1st Edition

Postopera: Reinventing the Voice-Body

By Jelena Novak Copyright 2015
    192 Pages
    by Routledge

    192 Pages
    by Routledge

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    Both in opera studies and in most operatic works, the singing body is often taken for granted. In Postopera: Reinventing the Voice-Body, Jelena Novak reintroduces an awareness of the physicality of the singing body to opera studies. Arguing that the voice-body relationship itself is a producer of meaning, she furthermore posits this relationship as one of the major driving forces in recent opera. She takes as her focus six contemporary operas - La Belle et la Bête (Philip Glass), Writing to Vermeer (Louis Andriessen, Peter Greenaway), Three Tales (Steve Reich, Beryl Korot), One (Michel van der Aa), Homeland (Laurie Anderson), and La Commedia (Louis Andriessen, Hal Hartley) - which she terms 'postoperas'. These pieces are sites for creative exploration, where the boundaries of the opera world are stretched. Central to this is the impact of new media, a de-synchronization between image and sound, or a redefinition of body-voice-gender relationships. Novak dissects the singing body as a set of rules, protocols, effects, and strategies. That dissection shows how the singing body acts within the world of opera, what interventions it makes, and how it constitutes opera’s meanings.

    Contents: Foreword, Louis Andriessen. Part I Focusing on Body Singing: Postopera and vocalic body; Body-voice gap, postopera and body/voice theory. Part II Voices Beyond Corporeality: Performing Singing as Upgrading: Singing beyond the body: uniqueness, intruder and prosthesis; Monstrous singing: the politics of vocal existence. Part III Throwing the Voice, Catching the Body: Opera, Ventriloquism, and De-Synchronization: Operatizing the film: body without voice and voice without body; Singing letters, multiplied bodies, and dissociated voice. Part IV Singing Gender as a Performance: Voice and gender standing apart; Vocal drag, counter-castrato, and the scandal of the singing body. Reinventing the vocalic body in postopera: conclusion. Bibliography; Index.


    Jelena Novak works in the area of musicology, opera studies, performance studies, dramaturgy and criticism. She is a postdoctoral research fellow at CESEM (Centro de Estudos de Sociologia e Estética Musical), New University of Lisbon, Portugal with the project 'Opera beyond Drama.' She has been a founding committee member of the Society for Minimalist Music and a founding member of the editorial collective TkH (Walking Theory). In 2013 she won the Thurnau Award for Music-Theatre Studies.

    ‘Novak’s scholarship is admirable: wide-ranging, impressively theorized, and distinctly original. … This book promises to make a genuine impact on contemporary opera studies.’

    Richard Leppert, University of Minnesota, USA

    '...an impressive stride towards an updated approach to opera studies...'

    Rebecca Lentjes, Tempo

    'Jelena Novak succeeds in bringing together theoretical discussions about corporeality and voice with the knowledge of musicology, theatre sciences, philosophic and cultural studies. She gives a substantiated theory of body and voice in music theatre, combined with the explanation of theoretical texts and detailed description and analysis of the operas.'

    Katrin Stöck, New Sound

    'As a collection of thoughtful, insightful ‘readings’ of problematic and challenging contemporary works – works which purposefully frustrate listeners’ expectations and seem often to revel in the discomfort they produce – Postopera is an ambitious exercise in interdisciplinarity, drawing on theoretical apparatuses from other fields to develop new critical theory for the emerging field of contemporary opera studies.'

    Cecilia Livingston, Cambridge Opera Journal

    '...an important link in the analysis and understanding of contemporary musical-theatre praxes...'

    Gregor Pompe, Maska

    "This volume makes a singular and exemplary contribution to the discussion of the singing body and its meaning to readers and audiences through the recent appraisal of the phenomenon of ‘postopera’. Once readers unpack the key terms ‘postopera’ and ‘voice-body’ from the book’s title, the work becomes accessible as it is clearly written and convincingly argued."

    Pamela Karantonis, Bath Spa University

    "By cutting through, across and beyond body, voice, performance and theatre studies, Jelena Novak’s book Postopera: Reinventing the Voice-Body positions itself at the center of the contemporary operatic theory; it can be recommended both to professionals and to those who are yet to delve into the transdisciplinary field of voice studies."

    Dragana Stojanović, MUSICOLOGY 22-2017

    "This is a thoroughly researched study, which works deeply in conjunction and in reference to the major theoretical contributors to the post-structuralistvoice-materiality discourse...Overall, this book presents sound insights into specific contemporary operas, for which there is currently a dearth of scholarship."

    Miriama Young, The University of Melbourne