Animating Performance: Tracing Venices Resonant Diva Attraverso il Palco e la Soglia
Wier, Claudia Rene
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Seventeenth-century Venetian operatic divas pioneered a new social identity for women both onstage, as virtuosic opera singers, and as independent professionals in Venice. They accomplished this partly in prototypical commercial opera houses. From such spaces, the sounds of their voices and the memory of their performances in cross-dressed, madwomen, and warrior woman roles spilled out on the cutting edge of performance to spread the novel form across Europe. Their performance transgressed normative gender codes and is one way early modern divas overcame misogynist perceptions. They exceeded and reworked accepted norms performatively while modelling independent agency to pioneer a new profession for women. In this project, I trace the reception of the early modern divas sonic transmissions and her transition across the stage, out the door of the theatres sounding architectural space, and into the city. I apply the analytic lens of performativity as employed in gender and performance studies scholarship to analyze the social impact of the early operatic divas performance of self. This interdisciplinary approach knits together material historical data, formal text, and music readings, with performance theory. In this, I examine the music and texts of five performance scores to understand how composer Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676) and his librettist collaborators tailored iconic warrior woman roles to fit the voices of lead women singers. To comprehend the reception of the diva, I examine the career of Anna Renzi (c.1620-c.1661) and her riveting performances in La finta pazza (1641) and La Deidamia (1645) contextualized in Venetian cultural history and the performance events in Teatro Novissimo. I place Renzis work into a performance genealogy from commedia dellArte to the dramma per musica. Finally, I theorize how Renzis sonic emissions and vibrant performances resonated socially as an energetic electric force transgressing the librettists texts and the composers musical composition to effect society and the status of women in it. With theoretical approaches centered on embodiment, gender, reception, celebrity status, and sound, I work to discover remnant traces of ephemeral presence.