German soul.’57 Wagner’s ideas for fortifying the ‘German soul’ were outlined in his proposals for the reunification of the arts through the Gesamtkunstwerk (‘total work of art’), in the essays Die Kunst und die Revolution (1849), Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft (1849) and Oper und Drama (1850–51). Such apparently positive expressions of cultural nationhood had an uglier side (reminding us that nationalism achieves definition through rejecting its Others): the anti-semitic Das Judentum in der Musik (1850) and later Was ist deutsch? (1865) and Deutsche Kunst und deutsche Politik (1867) saw Wagner pit the ‘German spirit’ against apparent threats from both Jews and the French. The nationalism born from such xenophobic polemic was made more palatable through art’s appeal to the transcendent and monumental (something that has allowed many scholars to downplay Wagner’s antisemitism58 ). Wagner’s mystification of the creative process was demonstrated, for instance, in his claim that the initial inspiration for the first work in the Ring cycle, Das Rheingold, came to him in a dream-like torpor while holidaying in Italy. It was expressed in more practical terms in his design of the orchestra pit for the Bayreuth Festspielhaus as a ‘mystic chasm’ (or ‘mystic abyss’), which was ‘to separate the real from the ideal’, distancing the audience from the stage in order to make the singers seem ‘enlarged and superhuman’.59 Justifying his cultural revolution as the inevitable culmination of Germanic self-expression, Wagner aimed with the ‘art work of the future’ to dispense with traditional operatic forms in favour of an organicist mode of creation. In Der fliegende Holl¨ander and Tannh¨auser Wagner made some moves towards this aim, seemingly thematizing the distinction between conventional arias and ensembles on the one hand and more harmonically and structurally fluid sections on the other. Only with the Ring cycle were the organicist principles of the Gesamtkunstwerk put into effect

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in the comprehensive integration of poetic and musical structures and the thoroughgoing use of motivic transformation.

State opera The epic scale not just of the artistic achievement of the Ring cycle but of Wagner’s vision for its housing in a theatre – and indeed a town – devoted to its performance, to which artists and audience alike would make pilgrimage, is particularly noteworthy because it was realized.60 The patronage of Ludwig II of Bavaria made possible Wagner’s vision in much the way, perhaps, that Joseph II’s progressive nationalist zeal had led him to insist on Vienna having a national theatre in 1776. But in 1876 Wagner’s Festspielhaus was intended as an egalitarian domain, with free entry for all (something not realized for financial reasons). Although Wagner did not initially achieve national sponsorship for his venture, it did make manifest monumental opera’s dependence on and expression of the state. This association was increasingly realized across Europe from the late nineteenth century onwards as nationalism’s full potential was exploited, and nowhere more so than in tsarist and then totalitarian Russia and the USSR. Studies of Russian and Soviet musical nationalism provide a very practical reminder of the mediating role of politics in scholarship: in 1984, Richard Taruskin lamented that American musicologists would ‘never have the freedom of access needed to do fundamental source research on a grand scale’, and complained furthermore of poor ‘general understanding’ of Russia’s production of art music.61 His own book Defining Russia Musically (1997) was a fine answer to that complaint, and others too have addressed this gap in the post-Cold War era. Marina Frolova-Walker has shown that Russia, the USSR and its aftermath provide a good example of the way in which different state agendas could be served by the necessary polemical malleability of operatic nationalistic expression. Russian musical nationalism was given initial impetus in the 1830s and 1840s by Mikhail Glinka’s deliberate attempt to follow the period’s melancholic literary nationalist spirit by deploying mournful, romanticized Russian folk song in the first all-sung Russian-language opera, A Life for the Tsar (1836). The overt nationalist agenda of this work, written around the semi-mythical resistance fighter and martyr Ivan Susanin, was not in doubt; Russia’s ‘Other’ was Poland, represented in stereotypical Polish dances whilst Russia itself was romanticized (through folk and parlour song) and individualized. But even while all agreed that ‘this was how Russianness should be represented’, reasons for this determination differed:

292 Suzanne Aspden for the court the opera was a glorification of autocracy and orthodoxy; for the intelligentsia it was the distinct voice of Russia, heard at last within Herder’s family of diverse nations; for the general public, the opera took the familiar and intimate sounds of the Russian drawing-room romance, and elevated it to a grander plane.62

That initial diversity contributed to subsequent dispute, as intellectuals of various stripes sought to reclassify the function of A Life by using its former favour (particularly its tsarist associations) to criticize it. Nationalist associations then became something of a millstone for Glinka, with his next opera, the magical Ruslan and Lyudmila (1842), variously criticized for its lack of overt ‘national’ content and shoehorned into the nationalist mould (with far-fetched folk origins sought for its structural design and harmonic language). For Glinka (as we have seen for other composers), nationalist intention was as much retrospectively attributed as it was designed, the originary role of his music in forging national sensibilities repackaged as a distillation of latent cultural sensibilities. For nations and composers perceived to be on the ‘margins’ there was perhaps most both to gain and to lose in terms of cultural credibility from adoption of the ‘nationalist’ banner. Of course, once identified with a style that presented itself on ideological grounds as ‘natural’, a composer was not readily able to escape the label, and an entire culture became ‘peripheral’ (Russia is only the most widely discussed example; one might also cite Scandanavia, Spain or Britain).63 Thus, despite its tsarist origins, the ‘Russian’ musical character in Glinka’s Life for the Tsar was revived in the Soviet era, when the work was restructured as Ivan Susanin. Initial Bolshevik distaste for nationalism had been dispelled by the realities of creating Soviet cultural identities within the USSR’s various subsidiary republics, and culture was put to work in enforcing the Soviet coherence to which different ethnicities (or nationalities) were assimilated.64 For aspiring cultural figures within the Soviet republics, Glinka’s Life for the Tsar and Ruslan and Lyudmila represented the two accepted routes – heroic class struggle and national epic – to achieving a national opera that could be considered ‘socialist in content’.65 In such overdefined enterprises the exigencies of creating national opera where previously there was often little more than simple, unharmonized song led to a garish (if carefully considered) co-option of local traditions, tortuously combined with Western or identifiably ‘Russian’ harmonic devices and forms. Opera’s representation of the state through its expression of the ‘public realm’ extended well beyond the nineteenth century, although its institutionalization through national operatic ventures was often tied to the definition of new nations. A commentator for the German Democratic

293 Opera and national identity

Republic exclaimed in 1952, ‘During the period of development of the nation, the unity of poetry, music, theatre, acting, dance and staging made this art genre like a point of crystallization of the artistic life of the nation.’66 Just as in the seventeenth century the magnificence of an operatic production represented the puissance of a prince, in the nineteenth century the building of grand opera houses and construction of repertoires to fill them demonstrated the credentials of a state. For older nations the process was more complex. In Britain in the midtwentieth century, when the Royal Opera House was seeking national status, there was much head-scratching as to what constituted ‘national’ opera. When Edward Dent asked in his 1945 essay on ‘The Future of British Opera’, ‘Why is it that London, the wealthiest capital city in the world, has never maintained a Royal or National Opera comparable to those of Paris, Vienna, Rome, Berlin, or even those of Copenhagen or Stockholm?’, it quickly became clear that ‘Royal or National’ meant nationalistic and English-language (Dent simply discounted ‘two hundred years and more [of] Italian opera’ sung in London under royal patronage).67 In contrast to Edwin Evans’s more practical assessment in the same volume that successful operatic production in England was the result of ‘the truly national method of compromise’ (offered with regard to Sadler’s Wells’s anglicized production of Gianni Schicchi), Dent advocated the creation of a new national genre through commissioning of new works.68 The bullish British nationalism of the first half of the twentieth century gradually evaporated with the demise of empire, but as the robust response to Robert Stradling and Meirion Hughes’s 1993 book The English Musical Renaissance, 1860–1940: Construction and Deconstruction demonstrated, debunking the monuments of musical nationalism still touches a nerve.69 In the later twentieth century, particularly as opera houses in days of uncertain funding (or nation states in days of insecurity and shifting ideological goalposts) made conscious and concerted efforts at cultural nationalism, composers’ attempts to write ‘national’ works themselves became increasingly self-conscious, as demystifying studies of composers such as Benjamin Britten demonstrate. Such awareness of the constructedness of national identity undermined nationalism’s ideological efficacy, and sometimes also the artistic integrity of the works concerned. The most overtly nationalistic (because the most clearly celebratory) of Britten’s works for the new English attempt at national opera was Gloriana (1953), written for Elizabeth II’s coronation gala. Ernest Newman described the work as ‘pastiche’ (much as, we recall, Burney had labelled Thomas Arne’s Italianate Artaxerxes).70 Whatever neoclassicism might have meant for the change in value of such a term, Gloriana hardly presented a Stravinskian sophistication in its reworking of earlier musics: Britten’s use of archaic forms

294 Suzanne Aspden

and titles in his courtly dances, as Paul Kildea notes, not only recalled older music, but also emphasized a more conventional, popular operatic structure than Britten had employed since Peter Grimes.71 Gloriana’s poor public and critical reception reflects the compromise inevitably entailed in writing a work that was intensely occasional in its ‘national’ aspirations.72 As Gloriana might suggest, exploitation and over-definition of the ‘national’ inevitably undermined its ideologically ‘natural’ credentials, perhaps in itself reflecting a growing (though unarticulated) discomfort about this ideology, as established nations came to question their identities. The harnessing of the musico-dramatic to the political often did violence to the perception of a work’s artistic integrity. The numerous examples of censorship or self-censorship to avoid political application provide one type of such violence: in alterations of Guillaume Tell for Austrian censors, the music often jars with or undercuts the newer, anodyne text – part of the point, perhaps, at least for those alert to such subversive possibilities. But more interesting in some ways is the violence composers themselves promoted: Verdi’s hope that a patriotic chorus (not operatic, this time) might ‘soon be sung, along with the music of the cannon, in the Lombard plains’ suggests a political function for vocal music so strong as to virtually undo the role of the composer and the fabric of the composition itself.73 The theatricalization of politics in opera, then, preserved a tentative balance between the comforts of aestheticization and closure provided by fictional narrative on the one hand, and the explosive pragmatism of the political stage on the other; however, that balance might easily be upset, and tip a work into self-destructive fragmentation via political application. Whether the work was rendered more ‘vital’ in so doing, or merely became an occasional piece – unrepeatable outside its historical context (as with Verdi’s La battaglia di Legnano of 1849) – would depend as much on its ongoing ideological malleability as much as on its qualities as art.

Notes 1 Key texts proposing some form of (ethno-)cultural nationalism are: Anthony D. Smith, National Identity (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1991); Chaim Gans, The Limits of Nationalism (Cambridge University Press, 2003); David Miller, Citizenship and National Identity (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000). A more extreme view of ethnic nationalism might be found in Adrian Hastings, The Construction of Nationhood: Ethnicity, Religion and

Nationalism (Cambridge University Press, 1997). 2 See Miller, Citizenship. 3 Thus, as the centrist, ‘establishment’ orientation of opera might suggest, it is now recognised as a (typically nationalist) misrepresentation to see musical nationalism as a na¨ıve, ‘folk’ product of geographically peripheral regions of Europe, as recent scholarship has shown convincingly. Harry

295 Opera and national identity White and Michael Murphy (eds.), Musical Construction of Nationalism: Essays on the History and Ideology of European Musical Culture, 1800–1945 (Cork University Press, 2001). 4 Richard Taruskin cites Willi Apel’s 1969 definition in the Harvard Dictionary of Music as exemplifying the Germanocentric view in his essay ‘Nationalism’ in Grove MusicOnline. Oxford Music Online. www.oxfordmusiconline. com/subscriber/article/grove/music/50846. 5 See, for example, Nicholas Mathew, ‘History Under Erasure: Wellingtons Sieg, the Congress of Vienna, and the Ruination of Beethoven’s Heroic Style’, Musical Quarterly, 89 (2006), pp. 17–61; Celia Applegate and Pamela Potter (eds.), Music and German National Identity (Chicago University Press, 2002). 6 See, for instance, Richard Taruskin’s comments on sixteenth-century vernacular song in France in ‘Nationalism’. 7 Anthony D. Smith, Ethno-Symbolism and Nationalism (London: Routledge, 2009); Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality (Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 12. Hobsbawm’s chronological profile might help explain the oft-cited (though hazily defined) distinction between nationalism and patriotism. 8 Georgia Cowart, The Origins of Modern Musical Criticism: French and Italian Music, 1600–1750 (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1981), pp. 4–5. 9 Ibid., p. 11. 10 Ibid., p. 10. 11 Robert Ketterer points out how popular Roman myths (of the ‘liberal prince’ on the one hand and the republic on the other) were for opera from Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea onwards in Ancient Rome in Early Opera (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009). 12 Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707–1837 (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1992), pp. 11, 6. 13 Charles Burney, A General History of Music, ed. F. Mercer, 2 vols. (London: G. T. Foulis, 1935), Vol. II, p. 1004. 14 Richard Taruskin notes the pervasiveness of this critical view regarding ‘Russian’ music: if ‘everything that happened in Russian music has a direction relationship, positive or negative, to the national question . . . an overtly quotational national character is taken as a mark of value or authenticity, and its absence, conversely, as a mark of valuelessness’; ‘Some Thoughts on the History and Historiography

of Russian Music’, Journal of Musicology, 3 (1984), pp. 323–4. 15 Burney, History, Vol. II, pp. 1015, 868–9. 16 Cowart, Origins, pp. 104–5. This is not to say that there was a clear-cut acceptance that national musics were simply ‘different’: Batteaux saw the variation in national aesthetics as analogous to the variety of perspectives from which an artist would depict his model. Truth to that model – which was, of course, Nature herself – was still key. 17 See Jim Samson, ‘Nations and Nationalism’, in Jim Samon (ed.), Nineteenth-Century Music (Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 568–600; 570. ˆ an II / 25 February 18 Petition of 7 ventose 1794; Paris, Archives Nationales, AJ13 44 [III]; cited in M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet, ‘The New Repertory at the Op´era during the Reign of Terror: Revolutionary Rhetoric and Operatic Consequences’, in Malcolm Boyd (ed.), Music and the French Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 107–56; 109. 19 Bartlet, ‘New Repertory’, pp. 111, 124–8. ˆ 20 Affiches, annonces et avis divers, 23 nivose an II/12 January 1794, p. 5671; cited in Barlet, ‘New Repertory’, p. 148. 21 J. L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962). 22 Judith Butler, Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (London: Routledge, 1998). On the modern focus on national identity as nationalist theorists’ ‘master metaphor’, see Nenad Miscevic, ‘Nationalism’, in Edward N. Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 edition), entries/nationalism. 23 Bartlet, ‘New Repertory’, p. 137. 24 Ibid., pp. 139–54; David Charlton, ‘Introduction: Exploring the Revolution’, in Boyd (ed.), Music and the French Revolution, pp. 1–11; 7. 25 On the ongoing conservatism of the Paris Op´era’s post-revolutionary repertory on the one hand and pre-revolutionary innovations designed to cater for more diverse audiences, see David Charlton, ‘On Redefinitions of “Rescue Opera”’, in Boyd (ed.), Music and the French Revolution, pp. 169–88; 170–1. On ‘rescue’ opera’s emphasis on collective action, see James Parakilas, ‘Political Representation and the Chorus in Nineteenth-Century Opera’, 19th-Century Music, 16 (1992), pp. 181–202; 188. 26 Journal de Paris national, 21 germinal an II/ 10 April 1794, p. 1880; cited in Bartlet, ‘New Repertory’, p. 129.

296 Suzanne Aspden 27 Journal des th´eaˆ tres et des fˆetes nationales, 5 vend´emiaire an III/26 September 1794, pp. 321–2; cited in Bartlet, ‘New Repertory’, p. 129. 28 John Warrack, German Opera: From the Beginnings to Wagner (Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 88. 29 J. A. Hiller, Lebensbeschreibungen ber¨uhmter Musikgelehrten und Tonk¨unstler neuerer Zeit (Leipzig, 1784); cited in Warrack, German Opera, p. 90. 30 Ibid. 31 Quoted in Ludwig Finscher, ‘Weber’s “Freisch¨utz”: Conceptions and Misconceptions’, Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, 110 (1983–84), pp. 79–90; 83. 32 Ibid., pp. 88–90. 33 Arthur Groos, ‘Constructing Nuremberg: Typological and Proleptic Communities in Die Meistersinger ’, 19th-Century Music, 16 (1992), pp. 18–34; 26–7. 34 Patrick J. Geary, The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe (Princeton University Press, 2002); Ian Wood, ‘The Use and Abuse of the Early Middle Ages, 1750–2000’, in Marios Costambeys, Andrew Hamer and Martin Heale (eds.), The Making of the Middle Ages (Liverpool University Press, 2007), pp. 36–53. 35 The Theater an der Wien had insisted the work be called Fidelio at its premiere in 1805, to avoid confusion with other Leonore operas, but Beethoven preferred the latter title. 36 Parakilas, ‘Political Representation’, pp. 186, 184; Phillip Gossett, ‘Becoming a Citizen: The Chorus in Risorgimento Opera’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 2 (1990), pp. 41–64; Groos, ‘Constructing Nuremberg’, p. 27. 37 Parakilas, ‘Political Representation’, p. 188. 38 Ibid., p. 182. 39 Robert Ketterer, ‘Roman Republicanism and Operatic Heroines in Napoleonic Italy: Tarchi’s La congiura pisoniana and Cimarosa’s Gli Orazi e i Curiazi’, in Roberta Montemorra Marvin and Downing A. Thomas (eds.), Operatic Migrations: Transforming Works and Crossing Boundaries (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), pp. 99–124; 106, 116–17. 40 Gossett, ‘Becoming a Citizen’, p. 51. 41 Roger Parker, ‘Arpa d’or der fatidici vati’: The Verdian Patriotic Chorus in the 1840s (Parma: Istituto nationale di studi verdiani, 1997), p. 99. 42 Two revolutionaries were reputedly executed while singing a chorus from an opera by Saverio Mercadente; Gossett, ‘Becoming a Citizen’, p. 53; see also Phillip Gossett,

‘“Edizioni distrutte” and the significance of Operatic Choruses during the Risorgimento’, in Victoria Johnson, Jane F. Fulcher and Thomas Ertman (eds.), Opera and Society in Italy and France from Monteverdi to Bourdieu (Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 181–242; 194–7. 43 Gossett, ‘Edizioni distrutte’, pp. 185–9. 44 Gossett, ‘Becoming a Citizen’. 45 Parakilas, ‘Political Representation’, pp. 184, 186. 46 Groos, ‘Constructing Nuremberg’, p. 30. 47 These choral associations could, of course, take on a variety of politico-cultural permutations: John Deathridge notes that, under governmental interference, there was a transformation of Germany’s choral movement from liberal to reactionary during the course of the nineteenth century; Deathridge, ‘Germany: the “Special Path”’, in Jim Samson (ed.), The Late Romantic Era (London: Macmillan, 1991), pp. 50–73; 9. 48 Charles Tilly (ed.), Citizenship, Identity and Social History, International Review of Social History Supplement 3 (Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 7. 49 Richard Taruskin, Defining Russia Musically (Princeton University Press, 1997), p. 4. 50 Jim Samson notes a succession of such openings: Warsaw (1765), Pest (1837), Bucharest (1852), Belgrade (1869), Zagreb (1870), Prague (1881), Brno (1884), Pozsony (1886); Samson, ‘Nations and Nationalism’, p. 580. The redesignation of theatres in Vienna and Berlin as ‘national’ was determined by rulers (respectively, Joseph II and Friedrich Wilhelm II) on their accession, as part of an earlier, top-down form of nationalism. 51 John Tyrrell, Czech Opera (Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 5. Such self-definition was made still more important by the fact that Czech lands were under the rule of Habsburg Austria at the time. 52 John Tyrrell notes that Smetana’s Libuˇse, which opened Prague’s National Theatre, achieved its ‘intensely patriotic effect’ through the inclusion of such symbols, ‘inserted to trigger off a nationalist response’; Czech Opera, pp. 3–4. 53 Samson, ‘Nations and Nationalism’, p. 583. 54 Ralph Vaughan Williams, National Music and Other Essays (Oxford University Press, 1972), pp. 72–3. 55 Celia Applegate and Pamela Potter, ‘Germans as the “People of Music”: Genealogy of an Identity’, in Applegate and Potter (eds.), Music and German National Identity, p. 14.

297 Opera and national identity Breitkopf & H¨artel’s publication of the complete works of Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Mozart and others (1851–85) is best known; see Deathridge, ‘Germany’, p. 60. 56 Deathridge, ‘Germany’, pp. 50–2. 57 Ibid., pp. 61, 65. 58 See the detailed critique by Marc A. Weiner in Richard Wagner and the Anti-Semitic Imagination (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), pp. 14–21. 59 Geoffrey Skelton, ‘Bayreuth.’ In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, www. grove/music/40950. 60 Wagner’s theatrical vision appeared in his preface to the full text of the Ring in 1863. 61 Richard Taruskin, ‘Some Thoughts on the History and the Historiography of Russian Music’, Journal of Musicology, 3 (1984), pp. 321–9; 321, 322. 62 Marina Frolova-Walker, Russian Music and Nationalism from Glinka to Stalin (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007), pp. 41, 59. 63 See Richard Taruskin, ‘Some Thoughts’, pp. 321–39. 64 Marina Frolova-Walker, ‘“National in Form, Socialist in Content”: Musical Nation-Building in the Soviet Republics’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 51 (1998), pp. 331–71; 333. 65 Ibid., p. 339. 66 Anon., ‘The Tasks of the German State Opera’, Neues Deutschland (19 December 1952); cited in Joy Haslam Calico, ‘“F¨ur eine neue deutsche Nationaloper”: Opera in the Discourses of Unification and Legitimation in

the German Democratic Republic’, in Applegate and Potter (eds.), Music and German National Identity, pp. 190–204; 201. 67 Edward J. Dent, ‘The Future of British Opera’, in Opera in English, Sadler’s Wells Opera Books no. 1 (London: John Lane The Bodley Head, 1945), pp. 26, 27. 68 Edwin Evans, ‘Sadler’s Wells Opera’, in Opera in English, p. 16. 69 Robert Stradling and Meirion Hughes, The English Musical Renaissance, 1860–1940: Construction and Deconstruction (London: Routledge, 1993). Stradling and Hughes discuss the response to the book in the ‘Postlude’ to their second edition, The English Musical Renaissance, 1840–1940: Constructing a National Music (Manchester University Press, 2001), pp. 290–7. 70 Paul Kildea, Selling Britten: Music and the Market Place (Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 134. 71 Ibid., p. 134. 72 However, Robert Hewison suggests that ‘the darkness at the close of Gloriana [the dying queen’s meditation on her reign], even the failure of the first night, shows that Britten was more in touch with his time than the pomp and circumstance of a Royal gala might lead us to suppose’; see ibid., p. 139. 73 This letter of 18 October 1848 accompanied the patriotic chorus, sent to Giuseppe Mazzini; see Gossett, ‘Edizioni distrutte’, p. 190; Mazzini, in seeking out an ‘Italian Marseillaise’ had invoked Verdi in suggesting it should be a ‘hymn that . . . will make the people forget both the poet and the composer’ (p. 189).

13 ‘An exotic and irrational entertainment’: opera and our others; opera as other nicholas till

One of the most often-quoted descriptions of opera is that of Dr Samuel Johnson, who famously defined opera in the mid-eighteenth century as ‘an exotic and irrational entertainment’.1 Johnson’s response to opera was at one with a prevailing English attitude of curmudgeonly roast-beef-and-ale xenophobia presented as bluff common sense, and was aimed primarily at Italian opera. His suspicion of Italian opera was shared by writers such as Joseph Addison and Richard Steele in The Spectator, the poet Alexander Pope (who represents opera as a foreign ‘harlot form’ in The Dunciad), and the painter William Hogarth, who satirized the Whig aristocracy’s cultivation of Italian opera (and other such foreign affectations) in prints and paintings. The literal meaning of exotic is, indeed, ‘foreign’ (as Johnson’s own dictionary explains), and this may be all that Johnson implied when he used the term, in this instance quite accurately; for, despite indigenous attempts at the form in the seventeenth century, by the eighteenth century opera was perceived as an essentially foreign import to Britain, being largely performed there in a foreign language with foreign performers. And for most countries in the world for the first two centuries of its existence opera would be exotic beyond Italy since, France aside, it was generally assumed that opera was Italian per se. The majority of opera composers were Italians, many working in countries outside of Italy; but many non-Italian composers such as Handel, Gluck, Haydn or Mozart predominantly set operas in Italian, usually outside of Italy too. The persistence of the ‘italianicity’ of opera (to borrow a term from Roland Barthes2 ) meant that in the nineteenth century many German and French operas were translated into Italian for performances outside those countries: Mozart’s Die Zauberfl¨ote was known to English audiences in the early nineteenth century as Il flauto magico; the Metropolitan Opera opened in New York in 1883 with Gounod’s Faust in Italian; Bizet’s Carmen was first performed at the Teatro Real in Madrid in Italian in 1887;3 and all operas were performed in Italian at Covent Garden until Mahler conducted Wagner’s Ring cycle there in 1892. Indeed, opera is still Italian today in the popular imagination: in the recent British TV show Pop Star to Opera Star (ITV, January/February 2010) the majority of arias [298]

299 Opera and our others; opera as other

performed were Italian, and the essential italianicity of opera meant that ‘O sole mio’, an Italian popular song much beloved of Luciano Pavarotti, qualified as operatic. The astonishing geographical dissemination of Italian opera by the early nineteenth century, when a work like Rossini’s La Cenerentola had been performed in Constantinople, Buenos Aries, Calcutta and Sydney within a few decades of its premiere in Rome, prefigures the modern globalization of franchise musicals like Miss Saigon or The Lion King (although without the same financial benefits to Rossini). But, of course, the term exotic has come to mean much more than merely foreign; it also connotes something mysterious, extravagant, alluring, sensual. As such it marks the foreign as something ‘other’, and therefore a little bit scary. Herman Melville summons the ambivalent dream of the exotic perfectly in his South Seas novel Typee: ‘What strange visions of outlandish things does the very name spirit up! Naked houris – cannibal banquets – groves of coco-nut – coral reefs – tattooed chiefs – and bamboo temples . . . heathenish rites and human sacrifices’.4 In linking the exotic with the irrational Johnson was confirming one of the most fundamental assumptions of exoticism, upon which Western identity has been built, based on the assumed opposition of reason and unreason, the normal and the strange. In this binary the ‘rational’ masculine European West always defines itself against the irrationalism of the feminized/barbaric/pagan (i.e. exotic) other. Historians trace such attitudes to the ancient Greek characterization of non-Greeks as ‘barbarians’, and to the Greeks’ orientalization of the Persians, and suggest that the origins of modern European identity can be traced to the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, and to the threat presented to Europe by the Turks over the next three centuries.5 This is the real truth of Johnson’s statement, for not only was opera itself literally exotic for an Englishman in Johnson’s day, but opera has also been one of Western culture’s most reliable artistic forms for the presentation of those aspects of exoticism that confirm the West’s sense of its own identity and superiority. Moreover, opera is itself ‘exotic’ in relation to the norms of Western culture. In this chapter I am going to examine both the prevalence of the exotic in opera and the exoticism of opera as it is represented in the cultural imagination. And I will suggest that the representation of the exotic in opera is perhaps one of the ways by which opera deals with the threat of its own troubling exoticism as an art form.

Exoticism in opera Any brief survey of opera reveals the astonishing incidence of exotic topics, whether in relation to operatic narratives, or in relation to the musical

300 Nicholas Till

forms employed – often both. This would include not only the works by major composers with obviously exotic or oriental settings (Purcell’s semiopera The Indian Queen; too many of Handel’s operas to list;6 Vivaldi’s Montezuma; Rameau’s Les Indes galantes; Gluck’s La Rencontre impr´evue; Haydn’s L’incontro improvviso; Mozart’s Zaide, Die Entf¨uhrung aus dem Serail and Die Zauberfl¨ote; Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri, Il turco in Italia, Maometto II and Semiramide; Weber’s Abu Hassan and Oberon; Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine; Verdi’s Zelmira and Aida; Wagner’s Parsifal; Bizet’s Les Pˆecheurs de perles; Mussorgsky’s Salammbˆo; Saint-Sa¨ens’s Samson et Dalila; Delibes’s Lakm´e; Borodin’s Prince Igor; Massenet’s Le Roi de Lahore, H´erodiade, Tha¨ıs and Esclarmonde; Strauss’s Salome and Die Frau ohne Schatten; Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Turandot; Stravinsky’s The Nightingale; Philip Glass’s Satyagraha and Akhenaten; Judith Weir’s A Night at the Chinese Opera; Tan Dun’s Marco Polo and The First Emperor) but also operas that deal more broadly with encounters between Western and non-Western cultures, in many of which a male warrior on a colonizing mission encounters the orient through the person of a seductive female (the story of Jason’s relationship with the barbarian princess Medea or the encounter of Aeneas with Dido being amongst the most obvious examples from myth; operas based on Cleopatra’s relationship with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony from history). It has been estimated that one-third of all operas written between 1640 and 1740 had ‘oriental’ settings.7 If we include operas that represent Europe’s own exoticized others such as gypsies (Rossini’s Il turco in Italia, Verdi’s Il trovatore and La forza del destino and Bizet’s Carmen are the obvious examples, but remember Verdi’s gypsy maskers in La traviata too), and if we include operas in which the margins of Europe itself are exoticized (in particular Spain – Carmen again, but also evident in Princess Eboli’s Moorish song in Verdi’s Don Carlos – or the south-eastern margins of Russia, often exoticized by Russian composers in an attempt to affirm their own precarious identity as Europeans); and if we include works that are influenced by non-Western dramatic forms such as Japanese Noh theatre (e.g. Brecht’s and Weill’s Der Jasager, the theatrical works of the American composer Harry Partch, or Benjamin Britten’s Curlew River) then we must realize that the exotic is one of the most compelling constituents of opera. Indeed, Theodor Adorno believed that the subject of exogamy (the term for a sexual or marital relationship outside one’s own cultural group) is one of the core themes of opera.8 Many of these works derive, of course, from non-operatic literary sources. The story of the rescue of a European woman from the clutches of an oriental tyrant, upon which Rameau’s Le Turc g´en´ereux (one of the four short operas that makes up Les Indes galantes) and Mozart’s Die Entf¨uhrung are both based, has a literary pedigree that can be traced back to the story

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of Iphigenia’s captivity on Tauris (the subject of a play by Euripides) via the Hellenistic prose romance to numerous medieval romances. Versions also occur in The Decameron, Don Quixote, Thomas Heywood’s play The Fair Maid of the West of c.1600, and beyond. That is to say that there is nothing particularly ‘operatic’ about it. And modern Western prose literature repeatedly turns to exotic subject matters, from Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko of 1688 to Flaubert’s Salammbˆo, Melville’s Typee, and Pierre Loti’s adventures in the South Seas, Turkey and Japan that provided the sources for both Lakm´e and Madama Butterfly. There is also a flourishing historical tradition of exotic architecture and visual art. The Chinese pagodas at Kew Gardens in London and the Englischer Garten in Munich, or the playful Indian exoticism of the Brighton Pavilion, attest to the association of these architectural styles with pleasure and fantasy. Exotic paintings range from the sultry harem scenes of Ingres and Delacroix to Gauguin and Matisse, who, like many early modernists, turned to the more decorative elements of non-Western arts as a way out of representational realism. But it is in opera that exoticism surely finds its definitive form. Insofar as opera is not a realistic art form it has often been argued that subjects that are not drawn from everyday life are most suited to it. From opera’s beginnings the demands of Aristotelian verisimilitude have meant that stories with extraordinary characters and settings were judged to be more plausible for representation through singing and dancing.9 Eighteenth-century French theorists argued that opera naturally inhabited the realm of the ‘marvellous’, Voltaire insisting that opera places us ‘in a land of fairies’ and that because of this ‘we suffer extravagancies, and are even fond of them’.10 Categorizing the settings most appropriate to opera in 1763 the Italian writer Algarotti duly listed exotic locations such as Egypt, China and Mexico as being particularly suitable since ‘the marvellousness of theme will furnish the author with an opportunity of interweaving therein dances, choruses and a variety of scenic decorations’.11 When adapting Thomas Corneille’s history play Le Comte d’Essex as an opera libretto the writer Antonio Salvi explained why he had moved the setting from England: ‘since the tragedy has to serve the music, the cast, and the Italian stage, I rather decided to set the scene in Persia’.12 But there is a further reason why exoticism should have become so particularly associated with opera: from the mid-eighteenth century onwards composers started to characterize exotic subjects with ‘exotic’-sounding music, including the use of exotic instruments, modal and chromatic harmonies, pentatonic melodies and melismatic vocal lines. Carl Maria von Weber expressed his pride at finding ‘original’ Chinese and Turkish tunes for his incidental music for Turandot and his opera Oberon.13 Even more so than the exotic poem or novel, the exotic opera was able to evoke its exotic subject matter directly (to the European listener, at least).

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Combined with exotic stage and costume designs, and exotic dances, opera was the perfect vehicle for conjuring all-embracing fantasies of alluring other worlds. In 1835 the Paris Op´era was described as an ‘open bazaar’ full of the marvels of the Orient.14 And not only was opera the home of the exotic: the exotic had become inherently operatic. When the French Romantic poet G´erard de Nerval visited Egypt in the 1840s he despaired of finding ‘the real Egypt’. ‘Instead’, he wrote, ‘I will find at the Op´era the real Cairo . . . the Orient that escapes me.’15 Operas from the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, in particular those based on the model of classical drama, make little obvious attempt to exoticize their exotic subjects. The dramaturgy of a work like Vivaldi’s Montezuma (1733), about the conquest of Mexico, replicates that of any number of Metastasian opere serie which centre on the conflict between love and duty that occurs when the lovers are from powers in conflict with each other – a format that survives well into the nineteenth century in works like Rossini’s Maometto II and Verdi’s Aida. The setting prompts no particular exotic musical response from Vivaldi, any more than the libretto attempts to reflect on the specific nature of the historical encounter between the Spanish and the Aztecs, which is shown to exemplify universal issues. The same can be said for Handel’s numerous operas with exotic subjects. But in their op´era-ballet Les Indes galantes (1735/36) Rameau and his librettist Louis Fuzelier, working in Paris, where cultural life was already being informed by Enlightenment values, attempted to convey the distinctiveness of foreign peoples in the three European encounters with native and exotic others that make up a part of this composite work. And Rameau presented the ‘sauvages’ of North America, characterized as ‘noble’ savages, through dance music reportedly inspired by the dancing of two Native Americans in Paris. As a theatrical form that draws attention to the body, dance has often been associated with the feminine, exotic and erotic in opera, and French and Russian opera in particular made dance a central component of the genre, with the obligatory incorporation of full-scale ballets in French opera from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. Examples of exotic– erotic dance in opera are numerous: the orientalist bachannale in Samson et Dalila; the seductive dancing of exotic femme fatale characters such as Carmen and Salome; the homoerotic gymnastic display in Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice, which is accompanied by gamelan-inspired music. In French and Russian operas the ballet is often the place where the composer can let his hair down: the ethnic dance sequences in Delibes’s Lakm´e and Massenet’s H´erodiade, or the Polovtsian dances in Borodin’s Prince Igor, are typical in this respect. Algarotti complained that in eighteenthcentury opera ‘if the scene of action be in Rome, the dance is often made to be in Cusco or Peking’,16 but similar associations of dance and the exotic

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were already present in some seventeenth-century French operas. The chaconne, a dance employed extensively by composers such as Lully, had both exotic and sexual connotations. It was popularly associated with the Moors, although it is known to have been imported into Spain from Peru, and had been condemned in Spain as ‘a bawdy dance song’, ‘from far away’.17 Lully incorporated chaconnes into five of his thirteen trag´edies lyriques, and the dance was often associated in these works with the exotic–erotic; in his first true opera Cadmus (1673), Cadmus conveys his love to Hermione through a ballet of Africans dancing a chaconne. The chaconne continues to have orientalist associations for the minimalist composer Philip Glass, who refers to its derivation from flamenco guitar music (‘introduced by the gypsies who, it is believed, originated in India’), to justify its use in his 1980 opera on the life of Gandhi, Satyagraha.18 The chaconne in Cadmus is accompanied by guitars, a further signifier of its exoticism. In a French dictionary of 1690 both the chaconne and sarabande are also described as being danced ‘with castanets, or tambourines’, instruments that are indelibly associated with the exotic in opera.19 Castanets appear on stage in the hands of Carmen, but also make obligatory appearances in the orchestral accompaniment to the quasi-exotic bacchanale in Wagner’s Tannh¨auser, in the bacchanale in Samson et Dalila, and even more prominently in Salome’s fatal dance. In the mid-eighteenth century there also arose a vogue in Austria for ‘Turkish’-style music, in which a whole battery of exotic percussion instruments derived from Turkish Janissary military bands were employed to convey a kind of jangling barbaric crudeness that confirmed Austrian representations of the Turks as an ongoing threat on Europe’s eastern borders. Alla turca music is employed in Gluck’s op´era comique La Rencontre impr´evue of 1763/64, but the bestknown example of ‘Turkish’ music in opera is in Mozart’s Die Entf¨uhrung aus dem Serail. Here the Turkish music characterizes the Turkish characters specifically: the Pasha and his harem-keeper Osmin, both of whom exemplify the supposedly ‘oriental’ characteristics of sexual lasciviousness and cruelty. At the end of the opera, when the Pasha redeems himself and exercises clemency, Osmin spins off into a vindictive rage in which he imagines the instruments of torture he would like to employ on the Europeans who have duped him, spurred on by a frenzied salvo of Turkish percussion. Eighteenth-century opera concentrated upon the sexual rapacity and cruelty of the male Turk. But this characterization of the Turks as quasibarbarians became increasingly redundant during the course of the nineteenth century as Ottoman power waned, as the Turks sometimes became an ally of European powers, and as the Ottoman Empire sought to modernize and Westernize itself. Increasingly Turkish or middle-eastern characters were characterized as comic rather than threatening in operas like Rossini’s

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L’italiana in Algeri (1813) and Il turco in Italia (1814). The use of nonsense speech to characterize the ignorant foreigner is a frequent device in comic exotic operas, begun by Moli`ere and Lully in the Turkish initiation scene in their com´edie-ballet Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. It is found in La Rencontre impr´evue and most famously in the ‘Pappataci’ trio and in the onomatopoeic nonsense language in the Act I finale of Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri, the story of which is a comic inversion of the ‘abduction from the harem’ trope, in that it is the feisty ‘Italian girl’ Isabella who has to rescue her wimpish lover from captivity.

Orientalism Our understanding of the politics of exoticism in Western culture has been dominated since the early 1980s by the work of the Palestinian-American critic Edward Said, whose book Orientalism was published in 1978.20 In this study Said defined the orient as an idea rather than a place, and described oriental studies (or orientalism) as a field that was driven by the needs of nineteenth-century European imperialism. Said argued that the typical representations of the orient in terms of irrationalism, barbarism and sensuous passivity served the purpose of justifying the imperialistic claims of the Western world to rule the non-Western world, shown to be in need of the civilizing and modernizing hand of European culture. (If there is any doubt about the institutionalization of such attitudes, consider this comment from an essay in the booklet for the 1987 CD re-issue of Callas’s Aida, in which the author describes the Egyptian Khedive Ismail, who commissioned Aida, as ‘a dreamer in the oriental mode rather than a stern realist’.21 ) Although some examples of exotic opera (such as Aida itself, Bizet’s Les Pˆecheurs de perles or Mascagni’s Iris) restrict the narrative to the inhabitants of the exotic locale, a significant number present an encounter between Western and non-Western cultures. The predominant narrative structure for such operas, found for instance in L’Africaine (mostly set in the ‘Indies’), Lakm´e (set in India) and Madama Butterfly (set in Japan), stages the encounter between the Western male and a native female. The native female is often portrayed as weak and passive, inviting the love of (and domination by) the conquering Western male, although the dangers of the European encounter with the exotic other are also conveyed by the femme fatale, who uses her sensuous attributes to lure the innocent white male to his fate, evident in Carmen and Dalila and the oriental seductress Konchakovna in Borodin’s Prince Igor. (Although Jewish characters are often orientalized in opera, Samson and the Israelites in Samson et Dalila, like John the Baptist in Salome, pass as honorary Westerners in such works,

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and are associated with music that tends to be four-square and diatonic in contrast to the chromatic and melismatic music of the sultry seducer.) In these narratives the Western male is often a soldier – an aspect of narrative verisimilitude, but also an attribute that sharpens the contrast between the sensual oriental female and the upright (uptight) male Westerner. James Parakilas notes a shift in such narratives during the nineteenth century from ‘Age of Discovery’ operas (which allow the possibility of love between Western and non-Western) to what he calls ‘The Soldier and the Exotic’ operas, which reflect the increasing racism of later nineteenth-century imperialism, and emphasize the impossibility of cross-cultural unions.22 Although Said was an accomplished musician who also wrote about music, he only once engaged with opera in any depth, including a discussion of Aida (alongside works by Jane Austen, Conrad and Kipling) as a work symptomatic of nineteenth-century imperialism, describing imperialism itself as ‘the determining political horizon of modern Western culture’.23 It is useful to examine the debate arising from Said’s reading of Aida, since it exemplifies contrasting understandings of the apparatus of orientalism. Liberal critics tend to read Aida as typical of Verdi’s more general opposition to imperial domination and religious tyranny, at one with his role as a cultural figurehead for the Italian Risorgimento’s struggle against the Austrian domination of northern Italy and the clerical regimes of the Papal States in pre-unified Italy.24 In this reading it is pointed out that the Egyptians are presented as the imperialist aggressors against the Ethiopians, spurred on by bloodthirsty priests, and that they are portrayed with largely diatonic music, whilst Aida and her father Amonasro are given music that is, in Paul Robinson’s words, ‘distinguished by its sensuous irregularity, its long lines, its close intervals, its chromatic harmonies’, all of which are signifiers of musical orientalism.25 Robinson’s argument is therefore that Said has missed the mark in arguing that Aida presents an ‘orientalized Egypt’ since it is the Ethiopians and slaves who are represented in the exotic mode. Actually Said pays relatively little attention to the plot of the opera, or to the specific attributes of the music. Instead, in a critical method he describes as ‘contrapuntal’, Said establishes how Aida sits at the apex of a complex set of political negotiations between the different colonial powers that had an interest in Egypt: the Ottoman ruler Khedive Ismail, and the French and the British, both of whom were hoping to exercise control over Egypt after the building of the Suez Canal in 1869. Paradoxically, Aida was key to the Khedive Ismail’s plans to modernize and Europeanize Cairo, and to present Egypt as a major player on the world stage.26 It was this geopolitical ambition of Ismael and his predecessor Muhammed Ali Pasha that rendered Egypt vulnerable to the attention of the European powers, and Ismael’s desire to represent a

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glorious Egyptian past is described by Timothy Mitchell as a form of selforientalization that played into the hands of the imperial imagination of Europe.27 In Verdi’s portrayal of the warlike and priest-ridden Egyptians he was simply perpetuating one well-worn trope of orientalist discourse (pagan priests play a malign role in many exotic operas) whilst displacing the feminized version onto the Ethiopians. Said, however, argues that Aida is an opera ‘not so much about but of imperial domination’,28 noting that when Verdi was writing the opera he was obsessed with being able to create ‘unified’ works, ‘in which’, to quote Verdi, ‘the idea is ONE, and everything must converge to form this one’.29 Said also notes that the creation of Aida came after the frustrating experiences of presenting Don Carlos in Paris, and that Verdi seems to have supposed that he would be able to obtain more control when dealing with the less savvy Egyptians; Verdi’s ‘imperial notion of the artist dovetailed conveniently with an imperial notion of a non-European world whose claims on the European composer were either minimal or non-existent’.30 In one of Said’s most provocative statements he claims that ‘Aida, like the opera form itself, is a hybrid, radically impure work that belongs equally to the history of culture and the historical experience of overseas domination.’31 The sentence may only mean that opera is like Aida in being ‘hybrid and radically impure’; but it could also mean that opera itself is convicted in its very form of being complicit with European imperialism. Certainly for Said, whose main concern as a critic was with the European novel, there is a kind of spatial confidence and restlessness in the novel that he believed is only made possible by an imperialistic attitude to the world.32 Musicologists have suggested that the tonal system, developed around 1600, should similarly be identified as a quasi-spatial expansion of the language of music, an argument first put forward by Edward Lowinsky, who suggested that ‘it was the same spirit of adventure, the same desire to open new and unexplored spaces, that lured the sailors across the sea and beckoned the musicians to their discoveries of remote and distant keys and new harmonic conquests’.33 More recently Timothy Taylor has suggested that such musical developments should be been seen in relation to the impact that colonialism had upon European notions of selfhood and otherness, arguing that tonality ‘arose to a long supremacy in Western European music in part because it facilitated a concept of spatialization in music that provided for centers and margins, both geographically and psychologically’.34 Both Eric Chafe and Taylor suggest that there was also a close relationship between the development of tonality and the rise of opera as an art form that responded to the ‘newly awaked desire to extend the human hegemony into hitherto unexplored regions’ (although we might wish to rephrase that in less universalizing terms).35 The story of Orpheus, the defining myth of opera, was

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frequently used in the early colonial period to exemplify the spirit of the New World conquistadors since the music of Orpheus had the power to control unruly and uncivilized peoples, to tame wild beasts and even to make nature dance to its tune.36 One of the recurrent problems with Said’s argument in Orientalism is that it vacillates between the suggestion that orientalism is a historically specific attribute of Western imperialism and alternatively that it is grounded in a more fundamental human tendency for communities to define themselves in contrast to the exogamous other. Said’s predominant construction of orientalism as a nineteenth-century imperialist phenomenon means that he rather surprisingly sees Mozart’s orientalism in Die Entf¨uhrung and Die Zauberfl¨ote – in the latter the Moor Monostatos is a miniature version of Osmin in his uncontrollable lust and salacious relish for torture – as examples of a sympathetic identification with the East,37 overlooking the fact that Austria was engaged in its own imperial expansion at the expense of the Ottomans in the eighteenth century. We should not be misled by the beneficent magnanimity displayed by the oriental despot in many versions of the abduction story; there is almost always some narrative twist, such as the revelation that the oriental ruler is in fact a renegade of European origin, that the eloping lovers are members of his family, or even, in one version, that the renegade despot is a freemason.38 If Said had practised his own contrapuntal method here he would have been more circumspect. Between the Treaty of Vienna of 1683 and the Treaty of Jassy of 1792 there were some forty years of war between Austria, Russia and the Ottoman Empire, bolstered by propagandistic representations of the Turks as dangerous fiends. Mozart and his librettist Stephanie intended Die Entfuhr¨ung for the visit to Vienna in September 1781 of the Grand Duke Peter of Russia to discuss plans by Russia and Austria for a new campaign against the Turks in the Crimea and Balkans. The opera’s caricature of the cruel and lascivious Turks was clearly designed to support proposals for the further containment of the Turks. In the event the opera was not given the go-ahead in time for the Grand Duke’s visit. In its place was presented a German adaptation of Gluck’s Iphig´enie en Tauride, based on the original ‘Western woman rescued from barbarians’ story. In this opera Gluck represents the violent and lustful King Thoas and his Scythian followers (often identified in the eighteenth century as the forbears of the modern Turks) through the use of ‘Turkish’ music much like that employed by Mozart in Die Entfuhr¨ung. To our ears the music seems rather comical in an otherwise serious opera; but to the audience in Vienna it would have sounded suitably barbaric and threatening.39 Nonetheless, there is some truth in Said’s suggestion that certain aspects of eighteenth-century exoticism and orientalism were indicative of the

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Enlightenment’s more benign curiosity about different cultures. And it is also the case that Enlightenment artists often used their sometimes lurid depictions of oriental benightedness as a means of critiquing the despotic government or religious backwardness of their own society. We have direct evidence that opera audiences recognized such critiques from the diary of a Viennese opera-goer who noted that the portrayal of the obsequious fake dervish in Gluck’s La Rencontre impr´evue could be taken as a satire of Austrian monasticism.40 Similarly, Flaubert’s Salammbˆo has been read as an allegory of mid-nineteenth-century French society, in which anxieties about the unruly working classes are displaced onto Carthaginian society. Indeed, it may often be the case that orientalist narratives say as much about Europe’s anxieties about its own others as about overseas domination. The most feared others in nineteenth-century Europe were the Jews, and the most infamous anti-semite in nineteenth-century Europe was Richard Wagner. Some critics have suggested that all of Wagner’s dangerous and destructive outsider figures – Alberich, Mime, Hagen, Beckmesser, Klingsor, even perhaps the Flying Dutchman and Kundry, both of whom are related to the legend of the Wandering Jew – must be read as representations of Jews.41 But we might also ask whether gypsies, who were supposed to share many characteristics with Jews (they are racially other, nomadic and, as in Kant’s unenlightened characterization of Jews, supposedly live by ‘outwitting the people amongst whom they find shelter’42 ) might be metonyms for Jews in many operas, theatrically and musically more colourful than Jews themselves (although almost as virulently persecuted). In Rossini’s Il turco in Italia, for instance, the picturesque opening chorus of gypsies sing that their homeland is the whole world, and that like Kant’s Jews, the ‘the gullible ignorance of others lets us live and wallow in the lap of plenty’. In many operas gypsies are also clearly orientalized: Ralph Locke, for instance, discerns fingerprints of the alla turca style in Verdi’s representation of the gypsies’ Anvil Chorus in Il trovatore.43 In time exotic musical fingerprints were often detached from exotic geographical locales to convey any kind of forbidden otherness (usually sexual): thus Wagner used the musical tropes of the exotic to characterize the Venusberg in Tannh¨auser, and even more obviously Kundry and the perilously seductive Flower Maidens in Parsifal. By the twentieth century the waltz, which Wagner employs for the Flower Maidens, had itself come to signify a decadent sexuality that was often associated with exoticism: Strauss’s Salome waltzes her way slinkily to death, and Schoenberg uses waltzes in the orgy scene in Moses und Aron, when the Israelites give themselves over to the pagan rites of Baal – a scene for which a nineteenth-century composer would inevitably have resorted to oriental-style music. But exotic references continue to be found in twentieth-century opera, albeit in more

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varied guise. At the end of the nineteenth century one of the most impressive discoveries for advanced European composers like Debussy, who had himself condemned Delibes’s Lakm´e as ‘sham, imitative oriental bric-`abrac’,44 was the Javanese gamelan. Benjamin Britten draws on the exoticism of gamelan-style music, and upon orientalizing vocal melisma, to convey the dangerous pleasures of homosexual desire in The Turn of the Screw, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Death in Venice.45 In Britten’s television opera Owen Wingrave (1970/71) Owen Wingrave’s pacifism is similarly characterized by gamelan-style music, associating it with the pacifism of Buddhist cultures, but also characterizing Owen himself as feminized in contrast to the masculine militarism of his family (of which the female members are as ‘masculine’ in musical deportment as the male). Jazz may also be associated with the exotic in the minds of European composers, as in Krenek’s so-called jazz opera Jonny spielt auf (1927), in which the ‘primitive’ energy of the black American jazz musician Jonny is described by Joseph Auner as offering a redemptive ‘middle path between feminized mass culture and a modernist high art that was increasingly viewed as enervated and irrelevant’.46 Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess has been labelled as a white American composer’s exoticization of African Americans.47

The exoticism of opera The widespread adoption of non-Western cultural forms in twentiethcentury theatre has recently elicited comment from non-Western critics who have seen theatrical interculturalism as a form of post-colonial cultural appropriation,48 although this does not seem to inhibit contemporary composers from replaying such tropes fairly heedlessly. The Chinese-born American composer Tan Dun has written two operas for Western opera houses, Marco Polo (1996) and The First Emperor (2006), in which a highly conservative musico-dramatic language is spiced up with familiar theatrical and musical exoticisms that are legitimated by being offered to Western audiences by an authentically ‘oriental’ composer. It is as if opera cannot escape its own exoticism having been so closely associated with the exotic throughout its history. In 1685 the English poet John Dryden, trying to research the origins of opera, concluded that it was derived from the entertainments offered at Moorish feasts,49 an association that may have derived from the fact that early operas (such as Monteverdi’s Orfeo) concluded, conventionally, with a moresca dance – even though the relevance of the dance’s exotic origins is often not clear. In the second part of this chapter I want to suggest that opera’s place as a forum for the repeated staging of the West’s confrontation with its others may in fact be related to

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its own exotic status as an art form. For many people, devotees or detractors alike, opera is inherently exotic in the cultural as well as the literal sense. Hegel, who loved the Italian opera of his day, considered that the best operas should put us ‘in the mood we have reading one of the Arabian Nights’, implying that opera was exotic whether it dealt with exotic subjects or not.50 Stendhal, visiting La Scala for the first time in 1816, found that the whole occasion was like a scene from The Arabian Nights, reporting breathlessly: ‘all of the fantasy that the most exotic intricacy of an oriental imagination may evolve . . . all this, and more have I seen tonight’.51 As for detractors: everyone will remember the scenes in Citizen Kane in which Kane’s hapless wife is made to perform in an opera house built especially for her by Kane. Opera here is a signifier of hollow cultural pretension, and the opera in which she performs so direly is a kitsch exotic concoction, an adaptation of a scene from Flaubert’s thrillingly decadent Salammbˆo, lusciously parodied in Bernard Hermann’s score for the scene. When Tolstoy wanted to censure opera as representative of the decadence and waste of all modern art it was the example of an (unidentified) orientalist opera that he held up for his savage mockery.52 Moreover, I am going to suggest that through its exoticism opera stages Western culture’s even more fundamental ambivalence about music itself. Put very simply, opera came into being at a stage in the historical development of the secular modern consciousness when musicians needed to humanize music – to bring it down to earth. Opera was a means by which music could tell human stories about itself; through opera human narratives, meanings, emotions and metaphors could be attached to music. But music retained the power of its uncanny otherness in this equation,53 and if we look at some of the most persistent subjects of operatic narratives – seduction, enchantment, intoxication, infection – we may observe that these are powers that have regularly been attributed to music itself, and which often give rise to anxiety about the effects of music. Martha Feldman notes that the word cantare (to sing) is embedded within the Italian for ‘to enchant’, incantare, a term that is often used to describe the effect of lyric singing.54 Stendhal insisted on the ‘physical intoxication’ of Rossini’s music, often describing it as acting like a drug, and Wagner also described Rossini’s melody as ‘narcotic’.55 Writing in 1820, an Italian critic called enthusiasm for Rossini’s music a kind of infection or plague,56 whilst a disgusted Clara Schumann found Tristan und Isolde to be about disease itself.57 Kierkegaard considered that Mozart’s Don Giovanni was the definitive opera since it was about a seducer, seduction being, for Kierkegaard, the defining attribute of music.58 Nietzsche described Wagner as ‘the old Klingsor’, referring to Wagner’s evil enchanter in Parsifal, also noting the dangerous alliance of beauty and disease in that opera,59 and the French Wagnerian

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Paul Souriau noted how the inability to locate the source of the musical sounds at Bayreuth enhanced their hypnotic effect.60 Brecht and Weill associated the soporific effects of ‘culinary’ opera with the malign enticements of capitalism in Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny). The oriental sorceresses of Purcell, Lully, Handel, Gluck, Haydn, Rossini, Glinka, Wagner and Dvoˇra´ k; the seductions of Poppea, Count Almaviva, Venus, Dido, Carmen, Dalila, Kundry, Salome, Lulu and Peter Quint; the intoxications of Purcell’s Drunken Poet, Osmin, Don Giovanni, Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore, Tristan and Isolde, Siegfried, Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus, and Albert Herring; the narcotic lullabies of Zaide, in Mozart’s unfinished opera of that name, M´ephistoph´el`es in Gounod’s Faust, and S´elika in L’Africaine – all may perhaps be taken as representations of the alluring but dangerous powers of music itself, which has, throughout Western history from Plato and the Church Fathers to the modern-day conservative excoriators of popular music, been feared and despised in proportion to the amount it is enjoyed. It has been argued that Purcell’s sorceress in Dido and Aeneas, and the sorceresses of Handel, represent the dangers of Catholic superstition and conspiracy in Protestant England,61 just as Wagner’s outsiders later came to characterize another kind of perceived enemy within. But I want to suggest that if we re-musicalize these narratives, then they can also be seen as stories about those dangerous aspects of music that must be expunged from normative society. This is, in effect, how Susan McClary reads many of the narratives of opera in which the destruction of the female heroine is associated with the overcoming of those aspects of music that are perceived to be particularly subversive and debilitating: chromaticism, rhythmic syncopation, popular musical styles. McClary offers just such a reading of Carmen (whose name, of course, means ‘song’) in which Bizet must re-impose tonal order, associated with Germanic high-art music, after the slithery chromaticisms and irresistible caf´e habaneras and segaduillas of Carmen.62 Linda Phyllis Austern has shown that the terms of these oppositions are evident from the beginnings of the modern period in music, citing texts from the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries in which anxieties about the ‘effeminicie’ of music led to demands for chromaticism and ‘dishonest warbling’ to be expunged.63 In an essay on the idea of the ‘monstrous’ in eighteenth-century opera Charles Dill has suggested that for Rameau too chromaticism may have been seen as ‘the irrational monster’ of his system.64 In the seventeenth century French critics attempting to establish the rules for a neoclassical drama based on principles of Cartesian rationalism inveighed more specifically against the dangers of opera as an art form. Boilieu, the absolute monarch of French classicism, issued a stern warning to a young man about the dangers of taking his sweetheart to

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hear the lascivious operas of Lully, and in 1693 the Sorbonne itself decreed that ‘opera is all the more dangerous since through music . . . the soul is much more susceptible to passion’.65 In early eighteenth-century England opera was, as we have seen, equated with all things foreign, Catholic and irrational, qualities that were invariably associated with effeminacy and even homosexuality66 which, as Wayne Koestenbaum has suggested in The Queen’s Throat, his study of the queerness of opera and the culture of the opera queen, is the open secret of operatic culture.67

Cultural distinction A number of critics have suggested that opera’s own generic transgressions can be equated with social and sexual transgressions.68 Ellen Rosand notes that opera’s early association with carnival in Venice implied a social context of transgression for opera from its beginning,69 whilst Avital Ronell describes opera as a couple (text and music) that ‘relentlessly transmits its otherness to itself’ through the practice of ‘sado-masochism and domination rituals’, ‘within an economy of internal alterity’.70 Opera’s recurrent recourse to the exotic, and the unequivocal warnings its orientalist narratives give about succumbing to the lure of the exotic, seems to be a way of having one’s cake and eating it: allowing indulgence in the irrational and transgressive pleasures of luxuriant spectacle, expansive song and forbidden erotic display whilst ensuring that such pleasures are encoded in narratives that ultimately reaffirm the values of Western, rationalist heteronormative patriarchy. In a famous essay on the ‘utopian’ aspects of the American film musical, Richard Dyer suggested that such musicals play with fire in arousing desires that they may not be able to control.71 It is surely the presence of such dangerous elements in opera too that has in part fuelled the modern ideology of opera as ‘high’ art. As theorists such as Pierre Bourdieu and Terry Eagleton have shown, the discourses of both high art and the aesthetic have routinely been predicated upon the denial of sensual pleasure as a legitimate aspect of artistic appreciation.72 Although the ideology of opera as high art is primarily derived from its association with the ruling classes, whether monarchic, aristocratic, bourgeois or corporate, Bourdieu has argued that cultural ‘distinction’ continues to be a crucial marker of class and social distinction in even supposedly more egalitarian societies, and that the discourses of high art and of the aesthetic serve the purpose of distinguishing between superior ‘aesthetic’ appreciation and supposedly lower forms of pleasure. It is therefore essential to the possessors of what Bourdieu calls ‘cultural capital’ that the value of their capital be defended

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against any imputation that the pleasures of a ‘high’ art form such as opera might be similar to those of popular or commercial culture. The literary critic John Carey quotes a British cultural mandarin who declares that ‘The fact is that opera is not like dipping into a box of chocolates. It is demanding and difficult.’ Carey responds tartly: ‘What is difficult about sitting on plush seats and listening to music and singing? . . . The well-fed, wellswaddled beneficiaries of corporate entertainment leaving Covent Garden after a performance and hailing their chauffeurs do not look as if they have been subjected to arduous exercise, mental or physical.’73 Many people suspect that for the well-swaddled beneficiaries of corporate entertainment the appeal of opera is precisely that it offers a sumptuously gift-wrapped array of delectable bonbons (often substantially subsidized by the rest of us). Opera is vulnerable, and its supporters are defensive, not only because of opera’s class associations but because, exotic and irrational entertainment that it is, it is such a wobbly pinnacle upon which to rest the values of high art. Indeed, Joseph Kerman famously complained that ‘In our opera houses, art and Kitsch alternate night after night.’74 Kitsch has been defined as ‘ersatz art for a culture whose value system ascribes supreme importance to art’,75 and for Kerman the operas of Puccini and Richard Strauss are the acme of ersatz art, whilst exoticism is only the most obvious manifestation of the kitsch that has to be expunged from opera if it is to retain its cultural status, evident in Kerman’s complaint about the ‘careless application of local colour’ in operas such as L’Africaine and Aida.76 But Strauss himself recognized his own limitations when he looked back on his career, ruefully writing to his librettist Stefan Zweig, ‘Must one become seventy years old to recognize that one’s greatest strength lies in creating Kitsch?’77 And moreover, despite its courtly origins, opera has from its first public success in Venice in the seventeenth century always been associated with aspects of the commercial and popular. Mozart’s Die Zauberfl¨ote combines esoteric spirituality with the rough-and-tumble of popular pantomime, and within a few years of its premiere its popularity in Germany was such that it was described in a newspaper of 1794 as ‘a veritable goldmine’ for what we would now call merchandizing: ‘it has given lads, large and small, Papagenopipes, and our lovely lasses new fashions, hairstyles and headbands, muffs and work-bags a` la Papageno’.78 Today’s PR agents employ methods that were first demonstrated to their full potential in the shamelessly commercial promotion of the Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind by American circus impresario P. T. Barnum in the 1850s.79 In his book HighBrow/LowBrow on the creation of cultural hierarchies in the USA in the later nineteenth century, Lawrence Levine has shown that Shakespearean drama and Italian opera were both part of an economy of popular entertainment in early nineteenth-century America. Indeed, the popularity of opera in America

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was seen as a sign of the democratization of taste in the new world. But by the mid-nineteenth century a growing American plutocracy was laying claim to the markers of cultural distinction, excluding the broader public from cultural activities such as opera that it wanted to reserve for itself. Ticket prices were raised, and new rules of social and dress etiquette for the theatre were imposed.80 Other distinctions were introduced: between opera in foreign languages and opera in English, which is still a crucial basis for distinction at the Royal Opera in London and the Metropolitan Opera, original-language performance being as deliberately exclusive of the uninitiated as the Catholic Mass in Latin used to be; between Italian opera (increasingly seen as low taste) and German opera (with the accession of Wagner seen as high art; for a period, after the dethronement of Italian, all operas were performed in German at the Met). In the first decade of the twentieth century it was decreed that henceforth the Metropolitan Opera, founded in 1880 by those members of the new plutocracy who had been excluded from the Academy of Music controlled by the older ‘aristocratic’ New York families, would be run as an ‘artistic’ rather than ‘commercial’ institution.81 This was a response to a rival operatic venture by Oscar Hammerstein, who believed that opera was ‘the most elevating influence upon modern society after religion’.82 At exactly the moment when opera was losing its currency as a living art form it had been ‘sacralized’ as ersatz religion. More recent gestures of popularization (such as the Metropolitan Opera’s flirtation with Muppet diva Miss Piggy) are supposedly not a lowering of values but, rather, the marketing of opera as ‘high-class art for the masses’.83 Wagner once commented on the Victorian bourgeoisie’s smug love of oratorio, which permitted them to enjoy the profane pleasures of opera under the guise of religious devotion.84 Since art became the equivalent of religion as the sign of superior spirituality for the twentieth- and twentyfirst-century bourgeoisie, art forms like opera have come to serve the same function as oratorio, offering ‘low’ pleasures that are enhanced by the social capital bestowed by ‘high’ art. But the encroachments of mass culture cannot be deferred for ever. ‘High Art’, John Frow writes in a book on the phenomenon of what he calls High Pop, ‘has become entirely a component of large-scale industrial production; no longer a craft, it finds its place as a niche market amongst others in the world of mass production . . . It is no longer possible in good faith to oppose an “authentic” aesthetics of the signature to a “commercialized” aesthetics of the brand.’85 In an article on the dissemination of opera through popular culture in the same book John Storey lists some thirty-five recent examples of opera being used as soundtracks for TV commercials, Delibes’s Lakm´e having served to advertise British Airways, Kleenex tissues, IBM Computers, Basmati rice and Ryvita, and Gluck’s Orfeo to advertise Comfort Fabric Softener. (He

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also notes some fifty examples of operatic music serving as soundtracks for commercial films; in a book on Wagner and Cinema Jeongwon Joe lists two hundred and fifty films with soundtracks that employ Wagner alone.86 ) Conservative critics often inveigh against attempts to popularize opera, dismissing it as ‘dumbing down’, and attempting to reassert the authentic values of high art. ‘We mustn’t smear the line between art and entertainment’, the Canadian tenor Jon Vickers asserted in 1987. ‘You cannot bring art to the masses.’87 Responses to the 2010 reality TV show Pop Star to Opera Star were very revealing in this respect. The show was the latest contribution to a now well-worn genre in which people are challenged to undertake a professional activity in which they have no prior skill (such as show jumping or orchestral conducting). Such programmes cheekily devalue professional skills whilst also reflecting the wider concealment of labour in post-industrial societies. In advance of the programme, the opera critic of the right-wing Daily Telegraph newspaper Rupert Christiansen wrote a preview entitled ‘TV won’t make any pig’s ear the next Domingo’. In this he explained that ‘Pop performers like Kym Marsh, Darius Campbell and Alex James will be trained and “mentored” to sing opera arias’, adding the pious hope ‘without, I trust, the benefit of microphones’.88 Christiansen has been issuing invectives against the adulteration of opera in this fashion for many years. In a review of a 2002 Wembley Stadium concert by popera tenor Russell Watson, he complained that ‘what must be firmly objected to is the way that the word “opera” is dragged into the equation’.89 But such attacks, typically clinging on to notions of technology-free performance as the guarantee of exclusivity and authenticity, are belated rearguard actions in a doomed effort to shore up the barriers of cultural distinction against the rising tide of a mass culture that is quick to appropriate the more accessible pleasures of opera for itself. And, of course, Christensen’s complaint that ‘There is no attempt to present anything in dramatic context, and the arias are cut and transposed’90 would have applied to most forms of operatic performance and dissemination in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Cultural representations of opera as other It is instructive to examine how opera has been represented throughout its history to gain a better understanding of its fluctuating cultural status. Herbert Lindenberger has analysed the representation of opera in novels, showing how opera often works to offset the realist narrative of the everyday world of the characters in a novel (the ‘lower narrative’) with alternative values. These may vary from Rousseau’s portrayal of opera as urban and artificial in La Nouvelle H´elo¨ıse in contrast to the natural values that Rousseau

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wishes to endorse, via Tolstoy’s condemnation of Natasha in War and Peace and Anna in Anna Karenina for succumbing to the shoddy histrionic values of the operatic, to Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, in which Emma Bovary is awakened (fatefully) from her provincial slumber after a visit to a performance of Lucia di Lammermoor. Lucia is also the opera that figures in Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M. Forster, a writer who consistently presented encounters between the repressed mundanity of the English middle classes and the mystery (often sexual) of the exotic other, whether that is represented by India, Italy or indeed opera. But, as Lindenberger notes, even where opera offers a ‘higher narrative’ of emotional authenticity (as in Madame Bovary and Where Angels Fear to Tread) or of spiritual aspiration, this is hardly ever presented without an element of irony, whether tragic or comic, since no author writing in the essentially realist mode of the novel can fail to see through opera’s pasteboard flummery and pretensions.91 Two novels in more popular genres that Lindenberger doesn’t discuss are Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera (1909/10), and the American pulp-fiction writer James M. Cain’s Serenade of 1937, both of which are set in or around the world of opera itself. In The Phantom of the Opera, the disfigured phantom Erik, who lurks in the underground vaults of the Paris Op´era, represents precisely those abject aspects of class, race and sexuality that bourgeois society and its high-art apparatus seeks to repress but that will always return to haunt it.92 In Serenade the novel’s protagonist is an opera singer, John Henry Sharp, who has to choose between a career at the Metropolitan Opera and a career in Hollywood. Although the dichotomy is clearly framed as high art versus low commerce, Sharp’s operatic career is built upon a concealed homosexual relationship that leads to his destruction. In addition to its telling sexual subtext, the novel also encapsulates many of the recurrent issues of opera’s relationship to film. Critics such as Adorno and Stanley Cavell consider that film, with its quasi-operatic deployment of music and spectacle, essentially appropriated the cultural function of opera in the twentieth century altogether,93 and indeed several popular film directors (inevitably of Italian origin) such as Coppola and Cimino have earned the epithet of ‘operatic’ for their films.94 In the first decade of the twentieth century many film-makers were attempting to dissociate film from its origins as a form of low entertainment, and they did so by appropriating ‘high’ art forms such as opera. In France the Film d’Art company (note the name) offered some of the first (silent) versions of opera, starting with Carmen in 1910, an opera that has undergone many subsequent screen adaptations.95 As Michal Grover-Friedlander has suggested, the paradox of silent opera is not so absurd when one remembers that silent films were generally accompanied by music, and that in opera language is also, in effect, erased by music.96 The melodramatic plots and gestural

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acting styles of silent film actors would also have seemed to contemporary audiences to be inherently ‘operatic’. In the USA, where there are fewer anxieties about film as popular culture, opera often serves the same function as in the novel, offering a contrast to the realist ‘lower narrative’ of the film. As with Rousseau and Tolstoy, opera may serve as a metaphor for the social pretentions of a Charles Foster Kane. As in Madame Bovary, it may awaken real emotions in someone who has suppressed her emotional life; in the 1990 film Pretty Woman a hardened low-class hooker played by Julia Roberts rediscovers her feelings when she is taken to a performance of La traviata (an opera about a nineteenth-century hooker) that also serves as a step in her social grooming. And of course opera may be present by other means in film, as diegetic music within the narrative, or as non-diegetic music on the soundtrack. In such cases operatic music often serves as a kind of generalized signifier of transcendence, as, famously, in The Shawshank Redemption (1994) in which the wrongly imprisoned banker plays a recording of the Letter Duet from Le nozze di Figaro over the prison tannoy, betokening the freedom and redemptive reconciliation of class differences that is to come.97 In many American films opera serves as a foil to affirm the value of film itself. Stanley Cavell, Michal Grover-Friedlander and Lawrence Kramer have all discussed how the Marx Brothers’ 1935 film A Night at the Opera, in which Verdi’s Il trovatore acts as backdrop to the comic anarchy of the brothers, lays out some complex relationships between film and opera in this respect. Grover-Friedlander points out that the structure of the film itself, with its integration of extended comic solo turns within a plot, is analogous to the structural concerns of number opera, and the narratives of both film and opera (in particular in the theme of brotherhood) mirror each other. Despite its portrayal of those in the opera world as ambitious, snobbish and mercenary, the film also implies a belief in the emotional values of opera, suggesting, in Grover-Friedlander’s words, that ‘the tragic fate of the opera can be subverted’;98 that the integrity and comic energy of the brothers may be able to redeem Il trovatore and, as Cavell puts it, ‘use the power of the film to achieve the happy ending in which the right tenor gets the part’.99 Kramer sees this as a process by which the operatic voice is ‘wrested away from plutocratic control and reconnected to its repressed origin in the energies of popular culture’.100 In an essay entitled ‘Why Does Hollywood Like Opera?’, Marc A. Weiner suggests that opera serves a dual purpose in more recent Hollywood films both as a signifier of universality but also as a signifier of otherness. Writing about a scene in the film Philadelphia (1993) in which the gay protagonist suffering from AIDS plays an operatic torch song from Andrea Ch´enier to his homophobic lawyer, Weiner suggests that here ‘opera is associated with a

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specific set of motifs that serve to underscore the artwork’s status as esoteric and exotic. The scene represents a connection between opera, the diseased body of the protagonist, homosexuality, and elevated social status, all of which make opera an emblem of everything deemed outside the norm of middle-class society.’101 If opera is customarily exoticized and queered in film, it has also consistently been feminized, being associated in particular with the ‘feminine’ attributes of emotionality. Andreas Huyssen has noted that mass culture is also often similarly feminized in critical discourse,102 and in an essay on the feminization of opera in film Michelle Lekas suggests that opera and cinema serve as each other’s ‘feminized other’, and that cinema, ‘opera’s feminized, mass-cultural other’, draws upon opera to amplify its emotional power, and then in turn displaces its own feminization back on opera.103 (We might consider a similar process occurring in the relationship between singing and dance in opera, in which feminized operatic singing displaces its femininity onto dance, thus divesting itself of the taint of the sexualized body and ensuring that the operatic voice retains its purity as the expression of spirituality and transcendence). Lekas also notes that opera is often employed in Hollywood films to reveal a buried weakness or excess in a character, citing examples of alcoholism (Lost Weekend/La traviata), lesbian seduction (The Hunger/Lakm´e), schizophrenia (Angie/Tha¨ıs) and sexual obsession (Fatal Attraction/Madama Butterfly).104 Note the recurrence of exotic operas in these examples. In Fatal Attraction (as, indeed, in Shawshank Redemption and Pretty Woman) the thematic parallels between the film narrative and the operatic narrative are left unstated; only operatic cognoscenti amongst the viewers will recognize the relationship between the self-deluding obsession of Alex and the similar delusions of Cio–Cio-San in Madama Butterfly. This may be reluctance to allow too much weight to rest on the operatic link as a ‘key’ – a concern at being seen as overly highbrow – but it also ensures that the cultural superiority of the cognoscenti is ratified. European film directors have a more complex relationship to opera as an indigenous art form that has often been closely associated with the political history of European nations, although opera again invariably stands for some sort of otherness, whether positive or negative. The Italian Marxist critic Gramsci believed that during the nineteenth century Italian politics had been contaminated by the melodramatic attitudes of opera, preparing the ground for fascism,105 and in Bertolucci’s The Spider’s Stratagem (1970) Verdian opera indeed serves as background to a story in which political events during the fascist era are fatally confused with operatic conspiracy, culminating in a staged assassination in an opera house.106 Visconti’s Senso (1954), set in the era of the Risorgimento, another crucial period of modern Italian history, opens at a performance of Il trovatore during which a moment of heroic defiance on stage prompts an act of defiance from

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the Italian theatre audience against the Austrian occupiers of northern Italy. But as the film progresses operatic heroism proves unsustainable, giving way to shabbier betrayals of marriage, class and nation which hint at the similar political compromises and betrayals of post-war Italy. The film historian Thomas Elsaesser has noted that in both post-war Italy and Germany, when film directors came to deal with fascism they broke with the dominant mode of realism for ‘a subjectively slanted, melodramatically or operatically spectacular representation of history’.107 In Germany where, as in Italy, opera has been closely identified with the catastrophic denouement of nineteenth-century nationalism in fascism, directors of the 1970s such Werner Schroeter and Hans-J¨urgen Syberberg presented opera as a melancholic memory of aspects of emotional life and cultural history that had been suppressed in a squeaky-clean post-war German society determined to erase its past. Syberberg’s epic Hitler: A Film from Germany (1977) has been described by Anton Kaes, with a nod to Nietzsche, as ‘the rebirth of . . . film from the spirit of music and theater’.108 More Marxist in his approach, Alexander Kluge presents the nineteenth-century opera house as a ‘powerhouse of the emotions’, the nineteenth-century version of the fantasy factory of Hollywood, purveying standardized and inflated emotions as commodities that devalue the everyday experience of his characters and inculcate a fatalistic attitude to life (The Power of Emotion, 1983). In Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo (1982), opera stands for a heroic/hubristic aspiration that must be simultaneously admired and feared, Herzog pitting opera’s own fantasy exoticism against the harsh reality of an actual tropical location. The film is about the dream of a megalomaniac rubber prospector to build an opera house in the Amazon at which Caruso may perform. Fitzcarraldo’s project is that of a modern conquistador bringing European culture to primeval Amazonia, and the film often replays the colonial echoes of the Orpheus myth: the operatic voices resounding from the gramophone on Fitzcarraldo’s paddle steamer calm the hostile natives and tame the tumultuous rapids. But Fitzcarraldo’s dream is not so absurd: the film opens in the pink and white belle-´epoque confection of the opera house that was actually built in the Brazilian rubber-boom city of Manaus, deep in the Amazon, in 1896; a symbol of the way in which European high culture, exemplified by opera, served to legitimate the exploitations that financed such projects. In all of these representations, literary and filmic, opera is revealed to be an art form whose status, meanings and value may fluctuate widely within a culture, from sacralized high art to exotic kitsch – often both at the same time. The film historian Caryl Flinn notes that the same fluctuations are evident in the concept of kitsch itself, which incorporates ‘low-end’ objects like velvet Elvis paintings and plastic cuckoo clocks as

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well as those of ‘purportedly refined, upscale “tastes” and socio-economic prestige, like opera, baroque architecture, and big fountains’.109 Critics like Joseph Kerman would like us to believe that authentic opera as art can be distinguished from inauthentic operatic kitsch. But kitsch must be understood as a relational concept rather than something that is inherent in the aesthetic properties of the work itself. Thus Celeste Olalquiaga describes kitsch as ‘a failed commodity that continually speaks of all it has ceased to be’, offering ‘an illusion of completeness, a universe devoid of past and future’.110 By this reckoning all opera might today be evaluated as kitsch, and not merely for its exoticism. Yet as queer theorist Jos´e Esteban Mu˜noz argues, ‘tacky oriental fantasies can become rich anti-normative treasure troves of queer possibilities’,111 and Flinn observes that debased cultural categories such as melodrama, camp and kitsch may also be recuperated to engage with ‘undesirable pasts and alterities’ (as occurred in the New German Cinema of the 1970s and 1980s). The properties of high and low, normal and other, good art or bad art, are never fixed.112 Adorno, dialectical as always, recognized that popular culture expresses real longings and desires, suggesting that the deployment of kitsch in Mahler’s music ‘unties the tongue of kitsch, unfetters the longing that is merely exploited by the commerce that kitsch serves’.113 If opera itself may have ceased to be a vital art form, it clearly continues to play an important role in the cultural imagination as a necessary representative of ‘exotic and irrational’ impulses and desires in an otherwise disenchanted and instrumentalized world.

Notes 1 Samuel Johnson, Lives of the English Poets (Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1968; reprint of 1783 edition), Vol. II, p. 160. 2 Roland Barthes, ‘Rhetoric of the Image’, in Image Music Text, trans. Stephen Heath (London: Fontana, 1977), pp. 32–51; 34. 3 For the complex political manoeuvrings involved in presenting Carmen in Spain see Elizabeth Kertesz and Michael Christoforidis, ‘Confronting “Carmen” beyond the Pyrenees: Bizet’s opera in Madrid, 1887–1888’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 20/1 (2009), pp. 79–110. 4 Herman Melville, Typee (London: Oxford University Press, 1924), pp. 3–4. 5 Gerard Delanty, Inventing Europe: Idea, Identity, Reality (Basingstoke and London: Macmillan, 1995), pp. 36–7.

6 See Ellen T. Harris ‘With Eyes on the East and Ears in the West: Handel’s Orientalist Operas’, The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 36/3 (Winter 2006), pp. 419–43; 429, in which Harris calculates that the majority of Handel’s operas have ‘oriental’ settings. 7 Ibid., p. 429. 8 Theodor W. Adorno, ‘Bourgeois Opera’, in Theodor W. Adorno, Sound Figures, trans. Rodney Livingstone (Stanford University Press, 1999), pp. 15–28; 22. 9 See John Dryden, preface to Albion and Albanius, in The Works of John Dryden, Vol. XV (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), p. 3. 10 Voltaire, L’Oedipe de Monsieur de Voltaire, Avec une Pr´eface dans laquelle on combat les sentimens de M. de la Motte sur la Po¨esie (Amsterdam : E.J. Ledet & Compagnie, 1731), Pr´eface, p. 10.

321 Opera and our others; opera as other 11 Francisco Algarotti, An Essay on the Opera, anonymous English translation of 1796, edited with notes and introduction by Robin Burgess, Studies in the History and Interpretation of Music, Vol. CXX (Lewiston, Queenston, Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2005), pp. 14–15. 12 Reinhard Strohm, Dramma per Musica: Italian Opera Seria of the Eighteenth Century (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1997), p. 177. 13 Herbert Lindenberger, Opera in History: From Monteverdi to Cage (Stanford University Press, 1998), p. 172. 14 Cormack Newark, ‘Ceremony, Celebration and Spectacle in La Juive’, in Roger Parker and Mary Ann Smart (eds.), Reading Critics Reading (Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 155–87; 178. 15 Quoted in Timothy Mitchell, Colonising Egypt (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1998), p. 30. 16 Algarotti, An Essay on the Opera, p. 43. 17 Rose A. Pruiksma, ‘Music, Sex and Ethnicity: Signification in Lully’s Theatrical Chaconnes’, in Todd M. Borgerding (ed.), Gender, Sexuality and Early Music (New York and London: Routledge, 2002), pp. 227–48; 227–8. 18 Robert T. Jones, The Music of Philip Glass (New York: Harper, 1987), p. 115. 19 Pruiksma, ‘Music, Sex and Ethnicity’, p. 229. 20 Edward W. Said, Orientalism (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978). 21 Ulrich Schreiber, ‘Verdi’s Aida: Synthesis of a Century’, CD booklet, Giuseppe Verdi Aida, EMI Records, 1987, p. 12. 22 James Parakilas, ‘The Soldier and the Exotic: Operatic Variations on a Theme of Racial Encounter’, The Opera Quarterly, 10/2 (1993), pp. 33–56. 23 Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism (London: Vintage, 1994), p. 70. 24 Ralph P. Locke, Musical Exoticism: Images and Reflections (Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 180. 25 Paul Robinson, ‘Is Aida an Orientalist Opera?’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 5/2 (July 1993), pp. 133–40; 136. 26 Katherine Bergeron, ‘Verdi’s Egyptian Spectacle: On the Colonial Subject of “Aida”’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 14/1–2 (March 2002), pp. 149–59. 27 Mitchell, Colonising Egypt. 28 Said, Culture and Imperialism, p. 138. 29 Ibid. 30 Ibid., p. 140.

31 Ibid., p. 137. 32 Ibid., pp. 83, 93–5. 33 Edward Lowinsky, ‘The Concept of Physical and Musical Space in the Renaissance’, Papers of the American Musicological Society (New York: American Musicological Society, 1941), pp. 57–84; 81. 34 Timothy Taylor, Beyond Exoticism: Western Music and the World (Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press, 2007), p. 25. 35 Eric T. Chafe, Monteverdi’s Tonal Language (New York: Schirmer, 1992), p. 2. 36 See Olivia Bloechl, Native American Song at the Frontiers of Early Modern Music (Cambridge University Press, 2008) and Nicholas Till, ‘Orpheus Conquistador’, in Pamela Karantonis and Dylan Robinson (eds.), Opera Indigene (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2011), pp. 15–29. 37 Said, Orientalism, p. 118. 38 W. R. Chetwood, The Generous Free-mason, a tragic-comical-farcical Ballad opera (London: J. Roberts, 1731). 39 For a full account of the preparations for Die Entf¨uhrung see Nicholas Till, Mozart and the Enlightenment: Truth, Virtue and Beauty in Mozart’s Operas (London: Faber and Faber, 1992), pp. 102–5. 40 Locke, Musical Exoticism, p. 113. 41 Lawrence Kramer, Opera and Modern Culture (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2004), p. 36. 42 Quoted in Paul Lawrence Rose, Wagner: Race and Revolution (London and Boston, MA: Faber and Faber, 1992), p. 7. 43 Locke, Musical Exoticism, p. 156. 44 Mervyn Cooke, ‘“The East in the West”: Evocations of Gamelan in Western Music’, in Jonathan Bellman (ed.), The Exotic in Western Music (Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press,1998), pp. 258–80; 258. 45 See Philip Brett, ‘Eros and Orientalism in Britten’s Operas’, in Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood and Gary C. Thomas (eds.), Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology (New York and London: Routledge, 1994), pp. 235–56. 46 Joseph Henry Auner, ‘“Soulless Machines” and Steppenwolves: Renegotiating Masculinity in Krenek’s Jonny Speilt auf ’, in Mary Ann Smart (ed.), Siren Songs: Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Opera (Princeton University Press, 2000), pp. 222–36; 224. 47 Locke, Musical Exoticism, p. 261. 48 See Rustom Barucha, Theatre and the World: Performance and the Politics of Culture (London: Routledge, 1993). 49 Dryden, preface to Albion and Albanius, in The Works of John Dryden, Vol. XV, p. 5.

322 Nicholas Till 50 G. W. Hegel, Hegel’s Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Arts, trans. T. M. Knox, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), Vol. I, p. 1192. 51 Stendhal, Rome, Naples and Florence, trans. Richard N. Coe (London: John Calder Press, 1959), p. 6. 52 Leo Tolstoy, What is Art?, trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volkhonsky (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1995), pp. 3–8. 53 See Carolyn Abbate, In Search of Opera (Princeton University Press, 2001). 54 Martha Feldman, ‘Magic Mirrors and the Seria Stage: Thoughts towards a Ritual View’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 48 (Autumn 1995), pp. 423–82; 469. 55 Stendhal, Life of Rossini, trans. Richard N. Coe (London: John Calder Press, 1970), p. 15; Richard Wagner, Richard Wagner’s Prose Works, Vol. II: Opera and Drama, trans. William Ashton Ellis (1893; repr. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), p. 43. 56 Melina Esse, ‘Rossini’s Noisy Bodies’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 21/1 (March 2009), pp. 27–64; 46. 57 Clara Schumann, diary entry, 8 September 1875, in Irving Kolodin (ed.), The Composer as Listener (New York: Collier, 1962), pp. 206–7. 58 Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, trans. David. F. Swenson and Lillian Marvin Swenson (Princeton University Press, 1971), Vol. I, p. 55. 59 Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘The Case of Wagner’, in Friedrich Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner. Nietzsche Contra Wagner. The Twilight of the Idols. The Antichrist, trans. Thomas Common (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1899), pp. 47–8. 60 See Jonathan Crary, Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle and Modern Culture (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press 1999), p. 254. 61 Curtis Price, ‘Dido and Aeneas in Context’, in Henry Purcell, Dido and Aeneas, an Opera, ed. Curtis Price (New York: Norton Critical Score, 1986), pp. 3–41; 11; Andrew R. Walkling, ‘Political Allegory in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas’, Music and Letters, 76/4 (November 1995), pp. 540–71. 62 Susan McClary, Georges Bizet: Carmen (Cambridge University Press, 1992). 63 Linda Phyllis Austern, ‘“Forreign Conceites and Wandering Devises”: The Exotic, the Erotic and the Feminine’, in Bellman (ed.), The Exotic in Western Music, pp. 26–42. 64 Charles Dill, ‘Rameau’s Imaginary Monsters: Knowledge, Theory and Chromaticism in Hippolyte and Aricie’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 55/3 (Fall 2002), pp. 434–76.

65 A. R. Oliver, The Encyclop´edistes as Critics of Music (New York: Columbia University Press, 1947), p. 6. 66 Thomas McGeary, ‘Gendering Opera: Italian Opera as the Feminine Other in Britain, 1700–1742’, in Journal of Musicological Research, 14/1–2 (1994), pp. 17–34. 67 Wayne Koestenbaum, The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality and the Mystery of Desire (New York and London: Poseidon Press, 1993). It was not always even a secret, as evidenced by Oscar Panizza’s notorious article ‘Bayreuth und die Homosexualit¨at’ of 1895. 68 Sam Abel, Opera in the Flesh: Sexuality in Operatic Performance (Boulder, CO and Oxford: Westview Press, 1996), p. 183. 69 Ellen Rosand, ‘Venice: Cradle of (Operatic) Convention’, in Roberta Montemorra Marvin and Downing A. Thomas (eds.), Operatic Migrations: Transforming Works and Crossing Boundaries (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), pp. 7–20. 70 Avitall Ronell, ‘Finitude’s Score’, in Julia Flower MacCannell and Laura Zakain (eds.), Thinking Bodies (Stanford University Press, 1994), pp. 87–108; 88–9. 71 Richard Dyer, ‘Entertainment and Utopia’, in Dyer, Only Entertainment (London and New York: Routledge, 1992), pp. 17–34. 72 Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990); Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (London: Routledge, 1986). 73 John Carey, What Good Are the Arts? (London: Faber and Faber, 2005), pp. 46–7. 74 Joseph Kerman, Opera as Drama, new and revised edn (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988), p. 3. 75 Paul Coates, Film at the Intersection of High and Mass Culture (Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 1. 76 Kerman, Opera as Drama, p. 207. 77 The Confidential Matter: The Letters of Richard Strauss and Stefan Zweig, trans. Max Knight, foreword Edward Lowinsky (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1977), p. 39. 78 Cited in Michael Freyhan, The Authentic Magic Flute Libretto: Mozart’s Autograph or the First Full-Score Edition? (Lanham, MD, Toronto, ON and Plymouth: Scarecrow Press, 2009), p. 69. 79 See James W. Cook, The Arts of Deception: Playing with Fraud in the Age of Barnum (Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 2001).

323 Opera and our others; opera as other 80 Lawrence W. Levine, HighBrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988). 81 Paul di Maggio, ‘Cultural Boundaries and Structural Change: The Extension of the High Culture Model to Theater, Opera and the Dance, 1900–1940’, in Michele Lamont and Marcel Fournier (eds.), Cultivating Differences: Symbolic Boundaries and the Making of Inequality (Chicago, IL and London: University of Chicago Press, 1992), pp. 21–57; 34. 82 Ibid., p. 35. 83 Marc A. Weiner, ‘Why does Hollywood Like Opera?’, in Jeongwon Joe and Rose Theresa (eds.), Between Opera and Cinema (New York and London: Routledge, 2002), pp. 75–91; 87. 84 Richard Wagner, My Life, trans. Andrew Gray, ed. Mary Whittall (Cambridge University Press, 1983), p. 525. 85 John Frow, ‘Signature and Brand’, in Jim Collins (ed.), High Pop: Making Culture into Popular Entertainment (Oxford and Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002), pp. 56–74. 86 John Storey, ‘“Expecting Rain”: Opera as Popular Culture?’, in Collins (ed.), High Pop, pp. 32–55; note 1, pp. 47–8; Jeongwon Joe and Sander L. Gilman (eds.), Wagner and Cinema (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2000). 87 Quoted in Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow, p. 255. 88 Rupert Christiansen, ‘Pop Star to Opera Star: TV won’t make any pig’s ear the next Domingo’, Daily Telegraph, 4 January 2010. Available at 6931912/Pop-Star-to-Opera-Star-TV-wontmake-any-pigs-ear-the-next-Domingo.html. 89 Rupert Christiansen, ‘Karaoke on a grand scale’, Daily Telegraph, 8 April 2002. Available at 4181485/Karaoke-on-a-grand-scale.html. 90 Rupert Christiansen, ‘Popstar to Operastar makes me sick’, Daily Telegraph, 18 January 2010. Available at culture/culturecritics/rupertchristiansen/ 7020195/Popstar-to-Operastar-makes-mesick.html. 91 Herbert Lindenberger, Opera: The Extravagant Art (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1984). 92 See Jerrold E. Hogle, ‘The Original Phantom of the Opera’, in Glennis Byron and David Punter (eds.), Spectral Readings: Towards a Gothic Geography (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1999), pp. 177–201.

93 Adorno, In Search of Wagner ; Stanley Cavell, ‘Opera and the Lease of Voice’, in A Pitch of Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 136. 94 See Naomi Greene, ‘Coppola, Cimino: The Operatics of History’, Film Quarterly, 38/2 (Winter 1984–85), pp. 28–37; Marcia Citron, ‘Operatic Style in Coppola’s Godfather Trilogy’, in Citron, When Opera Meets Film (Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 19–57. 95 See Ann Davies and Chris Perrian (eds.), Carmen: From Silent Film to MTV (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005). 96 Michal Grover-Friedlander, ‘“The Phantom of the Opera”: The Lost Voice of Opera in Silent Film’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 11/2 (July 1999), pp. 179–92. 97 See Mary Hunter, ‘Opera in Film: Sentiment and Wit, Feeling and Knowing: The Shawshank Redemption and Prizzi’s Honour’, in Jeongwon Joe and Rose Theresa (eds.), Between Opera and Cinema (New York and London: Routledge, 2002), pp. 93–119. 98 Michal Grover-Friedlander, ‘“There ain’ no Sanity Claus!”: The Marx Brothers at the Opera’, in Jeongwon Joe and Rose Theresa (eds.), Between Opera and Cinema (New York and London: Routledge, 2002), pp. 19–37; 29. 99 Stanley Cavell, ‘Nothing Goes Without Saying’, London Review of Books, 16/1 (6 January 1994), p. 3. 100 Lawrence Kramer, ‘The Singing Salami: Unsystematic Reflections on the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera’, in Jeremy Tambling (ed.), A Night at the Opera: Media Representations of Opera (London: John Libby and Co., 1994), pp. 253–66; 260. 101 Weiner, ‘Why does Hollywood Like Opera?’, p. 78. 102 Andreas Huyssen, ‘Mass Culture as Woman: Modernism’s Other’, in Andreas Huyssen, After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), pp. 44–63. 103 Michelle Lekas, ‘The Feminine in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, in James Buhler, Caryl Flinn and David Neumeyer (eds.), Music and Cinema (Hanover and London: Wesleyan University Press, 2000), pp. 275–94; 279. 104 Ibid., pp. 284–8. 105 Antonio Gramsci, ‘The Operatic Conception of Life’, in Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, ed. and trans. Joseph A. Buttigieg (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), Vol. III, pp. 633–2.

324 Nicholas Till 106 See Deborah Crisp and Roger Hillman, ‘Verdi and Schoenberg in Bertolucci’s The Spider’s Stratagem’, Music and Letters, 82/2 (May 2001), pp. 251–67. 107 Thomas Elsaesser, Fassbinder’s Germany: History, Identity, Subject (Amsterdam University Press, 1996), p. 138. 108 Anton Kaes, From Hitler to Heimat: The Return of History as Film (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), p. 45. 109 Caryl Flinn, The New German Cinema: Music, History, and the Matter of Style

(Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2004), p. 241. 110 Celeste Olalquiaga, The Artifical Kingdom: A Treasury of the Kitsch Experience (London: Bloomsbury Press, 1999), pp. 28–9. 111 Quoted in Flinn, The New German Cinema, p. 204. 112 Ibid., p. 5. 113 Theodor Adorno, Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Chicago, IL and London: University of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 39.

Further reading

Introduction Abbate, Carolyn, In Search of Opera (Princeton University Press, 2001) Unsung Voices: Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton University Press, 1991) Abbate, Carolyn and Roger Parker (eds.), Analyzing Opera: Verdi and Wagner (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1989) Adorno, Theodore W., ‘Bourgeois Opera’, in Theodore W. Adorno, Sound Figures, trans. Rodney Livingstone (Stanford University Press, 1999) Conrad, Peter, Romantic Opera and Literary Form (Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1977) Johnson, Victoria, Jane F. Fulcher and Thomas Ertman (eds.), Opera and Society in Italy and France from Monteverdi to Bourdieu (Cambridge University Press, 2007) Kerman, Joseph, Opera as Drama, new and revised edn (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988) Levarie, Siegmund, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro: A Critical Analysis (University of Chicago Press, 1952) Lindenberger, Herbert, Opera the Extravagant Art (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984) Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music, trans. Shaun Whiteside (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1993) Tovey, Donald Francis, ‘The Main Stream of Music’, in The Main Stream of Music and Other Essays (New York: Oxford University Press, 1949) ˇ zek, Slavoj, and Mladen Dolar, Opera’s Second Death (New York and London: Ziˇ Routledge, 2002)


1 Opera, the state and society Ahlquist, Karen, Democracy at the Opera: Music, Theater and Culture in New York City, 1815–1860 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997) Benzecry, Claudio, The Opera Fanatic: Ethnography of an Obsession (University of Chicago Press, 2011) Bianconi, Lorenzo and Giorgio Pestelli (eds.), The History of Italian Opera, Part II, Vol. IV: Opera Production and its Resources, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (University of Chicago Press, 1998) Bucciarelli, Melania, Norbert Dubowy and Reinhard Strohm (eds.), Italian Opera in Central Europe. Vol. I: Institutions and Ceremonies (Berliner WissenschaftsVerlag, 2006) Dizikes, John, Opera in America: A Cultural History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993) Fulcher, Jane F., The Nation’s Image: French Grand Opera as Politics and Politicized Art (Cambridge University Press, 1987)

326 Further reading Gerhard, Anselm, The Urbanization of Opera: Music Theater in Paris in the Nineteenth Century (University of Chicago Press, 1998) Glixon, Beth and Jonathan Glixon, Inventing the Business of Opera: The Impresario and His World in Seventeenth-Century Venice (Oxford University Press, 2006) Hall-Witt, Jennifer, Fashionable Acts: Opera and Elite Culture in London, 1780–1880 (Durham: University of New Hampshire Press, 2007) Hibberd, Sarah, French Grand Opera and the Historical Imagination (Cambridge University Press, 2009) Johnson, Victoria, Backstage at the Revolution: How the Royal Paris Opera Survived the End of the Old Regime (University of Chicago Press, 2008) Kimbell, David, Italian Opera (Cambridge University Press, 1991) Lacombe, Herv´e, ‘The “Machine” and the State’, in David Charlton (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Grand Opera (Cambridge University Press, 2003) 2 The business of opera Agid, Philippe, and Jean-Claude Tarondeau, The Management of Opera (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) Rosselli, John, The Opera Industry in Italy from Cimarosa to Verdi: The Role of the Impresario (Cambridge University Press, 1984) Snowman, Daniel, The Gilded Stage: A Social History of Opera (London: Atlantic Books, 2009) 3 The operatic event Abbate, Carolyn, ‘Music: Drastic or Gnostic?’, Critical Enquiry, 30/3 (Spring 2004), pp. 505–36 Attali, Jacques, Noise: The Political Economy of Music, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1985) Baume, Michael, The Sydney Opera House Affair (Sydney: Thomas Nelson, 1967) Carlson, Marvin, Places of Performance (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1989) Crary, Jonathan, Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999) Crickhowell, Nicholas, Opera House Lottery: Zaha Hadid and the Cardiff Bay Project (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1997) Drummond, John D., Opera in Perspective (London, Melbourne and Toronto, ON: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1980) Ellis, Katherine, Music Criticism in Nineteenth-Century France: La Revue et Gazette musicale de Paris, 1834–80 (Cambridge University Press, 1995) Feldman, Martha, ‘Magic Mirrors and the Seria Stage: Thoughts Toward a Ritual View’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 48/3, Music Anthropologies and Music Histories (Autumn 1995) Opera and Sovereignty: Transforming Myths in Eighteenth-Century Italy (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2007) Habermas, J¨urgen, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1989)

327 Further reading Johnson, James H., Listening in Paris: A Cultural History (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1995) Parker, Roger and Mary Ann Smart (eds.), Reading Critics Reading: Opera and Ballet Criticism in France from the Revolution to 1848 (Oxford University Press, 2001) Postlewait, Thomas, Cambridge Introduction to Theatre Historiography (Cambridge University Press, 2009) Price, Curtis, Judith Milhous and Robert D. Hume, Italian Opera in Late Eighteenth-Century London, Vol. I: The King’s Theatre, Haymarket, 1778–1791 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995) Sennett, Richard, The Fall of Public Man (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2002) Small, Christopher, Musicking: The Meanings of Performance and Listening (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1998) Smith, Matthew Wilson, The Total Work of Art: From Bayreuth to Cyberspace (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2007) Stendhal, Rome, Naples and Florence, trans. Richard N. Coe (London: John Calder, 1959) Timms, Susie, Mapleson: Victorian Opera Impresario (London: Bezazzy Publishing, 2007) Twain, Mark, ‘At the Shrine of St Wagner’ (1891), in What is Man? And Other Essays (New York: Harper and Bros., 1917) Wagner, Richard, ‘A Report on the Production of Tannh¨auser in Paris’ (1861), ed. and trans. William Ashton Ellis, in Richard Wagner’s Prose Works, Vol. III: The Theatre (New York: Broude Brothers, 1966)

4 The media of opera Abbate, Carolyn, In Search of Opera (Princeton University Press, 2001) Albright, Daniel, Untwisting the Serpent: Modernism in Music, Literature, and Other Arts (Chicago, IL and London: University of Chicago Press, 1999) Auslander, Philip, Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture, 2nd edn. (London: Routledge, 2008) Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999) Chapple, Freda, and Chiel Kattenbelt (eds.), Intermediality in Theatre and Performance (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2007) Chua, Daniel, Absolute Music and the Construction of Meaning (Cambridge University Press, 1999) Citron, Marcia, When Opera Meets Film (Cambridge University Press, 2010) Fischer-Lichte, Erika, The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics, trans. Saskya Iris Jain (London and New York: Routledge, 2008) Grover-Friedlander, Michal, Vocal Apparitions: The Attraction of Cinema to Opera (Princeton University Press, 2005) Hutcheon, Linda, and Michael Hutcheon, Opera: Disease, Desire, Death (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996) Joe, Jeongwon and Sander L. Gilman (eds.), Wagner and Cinema (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010)

328 Further reading Kittler, Friedrich A., Discourse Networks 1800/1900, trans. Michael Metteer (Stanford University Press, 1992) Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz (Stanford University Press, 1999) Kramer, Lawrence, Opera and Modern Culture: Wagner and Strauss (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2004) Levin, David J., Unsettling Opera: Staging Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, and Zemlinsky (Chicago, IL and London: University of Chicago Press, 2007) Morris, Christopher, Reading Opera Between the Lines: Orchestral Interludes and Cultural Meaning from Wagner to Berg (Cambridge University Press, 2002) Smart, Mary Ann, Mimomania: Music and Gesture in Nineteenth-Century Opera (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004) Smith, Matthew Wilson, The Total Work of Art: From Bayreuth to Cyberspace (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2007) Theresa, Rose, and Jeongwon Joe (eds.), Between Opera and Cinema (London: Routledge, 2005) Tomlinson, Gary, Metaphysical Song: An Essay on Opera (Princeton University Press, 1999) 5 Voices and singers Barbier, Patrick, The World of the Castrati: The History of an Extraordinary Operatic Phenomenon, trans. Margaret Crosland (London: Souvenir, 1998) Barthes, Roland, Image Music Text, trans. Stephen Heath (London: Fontana, 1977) Celletti, Rodolfo, A History of Bel Canto, trans. Frederick Fuller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991) Conrad, Peter, A Song of Love and Death: The Meaning of Opera (London: Chatto and Windus, 1987) Duncan, Michelle R., ‘The Operatic Scandal of the Singing Body: Voice, Presence, Performativity’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 16/3 (2004), pp. 283–306 Elliott, Martha, Singing in Style: A Guide to Vocal Performance Practices (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2006) Gossett, Philip, Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera (University of Chicago Press, 2006) Hahn, Reynaldo, On Singers and Singing, trans. L. Simoneau (Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1990) Henson, Karen, (ed.), Technologies of the Diva (Cambridge University Press, 2012) Heriot, Angus, The Castrati in Opera (London: Calder & Boyars, 1956; repr. 1975) Kramer, Lawrence, Musical Meaning: Toward a Critical History (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2002) LaRue, Steven, Handel and His Singers: The Creation of the Royal Academy Operas, 1720–1728 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995) Parker, Roger, Remaking the Song: Operatic Visions and Revisions from Handel to Berio (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2006) Poizat, Michel, The Angel’s Cry: Beyond the Pleasure Principle in Opera, trans. Arthur Denner (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1992)

329 Further reading Poriss, Hilary, Changing the Score: Arias, Prima Donnas, and the Authority of Performance (Oxford University Press, 2009) Rosand, Ellen, Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice: The Creation of a Genre (Berkeley and Oxford: University of California Press, 1991) Rosselli, John, Singers of Italian Opera: The History of a Profession (Cambridge University Press, 1995) Rutherford, Susan, The Prima Donna and Opera, 1815–1930 (Cambridge University Press, 2006) Sherman, Bernard D., Inside Early Music: Conversations with Performers (Oxford University Press, 1999) Wistreich, Richard, ‘“La voce e` grata assai, ma . . . ”: Monteverdi on Singing’, Early Music, 22/1 (February 1994): pp. 7–19 6 Opera and modes of theatrical production Algarotti, Francesco, An Essay on the Opera, ed. R. Burgess (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2005) Appia, Adolph, Musique et le mise en sc`ene (1897), translated as Adolphe Appia’s Music and the Art of the Theatre, trans. Robert W. Corrigan and Mary Douglas Dirks (Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1962) Banducci, Antonia, ‘Staging a trag´edie en musique: A 1748 Promptbook of Campra’s Tancr`ede’, Early Music, 21/2 (May 1993), pp. 180–90 Barnett, Dene, The Art of Gesture: The Practices and Principles of 18th Century Acting (Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universit¨atsverlag, 1987) Bianconi, Lorenzo, and Giorgio Pestelli (eds.), The History of Italian Opera, Part II, Vol. IV: Opera Production and Its Resources, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (University of Chicago Press, 1998) The History of Italian Opera, Part II, Vol. V: Opera on Stage, trans. Kate Singleton (University of Chicago Press, 2002) Brecht, Bertolt, ‘The Modern Theatre is the Epic Theatre’, in John Willett (ed. and trans.), Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic (London: Methuen, 1992) Busch, Hans (ed. and trans.), Verdi’s Otello and Simon Boccanegra (revised version) in Letters and Documents, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988) Carnegy, Patrick, Wagner and the Art of the Theatre (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2006) Cohen, H. Robert and Marie-Odile Gigou, Cent Ans de Mise-en-sc`ene lyrique en France (env. 1830–1930): One Hundred Years of Operatic Staging in France (New York: Pendragon Press, 1986) Dean, Winton, ‘Production Style in Handel’s Operas’, in Donald Burrows (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Handel (Cambridge University Press, 1997) Deaville, James (ed.) with Evan Baker, Wagner in Rehearsal 1875–1876: The Diaries of Richard Fricke, trans. George. R. Fricke (Stuyvesant, NY: Pendragon, 1998) Fuchs, Peter Paul (ed. and trans.), The Music Theater of Walter Felsenstein (New York: Norton, 1975) Griffin, Robert A., High Baroque Culture and Theatre in Vienna (New York: Humanities Press, 1972)

330 Further reading Hapgood, Elizabeth Reynolds (ed. and trans.), Stanislavski on Opera (London and New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1975) Hepokoski, James, ‘Staging Verdi’s Operas’, in Alison Latham and Roger Parker (eds.), Verdi in Performance (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001) Jones, Andrew V., ‘Staging a Handel Opera’, Early Music, 34/2 (May 2006), pp. 277–88 Marcello, Benedetto, ‘Il teatro alla moda’, trans. R. G. Pauly, The Musical Quarterly, 34/3 (July 1948), pp. 371–403, and 35/1 (1948), pp. 85–105 Marker, F. J. and L. Marker, ‘Retheatricalizing Opera: A Conversation with Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’, The Opera Quarterly 3:2 (Summer 1985) Pirrotta, Nino and Elena Povoledo, Music and Theatre from Poliziano to Monteverdi, trans. Karen Eales (Cambridge University Press, 1982) Porges, Heinrich, Wagner Rehearsing the Ring, trans. Robert L. Jacobs (Cambridge University Press, 1983) Rice, John A., Mozart on the Stage (Cambridge University Press, 2009) Savage, Roger, and Matteo Sansone, ‘Il Corago and the Staging of Early Opera: Four Chapters from an Anonymous Treatise Circa 1630’, Early Music, 17/4 (November 1989), pp. 494–511 Shea, George Edward, Acting in Opera (London and New York: Shirmer, 1915; repr. New York: Da Capo Press, 1980) Stanislavsky, Konstantin, Stanislavsky on the Art of the Stage, trans. David Magarshack (New York: Hill and Wang, 1961) Wagner, Richard, The Art Work of the Future and Other Works, trans. William Ashton Ellis (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Tr¨ubner & Co., 1895; repr. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993) 7 Technologies of theatrical production Adorno, Theodor W., In Search of Wagner, trans. Rodney Livingstone (London and New York: Verso Books, 1991) Carnegy, Patrick, Wagner and the Art of the Theatre (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006) Crary, Jonathan, Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle and Modern Culture (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1999) Klein, Norman, From the Vatican to Vegas: A History of Special Effects (New York: The New Press, 2004) Levin, David J. (ed.), Opera Through Other Eyes (Stanford University Press, 2002) McAuley, Gay, Space and Performance: Making Meaning in the Theatre (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999) Ogden, Dunbar H. (trans.), The Italian Baroque Stage: Documents by Giullio Trolli, Andrea Pozzo, Ferdinando Galli-Bibiena, Baldassare Orsini (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1978) 8 The dramaturgy of opera Abbate, Carolyn, ‘Elektra’s Voice: Music and Language in Strauss’s Opera’, in Derek Puffett (ed.), Richard Strauss: ‘Elektra’, Cambridge Opera Handbooks (Cambridge University Press, 1989)

331 Further reading Unsung Voices: Opera and Musical Narrative in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton University Press, 1991) Abbate, Carolyn and Roger Parker (eds.), Analyzing Opera: Verdi and Wagner (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1989) Berger, Karol, Bach’s Cycle, Mozart’s Arrow: An Essay on the Origins of Musical Modernity (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2007) Brown, Bruce Alan, W. A. Mozart: ‘Cos`ı fan tutte’, Cambridge Opera Handbooks (Cambridge University Press, 1995) Calico, Joy H., Brecht at the Opera (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2008) Carter, Tim, Monteverdi’s Musical Theatre (Hartford, CT: Yale University Press, 1982) W. A. Mozart: ‘Le nozze di Figaro’, Cambridge Opera Handbooks (Cambridge University Press, 1987) Cone, Edward T., The Composer’s Voice (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974) Corse, Sandra, Operatic Subjects: The Evolution of Self in Modern Opera (London: Associated University Presses, 2000) Dahlhaus, Carl, ‘The Dramaturgy of Italian Opera’, in Lorenzo Bianconi and Giorgio Pestelli (eds.), The History of Italian Opera, Part II, Vol. VI: Opera in Theory and Practice, Image and Myth, trans. Mary Whittall (University of Chicago Press, 2003) Grey, Thomas S., ‘Leitmotif, Temporality, and Musical Design in the Ring’, in Thomas S. Grey (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Wagner (Cambridge University Press, 2008) Groos, Arthur, and Roger Parker (eds.), Reading Opera (Princeton University Press, 1988) Heller, Wendy, Emblems of Eloquence: Opera and Women’s Voices in SeventeenthCentury Venice (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2003) Hunter, Mary, The Culture of Opera Buffa in Mozart’s Vienna: A Poetics of Entertainment (Princeton University Press, 1999) McClary, Susan, Georges Bizet: ‘Carmen’, Cambridge Opera Handbooks (Cambridge University Press, 1992) Painter, Karen, ‘Ritual Time in Wagner and Wagnerian Opera’, in Sven Oliver M¨uller (ed.), Oper im Wandel der Gesellschaft: Kulturtransfers und Netzwerke des Musiktheaters im modernen Europa, Die Gesellschaft der Oper 5 (Vienna: B¨ohlau, 2010) Rice, John A., Antonio Salieri and Viennese Opera (University of Chicago Press, 1998) Smith, Patrick J., The Tenth Muse: A Historical Study of the Opera Libretto (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970) Thomson, Virgil, Music With Words: A Composer’s View (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989) Wagner, Richard, Oper und Drama (1851), in William Ashton Ellis (trans.), Richard Wagner’s Prose Works, Vol. II: Opera and Drama (1893; repr. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995)

332 Further reading ¨ ‘Uber das Opern Dichten und Komponieren in Besonderen’ (1879), translated as ‘On Opera Libretti and Composition’, in Charles Osborne (ed.), Richard Wagner: Stories and Essays (London: Peter Owen, 1973) ‘Zukunfstmusik’ (1860), trans. Robert L. Jacobs, in Three Wagner Essays (London: Eulenberg Books, 1979) Webster, James, ‘Mozart’s Operas and the Myth of Musical Unity’, Cambridge Opera Journal, 2 (1990), pp. 197–218 9 Genre and poetics Benedetto, Renato Di, ‘Poetics and Polemics’, in Lorenzo Bianconi and Giorgio Pestelli (eds.), The History of Italian Opera, Part II, Vol. VI: Opera in Theory and Practice, Image and Myth, trans. Mary Whittall (University of Chicago Press, 2003) Derrida, Jacques, ‘The Law of Genre’, trans. Avital Ronell, Critical Inquiry, 7/1, On Narrative (Autumn 1980), pp. 55–81 Duff, David (ed.), Modern Genre Theory (Harlow and New York: Longman, 2000) Goehr, Lydia, ‘From Opera to Music Drama: Nominal Loss, Titular Gain’, in Thomas S. Grey (ed.), Richard Wagner and His World, (Princeton University Press, 2009) Seneci, Emanuele, Landscape and Gender in Italian Opera (Cambridge University Press, 2005) Todorov, Tzvetan, Genres in Discourse, trans. C. Porter (Cambridge University Press, 1990) Tomlinson, Gary, ‘Pastoral and Musical Magic in the Birth of Opera’, in Thomas Bauman and Marita Petzoldt McClymonds (eds.), Opera and the Enlightenment (Cambridge University Press, 1995) 10 The operatic work Brown, Clive, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice 1750–1900 (Oxford University Press, 1999) Busch, Hans, Verdi’s Aida: The History of an Opera in Letters and Documents (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1978) Butt, John, Playing with History: The Historical Approach to Musical Performance (Cambridge University Press, 2002) Dahlhaus, Carl, Nineteenth-Century Music, trans. J. Bradford Robinson (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1989) Edwards, Sutherland, History of the Opera from Monteverdi to Donizetti (London: W. H. Allen, 1862) Ellis, Katherine, Interpreting the Musical Past: Early Music in Nineteenth-Century France (Oxford University Press, 2005) Elson, Arthur, A Critical History of Opera, giving an account of the rise and progress of the different schools, with a description of the masterworks in each (London: Seeley and Co., 1905) Freyhan, Michael, The Authentic Magic Flute Libretto: Mozart’s Autograph or the First Full-Score Edition? (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2009) Goehr, Lydia, The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music (Oxford University Press, 1994)

333 Further reading Goehr, Lydia and Daniel Herwitz (eds.), The Don Giovanni Moment: Essays on the Legacy of an Opera (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006) Gossett, Philip, Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera (Chicago, IL and London: University of Chicago Press, 2006) Grier, James, The Critical Editing of Music: History, Method, and Practice (Cambridge University Press, 1996) Kerman, Joseph, Opera and the Morbidity of Music (New York Review of Books, 2008) Kivy, Peter, Osmin’s Rage: Philosophical Reflections on Opera, Drama, and Text (Princeton University Press, 1988) Latham, Alison and Roger Parker (eds.), Verdi in Performance (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001) Mann, Thomas, Pro and Contra Wagner, trans. Allan Blunden (London: Faber and Faber, 1985) Montemorra Marvin, Roberta, and Downing A. Thomas (eds.), Operatic Migrations: Transforming Works and Crossing Boundaries (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006) Parker, Roger, Remaking the Song: Operatic Visions and Revisions from Handel to Berio (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2006) Rosen, David and Andrew Porter (eds.), Verdi’s Macbeth: A Sourcebook (Cambridge University Press, 1984) Talbot, Michael (ed.), The Musical Work: Reality or Invention? (Liverpool University Press, 2000) Wagner, Richard, ‘A Communication to my Friends’, in Richard Wagner’s Prose Works, trans. William Ashton Ellis (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Tr¨ubner and Co., 1895) On Conducting: A Treatise on Style in the Execution of Classical Music, trans. William Reeves (New York: Dover Books, 1989) Weber, William The Great Transformation of Musical Taste: Concert Programming from Haydn to Brahms (Cambridge University Press, 2008) Wisenthal, Jonathan, (ed.), A Vision of the Orient: Texts, Intertexts, and Contexts of Madame Butterfly (University of Toronto Press, 2006) 11 Opera and gender studies Bernstein, Jane (ed.), Women’s Voices across Musical Worlds (Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 2004) Blackmer, Corinne E. and Patricia J. Smith (eds.), En travesti: Women, Gender Subversion, Opera (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995) Borgerding, Todd M. (ed.), Gender, Sexuality, and Early Music (New York and London: Routledge, 2002) Brett, Philip, Music and Sexuality in Britten: Selected Essays (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 2006) Brett, Philip, Elizabeth Wood and Gary C. Thomas, Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology (London: Routledge, 2006) Castle, Terry, The Apparitional Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995)

334 Further reading Citron, Marcia, Gender and the Musical Canon (Cambridge University Press, 1993) Cl´ement, Catherine, Opera, or, The Undoing of Women, trans. Betsy Wing (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988) Cusick, Suzanne, Francesca Caccini at the Medici Court: Music and the Circulation of Power (University of Chicago Press, 2008) ——, ‘“Eve . . . blowing in our ears?” Toward a History of Music Scholarship on Women in the Twentieth Century’ in Women & Music 5 (2001),