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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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Interlude The Prima Donna Creates

Interlude The Prima Donna Creates

(p.115) Interlude The Prima Donna Creates
The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century

Julian Rushton

Oxford University Press

This brief, reflective interlude addresses the singer’s relationship to the notion of “creation,” understood here both as an artistic attribute associated by convention more with the composer than the performer, and—drawing on dictionary definitions of “prima donna”—as a capricious mode of behavior or stereotype. More specifically, the chapter highlights the manner in which individual prima donnas have established and/or produced authoritative interpretations of key operatic roles, and the ways in which their personalities have been bound up with and continue to influence the performance of these roles by later generations. The chapter closes by citing a model of female agency—the disguised heroine Leonore, as depicted through Beethoven’s dynamic setting of “Komm, Hoffnung, lass den letzten Stern” in his opera Fidelio.

Keywords:   creation, convention, composer, performer, capricious, stereotype, authoritative interpretations, roles, agency

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