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Enchantment: The Seductress in Opera
     

Enchantment: The Seductress in Opera

by Jean Starobinski
 

We often look to the theater for spectacle and wonder, but in opera, we find pure enchantment. What is it about the marriage of music and the stage that fills us with such bewilderment and passion? How does the sensual space of opera transport us into the realm of dream?

Jean Starobinski considers the allure of several seducers and seductresses from

Overview

We often look to the theater for spectacle and wonder, but in opera, we find pure enchantment. What is it about the marriage of music and the stage that fills us with such bewilderment and passion? How does the sensual space of opera transport us into the realm of dream?

Jean Starobinski considers the allure of several seducers and seductresses from nineteenth-century opera-Monteverdi's Poppea, Handel's Alcina, and Massenet's Manon, among others-and how their stories are woven into the fabric of Western culture. A talented storyteller and renowned critic of literature and music, Starobinski moves from musical analysis and textual exegesis to an investigation of the political, social, and aesthetic scene of Europe at the time. He traces the elements of theater, poetry, painting, sculpture, dance, and music as they occur in operatic performance, and shows how opera's use of narrative genres, especially the fairy tale, in turn influenced many important short stories, novels, and other works.

Nineteenth-century romantics were drawn to opera because of their desire to revive a religious vision of the world that the Enlightenment suppressed. Starobinski revisits the experiences of Rousseau, Stendhal, Hoffmann, Balzac, and Nietzsche, major writers who fell for opera's portrayal of "heaven," the loss of one's love, and the task of the artist, whether composer or performer. Starobinski's critical breadth and depth, as well as his eclectic taste and keen observation, echo such great comparative critics as Erich Auerbach, René Wellek, George Steiner, Harold Bloom, and Angus Fletcher. This spellbinding book will enchant not only fans of the opera, but also those who wish to understand the form's enduring heritage in Western culture.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

In this dense and thought-provoking philosophical study of a variety of operas ranging from Claudio Monteverdi's The Coronation of Poppea to Richard Strauss's Elektra , Starobinski (French literature, emeritus, Univ. of Geneva; Jean-Jacques Rosseau: Transparency and Obstruction ) weaves together classical allusions, basic musical analysis, and societal context to support his exploration of the enchantress as persona. The book also treats universal subjects such as power, wisdom, pride, and revenge within opera, with extensive references to contemporaneous and historical sources. While Starobinski does discuss various women who fit his criteria, such as Alcina and Manon in their respective eponymous works, nearly half the book is devoted to five Mozart operas; few of Mozart's characters fall into the seductress category, and Starobinski's text in these chapters is almost devoid of references to his major thesis, which contributes to diluting his premise and making the title misleading. Nonetheless, if readers can forgive these lapses and persevere, they will be rewarded with new and intriguing takes on a well-researched topic. Recommended for academic libraries and music collections supporting scholarly pursuits.-Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231140904
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
04/07/2008
Series:
European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism Series
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

Suzanne C. Nash
The originality and inestimable contribution of this book lie in the finesse, range of cultural reference, and profundity of thought that Jean Starobinski brings to his analyses of the structural translation of words into song (libretti into music) in a rich body of operatic works. Starobinski writes from a great depth of cultural knowledge, without a drop of jargon, in clear, poetically resonant prose that brings highly complex subjects alive both intellectually and aesthetically.

Dan Edelstein
Jean Starobinski is one of the most prominent literary scholars in the Francophone world, a status which he owes in no small part to his splendid writing skills. This richly literary and interdisciplinary approach to opera makes his work quite unique and very enjoyable to read.

Meet the Author

Jean Starobinski is a well-known critic of French and comparative literature, and of music, and has taught at Johns Hopkins University, the University of Basel, and the University of Geneva. His books in translation include Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Transparency and Obstruction; The Living Eye; Action and Reaction: The Life and Adventures of a Couple; and The Invention of Liberty, 1700-1789.C. Jon Delogu is professor of English at the Université Jean Moulin-Lyon III in France.

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