Opera: desire, disease, death.THIS BOOK, A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT BY professors in the disparate disciplines of literary theory and medicine, brings a relatively new dimension to the study of opera and thereby immeasurably im·meas·ur·a·ble
1. Impossible to measure. See Synonyms at incalculable.
2. Vast; limitless.
im·meas enhances our appreciation of this intriguing and complex art form.
The authors' approach to the study of opera and disease is influenced by postmodernist cultural studies and firmly roots opera and its creation in the cultural and societal context in which it is produced. Too often, as the Hutcheons note, opera is understood as performance art--a drama or plot set to the music of voice and instrumentation. The importance of the music is far greater than the "silly stories" of the libretto libretto (ləbrĕt`ō) [Ital.,=little book], the text of an opera or an oratorio. Although a play usually emphasizes an integrated plot, a libretto is most often a loose plot connecting a series of episodes. , its dramatic component. The perspective presented attempts to correct this imbalance by forcing attention on the social and cultural meanings ascribed to the librettos. By analyzing operas, especially those produced in Europe, much is learned about the values, needs, fears and anxieties characteristic of these societies.
The authors have chosen to examine the relationship of opera and disease partly because of their own professional affiliations but also because disease--almost always linked to sexuality--and death are vital components of many operatic plots. The book concentrates on the 19th century because modern medicine began at this time and much of the current operatic repertoire was being produced during this Romantic period. The main diseases were consumption or tuberculosis, which was the major cause of death. Its cultural meanings are revealed in a number of operas--Les Contes contes
Plural of conte. d'Hoffmann, La Traviata La traviata is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. It takes as its basis the novel La dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas, fils, published in 1848. , La Boheme and others (Chapter 2).
Syphilis was also pervasive, but usually hidden. This disease finds its operatic expression in the suffering of Amfortas in Wagner's Parsifal. (Chapter 3). Other chapters deal with syphilis and cholera primarily in 20th-century operas such as Lulu and Death in Venice Death in Venice
aging successful author loses his lifelong self-discipline in his love for a beautiful Polish boy. [Ger. Lit: Death in Venice]
See : Homosexuality (Chapters 4-5). The pleasures of smoking and sex are detailed in an analysis of Carmen Carmen
throws over lover for another. [Fr. Lit.: Carmen; Fr. Opera: Bizet, Carmen, Westerman, 189–190]
See : Faithlessness
the cards repeatedly spell her death. [Fr. and other works, and, finally, the epilogue ep·i·logue also ep·i·log
a. A short poem or speech spoken directly to the audience following the conclusion of a play.
b. The performer who delivers such a short poem or speech.
2. cogently discuses the "scourge of our times"--AIDS--and its artistic representation. Although there are now several important dramatic works that feature AIDS, to date no operatic librettos have been produced, but the authors believe they will be forthcoming. As a new disease, the cultural connotations attributed to it are developing in our times, and it is a disease that "all of us have watched--and are still watching--take on meanings."
Opera: Desire, Disease, Death is a provocative work that brings new understanding to an old art form, and, as such, makes a major contribution to the literature on music and medicine. Despite its macabre ma·ca·bre
1. Suggesting the horror of death and decay; gruesome: macabre tales of war and plague in the Middle Ages. See Synonyms at ghastly.
2. theme, opera-lovers everywhere will find it informative as well as entertaining