Session/Séance 8e: MusCan Panel 1 Dramatic Voices

Session/Séance 8e: MusCan Panel 1. Saturday/samedi 27 May 2017. 11:00AM - 12:30PM, EJB 224.
Dramatic Voices
     Chair: CARYL CLARK (University of Toronto)


1. Constructing the Heroic Feminine in Beethoven’s 1814 Fidelio
     Rena Roussin, University of Victoria

There is an old, familiar story, much beloved in Western culture. In it, a character (almost always male) goes on a quest to a dangerous place to accomplish a goal. He overcomes obstacles, performs feats of great strength and bravery, achieves his goal, and is rewarded and revered at the story’s end. It is the story of the hero’s quest, which plays itself out in the tales of Beowulf, Achilles, King Arthur, Orpheus – and in Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio. However, Fidelio features a distinct twist on the hero’s journey, since its central character, Leonore, disguises herself as a man in order to rescue her husband from unjust imprisonment, and inverts traditional gender roles by serving as the opera’s dramatic and musical hero and liberator. Almost all scholarly discussions of Fidelio praise Leonore’s actions, but no study has taken an examination of the character’s heroics as its point of departure. By analyzing the forms of heroism that Leonore demonstrates through her music, words, and actions, I seek to redress this gap in scholarship. For when Leonore’s heroism is probed and unpacked, it demonstrates not only a woman fulfilling the male-driven heroic archetype, but also a distinctly female hero, who widens heroic construction through demonstra- tion of traditionally feminine characteristics of emotional vulnerability, mercy, love, and compassion. Ultimately, Leonore shows that women can be heroes for, rather than in spite of, their feminine attributes, showing a need to reconsider what opera – and wider culture – knows to be heroic.


2. Casting the Apocalypse in Vaughan Williams’ Oratorio Sancta Civitas
     Melissa Pettau, University of Toronto

Compiled from the Biblical Book of Revelation, the text for Ralph Vaughan Williams’ only oratorio, Sancta Civitas (1926), describes the destruction of Babylon and the coming of a new Holy City. The oratorio calls for distant, full, and partial choruses, and a baritone soloist. Vaughan Williams divides the narration of the piece amongst the choruses and soloist, but does not define any specific characters within the oratorio. Charles McGuire (2004) asserts that there are indeed no characters in this piece, and describes it as a lauda oratorio. Through analysis of textual distribution by vocal part, and distinctive musical features, I will show that this piece contains implicit characters, allowing the individual vocal parts to function as dramatis personae. Of the four vocal parts, only the baritone soloist functions as an individual character, while the full, partial, and distant choruses each serve as groups commenting from unique perspectives. The allocation of the baritone soloist to a single character is clear from narrative lines that begin with “I saw...”. The distant choir gains its characterization as a heavenly chorus from the distant trumpet that accompanies it, and by singing text only in praise of God. Though the full and partial choruses share musical and textual features, the emphasis of each falls on different aspects of the narration. Close musical and textual analysis show that implicit characterizations of the vocal parts enhance the dramatic function of this piece, suggesting a reevaluation of Sancta Civitas from a lauda oratorio into a dramatic oratorio.


3. YouTube Prodigies and the Modern Uncanny
     Annalise Smith, Cornell University

When Leopold Mozart wanted the world to know about his children’s prodigious talents, he took them on a three- year tour of Europe, keeping a schedule so severe that the adverse health effects reportedly shortened Wolfgang’s life. The modern parent has an easier job: a child’s prodigious musical performance can be recorded on a phone, posted to YouTube, and shared on social media. The ubiquity of recording technology and social media has made it possible for today’s musical prodigies to earn earn legions of devoted fans quickly and easily. Online fame can be parlayed into appearances on television, with the potential for live performances, recordings, and even a career in the music industry. Music professionals who hope to encourage broader appreciation of music in the public may find prodigies frustrating. Several prodigies who have gained widespread fame lack an understanding of proper technique or the emotive content of the music they are performing. Why do they appeal where their educated, older colleagues do not? I explore the careers of three young women, Jackie Evancho, Amira Willighagen, and Alma Deutscher, who gained fame through their performances of classical music, especially opera. Evaluating both their performances and the public reaction to them, I argue that the modern YouTube prodigy does not necessarily draw in the audience due to their command of their instrument or the musical materials, but because child prodigies represent the modern uncanny, providing us with the opportunity to be surprised, astounded, and confronted with the inexplicable.



Saturday Schedule | Programme - samedi
(Session 8 | Séance 8)

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