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Vocal Victories

Wagner’s Female Characters from Senta to Kundry

Vocal Victories is the first musicological comparison of all of Richard Wagner?s great female characters. It has long been customary to view them and other opera heroines as victims, because the women, as a rule, perish during the plot of the opera. A closer study of the music of the women reveals, however, that it is in the female characters that the new and groundbreaking musical material comes into being, and that the women are far more in command of the development of the works than a superficial view will show. The book claims that Wagner was far ahead of his time in terms of equality between the sexes, and the musicological analyses are supported by the composer?s own writings.

431 pages | 6 1/2 x 9 1/4 | © 2011

Music: General Music

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Table of Contents

    A snapshot
    Wagner on stage

Senta. Der fliegende Holländer
Form Heine to Wagner
    The performative ballad
    Senta’s song—germ of the opera
    Schröder-Devrient and Fidelio
    Gender and female characters in Der fliegende Holländer
Elisabeth and Venus. Tannhäuser
Between Der fliegende Holländer and Lohengrin
    The progressive music of the Venusberg
    Song to Venus
    Elisabeth as active onlooker
    Venus as puppeteer
    Gender and female characters in Tannhäuser
Elsa and Ortrud. Lohengrin
Folktale and tragedy
    Elsa’s dream and the forbidden question
    Ortrud the serpent
    Power of the body
    Elsa’s and Ortrud’s fatal synthesis
    Two interpretations: Nattiez and Cicora
    Gender and female characters in Lohengrin
Brünnhilde. Der Ring des Nibelungen
    Wagner’s aesthetic
    The ’effeminate’ Wagner
    Wagner’s interpretation of the Oedipus myth
    The genesis of the work
Selected interpretations
Catherine Clément—structuralism
    Critique of Clément
    Leopold: text versus music
    Nattiez and the growing domination of the music-woman
    Abbate on the sibyl’s final song
    Brünnhilde’s laughter in Abbate’s ears
    Summing up
Feminising of the Renunciation of Love motif
    Tonal relations
    Oper und Drama as interpretative strategy
    Brünnhilde takes control of Wotan’s enterprise
    The other women in Der Ring des Nibelungen
    The dissonant incest of the twins
    How the symbols of the Ring change hands
    Struggle for a feminine ending
    Gender and female characters in Der Ring des Nibelungen
Isolde. Tristan und Isolde
Brünnhilde versus Isolde
    Isolde’s power over Tristan
    The music and the woman
    The second death
    Isolde’s Liebestod: woman’s ruin
    —Or triumph?
    The endless melody
    The Gesamtmelodie
    Through Isolde’s eyes
    The ’Tristan chord’
    Gender and female characters in Tristan und Isolde
Eva. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Background Master’s mistress courting
    Where the shoe pinches
    Birth of the drama in the overture
    The Tristan und Isolde theme
    Gender and female characters in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Kundry. Parsifal
From Wolfram to Wagner
    Act 1: The original woman, Eve
    Act 2: Courtesan Mary Magdalene
    Act 3: Pure Virgin Mary
    Visual dialectics of the score
    Wagner’s final opera triad
    Fear of woman—fear of death
    The Good Friday Music
    Kundry’s A minor death
    Gathering the threads
    Gender and female characters in Parsifal

    Musical Scores

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