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The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century$
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Rachel Cowgill and Hilary Poriss

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195365870

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195365870.001.0001

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Galli-Curci Comes to Town

Galli-Curci Comes to Town

The Prima Donna’s Presence in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

(p.328) Chapter 16 Galli-Curci Comes to Town
The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century

Alexandra Wilson

Oxford University Press

This chapter investigates how the advent of commercial recordings detached voices from singers, and it explores the profound impact of this new technology on the ways in which the arts of the prima donna were conceived, evaluated, and consumed. Amelita Galli-Curci was one of the new breed of sopranos whose celebrity derived from having a good “microphone voice,” so much so that her performances in the flesh disappointed British listeners whose expectations had been formed by the recordings she had made in the early 1920s. Intriguing, here, is the sense of new criteria in the making, the cultural ramifications of converting the disembodied human voice into a material artifact and the increasingly powerful role of the “middle-man,” the promoter, agent, recording-company manager, as star-maker and taste-shaper.

Keywords:   Amelita Galli-Curci, star-maker, commercial recordings, technology, celebrity, microphone voice, expectations, criteria, disembodied, material artifact, promoter, agent

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