Voicing Gender

Voicing Gender

Castrati, Travesti, and the Second Woman in Early-Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera
Naomi André
Distribution: World
Publication date: 1/23/2006
Format: paper 248 pages, 18 b&w photos, 1 bibliog., 1 index
6.125 x 9.25
ISBN: 978-0-253-21789-9
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The early 19th century was a period of acute transition in operatic tradition and style, when time-honored practices gave way to the developing aesthetics of Romanticism, the rise of the tenor overtook the falling stars of the castrati, and the heroic, the masculine, and the feminine were profoundly reconfigured. These transformations resounded in operatic plot structures as well; the happy resolution of the 18th century twisted into a tragic 19th-century finale with the death of the helpless and innocent heroine—and frequently her tenor hero along with her. Female voices which formerly had sung en travesti, or basically in male drag, opposite their female character counterparts then took on roles of the second woman, a companion and foil to the death-bound heroine rather than her romantic partner. In Voicing Gender, Naomi André skillfully traces the development of female characters in these first decades of the century, weaving in and around these changes in voicings and plot lines, to define an emergent legacy in operatic roles.

Author Bio

Naomi André is Associate Professor in the School of Music at the University of Michigan.


"In presenting the concept of 'the period ear' as a way for today's audiences to 'hear' the voices of the primo ottocento, André . . . offers a solution to the problematic study of historical performance. The author differentiates between the various onstage female types and traces 'how a woman's voice represent[ed] both male and female characters' during the time that opera diverged from supreme castrati reign and moved toward the era of the Romantic heroine. . . . Recommended." —Choice

"André’s study provides an exciting new perspective on the Romantic heroine’s relationship to her operatic ancestors. Unwilling to cast a diva as devoid of agency and a mere product of growing misogyny among composers and librettists, André weaves a fresh historical narrative that makes sense of women’s role as interpreter of primo ottocento opera. . . . As Irigaray might implore, Open your ears—don’t open them simply." —STEPHANIE JENSEN-Moulton, Women & Music , Vol. 13 2009

Voicing Gender is essential reading for those hoping to gain a deeper understanding of the bel canto tradition. André's meticulous research, clear prose, and insightful commentary will increase our appreciation of a wide variety of works." —OPERA JOURNAL

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Hearing Voices
1. Sounding Voices: Modeling Voice and the Period Ear
2. Haunting Legacies: The Castrato in the Nineteenth Century
3. Meyerbeer in Italy: The Crusader, the Castrato, and the Disguised Second Woman
Interlude: Queens, Hybridity, and the Diva
4. Taming Women's Voices: From Hero to Pageboy
5. Women's Voices in Motion: Voices behind the Romantic Heroine
Coda: Looking Ahead to Risorgimento Heroism