Rossini and the emergence of dramatic male roles in Italian and French opera

DeMarco, Laura Elizabeth.   Columbia University ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,  1998. 9838906.

Abstract (summary)

The subject of this dissertation is Gioachino Rossini's development of appropriate vocal categories to sing male heroes/lovers in serious opera. That quest was driven by the gradual disappearance in Italy in the generation before Rossini's birth of the castrato, who had dominated those roles in Italian serious opera. Given traditional operatic plots, that disappearance meant that a chasm existed in serious opera. This dissertation explores the characteristics of the castrato that had established the standards for such roles and Rossini's upbringing in the center of the opera-performing world which evidences his sophistication about that problem from the beginning of his career. Rossini's experimentation, with focus on the use of the contralto en travesti and its relation to the practices of the generation immediately preceding him, ushers in his major Italian experiments in the period during which he was based in Naples. In his Neapolitan period, the composer's experiments with the hero grew to encompass a pairing of higher and lower tenors, use of the bass, and the evolution of the travesto, all going beyond what other contemporaries and their predecessors had done. Rossini's move to Paris is preceded by an examination of the haute-contre, the voice used for operatic heroes in the French tradition, and the decline of the haute-contre from Gluck through Rossini's immediate predecessors in Paris. Rossini's acclimatization to French opera leads to the adaptations of his Italian operas Maometto II and Mose in Egitto for the Opera, including a discussion of the problems posed thereby and the solutions adopted. There follows an examination of Guillaume Tell as the culmination of Rossini's experiments, particularly the creation of the dramatic tenor and dramatic baritone roles, which were hitherto nonexistent in Italian and French opera (also included is a refutation of those who deny Rossini credit for such innovations). Rossini's methods of musical expressiveness consequently changed. The dissertation concludes with an analysis of the impact of these developments on French and Italian serious opera after Guillaume Tell.

Indexing (details)

0413: Music
Identifier / keyword
Communication and the arts; Dramatic; French; Gioacchino Rossini; Italian; Male roles; Opera; Rossini, Gioacchino
Rossini and the emergence of dramatic male roles in Italian and French opera
DeMarco, Laura Elizabeth
Number of pages
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 59/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Frisch, Walter; Gessele, Cynthia
Columbia University
University location
United States -- New York
Source type
Dissertation or Thesis
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
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