Opera: The Undoing of Women (French: L’Opéra ou la Défaite des femmes) is a 1979 book by French philosopher Catherine Clément. In it, Clément explores the way in which traditional operatic plots often feature the death of female characters – in her words, “the infinitely repetitive spectacle of a woman who dies, murdered.”. Chapter 2, entitled ‘Dead Women’ discusses in detail the various ways in which women are killed in operas, with specific reference to a number of characters. In this piece, takes the three characters of Madama Butterfly (from Puccini’s ‘Madama Butterfly’, Carmen (from Bizet’s ‘Carmen’) and Isolde (from Wagner’s ‘Tristan und Isolde’) and illustrates, responds to and re-contexualises their deaths alongside excerpts of text from the chapter.
The piece uses live singing (excerpts from the death scenes of the three characters), recorded speech (reading excerpts from the ‘Dead Women’ chapter), manipulated samples of orchestral music from the death scenes, processing of the live voice, and theatrical action, costume and props.
Featuring Katie Oswell (soprano) and Nima Sene (speech).
First performed at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland as part of the PLUG Festival, 4th May 2016.