Melodramatic Voices: Understanding Music Drama: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Melodramatic Voices: Understanding Music Drama

1st Edition

Edited by Sarah Hibberd


314 pages

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The genre of mélodrame à grand spectacle that emerged in the boulevard theatres of Paris in the 1790s - and which was quickly exported abroad - expressed the moral struggle between good and evil through a drama of heightened emotions. Physical gesture, mise en scène and music were as important in communicating meaning and passion as spoken dialogue. The premise of this volume is the idea that the melodramatic aesthetic is central to our understanding of nineteenth-century music drama, broadly defined as spoken plays with music, operas and other hybrid genres that combine music with text and/or image. This relationship is examined closely, and its evolution in the twentieth century in selected operas, musicals and films is understood as an extension of this nineteenth-century aesthetic. The book therefore develops our understanding of opera in the context of melodrama's broader influence on musical culture during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This book will appeal to those interested in film studies, drama, theatre and modern languages as well as music and opera.


’This wide-ranging and exciting collection of essays is exactly the kind of interdisciplinary work that we have long hoped would emerge from the new histories of performing arts. Its contributors are at home in musicology and media history, in theatre and in performance studies, and the result is a new conceptualization of a long-despised genre, which is at last beginning to be understood.’ Jacky Bratton, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK 'This is an important and useful book… We venture into the territory of musical melodrama at some peril which is precisely why we should do so, if with as much caution as enthusiasm of the kind that must surely be aroused by this collection of essays.' Music and Letters

About the Editor

Sarah Hibberd is Associate Professor in the Department of Music at the University of Nottingham. Her research interests focus primarily on nineteenth-century French opera, and other forms of music theatre including melodrama, pantomime and ballet, and she has published widely on these topics, including French Grand Opera and the Historical Imagination (2009). Current projects include an examination of the cataclysmic denouements of works produced in Paris 1789-1859, and the exchanges and tensions between art, theatre and opera in nineteenth-century France.

About the Series

Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera

Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera
The Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera series provides a centralized and prominent forum for the presentation of cutting-edge scholarship that draws on numerous disciplinary approaches to a wide range of subjects associated with the creation, performance, and reception of opera (and related genres) in various historical and social contexts. There is great need for a broader approach to scholarship about opera. In recent years, the course of study has developed significantly, going beyond traditional musicological approaches to reflect new perspectives from literary criticism and comparative literature, cultural history, philosophy, art history, theatre history, gender studies, film studies, political science, philology, psycho-analysis, and medicine. The new brands of scholarship have allowed a more comprehensive interrogation of the complex nexus of means of artistic expression operative in opera, one that has meaningfully challenged prevalent historicist and formalist musical approaches. The Ashgate Interdisciplinary Studies in Opera series continues to move this important trend forward by including essay collections and monographs that reflect the ever-increasing interest in opera in non-musical contexts. Books in the series are linked by their emphasis on the study of a single genre - opera - yet are distinguished by their individualized and novel approaches by scholars from various disciplines/fields of inquiry. The remit of the series welcomes studies of seventeenth century to contemporary opera from all geographical locations, including non-Western topics.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General
MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Opera