The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century

The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century

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Female characters assumed increasing prominence in the narratives of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century opera. And for contemporary audiences, many of these characters - and the celebrated women who played them - still define opera at its finest and most searingly affective, even if storylines leave them swooning and faded by the end of the drama. The presence and representation of women in opera has been addressed in a range of recent studies that offer valuable insights into the operatic stage as cultural space, focusing a critical lens at the text and the position and signification of female characters. Moving that lens onto the historical, The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century sheds light on the singers who created and inhabited these roles, the flesh-and-blood women who embodied these fabled "doomed women" onstage before an audience. Editors Rachel Cowgill and Hilary Poriss lead a cast of renowned contributors in an impressive display of current approaches to the lives, careers, and performances of female opera singers. Essential theoretical perspectives reflect several broad themes woven through the volume-cultures of celebrity surrounding the female singer; the emergence of the quasi-mythical figure of the diva; explorations of the intricate and sundry arts associated with the prima donna, and with her representation in other media; and the diversity and complexity of contemporary responses to her. The prima donna influenced compositional practices, determined musical and dramatic interpretation, and affected management decisions about the running of the opera house, content of the season, and employment of other artists - a clear demonstration that her position as "first woman" extended well beyond the boards of the operatic stage itself. The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century is an important addition to the collections of students and researchers in opera studies, nineteenth-century music, performance and gender/sexuality studies, and cultural studies, as well as to the shelves of opera singers and more

Product details

  • Hardback | 416 pages
  • 154.94 x 236.22 x 22.86mm | 612.35g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195365879
  • 9780195365870

About Rachel Cowgill

Rachel Cowgill is Professor in the School of Music at Cardiff University. She is co-editor (with Julian Rushton) of Europe, Empire, and Spectacle in Nineteenth-Century British Music (Ashgate, 2006) and co-editor (with Peter Holman) of the series Music in Britain, 1600-1900 (Boydell and Brewer). Hilary Poriss is Associate Professor of Music at Northeastern University and author of Changing the Score: Arias, Prima Donnas, and the Authority of Performance (OUP, 2009).show more

Review quote

this volume makes a unique contribution to the literature ... Highly recommended * R. Pitts, CHOICE * The essays offer a rich variety of approaches to the prima donna, and the quality of scholarship and writing is high. Together they reveal the contradictory views of the prima donna in different times and places, the ideologies of gender that shaped perception, and the challenges these singers presented to traditional male/female power dynamics. * Sarah Hibberd, Studies in Theatre and Performance *show more

Table of contents

Introduction ; Rachel Cowgill and Hilary Poriss ; PART ONE: PROMOTION AND IMAGE-MAKING ; Chapter 1. Divas and Sonnets: Poetry for Female Singers in Teatri arti e letteratura ; Francesco Izzo ; Chapter 2. Idealizing the Prima Donna in Mid-Victorian London ; Roberta Montemorra Marvin ; Chapter 3. Prima Donnas and the Performance of Altruism ; Hilary Poriss ; Chapter 4. Staging Scandal with Salome and Elektra ; Joy H. Calico ; Chapter 5. Screening the Diva ; Mary Simonson ; Chapter 6. The Prima Donna's Art of Politics ; James R. Currie ; INTERLUDE 1: The Prima Donna Creates ; Julian Rushton ; PART TWO: FANTASY AND REPRESENTATION ; Chapter 7. Gautier's "Diva": The First French Use of the Word ; James Q. Davies ; Chapter 8. Artistic Experiment and the Reevaluation of the Prima Donna in George Moore's Evelyn Innes ; Grace Kehler ; Chapter 9. Ars moriendi: Reflections on the Death of Mimi ; Helen Greenwald ; Chapter 10. Lakme's Echoing Jewels ; Gurminder Kaur Bhogal ; INTERLUDE 2: Breath's End: Opera and Mortality ; Terry Castle ; PART THREE: CULTURES OF CELEBRITY ; Chapter 11. "Attitudes with a Shawl": Performance, Femininity, and Spectatorship at the Italian Opera in Early Nineteenth-Century London ; Rachel Cowgill ; Chapter 12. From Diva to Drama Queen ; Tracy C. Davis ; Chapter 13. The Prima Donna as Opera Impresario: Emma Carelli and the Teatro Costanzi, 1911-1926 ; Susan Rutherford ; Chapter 14. "In Imitation of My Negro Mammy": Alma Gluck and the American Prima Donna ; Susan C. Cook ; Chapter 15. "The Finest Voice of the Century": Clara Butt and Other Concert-Hall and Drawing-Room Singers of Fin-de-siecle Britain ; Sophie Fuller ; Chapter 16. Galli-Curci Comes to Town: The Prima Donna's Presence in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction ; Alexandra Wilson ; Indexshow more

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