Title

Don't Look Back! A Eurydice Retrospective

Lead Author Major

Vocal Performance

Format

Oral Presentation

Faculty Mentor Name

James Haffner

Faculty Mentor Department

Conservatory of Music

Abstract/Artist Statement

The Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice was the basis for two of the earliest operas circa 1600 and has since appeared in seventy-nine operatic works. Because the story focuses on the power of music, many scholars have analyzed how the musical content of the operas represents the story’s themes and its leading male character, Orpheus. Eurydice, the leading female, has been ignored. Alexandra Amati-Camperi revealed this oversight in her 2008 article “The First Operatic Women,” which analyzes the first three operatic settings. She theorizes that Eurydice “set the standard for the feminine voice in opera” and for character traits of the leading lady as well as that composer Monteverdi started the tradition of killing sopranos by silencing all three female characters of his setting. I embarked on a survey of the Orpheus and Eurydice operas written between 1600 and 2000, narrowing down the seventy-nine operas to fourteen. I looked at libretti (or what Eurydice says), the quantity of music for Eurydice, how early she dies, and her relationships with other characters. When possible, I also used music analysis to add information about her character and her importance. I concluded that Eurydice has not come far in 400 years. Her most powerful form was in Luigi Rossi’s Orfeo of 1647, considering she avenged her own death and had no need of Orpheus. Moreover, Eurydice fits the “eternal feminine” archetype in the philosophy of gender essentialism. She is a passive, ideal female whose sole purpose in the story is to inspire her husband to produce greater art. I suggest that Eurydice sets the standard for the operatic leading lady to be an eternal feminine. However, other female archetypes appear as well, some of them stronger. Librettists and composers have the power to shape the history of female characters in opera.

Location

DeRosa University Center, Room 211

Start Date

30-4-2016 8:00 AM

End Date

30-4-2016 10:00 AM

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Apr 30th, 8:00 AM Apr 30th, 10:00 AM

Don't Look Back! A Eurydice Retrospective

DeRosa University Center, Room 211

The Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice was the basis for two of the earliest operas circa 1600 and has since appeared in seventy-nine operatic works. Because the story focuses on the power of music, many scholars have analyzed how the musical content of the operas represents the story’s themes and its leading male character, Orpheus. Eurydice, the leading female, has been ignored. Alexandra Amati-Camperi revealed this oversight in her 2008 article “The First Operatic Women,” which analyzes the first three operatic settings. She theorizes that Eurydice “set the standard for the feminine voice in opera” and for character traits of the leading lady as well as that composer Monteverdi started the tradition of killing sopranos by silencing all three female characters of his setting. I embarked on a survey of the Orpheus and Eurydice operas written between 1600 and 2000, narrowing down the seventy-nine operas to fourteen. I looked at libretti (or what Eurydice says), the quantity of music for Eurydice, how early she dies, and her relationships with other characters. When possible, I also used music analysis to add information about her character and her importance. I concluded that Eurydice has not come far in 400 years. Her most powerful form was in Luigi Rossi’s Orfeo of 1647, considering she avenged her own death and had no need of Orpheus. Moreover, Eurydice fits the “eternal feminine” archetype in the philosophy of gender essentialism. She is a passive, ideal female whose sole purpose in the story is to inspire her husband to produce greater art. I suggest that Eurydice sets the standard for the operatic leading lady to be an eternal feminine. However, other female archetypes appear as well, some of them stronger. Librettists and composers have the power to shape the history of female characters in opera.