Bodily Charm: Living Opera

By Linda Hutcheon; Michael Hutcheon | Go to book overview

4
The Perceiving Body

Opera was born with the astonishment of its first audience: imagine the
original fan, the original blush, the first ecstatic response to opera!

– Wayne Koestenbaum, The Queen's Throat

[At the opera, what does your body do?] asks Wayne Koestenbaum. [Clap until your hands hurt … Yell 'brava]' is his response.1 But the sensual impact of being a participant in the shared experience of a live opera performance provokes your body to do other things besides applaud and shout, and it does so during the opera, not only after it is over: you laugh and you weep at what you see and hear; you feel the hair stand up on the back of your neck when the soprano sings a certain note; your feet feel like tapping; your heart races or feels as if it is standing still; your breathing speeds up. Of course, your body can do other things too: it can fidget out of boredom or excess of stimulus or simply because of an uncomfortable seat; it can yawn and even doze off; it can cough and set off a chain of acoustic contagion in the bodies that surround it; it can remind you that perhaps you should not have had that glass of wine right before the curtain went up. You might glance – or stare – at your neighbor for talking or rattling jewelry or unwrapping candy; you might simply look out of curiosity.

In short, your body is very busy at the opera. Writing about all staged theater, Marvin Carlson reminds us that the [roots of the words 'theatre' (from theatron, a place for seeing), 'spectator'

-153-

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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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