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Title: Alien Divas and Sampled Sirens: A Brief Mapping of Opera in Popular Music from 1980-2005
Contributor(s): Klein, Eve (author)
Publication Date: 2013
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Abstract: At the beginning of the twentieth century compilation recordings of operatic arias by singers such as Enrico Caruso began to decontextualise operatic songs from their narrative context. However, these early popular recordings of operatic song maintained a relationship to the tradition of opera, extending the reach of the metaphorical opera house into domestic listening environments. In the second half of the twentieth century opera left the opera house behind. This movement was driven by experimental composers such as Luciano Berio, Philip Glass and Robert Ashley who each addressed the framing of opera inside the opera house, and the kinds of vocalities which define opera. Yet it was Queen's smash hit "Bohemian Rapsody" from 'A Night at the Opera' (1975) which thrust operatic forms upon 1970s rock audiences and the momentum generated from rock opera carried through into other music styles. This paper will provide a brief introduction to some of the landmark recordings where opera was appropriated into electronica, hip hop, rock and pop music from 1980 to 2005. The intention of this mapping is not to be exhaustive, rather it seeks to highlight how the appropriation of opera's structure, narratives, vocalities, and performance conventions by popular music artists has been used to make political, cultural or artistic statements. In these recordings, opera is positioned against popular music styles as a signifier of the gargantuan extremities of canonical European art culture. When utilised in popular music, opera becomes a site of political, class and identity conflict, an exotic object of pleasure, and a way of rupturing conventional popular music vocal styles. Through recordings by artists such as Nina Hagen and Diamanda Galás, opera has been revitalised, with alien divas and sampled sirens influencing contemporary culture in ways which most classical singers can only dream about.
Publication Type: Conference Publication
Conference Details: IASPM-ANZ 2012: Conference of the Australia/New Zealand branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, Hobart, Australia, 5th - 7th December, 2012
Source of Publication: Shifting Sounds: Musical Flow - A Collection of Papers from the 2012 IASPM Australia/New Zealand Conference, p. 106-116
Publisher: International Association for the Study of Popular Music
Place of Publication: Dunedin, New Zealand
Field of Research (FOR): 190409 Musicology and Ethnomusicology
200205 Culture, Gender, Sexuality
190407 Music Performance
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO): 950204 The Media
950105 The Performing Arts (incl. Theatre and Dance)
950101 Music
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: E1 Refereed Scholarly Conference Publication
Other Links:;dn=876124864109778;res=IELHSS
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Appears in Collections:Conference Publication

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