Bodily Charm: Living Opera

By Linda Hutcheon; Michael Hutcheon | Go to book overview

ACT1
Represented Bodies

The true meanings of words are bodily meanings, carnal knowledge.
– Norman O. Brown

The next two chapters will focus both on the balance of the Dionysian and the Apollonian in opera and on the symbolic struggle between them as we study how operatic plots persist in telling the story of the Dionysian body, however much Apollonian artistic convention may attempt its repression. We will see that the represented body in opera always has a sex and indeed is sexualized, as feminist and queer criticism has indeed taught. It also has a race: the seductive body of the Judean Salome takes control of the stage in powerful ways, as we shall witness. The staged body is usually given an age and, sometimes, a specific state of health: Amfortas's wound in Wagner's Parsifal or Violetta's consumption in La Traviata are central to the operas' meanings.1

In chapter 1 we investigate in more detail how opera's origins in the Neoplatonism of Renaissance Italy have conditioned its conven– tions for portraying the corporeal: for much longer than we might expect, the beautiful body was seen as an externalization of the good soul, just as the unbeautiful body was considered a sure sign of moral deformation. Later European neoclassicism continued this classical tradition by establishing what Barbara Stafford refers to as artistic [zones of purified emptiness.]2 With the nineteenth century came both a medical fascination with the physically [monstrous] (in the study of teratology) and a Romantic literary interest in the grotesque

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Bodily Charm: Living Opera
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Bodily Charm i
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Before We Begin … - An Introductory Note on the Operatic Body in Context xiii
  • Prelude - Restoring Opera''s Bodies 1
  • Act1 - Represented Bodies 37
  • 1 - The Body Beautiful 41
  • 2 - The Body Dangerous 85
  • Act 2 - Real Bodies 113
  • 3 - The Performing Body 117
  • 4 - The Perceiving Body 153
  • Postlude - Atoast to Opera''s Bodies 183
  • Notes 207
  • Bibliography 293
  • Index 341
  • Lincoin Lecture Series 348
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