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Lamenting and Mad Women on the Opera Stage

07.06.2011 - (idw) University of Gothenburg

In the Italian opera world of the seventeenth century, laments and mad scenes were a genre in themselves. These scenes were often the highlights of the performances and the stars were most often women. The concept of pure voice is once again in focus in a new thesis, the first of its kind in the subject Performance in Theatre and Music Drama at the Academy of Music and Drama at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. On June 1, Elisabeth Belgrano successfully defended her thesis Lasciatemi morire o farò La Finta Pazza: embodying vocal nothingness on stage in 17th century Italian and French operatic laments and mad scenes. This study describes a singers artistic research process from the very first confrontation with the musical manuscript right up until she steps out on to the floor of the stage in the instant when the performance can commence. The thesis itself is constructed like an opera libretto from the seventeenth century with a prologue, three acts and an epilogue. A dvd with music, films, narratives and pictures gives form to the three acts constituting the written part.

The musical material consists of six scenes from Italian and French music dramas from the seventeenth century, composed by Claudio Monteverdi, Francesco Sacrati, Michel Lambert och Jean-Baptiste Lully. Deidamia, beautiful Helena, Ottavia, Arianna, Ariane and Armide appear here in emotionally charged situations that demand of their interpreter a strong expressivity. The voice wanders between speech and song, sighs and cries, and between empathy in the creation of the role and the singers own personal reflections and experiences.

Another central concept in the thesis is Nothingness, which in seventeenth-century Venice came to be symbolised by amongst other things the musical creation of lamenting and mad women on the stage: the singer, her pure voice and her capacity to make the audience marvel by rapidly changing from one emotional expression to another.
Using this concept as her point of departure, Elisabeth Belgrano seeks for new ways of practically and theoretically formulating the similarities and differences between the Italian and French forms of performance. She is of the opinion that Italian music expresses that which seems impossible to express. No hesitation may affect her acting and bearing. Nothingness must be made visible in every single instant.
In the French tradition on the other hand, the sound is characterised by the longing and wonder that in one way or another circumvent Nothingness and embellish it.

This is the first thesis in the subject Performance in Theatre and Music Drama with its specialisation in music drama at the Academy for Music and Drama and also in this subject in Sweden.

Elisabeth Belgrano is a singer, educated in Gothenburg among other places. She has studied for teachers such as Emma Kirkby, Jill Feldman and Agnès Mellon. She is active in several European countries and in the United States.
Her interest in the vocal music of the seventeenth century resulted among other things in a recording in 2004 of relatively unknown French songs dedicated to the French singer Anne Chabanceau de La Barre, who was invited personally by Queen Christina to attend her court in 1654.

To the Editorial Office:

The Examiner was John Potter, singer, Ph D, Reader Emeritus, University of York, UK.

Elisabeth Belgrano can be contacted via e-mail: or via her mobile: +46-708-433260
Read more about her artistic activities:

More information: Weitere Informationen: - thesis
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