Due to a massive revival of Handel’s vocal-instrumental music in performance practice over the past twenty years or so, stage performances of the composer’s operas as well as some of his dramatic oratorios have become frequent not merely at specialised baroque festivals, but also in a large number of opera houses in Europe and the United States. At the same time, live video recordings of stage performances have begun to occupy an important place in operatic discography, which results in a wide range of Handel’s works available on DVD.
Tendencies in this multimedia aspect of performance practice are examined through two lenses: the so-called authentic interpretation of early music and the so-called director’s theatre (Regietheater), within a theoretical framework stemming from musicology and theatre studies. Interrelationships between these two approaches that are only seemingly contradictory will be examined, while concentrating on an important question that has repercussions on both of them. This question is: who is to interpret the roles ambiguous in terms of gender (written mostly for the castrati), females (mezzo-sopranos or contraltos) or males (countertenors)?
In an attempt to debate about an insightful answer to this question, concrete examples will be examined. In this process gender studies is going to be of prime importance, given the complex gender identity of castrati in opera seria of the 18th century. DVD performances will be subject to a rough statistical analysis showing a propensity of certain stagings for a predominant use of either countertenors or female singers in roles ambiguous in terms of gender, as well as some that cast both types of performers. The study will attempt to determine why.
Haendel après Haendel :
Construction, renommée, influence de Haendel et de la figure haendélienne
University of Zagreb/ Heidelberg University
Men and/or Women: Gender Ambiguity and Performance Practice in Stagings of G.F. Handel's Operas and Oratorios