Postopera: Reinventing the Voice-Body: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Postopera: Reinventing the Voice-Body

1st Edition

By Jelena Novak


192 pages

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Paperback: 9781138504967
pub: 2017-07-27
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Hardback: 9781472441034
pub: 2015-05-28
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315601717
pub: 2016-03-09
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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.


‘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 Livingstone, 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 Stojanovic, MUSICOLOGY 22-2017

Table of Contents

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.

About the Author

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.

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 / History & Criticism
MUSIC / Genres & Styles / Opera