lu.se

Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet

Deconstructed opera & operaimprovisation - a comparison of two contrary concepts and their influence on opera singers and audience

Susanne Ronner Larsson

In recent decades there has been a shift of perception of how opera can and should be performed. New concepts have contributed to new ways of experiencing a performance. Performers and spectators have been liberated from traditional hierarchies and are now allowed to be co-creators of their own aesthetic experiences. To the artist it has become increasingly necessary to explore the creative dimension of a musical performance to obtain new tools to be able to respond to and implement new concepts. The creative opera singer is in the moment of performance as well performing artist, listener as composer - a presentational state where body and mind are interplaying.

The experience of the phenomena of performing in the presentational state - instead of in the re-presentational state - and the simultaneously ongoing process of constructing the identity of being an opera singer, will be discussed from a life-world phenomenological perspective. Here central concepts such as the creating of intersubjective meaning through the interaction of mind and body are important as well as Merleau-Ponty’s speech theory – that knowledge and skills can be incorporated into the body and then act spontaneously.

In this presentation the concepts deconstructed opera (John Cage’s Europeras 1&2) and opera improvisation (as performed today) and their influence on the opera singers, as well as on the audience, will be presented and compared with the traditional way of performing operas. The outcome of this study shows, that the two contrary concepts ”deconstructed opera” and “opera improvisation” can be used as a pedagogical tools as they have the same positive influence on the opera singer. By directing the focus on new tasks the opera singer will be able to loosen the “control system” (mostly preoccupied with vocal technique and constructing the identity of being an opera singer) and get a free space that can promote not only the artistic statement but also the singing technique. This experience of body and mind in interplay is for all concepts of opera of great importance.

As opera performance could be understood as a communication model in which a series of coded messages are transmitted, received and decoded of their meanings, the different opera concepts will also be compared from a semiotic point of view.  Here the impact of opera as Gesamtkunstwerk - where the purpose with all transmitted messages is to reinforce one statement, and the deconstructed opera - where all messages are released from their context, will be discussed.