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Date of Award
Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
School of Music
Mary Jean Speare
Much of the operatic music of the eccentric French composer Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) is overlooked, especially from his first full opera Benvenuto Cellini. This is due in part to many misconceptions surrounding Berlioz’s vocal compositional style, which stem from the political atmosphere at the time of the opera’s premiere in 1838 Paris when ill-willed critics renamed it Malvenuto Cellini. A general ignorance of this work and its music pervades the world of vocal pedagogy, having been excluded from the standard repertoire anthologies, where it can ironically be the most useful. The research presented in this project comprises original data from pedagogical and aesthetical surveys, as well as analytical comparisons of numerous arias and scenes.
The pedagogical surveys demonstrate that the work is mostly discounted or unknown among nationally respected pedagogues, who almost never assign any of these arias or scenes to their students. Yet, the aesthetical surveys show an appreciation of the music from an unbiased populous. Additionally, a study of the international production history of this opera, including cost and revenue statistics, supports the perpetuated trend of undeserved negativity towards Benvenuto Cellini when these supposed deterrents do not inhibit productions of other highly expensive or lesser-known operas. A microcosmic analysis of audition data furthers the idea that the world of vocal pedagogy is married to a canon of arias, which leaves little room for repertoire diversity or experimentation for voice students and creates an educational gap in their lack of exposure to this music. As pedagogical tools, respected voice professors almost universally use specific styles of arias and scenes from different eras and cultures to teach their students technical, musical, and dramatic stage concepts. In the case of nineteenth-century French Romanticism, the diverse music from Benvenuto Cellini fulfills these needs and also incorporates Italianate influences, while simultaneously serving as a reference point for succeeding Germanic declamatory style. It encapsulates Romantic thought and factors into the plethora of works that feature the life of Renaissance Mannerist sculptor, Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571). Comparative analyses of arias and scenes from Berlioz’s opera to the works of other composers included in the standard repertory, such as Mozart, Rossini, Meyerbeer, Donizetti, and Verdi, elucidate the equivalent quality and invaluable importance of this music.
Spafford, Jessica R., "A musical crusade: Reviving the music of Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini through a comparative statistical, pedagogical, and theoretical analysis" (2017). Dissertations. 143.