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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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Staging Scandal with Salome and Elektra

Staging Scandal with Salome and Elektra

(p.61) Chapter 4 Staging Scandal with Salome and Elektra
The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century

Joy H. Calico

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores how media served to filter the prima donna’s public image in the nineteenth century. Specifically, the chapter focuses on the scandals that surrounded the premieres of Richard Strauss’s Salome and Elektra, and the manner in which the women who participated in these productions manipulated press reviews and publicity photographs in order to shield themselves from, and in some cases embrace the unflattering shadow of disgrace that these operas—their music and their narratives—were able to cast. Marie Wittich (the first Salome), Annie Krull (the first Elektra), and Ernestine Schumann-Heink (the first Klytaemnestra) did not sit passively by and allow their characters’ negative images to influence their public personas. Rather, the chapter argues, these prima donnas confronted potentially damaging associations with carefully constructed personal narratives, providing the public with glimpses of their private lives that were intended to distance them from their characters, the virtuous from the villainous.

Keywords:   media, scandals, Strauss, Salome, Elektra, Marie Wittich, Annie Krull, Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Klytaemnestra

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