1st Edition

Opera on the Couch Music, Emotional Life, and Unconscious Aspects of Mind

Edited By Steven H. Goldberg, Lee Rather Copyright 2022
    240 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    240 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In this widely ranging collection of essays, a group of contemporary psychoanalyst/authors turn their finely-honed listening skills and clinical experience to plumb the depths and illuminate themes of character, drama, myth, culture, and psychobiography in some of the world’s most beloved operas.

    The richly diverse chapters are unified by a psychoanalytic approach to the nuances of unconscious mental life and emotional experience as they unfold synergistically in opera’s music, words, and drama. Opera creates a unique bridge between thought and feeling, mind and body, and conscious and unconscious that offers fertile ground for psychological exploration of profound human truths.

    Each piece is written in a colorful and non-technical manner that will appeal to mental health professionals, musicians, academics, and general readers wishing to better understand and appreciate opera as an art form.

    Notes on contributors


    1. Psychoanalysis and Opera: A Felicitous Match

    Steven H. Goldberg & Lee Rather

    2. The Internal World of Don Giovanni

    Richard Rusbridger

    3. Across the Great Divide: Reflections on the Moral Reversal in Mozart’s The Magic


    Lee Rather

    4. Lucia di Lammermoor: An Intersection of the Oral and Aural Roads

    Julie Jaffee Nagel

    5. Transformation through the Other: Senta and The Flying Dutchman

    L. Eileen Keller

    6. The Orpheus of All Secret Misery; The Expression of Profound Grief in Wagner’s

    Tristan und Isolde

    John J. H. Muller IV

    7. The Dark Matter of Wagner’s Dream: Chaos and Creativity in Die Meistersinger von


    Jeanne C. Harasemovitch

    8. Evil as Sadistic Perversion in Tosca

    Amy Tyson

    9. Sliding Walls and Glimpses of the Other in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly

    Steven H. Goldberg

    10. Elektra: Traumatic loss and the Impossibility of Mourning

    Catherine Mallouh

    11. Yearning for Intimacy: Bela Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle Anna Balas MD

    12. Reflections on Applied Analysis and a Secret Program in Alban Berg's Wozzeck

    Ralph Beaumont

    13. Janáček’s Eternal Feminine: The Makropulos Affair

    Adele Tutter

    14. Billy Budd: A Study in Envy and Repression

    Milton Schaefer

    15. Sendak and Knussen’s Where the Wild Things Are: A Developmental Journey

    Debbie Hindle




    Steven H. Goldberg, M.D., is a training and supervising analyst at the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis, and a personal and supervising analyst at the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California. In addition to many publications, he has co-chaired Opera on the Couch in collaboration with the San Francisco Opera.

    Lee Rather, Ph.D., is a personal and supervising analyst at the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California and a faculty at the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis. As a teacher, presenter, and writer he has a long-time interest in the unconscious aspects of creativity in music, literature, and the arts.

    ‘Goldberg and Rather have compiled an operatic and psychoanalytic treat for lovers of opera. Their imaginative and scholarly introduction demonstrates how much the two disciplines share in common. Every psychoanalytic session has something of an opera about it, and the music and drama of every opera tells a psychological tale. Readers will have their appreciation of both disciplines deepened and much enhanced’

    Francis J. Grier. Composer. Training Analyst and Supervisor, British Psychoanalytic Society. Regional Editor (UK) & Editor-In-Chief Elect, International Journal of Psychoanalysis

    ‘Opera lovers have long known that the most direct path to the psyche is via the complex interplay of extraordinary music and profound human experiences depicted in the great operas. Psychoanalytic thinkers have pondered the connection over many decades. It is a great delight to read this extraordinary new volume that so masterfully brings together heart and the mind. Therapists, music lovers, and historians will love it!’

    Glen O. Gabbard, M.D. Baylor College of Medicine; Training and Supervising Analyst. Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, Houston, TX.

    ‘Like fairy tales or myths brought to life, opera touches deep levels of our understanding. This thoughtful collection of papers bringing opera and psychoanalysis together shows much about why this is so. While the themes of individual operas are illuminated by erudite psychoanalytic commentary, the understanding of the interplay of words and music in opera enhances a grasp of the interplay between verbal and non-verbal, conscious and unconscious in analysis. A pleasure to read.’

    Lucy LaFarge, M.D. Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College. Editor in Chief, The Psychoanalytic Quarterly