Operatic versions of the femme fatale, the preeminent figure of European modernist aesthetics, compel and allure because we witness her coming into material presence through the course of her opera. Through vocalizing, the femme fatale manifests her corporeality under imminent threats of erasure by coopting and manipulating the offstage world as represented by the orchestra. The Seguidilla seduction scene in George Bizet's Carmen and the “Dance of the Seven Veils” in Richard Strauss's Salome raise the question of how subjectivity and material presence, especially of the femme fatale character, are depicted sonically, dramaturgically, and metaphysically.
The Rhetoric of Seduction; or Materiality under Erasure
Marcus R. Pyle is currently a visiting scholar of music and theater arts at MIT, recipient of the Howard Mayer Brown Fellowship from the American Musicological Society, and MacCracken Fellow and PhD candidate in historical musicology at New York University. His research centers on depictions of femmes fatales in French and German fin-de-siècle opera, intersections of gender and sexuality, voice studies, continental philosophy, and African American lives and music.
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Marcus R. Pyle; The Rhetoric of Seduction; or Materiality under Erasure. 19th-Century Music 1 March 2020; 43 (3): 194–208. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ncm.2020.43.3.194
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