Priming spectators for Pirandello's Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore (1921) through Puccini, 1884

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

A focus on violence and aggression―in the form of self-harm and murder enacted by Puccini’s suffering heroines―opens up common ground between Puccini and Pirandello if we consider the period of Puccini’s output from the first-night performance in Rome of Tosca in 1899 onwards. Forthwith, the concentration and frequency with which opera spectators were confronted with his suffering heroines committing murder (in the case of Tosca) and enacting self-harm immediately before bringing the curtain down, was unprecedented in theatre auditoriums up until the year of his death in 1924. Moreover, coincidentally, it was in this year that Puccini had finished composing the music for his secondary, partially-invented character in Turandot, the slave girl, Liù, who commits suicide by stabbing herself with a dagger out of love for the hero, so as not to reveal his name to the Princess. I argue in this piece that even though Puccini’s realist operatic productions were set in far-off places and in the (sometimes distant) past, his on-stage candid and recurring leitmotif of the heroine’s self-violence ‘primed’ Rome’s spectators for the shock of the removal of the fourth wall, and the 'alienation' (anticipating Brecht) with which they were met on the first night of Sei personaggi at the Teatro Valle in 1921; and, more importantly, for the violence and aggression at the end of the third act: that is, the Little Girl drowning, and the Boy shooting himself with a gun. Such high-intensity melodrama and brutality, with the sung words and accompanying music to anaesthetize the effect stripped away, would have undoubtedly challenged spectators in ways that had not occurred previously in the spoken performance tradition. However, as I also argue here, were it not for Puccini’s brazen depictions of female self-harm and murder from 1899 onwards, the challenge to spectators would have been greater.
LanguageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalPirandello Studies
Volume37
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2017

Fingerprint

Spectator
Priming
Heroine
Harm
Murder
Rome
Night
Aggression
Music
Alienation
Slaves
Brutality
Boys
Melodrama
Drowning
Composing
Suicide
Names
Curtain
Onstage

Keywords

  • Pirandello
  • Puccini
  • opera

Cite this

@article{6f8549c8c1174c6bbb51a77777e00ba4,
title = "Priming spectators for Pirandello's Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore (1921) through Puccini, 1884",
abstract = "A focus on violence and aggression―in the form of self-harm and murder enacted by Puccini’s suffering heroines―opens up common ground between Puccini and Pirandello if we consider the period of Puccini’s output from the first-night performance in Rome of Tosca in 1899 onwards. Forthwith, the concentration and frequency with which opera spectators were confronted with his suffering heroines committing murder (in the case of Tosca) and enacting self-harm immediately before bringing the curtain down, was unprecedented in theatre auditoriums up until the year of his death in 1924. Moreover, coincidentally, it was in this year that Puccini had finished composing the music for his secondary, partially-invented character in Turandot, the slave girl, Li{\`u}, who commits suicide by stabbing herself with a dagger out of love for the hero, so as not to reveal his name to the Princess. I argue in this piece that even though Puccini’s realist operatic productions were set in far-off places and in the (sometimes distant) past, his on-stage candid and recurring leitmotif of the heroine’s self-violence ‘primed’ Rome’s spectators for the shock of the removal of the fourth wall, and the 'alienation' (anticipating Brecht) with which they were met on the first night of Sei personaggi at the Teatro Valle in 1921; and, more importantly, for the violence and aggression at the end of the third act: that is, the Little Girl drowning, and the Boy shooting himself with a gun. Such high-intensity melodrama and brutality, with the sung words and accompanying music to anaesthetize the effect stripped away, would have undoubtedly challenged spectators in ways that had not occurred previously in the spoken performance tradition. However, as I also argue here, were it not for Puccini’s brazen depictions of female self-harm and murder from 1899 onwards, the challenge to spectators would have been greater.",
keywords = "Pirandello, Puccini, opera",
author = "Katharine Mitchell",
year = "2017",
month = "11",
day = "30",
language = "English",
volume = "37",
journal = "Pirandello Studies",
issn = "1471-9363",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Priming spectators for Pirandello's Sei personaggi in cerca d’autore (1921) through Puccini, 1884

AU - Mitchell, Katharine

PY - 2017/11/30

Y1 - 2017/11/30

N2 - A focus on violence and aggression―in the form of self-harm and murder enacted by Puccini’s suffering heroines―opens up common ground between Puccini and Pirandello if we consider the period of Puccini’s output from the first-night performance in Rome of Tosca in 1899 onwards. Forthwith, the concentration and frequency with which opera spectators were confronted with his suffering heroines committing murder (in the case of Tosca) and enacting self-harm immediately before bringing the curtain down, was unprecedented in theatre auditoriums up until the year of his death in 1924. Moreover, coincidentally, it was in this year that Puccini had finished composing the music for his secondary, partially-invented character in Turandot, the slave girl, Liù, who commits suicide by stabbing herself with a dagger out of love for the hero, so as not to reveal his name to the Princess. I argue in this piece that even though Puccini’s realist operatic productions were set in far-off places and in the (sometimes distant) past, his on-stage candid and recurring leitmotif of the heroine’s self-violence ‘primed’ Rome’s spectators for the shock of the removal of the fourth wall, and the 'alienation' (anticipating Brecht) with which they were met on the first night of Sei personaggi at the Teatro Valle in 1921; and, more importantly, for the violence and aggression at the end of the third act: that is, the Little Girl drowning, and the Boy shooting himself with a gun. Such high-intensity melodrama and brutality, with the sung words and accompanying music to anaesthetize the effect stripped away, would have undoubtedly challenged spectators in ways that had not occurred previously in the spoken performance tradition. However, as I also argue here, were it not for Puccini’s brazen depictions of female self-harm and murder from 1899 onwards, the challenge to spectators would have been greater.

AB - A focus on violence and aggression―in the form of self-harm and murder enacted by Puccini’s suffering heroines―opens up common ground between Puccini and Pirandello if we consider the period of Puccini’s output from the first-night performance in Rome of Tosca in 1899 onwards. Forthwith, the concentration and frequency with which opera spectators were confronted with his suffering heroines committing murder (in the case of Tosca) and enacting self-harm immediately before bringing the curtain down, was unprecedented in theatre auditoriums up until the year of his death in 1924. Moreover, coincidentally, it was in this year that Puccini had finished composing the music for his secondary, partially-invented character in Turandot, the slave girl, Liù, who commits suicide by stabbing herself with a dagger out of love for the hero, so as not to reveal his name to the Princess. I argue in this piece that even though Puccini’s realist operatic productions were set in far-off places and in the (sometimes distant) past, his on-stage candid and recurring leitmotif of the heroine’s self-violence ‘primed’ Rome’s spectators for the shock of the removal of the fourth wall, and the 'alienation' (anticipating Brecht) with which they were met on the first night of Sei personaggi at the Teatro Valle in 1921; and, more importantly, for the violence and aggression at the end of the third act: that is, the Little Girl drowning, and the Boy shooting himself with a gun. Such high-intensity melodrama and brutality, with the sung words and accompanying music to anaesthetize the effect stripped away, would have undoubtedly challenged spectators in ways that had not occurred previously in the spoken performance tradition. However, as I also argue here, were it not for Puccini’s brazen depictions of female self-harm and murder from 1899 onwards, the challenge to spectators would have been greater.

KW - Pirandello

KW - Puccini

KW - opera

M3 - Article

VL - 37

JO - Pirandello Studies

T2 - Pirandello Studies

JF - Pirandello Studies

SN - 1471-9363

ER -