Opera, Or, the Undoing of Women

Catherine Clement, Author University of Minnesota Press $29.5 (201p) ISBN 978-0-8166-1653-4
Writing with brio and bravura that a novelist might envy, French literary critic Clement, coauthor of The Newly Born Woman, initiates a feminist critique of music with what many will perceive as a highly selective, naive and obvious analysis of the political agenda of opera, examining its origins, artists and especially its plots. Clement, clearly a lover of opera, points out that ``Reading the texts . . . I found to my fear and horror, words that killed, words that told every time of women's undoing.'' Woman attains her ``glorious moment'' only in singing of her own destructiona sung death toward which, almost invariably, the entire plot progresses. Butterfly kills herself. Carmen is murdered. Mimi the invalid is preparing for her death almost from the beginning of La Boheme but her lover ``sees nothing.'' Lucia di Lammermoor is only the most memorable of an archetypal woman driven to madness. Women who refuse the roles assigned to them by men are plunged into suffering and death. That this misogynist creed is virtually ignored in favor of attending ``only'' to the exquisite music that promotes it renders the effects all the more insidious, claims Clement. She does concede the existence of male victims, but notes that they are ``madmen, Negroes, and jesters'' who do not figure as ``real men'' in the cosmology of opera. (October)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
Paperback - 201 pages - 978-0-8166-1655-8
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