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Opera's 'Wicked Women': The Presence of Female Type in the Bible and its Translation to the Stage

Spencer, Zoe (2015) Opera's 'Wicked Women': The Presence of Female Type in the Bible and its Translation to the Stage. MA by research thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

Throughout the Christian Bible and accompanying religious scriptures, female characters display common, defining traits, that mean they fall into certain ‘categories’ or types of woman. The relatively small quantity of female character profiles found in Christian scripture are continued in art-forms throughout history – in this thesis, opera will be the chosen medium. The fates of operatic heroines and biblical female characters are often extremely similar; therefore, it is interesting to see what happens dramatically when the two worlds collide. Both the Bible and opera as an art-form seem to fixate upon the ideas of the female victim, the dangerous femme fatale, and, to a lesser extent, the heroic woman. These tropes, which take different and numerous forms and guises within the Bible, are explored musically on stage. Through elements of the operas I have chosen, such as musical interaction, character profiling, and specific staging, I will address the issues facing women who inhabit the pages of the Bible and its various Apocrypha. The works that have been selected for study contain one significant, and often problematical, female character. In this thesis, I will focus on four case studies composed within sixty years of each other, around the late 19th century/early 20th century. These works are Hagith, by Karol Szymanowski, Samson et Dalila by Saint-Saëns, Judith by Serov, and Salome, the product of Strauss’s music and Wilde’s text. With these operas, I will endeavour to show how the problems faced by biblical female characters are translated to stage versions of their original tales, and how inevitable these women’s fates seem when the combination of opera and biblical story is so potent.

Item Type: Thesis (MA by research)
Academic Units: The University of York > Music (York)
Depositing User: Miss Zoe Spencer
Date Deposited: 16 Aug 2016 09:08
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2016 09:08
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/13744

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