Just wanted to share this link from Jane Friedman’s writing blog.
I don’t post as often as I’d like to because I usually get caught up in thinking I can’t post till I develop an idea fully or something. But here’s a quickie. Having heard an awesome interview with cellist Alisa Weilerstein on Classical Classroom, I’ve been listening to all the cello sonatas I can get my hands on! Current project: working my way through all five of Beethoven’s. Any others I shouldn’t miss?
The Opera Evangelist had the privilege of hearing yesterday evening Nicholas Stevens deliver a nuanced and though-provoking lecture on the troubling re-emergence in contemporary opera of the age-old trope of the femme fatale. One might imagine that 21st Century artists would be inclined to offer more empowered female leads than the tradition has bequeathed us, but according to Mr. Stevens, a PhD student at CWRU whose forthcoming dissertation examines the roots and contemporary iterations of the trope, recent offerings tend to traffic in the old, exploitative stereotypes.
Mr. Stevens notes that after a 60-year hiatus (1935-1995), the work of contemporary composers tends “to restore and reinvigorate the femme fatale narrative, and the trend isn’t showing any signs of going away.” The lecture focused on two contemporary operas: Anna Nicole (comp. Mark-Anthony Turnage, libr. Richard Thomas), based on the life and death by overdose of model and TV personality Anna Nicole Smith, and American Lulu, a Civil Rights era re-imagining of Berg’s opera by Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth.
In a wonderful Q&A session after his lecture, Mr. Stevens noted that “It is possible to stage American Lulu in a way that flips the misogynist paradigm on its head,” but at least from the advertising trailer showed during the lecture, early productions have not taken that approach.
So, there’s work to be done, friends.
Homework. Mr. Stevens mentioned two relevant books which sound like must-reads:
- L’Opera ou la défaite des femmes, or “Opera and the Defeat of Women,” by French philosopher, feminist and critic Catherine Clément.
- Reconfiguring Mth and Narrative in Contemporary Opera, by Yayoi Uno Everett.
The Opera Evangelist has been rather quiet about getting the word out in 2016, but I’m seeing some great stuff. The 10th anniversary Met in HD season ended last Wednesday with a lovely performance of Strauss’s “Elektra,” and from the previews it looks like next season is going to be full of gems!
Drove to Chicago Monday for the world premier of an opera based on one of my favorite novels, Ann Pachett’s Bel Canto. I’m shooting to have my post about the experience ready by next Tuesday. Here’s what the NY Times had to say about it.