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The Rival Sirens
Performance and Identity on Handel's Operatic Stage

$113.00 (C)

Part of Cambridge Studies in Opera

  • Date Published: May 2013
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107033375

$ 113.00 (C)

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About the Authors
  • The tale of the onstage fight between prima donnas Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni is notorious, appearing in music histories to this day, but it is a fiction. Starting from this misunderstanding, The Rival Sirens suggests that the rivalry fostered between the singers in 1720s London was in large part a social construction, one conditioned by local theatrical context and audience expectations, and heightened by manipulations of plot and music. This book offers readings of operas by Handel and Bononcini as performance events, inflected by the audience's perceptions of singer persona and contemporary theatrical and cultural contexts. Through examining the case of these two women, Suzanne Aspden demonstrates that the personae of star performers, as well as their voices, were of crucial importance in determining the shape of an opera during the early part of the eighteenth century.

    • Proposes a new view of the intertwined roles of cultural context, audiences and performers in creating eighteenth-century opera
    • Opens up new interpretative possibilities for understanding the creation of eighteenth-century opera in general
    • Interprets music through its function as theatrical performance, offering the reader a tool for interpretation of eighteenth-century opera beyond the formalist approach, which has restricted appreciation of the genre
    • Offers a new approach to Handel's operas, centred on theatrical context, helping readers form a clearer appreciation of the cultural functions of his operas
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "… uses the largely fictitious rivalry between opera divas Francesca Cuzzoni (1696–1778) and Faustina Bordoni (1697–1781) as the departure point for investigating identity and concepts of self in 18th century theatre and opera seria … Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty."
    S. C. Champagne, Choice

    "Aspden brings new insights to the Cuzzoni/Bordoni operas and to opera seria of the early eighteenth century through her study of sources relating to spoken drama and acting."
    Angela Escott, Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Theatre Research

    "This account should appeal to those with an interest in the role of women in the operatic world of the 1720s. The author draws together threads from an impressive range of sources … this is a good read for the sophisticated Handel opera enthusiast."
    Ursula Brett, The Consort

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2013
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107033375
    • length: 308 pages
    • dimensions: 244 x 170 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.69kg
    • contains: 9 b/w illus. 54 music examples
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The character of the actress
    2. 'Heroick virtue' in Rodelinda and Astianatte
    3. Identification and illusion in Alessandro and Admeto
    4. Balancing power in Riccardo Primo
    5. Senesino and the crisis of heroic masculinity
    6. The ornamental voice.

  • Author

    Suzanne Aspden, University of Oxford
    Suzanne Aspden is a lecturer in the Faculty of Music at the University of Oxford. As a leading Handel scholar, she has made numerous appearances on BBC Radio and Television and has been the co-editor of the Cambridge Opera Journal since 2009. Her research interests include opera and identity politics in music, and she has been awarded a number of fellowships in the US, UK and India. She has published articles in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, Musical Quarterly, the Journal of the Royal Music Association and the Cambridge Opera Journal and is co-editor, with Michael Burden, of a forthcoming book on Cavalli's Erismena.

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