Melodramatic Voices: Understanding Music Drama

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  • Edited by Sarah Hibberd, University of Nottingham, UK
  • Series: Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera
  • The genre of mélodrame à grand spectacle that emerged in the boulevard theatres of Paris in the 1790s - and which was quickly exported abroad - expressed the moral struggle between good and evil through a drama of heightened emotions. Physical gesture, mise en scène and music were as important in communicating meaning and passion as spoken dialogue.

    The premise of this volume is the idea that the melodramatic aesthetic is central to our understanding of nineteenth-century music drama, broadly defined as spoken plays with music, operas and other hybrid genres that combine music with text and/or image. This relationship is examined closely, and its evolution in the twentieth century in selected operas, musicals and films is understood as an extension of this nineteenth-century aesthetic. The book therefore develops our understanding of opera in the context of melodrama's broader influence on musical culture during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

    This book will appeal to those interested in film studies, drama, theatre and modern languages as well as music and opera.
  • Contents: Introduction, Sarah Hibberd; Part I Melodrama as Genre: Music in Pixérécourt's early melodramas, Katherine Astbury; Operatic or theatrical? Orchestral framings of the voice in the melodrama Sept Heures (1829), Jens Hesselager; Reconstructing Greek drama: Saint-Saëns and the melodramatic ideal, Elinor Olin; In a woman's voice: musical recitation and the feminization of American melodrama, Marian Wilson Kimber. Part II Melodrama on the Operatic Stage: 'Si l'orchestre seul chantait': melodramatic voices in Chelard's Macbeth (1827), Sarah Hibberd; Melodramatic spectacle on the English operatic stage, Philip Carli; Janácek and melodrama, John Tyrrell; Dismembering 'expectations': the modernization of monodrama in fin-de-siècle theatrical arts, Jessica Payette; Opera for the people: melodrama in Hugo Herrmann's Vasantasena (1930), Nanette Nielsen. Part III Melodramatic Transformations: Berlioz's 'Roméo au tombeau': melodrama of the mind, Violaine Anger; Be it [n]ever so humble? The narrating voice in the underscore to The Wizard of Oz (MGM, 1939), Fiona Ford; The voice-over as 'melodramatic voice', Jacqueline Waeber; Dismembering the musical voice: Mahler, melodrama and Dracula from stage to screen, Jeremy Barham; Bibliography; Index.
  • About the Editor: Sarah Hibberd is Associate Professor in the Department of Music at the University of Nottingham. Her research interests focus primarily on nineteenth-century French opera, and other forms of music theatre including melodrama, pantomime and ballet, and she has published widely on these topics, including French Grand Opera and the Historical Imagination (2009). Current projects include an examination of the cataclysmic denouements of works produced in Paris 1789-1859, and the exchanges and tensions between art, theatre and opera in nineteenth-century France.
  • Reviews: ‘This wide-ranging and exciting collection of essays is exactly the kind of interdisciplinary work that we have long hoped would emerge from the new histories of performing arts. Its contributors are at home in musicology and media history, in theatre and in performance studies, and the result is a new conceptualization of a long-despised genre, which is at last beginning to be understood.’
    Jacky Bratton, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK

    'This is an important and useful book… We venture into the territory of musical melodrama at some peril which is precisely why we should do so, if with as much caution as enthusiasm of the kind that must surely be aroused by this collection of essays.' Music and Letters