Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Vox Eurydice: The Ascent of Female Rescuers in German-Language Opera
by Mendenhall, Margaret Ann, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2018, 307; 10792387
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation is a mythological analysis written from a feminist perspective, on the emergence of the theme of rescue stories, and specifically plots where a female heroine saves a male character, which arose in German-language opera during the roughly one hundred years that spanned the lifetimes of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven and Richard Wagner.

This paper begins with a survey of the origins of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, in which Orpheus descends to Hades in an effort to bring his beloved back to the world of the living. It then describes the creation of opera in the city-states of Italy at the turn of the seventeenth century, based on the understanding scholars of that time had of ancient Greek tragedies. It next explores how the Orpheus and Eurydice narrative was used frequently as the source material for the still nascent genre, focusing on Monteverdi’s Orfeo and Gluck’s Orfeo ed Eurydice. Following this, it considers the parallel development of the artform in the German-speaking territories of Europe. Finally, it analyzes the German-language compositions of Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner using the Orpheus and Eurydice myth to interpret them from Eurydice’s perspective, or the Vox Eurydice.

This writing explores how the German-language works of these three musical giants grew out of the rescue story paradigm, as an extension of Italian opera buffa and French opéra comique. This is reflected in Mozart’s Singspiele and Beethoven’s one completed opera, Fidelio, considered the epitome of the German-language rescue opera. It then goes on to examine Wagner’s oeuvre, not only his ten mature masterpieces, but also three earlier operas and his unfinished pieces. This writing also suggests that the need for the ascent of the female rescuer in German-language opera was unconsciously tied into the desire of the people of the German-speaking territories for a homeland, and how the presence of the Orpheus-Eurydice archetype subsided soon after a German nation was established in 1871.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Downing, Christine
Commitee: Haas, Melinda, Smith, Evans Lansing
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Mythological Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 79/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Music history, Womens studies
Keywords: Beethoven, Ludwig van, Female characters in opera, German-language opera, Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, Orpheus and Eurydice, Wagner, Richard
Publication Number: 10792387
ISBN: 9780355856385
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