"Only at the cost of losing the basis of all my certainties can I question what is conveyed to me by my presence to myself"         

                           Merleau-Ponty, M. Phenomenology of Perception, Routledge, 2006:504



This music research drama thesis explores and presents a singer’s artistic research process from the first meeting with a musical score until the first steps of the performance on stage. The aim has been to define and formulate an understanding in sound as well as in words around the concept of pure voice in relation to the performance of 17th century vocal music from a 21st century singer’s practice-based perspective with reference to theories on nothingness, the role of the 17th century female singer, ornamentation (over-vocalization) and the singing of the nightingale. The music selected for this project is a series of lamentations and mad scenes from Italian and French 17th century music dramas and operas allowing for deeper investigation of differences and similarities in vocal expression between these two cultural styles.

The thesis is presented in three parts: a Libretto, a performance of the libretto (DVD) and a Cannocchiale (that is, a text following the contents of the Libretto). In the libretto the Singer’s immediate inner images, based on close reading of the musical score have been formulated and performed in words, but also recorded and documented in sound and visual format, as presented in the performance on the DVD.  In the Cannocchiale, the inner images of the Singer’s encounter with the score have been observed, explored, questioned, highlighted and viewed in and from different perspectives.

The process of the Singer is embodied throughout the thesis by Mind, Voice and Body, merged in a dialogue with the Chorus of Other, a vast catalogue of practical and theoretical references including an imagined dialogue with two 17th century singers.

As a result of this study, textual reflections parallel to vocal experimentation have led to a deeper understanding of the importance of considering the concept of nothingness in relation to Italian 17th century vocal music practice, as suggested in musicology. The concept of je-ne-sais-quoi in relation to the interpretation of French 17th century vocal music, approached from the same performance methodology and perspective as has been done with the Italian vocal music, may provide a novel approach for exploring the complexity involved in the creative process of a performing artist.

Click on image below for thesis in PDF.




Acknowledgement                                                              14


PART I Libretto                                                              17


ARGOMENTO                                                                    19

SCENARIO                                                                     21

PERSONAGGI                                                                   27

PROLOGUE                                                                     28

Towards a deeper understanding and knowledge

of vocal expression and pure voice

    A pure voice experience                                                  31

    Searching for pure voice in performance                                  32

    Nothingness                                                              32

    Accademia degli Incogniti: observers of nothingness                      32

          and supporters of the Venetian 17th century opera

    Singing voices from the 17th century: the voices of                      33

    Anna Renzi and Anne Chabanceau de La Barre

    Selecting music manuscripts                                              38

    The lamento and the plainte                                              38

    The mad scene and the scene of fury                                      39

    Singing and observing: a method                                          42

    Affections, passions, feelings and emotions:                             42

       with reference to rhetorics

    Seeking vocal nothingness and je-ne-sais-quoi                            44

       by applying mindful awareness

    Over-vocalization and the singing of the nightingale                     45

    Creating a music research drama thesis                                   46


ACT I                                                                        49

Embodying transformation

    Scene 1 Deidamia                                                         50

       a soldier                                                             52

       Helen of Troy                                                         61

       the abandoned lover                                                   64

    Scene 2 Ottavia                                                          69

       disprezzata                                                           71

       afflitta                                                              73

       che fò? ove son? che penso? che penso?                                76

       o delle donne miserabil sesso                                         77

       fabricar la morte partorir la morte                                   78

       Nerone empio Nerone                                                   80

       in braccio di Poppea                                                  80

       pianti miei martiri miei                                              81

       destin  punir  fulmini  t’accuso  t’incolpo                           81

       mio lamento mio tormento                                              82

       à Dio                                                                 83

       vado                                                                  85

       disperata                                                             86

       baciar  cor mio  mura                                                 87

       io  solinga  pianti  passi                                            88

       sacrilego duolo                                                       89


ACT II                                                                       93

Finding pure voice through

ornamentation, repetition, movement and improvisation


    Scene 1 Arianna                                                          94

    Scene 2 Ariane                                                          111


ACT III                                                                     118

Performing je-ne-sais-quoi


    Scene 1 Armide (1664)                                                   119


    Scene 2 Armide  (1686)                                                  129


PART II Cannocchiale                                                        137


ACT I                                                                       138

Embodying transformation

    Scene 1 Deidamia                                                        139

       Voice, where is your source?                                         140

       Observing the inner images: a singers method                         141

       A natural voice in the distance                                      142

       The Nightingale and the Singer                                       142

       Out there - on stage - performing her observations                   144

       Observing Nature and Art through scores of lamentation and madness   145

       Nature                                                               147

       Improvising on Lucia’s madness                                       148

       The soldier                                                          149

       Art & Nature - male & female - or all in one                         150

       Rehearsing the amazon on the roof                                    152

       The kabuki dancer                                                    153

       The calling woman by the wall                                        155

       Guerrier allarmi - calling out for me                                155

       In between boldness and fear- finding the theater and a baron        156

       Curls in Venetian red                                                159

       Beautiful Helen of Troy                                              160

       Silenzio o Dio                                                       161

       The abandoned lover                                                  163

    Scene 2 Ottavia                                                         164

       Words, words and only words                                          165

       Words and contradictions                                             165

       Scorn transformed through a flow of air                              166

       Trust                                                                168

       The hidden chapel                                                    171

       The angel and Ottavia                                                175

       Taking farwell                                                       176

       Report from a corset                                                 179

       Vivaldi’s putte, their fenced balcony 

               and a glimps of the shaddows of Teatro Novissimo             181

       Et io - a performing self                                            182

       Silence                                                              183


ACT II                                                                      184

Finding pure voice through ornamentation, repetition,

movement and improvisation


    Scene 1 Arianna                                                         185

       The sounding line                                                    186

       Trillo – experiencing change                                         187

       The red line                                                         188

       The rocky shore                                                      190

       Touching - feeling - hearing                                         190

       Teseo mio                                                            191

       The arm of Latona                                                    192

       The siren                                                            194

       The horizon                                                          194

       Don’t leave me behind!                                               195

       Herself in the other                                                 197

       From death to joy                                                    198

    Scene 2 Ariane                                                          199

       The rock                                                             200

       Suspension until the end                                             201

       Fear, nothing and physics in the air                                 201

       Sweet tenderness                                                     203

       Considering the self through the personal and the private            204

       Complexity                                                           205

       Balancing in golden heels on a slippery rock                         206

       Gone                                                                 206

ACT III                                                                     208

Performing je-ne-sais-quoi

    Scene 1 Armide (1664)                                                   209

       Flying above and letting go                                          210

       A pair of golden high heel shoes                                     212

       Empty chairs in Jardin du Luxembourg                                 213

       Growing wide in Switzerland                                          215

       In-between moments: nothingness and je-ne-sais-quoi                  216

       The silent pause                                                     219

       Fury                                                                 222

        Scene 2 Armide (1686)                                               223

       Chiaro scuro: from simplicity to complexity and back again           224

       Battling with fluidity                                               225

       Desire                                                               226

       Following the path of a singer                                       227

       Voices on a map                                                      230

       Limitations of logos                                                 231

       Figures of fury and madness in French                                232

       Wonder, infinity and nothing                                         233


EPILOGUE                                                                    231


    Entretiens de les trios chanteuses: Renzi, de La Barre et Belgrano      231

       WONDER                                                               231

       DESIRE                                                               233

       LOVE                                                                 234

       HATRED                                                               235

       JOY                                                                  237

       SORROW                                                               238

A letter to Gian Vincenzo Gravina                                           240



    Sources and libretti; Musical manuscripts,

               modern prints and transcriptions                             245

    Other musical scores                                                    246

    Recordings                                                              246

    Literature                                                              247

    Weblinks                                                                255

    List of Illustrations                                                   257


Swedish Summary                                                             259





    Scene 1 Deidamia 29:34

    Scene 2 Ottavia 38:31


    Scene 1 Arianna 31:16

    Scene 2 Ariane 24:26



    Scene 1 Armide (1664) 13:52

    Scene 2 Armide (1686)  8:50