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date: 29 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article argues that the normativity or otherwise of desire in an operatic text is significantly connected to the use of music because music in an operatic context not only represents but also performatively embodies characters. The central material involves close readings of Carmen (Bizet, 1875) and Death in Venice (Britten, 1973), the novellas on which they were based, and other adaptations of the same narrative, using the nature of adaptation to test the varying effects of musical representation in each case. In Carmen Jones (dir. Preminger, 1954), music defuses the threat of cross-racial desire in Bizet’s opera, which itself is more immersive in its non-normativity than the source text. In Death in Venice, music invites the spectator to identify with the protagonist’s queer desire in ways that exceed the source novel and even the film version of the same year.

Keywords: opera, music, adaptation, sexuality, queer, Carmen, Bizet, Death in Venice, Britten

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