Sophia Sakellaridis Mangoura (KCL) - 2018-19 Students

Engendering American Subjectivity in 20th-Century Opera: A Study of Femininities

Twentieth-century American opera is a field of great interest for representations of femininity in opera, yet important avenues of study remain unexplored. The main goal of this thesis is to seize this opportunity, for the first time, to explore the operatic and American femininities as represented in an important selected set of operas created from 1910 to the 1950s with a final closing gesture to the end of the 20th century. This time-period entails the height of the creative efforts to forge a distinctly American opera. Thus, we will visit tough virgins in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West (1910), female solidarity through community acceptance in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (1935), virtuous female leadership in Thomson’s The Mother of Us All (1947), a young woman’s efforts to embrace life independently in Copland’s The Tender Land (1954), an innocent and yet vengeful virgin in Floyd’s Susannah (1955), and an activist nun in Heggie’s Dead Man Walking (2000). In addition the study will aim to construct arguments on how these femininities represent an alternative to European conventions of femininity in opera, and if these depictions articulate a common thread that conveys the figure of an American woman in 20th-century American opera, and how overall these operatic femininities assemble distinguishably American constructs of womanhood.

Primary supervisor: Dr. Andy Fry, KCL
Secondary supervisor: Dr. Flora Willson, KCL

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