Acknowledgements i Am Very Grateful To Wim Van Der Meer And Birgit Abels For Making

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Identity and Gender In Händels Works About Acis And Galatea


I am very grateful to Wim van der Meer and Birgit Abels for making this more clear to me.


This thesis is about possible readings of two opera's by Handel. What moves and fits me here is the idea of the hole in the fence, a sneak-peak in the era of a particular opera, trying to listen to what a contemporary listener experienced. The opera house was a place for gender bending and ironic reversals, with as its most obvious instance the Baroque fascination with castrati. In the 20th and 21st centuries, with the popularity of “new” musicology (a cultural musicology that blends traditional analysis with interdisciplinary thoughts), various scholars have developed alternative readings of Handel and his works. For instance Ellen Harris, one of the world's experts on Handel, proposes that Handels works are often encoded with alternative messages regarding nonheteronormative relationships and gender identity, leading to the conclusion that Handel might have been gay. But, as will be explained in this thesis, this line of thought may be interesting, but is completely from theviewpoint of a present-day listener. How applicable are contemporary theories to the Baroque opera stage? For example, the present conventionalised ideas about gender might be very different from those in the Baroque era. In this thesis, this virtual constructing of a historical listener will be brought on the scene as the one who establishes a connection with the Baroque era. Using this as an empathic ability and as a phenomenological possibility of approaching another time and place, understanding can be cultivated on how presentday listening relates to that of the past, so that we modern listeners do not have to condemn something that does not fit in our contemporary lives. The first half of this thesis will be an exploration of the story of Acis, Galatea and Polyfemo throughout time, examining the main character's identity markers to be read. After that I will start an

analysis of the performative side of Handel's two settings of the story, by the creation of two

different virtual listeners. But before that, I would like to start with a brief analysis of the approach I want to use to tackle the problems arising.

Table of Contents



Chapter 1: Introduction1

Background of the Study1

Problem Statement2

Purpose of the study4

Rationale of the study4

Significance of the study7

Chapter 2: Historic framework, the history of stories about A, G and P8


T?p?göz 25

Constructions of identity28

Possible markers per character (first P, then G, then A)29

New identifications and recreated identities35

Chapter 4: Handel's works about A, G & P39


Case #242

Chapter 5 Theory47

Framing The Per Formative47

Queer Identities51

Gender In The Baroque Era52


Chapter 6 AGP through other eyes61

Queer in the ears of two virtual listeners61

Bodily markers of gender identity69

Acis's gender70

Maleness of the castrato71

Analysis of the key moment77

Chapter 7 Conclusion82

Works Cited86


Dating the Kitab88

Biography of Handel90

Chapter 1: Introduction

Background of the Study

Scholars interested in the study of George Frederic Handel (1685-1759) have turned their attention to contemporary thought and its relation to the texts he chose to set. Ruth Smith and Ellen Harris's ...
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