Opera Acts explores a wealth of new historical material about singers in the late nineteenth century and challenges the idea that this was a period of decline for the opera singer. In detailed case studies of four figures – the late Verdi baritone Victor Maurel; Bizet’s first Carmen, Célestine Galli-Marié; Massenet’s muse of the 1880s and’90s, Sibyl Sanderson; and the early Wagner star Jean de Reszke – Karen Henson argues that singers in the late nineteenth century continued to be important, but in ways that were not conventionally’vocal’. Instead they enjoyed a freedom and creativity based on their ability to express text, act and communicate physically, and exploit the era’s media. By these and other means, singers played a crucial role in the creation of opera up to the end of the nineteenth century.
New York : Cambridge University Press. 2014