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The Opera Quarterly Current Issue

Published: Fri, 08 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Fri, 05 Jan 2018 06:46:29 GMT


The Submerged Subject of Video-Opera: Fausto Romitelli’s An Index of Metals

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Opera in the present can be said to exhibit two tendencies: “radical” restagings and remediations propose new configurations of music, bodies, voices, and scenography, while the institution itself nonetheless relies largely on historically constituted subjects and inherited emotional frameworks for continued sustenance (consider, for example, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s recent advertising campaign: “Long live passion”).11 A contemporary intermedial work such as the 2003 “video-opera” An Index of Metals—created by the late Fausto Romitelli with music and video collaborators Paolo Pachini and Leonardo Romoli, and poet Kenka Lèkovich—might seem to reflect these tendencies: it emphatically foregrounds video and voice, and plays on the audience’s expectations for an emotional profundity that never quite materializes or, rather, is strangely unmoored from a clearly defined subject. Indeed, there is no apparent plot in this “opera” and no dramatis personae. Furthermore, any sense of dramatic development detected in the three “songs” comprising the work is ultimately offset by the increasingly effaced subjecthood expressed therein. In this and many other ways, Romitelli, Pacchini, and Lèkovich play with surface and depth: for most of the fifty-minute work, a video screen slides over various metallic substances; the single vocalist at the center of the “opera” remains off-stage and off-screen, projecting her voice at times through an electric megaphone; and the work’s opening moments contrast Spectralist-inspired sonorities with rock album samples.

Susan Rutherford: Verdi, Opera, Women, reviewed by Francesca Vella

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

RutherfordSusan. Verdi, Opera, Women. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Xii, 293 pages.

Andrew Norman: A Trip to the Moon, reviewed by Cecilia Livingston

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

A Trip to the Moon (An Opera for All Ages)

God’s Broken Medium: On Genre and Geschichtsphilosophie in Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Arnold Schoenberg’s unfinished twelve-tone opera Moses und Aron, composed between 1930 and 1932, has had a somewhat peculiar reception history. On the one hand, despite widespread consensus that the two scored acts represent Schoenberg at the pinnacle of his powers, this most important composition by one of music history’s most important composers has received astonishingly few actual performances. Schoenberg himself never heard it, nor did he compose as though he expected to: “Since I can't reckon on a performance of the work over the next decades,” he wrote in 1931, “I didn't place any constraints on myself with respect to the difficulties for choir and orchestra.”11 And it has never entered the standard repertory of the world’s major opera houses (due in part to the extraordinary difficulty of the choral writing) in contrast, for instance, to the atonal operas of his student, Alban Berg.22 On the other hand, the work has entered the canon of modernist scholarship, both within the field of opera studies, where it often plays the role of paradigmatic twentieth-century opera for scholars surveying the expanse of post-Wagnerian forms,33 and within the field of European intellectual history, where it not infrequently plays the role of paradigmatic modern artwork per se.44

Zombie Parsifal: Undead Walkers and Post-apocalyptic Stagings

Wed, 04 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

This essay locates zombies in Wagner’s Parsifal, interpreting them within the work’s original nineteenth-century context and reading recent productions in light of contemporary zombie studies. Immediately, a question arises: why zombies? Perhaps Kundry, the wandering Jewess, could be seen as an undead wanderer. Parsifal, too, is cursed to wander past endurance, and Amfortas clearly suffers from an inconvenient and painful immortality. But even so, how can the case be made for zombies in particular? Over the last two hundred years, myriad undead monsters have evolved and receded in cultural consciousness. Vampires were the undead monster of choice in Wagner’s time, popularized by John Polidori’s short story “The Vampyre” in 1816 and adapted by Heinrich Marschner and Peter Joseph von Lindpaintner in two separate 1828 operas, both called Der Vampyr. Wagner even conducted a production of Marschner’s opera.11 Vampires, ghosts, and Frankenstein’s monster may all have better claims than zombies to the title of the nineteenth-century undead monster, yet uniquely zombie characteristics—the slow inexorability, the tendency to travel in herds and yet remain utterly isolated, the bare exposure of animalistic drives, the horrific lack of boundary between outside and inside, the total absence of human self-consciousness—resonate powerfully with the themes of passivity, acceptance, stasis, and Schopenhauerian hopelessness that pervade Parsifal.