Romantic Anatomies of Performance

Romantic Anatomies of Performance

Romantic Anatomies of Performance

Romantic Anatomies of Performance

Synopsis

Romantic Anatomies of Performance is concerned with the very matter of musical expression: the hands and voices of virtuosic musicians. Rubini, Chopin, Nourrit, Liszt, Donzelli, Thalberg, Velluti, Sontag, and Malibran were prominent celebrity pianists and singers who plied their trade between London and Paris, the most dynamic musical centers of nineteenth-century Europe. In their day, performers such as these provoked an avalanche of commentary and analysis, inspiring debates over the nature of mind and body, emotion and materiality, spirituality and mechanism, artistry and skill. J. Q. Davies revisits these debates, examining how key musicians and their contemporaries made sense of extraordinary musical and physical abilities. This is a history told as much from scientific and medical writings as traditionally musicological ones. Davies describes competing notions of vocal and pianistic health, contrasts techniques of training, and explores the ways in which music acts in the cultivation of bodies..

Excerpt

The shattering of instruments

In an article for the Revue de Paris, the critic Castil-Blaze told the story of how Giovanni Battista Rubini acquired his gift for unmediated expression. the incident occurred in 1831, as the singer forced the sustained B♭ toward the end of “Luna, conforto al cor de’ naviganti,” the then-famous romance from Giovanni Pacini’s opera Il talismano (1829). His larynx refusing him, Rubini—egged on by the baying Milanese public—exerted every sinew to overcome the obstacle. He launched a note, the éclat of which had never before been heard at the Teatro alla Scala. Not that its magic came without a price. Rubini felt a break, an inner rupture that would transform his talent forever. a doctor was called as the tenor reeled backstage. It appeared, upon examination, that the singer had broken his clavicle. Healing would take several months, a period far too long for a singer of Rubini’s commitments. Accordingly, the tenor asked whether he might just live with the impediment, since brokenness appeared less to have stifled his abilities than unlocked new vocal qualities. To this the doctor admitted that he might, if the injury was not onerous for him. Still backstage, Castil-Blaze—ever the doubting Thomas—touched Rubini’s wound for himself, or so he claimed. the critic thus verified a distance of four to five lignes (about two-fifths of an inch) between the two parts of fractured collarbone. This was Rubini’s fate. He apparently sang thus until the end of his career, creating, in this shattered condition, Elvino in Vincenzo Bellini’s La sonnambula (Milan, 1831), Arturo in I puritani (Paris, 1835), and Fernando in Gaetano Donizetti’s Marino Faliero (Paris, 1835).

In the same year—1831—similar cautionary tales were told in relation to the most celebrated musical hands of the era, those belonging to Niccolò Paganini. Due to his . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.