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Placanica F.
Twentieth-Century Music
Recital i (for Cathy): A Drama 'Through the Voice'
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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2018. Work on this article began as a contribution to a wider discussion of twentieth-century music theatre, and in particular a genre in the category of twentieth-century musical monodramas - one-act staged monologues with, or in music for, one performer.1 My current research focuses on the genesis and performance tradition of works composed for solo female singer, and raises questions about the creative agency of the performer in the making of such works, reflecting on matters such as subjectivity, voice, and identity.2 If this outlook may slightly drift from a conventional narrative springing from the composer's voice, a critical investigation of the collaborative process foregrounding the genealogy of some of these works is compelling, especially since every composer who embarked on this 'genre', or compositional topos, inflected it in idiosyncratic ways. In works such as Erwartung, La Voix humaine, The Testament of Eve, Neither, and La machine de l'être, the performative voice of the female soloist to whom the work was tailored became a generative element capable of shaping the formal, musical, and dramaturgical material.3 Examination of selected case studies, focusing especially on the creative and performative processes surrounding these works, triggers an array of questions about gender politics. More importantly, transversal insight into the making of these works and their performativity reveals the interconnected nature of the two phases of creation and performance. In musical monodrama, more than in larger forms of music theatre, the two processes interweave and depend on each other; reconstructing the performative genealogy of the 'work' reveals an intrinsic impasse in the very notion of the musical 'text' associated exclusively with the compiled score and its literary sources.
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