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The Angel's Cry : Beyond the Pleasure Principle in Opera (Hardcover)

Author: Poizat, Michel

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Is "passion" too strong a word to describe what drives people to stand outdoors for a dozen hours or more, regardless of the weather, to purchase fold-out seats behind the upper-tier boxes for a performance of Tristan und Isolde? Not at all, says Michel Poizat, who here guides his readers on a voyage to discover why opera rewards its devotees with such profound pleasure, mingled with equally powerful feelings of horror and loss. His fascinating book, first published in French in 1986, is now available in Arthur Denner's fluid and sensitive English translation. Predictably, Poizat's route is not at all a conventional one. Rather than taking as his point of departure the intentions of composers and librettists, he is primarily concerned with the expectations and desires of the audience. He reports on an informal group interview with overnight standees on the Paris Opera House steps as they compare notes on how opera became an addiction. They are there for a "fix", they agree. How, Poizat asks, does this "monstrous phenomenon", which stretches its interpreters to their absolute limits, captivate its audience, making them oblivious of hard seats or overheated halls and eliciting copious and unashamed tears? Poizat sees the history of opera in terms of the evolution of the voice from song to cry, from verbal expressions of emotion to such wordless outbursts as Lulu's final scream at the end of Alban Berg's opera. Calling on the insights and methods of Lacanian psychoanalysis, he distinguishes mere pleasure from jouissance--pleasure being the joy experienced when one's expectations are satisfied, and jouissance, the climactic high beyond self-control. For Poizat, the quarrel between Gluckistsand Piccinists, the disputes among composers as to which is more important, "le parole" or "la musica", become examples that demonstrate or underscore the differences between pleasure and jouissance. What is the sound of the angel's cry? Poizat believes that the voice-object stands for that which is irrevocably lost. Hence our fascination with castrati, whose voice-type will never again be heard. He discusses the role of this high, sexless "angel" voice in the Mozarabic church, as well as the gender confusions of baroque opera and the shift, originating with Mozart, of the angel-voice from male to female performers. Startling in its observations, The Angel's Cry is both daring and playful. It will surprise and delight any opera aficionado, and other lovers of music will also find it wonderfully enlightening.


Publisher Cornell Univ Pr
Mfg Part# 9780801423888
SKU 202461143
Format Hardcover
ISBN10 0801423880
Release Date 6/11/2013
$70.90 + free shipping
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