Chapter

“Every Word Made Flesh”

Mary Ann Smart

in Mimomania

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9780520239951
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520939875 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520239951.003.0004
“Every Word Made Flesh”

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In both Robert le diable (1831) and Les Huguenots (1836), Giacomo Meyerbeer had treated religious subjects in a resolutely mundane and material vein. Certainly, Les Huguenots was a shining example of the opera's commitment to a kind of visual materialism. It focuses on the religious strife between Catholics and Protestants leading up to the Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre of 1572. It is tempting to argue that the opera is not about religion at all but rather about voyeurism, its dramaturgy propelled by a poetics of surreptitious looking and listening. This chapter explores the apparent contradiction between the libretto's intermittent endorsements of absence and invisibility and the insistent “fleshiness” of Meyerbeer's music. A quest for “embodiment” or the “word made flesh” in Meyerbeer's music might begin with instances of the melodrama-style orchestral music seen in La Muette de Portici. In the context of the chapter's inquiry into music and gesture as a whole, Meyerbeer's portrait of the character Marcel is a crucial case, making explicit the links between “miming music” and the charisma of physical presence.

Keywords: Robert le diable; Les Huguenots; Giacomo Meyerbeer; opera; visual materialism; gesture; absence; invisibility; embodiment; miming

Chapter.  8591 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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