10 June, 2021
Opera as Hypermedium: Meaning-Making, Immediacy, and the Politics of Perception
by Tereza Havelkova (Oxford University Press, 2021)
Drawing on the concept of hypermediacy from media studies, this book situates opera within the larger context of contemporary media practices, and particularly those that play up the multiplicity, awareness and enjoyment of media. It is driven by the underlying question of what politics of representation and perception opera performs within this context. This entails approaching operas as audiovisual events (rather than works or texts) and paying attention to what they do by visual means, along with the operatic music and singing. The book concentrates on events that foreground their use of media and technology, drawing attention to opera's inherently hypermedial aspects. It works with the recognition that such events nevertheless engender powerful effects of immediacy, which are not contingent on illusionism or the seeming transparency of the medium. It analyzes how effects like presence, liveness and immersion are produced, contesting some critical claims attached to them. It also sheds light on how these effects, often perceived as visceral or material in nature, are related to the production of meaning in opera. The discussion pertains to contemporary pieces such as Louis Andriessen and Peter Greenaway's Rosa and Writing to Vermeer, as well as productions of the canonical repertory such as Wagner's Ring Cycle by Robert Lepage at the Met and La Fura dels Baus in Valencia.
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