"Life Is Strife": American Operatic Heroines During the Cold War
Hershberger, Monica A.
MetadataShow full item record
CitationHershberger, Monica A. 2017. "Life Is Strife": American Operatic Heroines During the Cold War. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractAmerican opera—meaning opera written in English by composers in the United States—experienced unparalleled popularity after World War II. In this dissertation, I argue that by centering on the struggles of American women both real and imagined, a number of composers, librettists, and perhaps most importantly, sopranos, revitalized opera in and of the United States. Suddenly, American opera flourished in opera houses, on Broadway, in universities and conservatories, and on television. Combining extensive archival research, close musical and textual analysis, oral history, and reception history, I investigate and prioritize the voices and stories of the women in and of American opera. I examine Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein’s The Mother of Us All (1947), Gian-Carlo Menotti’s The Consul (1950), Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah (1955), and Jack Beeson, Kenward Elmslie, and Richard Plant’s Lizzie Borden: A Family Portrait (1965), four operas that revolve around compelling heroines. I approach these works as both texts and as lived experiences, and I argue that through them and from a variety of feminist vantage points including those illuminated by American sopranos, we can see how on stage and off, American women often uttered and embodied the complex quest for national identity that accompanied the Cold War in the United States. By focusing on the way national and feminist identities sometimes collude and at other times collide in these operas and on their heroines, I show how we may better understand operatic authorship, American opera as a genre, the nature of American composition and performance within the context of the Cold War, the culture of the Cold War more broadly, and the advent of modern feminism.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41141521
- FAS Theses and Dissertations