Opera: The Art of Dying (Convergences:Inventories of the by Linda Hutcheon

By Linda Hutcheon

Our glossy narratives of technology and know-how can simply move thus far in educating us concerning the loss of life that we needs to all ultimately face. Can an act of the mind's eye, within the type of opera, take us the remainder of the best way? could opera, an artwork shape steeped in loss of life, educate us how one can die, as this provocative paintings indicates? In Opera: The artwork of Dying a doctor and a literary theorist collect medical and humanistic views at the classes on dwelling and demise that this extravagant and likely synthetic artwork imparts.

Contrasting the event of mortality in opera to that during tragedy, the Hutcheons discover a extra apt analogy within the medieval customized of contemplatio mortis--a dramatized workout in imagining one's personal loss of life that ready one for the inevitable finish and helped one benefit from the existence that remained. From the viewpoint of a latest viewers, they discover options of mortality embodied in either the typical and the extra imprecise operatic repertoire: the fear of demise (in Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites); the eager for loss of life (in Wagner's Tristan and Isolde); instruction for the great demise (in Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung); and suicide (in Puccini's Madama Butterfly). In works by means of Janacek, Ullmann, Berg, and Britten, between others, the Hutcheons learn how demise is made to suppose logical or even correct morally, psychologically, and artistically--how, within the paintings of opera, we rehearse demise with a purpose to supply lifestyles which means.

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As we shall see, the very particular form of “tragedy” lived out in the ardently longed-for deaths of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde was provocatively articulated in Nietzsche’s 1872 The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music (Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik), a book he dedicated to Wagner. The cultural web here is complex, but untangling its philosophical, psychological, literary, and musical threads will allow us to see how a positive and even erotic notion of death is possible in this music drama— although such a view might feel foreign today.

Did her death belong to another, because this one was clearly “too small” (“trop petite”) for her? In the mouth of this happy and prescient girl, Bernanos placed his personal extension of the Catholic doctrine of the Communion of Saints, in which all members of the Church, living or dead, are bound together by grace into a community. The logical conclusion of this belief, as Father Owen Lee explains,35 is Constance’s notion that because of the Prioress’s hard death, someone else will have an easy one: One doesn’t die each for oneself, but for one another, The Contemplation of Death 33 or even one in place of another, who knows?

But audience consent is needed for this to work. 46 Does this, then, make these operas “tragic,” in the Aristotelian sense of the word? 47 Although we have been using the Aristotelian term “catharsis” to talk about the audience response to operatic deaths, there is a very real sense in which operas such as Dialogues 38 The Contemplation of Death des Carmélites or Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (the topic of the next chapter) are not tragedies in the classical sense of the term as used in the Western tradition.

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