Opera: The Undoing of Women
Opera: The Undoing of Women (French: L’Opéra ou la Défaite des femmes) is a 1979 book by French philosopher Catherine Clément. In it, Clément explores the way in which traditional operatic plots often feature the death of female characters - in her words, "the infinitely repetitive spectacle of a woman who dies, murdered." Besides the literal deaths of characters such as Carmen, Cio-Cio-San, Isolde and Mélisande, Clément also discusses metaphorical deaths - for example, Turandot's power and the Marschallin's sexuality.
The English translation, published 1988, is by Betsy Wing with a foreword by Susan McClary.
- La Bohème
- Les Contes d'Hoffmann
- Don Carlos
- Don Giovanni
- Eugene Onegin
- Lucia di Lammermoor
- Madama Butterfly
- Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
- Pelléas et Mélisande
- I Puritani
- Der Ring des Nibelungen
- Der Rosenkavalier
- La Sonnambula
- La Traviata
- Tristan und Isolde
- Die Zauberflöte
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Some critics, including musicologist Carolyn Abbate, criticized Clément's failure to discuss the music of opera in her focus on the libretto. These critics argue that although female characters die, they also hold the "authorial voice" and thus, through singing, reverse the tradition of the passive, silent woman as object.
- Clément, Catherine (1988) . Opera: The Undoing of Women. Trans. Betsy Wing. University of Minnesota Press. p. 47. ISBN 0-8166-3526-9.
- Pendle, Karyn (2001). Women and music. Indiana University Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-253-21422-5.
- Abbate, Carolyn (1995). "Opera; or, The Envoicing of Women". In Ruth A. Solie. Musicology and difference. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-20146-0.
- Robinson, Paul (January 1, 1989). "It's not over until the soprano dies". The New York Times. Retrieved September 28, 2010.