Simon Williams

in The Oxford Handbook of Opera

Published in print November 2014 | ISBN: 9780195335538
Published online April 2015 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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Acting and singing have often been considered incompatible activities, but most successful operatic performances depend in part on successful acting. Acting in opera is, however, different from acting in spoken drama. Realistic characterization is often difficult to achieve when acting with music, and often the formal gestures of a more rhetorical representation are more appropriate. A more vivid style of acting was initiated with the bel canto opera early in the nineteenth century, and later verismo opera required acting that brought out the unconscious motivation of characters. Wagner, Stanislavski, and Felsenstein all developed a style of acting that reflected the psychology of the character and encouraged ensemble. Modern operatic performance incorporates a variety of styles, but a combination of realism and minimalism may be most effective on stage. Callas’s performance in Act 2 of Tosca and Nicholas Lehnhoff’s production of Parsifal are analyzed.

Keywords: acting; representation; characterization; realism; gesture; rhetoric; bel canto; verismo; minimalism

Article.  9367 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Musicology and Music History ; Music and Media

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