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Hilary Poriss (Northeastern University, US): Malibran, Divas, and Abuse in the Singing Profession

Wednesday 20 October 2021, 4.00PM to 5:30pm

Maria Malibran (1808-1836), the most famous opera star of her day, suffered a violent, protracted, and gory death. From the moment she passed away at the shockingly young age of 28, her final moments become the stuff of widespread obsession anchored in one question: how could this inexplicable loss of Europe’s most dazzling theatrical jewel be comprehended? While early critics targeted a number of potential culprits (her husband, the doctors who failed to heal her, demanding audiences), the rationalization that proved most enduring was, in fact, a fantasy, the idea that as a suffering artist, her death was both natural and preordained

This romanticization of Malibrarn’s death has had the troubling effect of obscuring some unsavory failings of the musical culture in which she was born and raised, and which linger up to the present day. Specifically, throughout her childhood, she was subject to abuse by her father, Manuel Garcia, who disciplined her severely as an integral component of her musical training. This essay attempts to shed light on this early childhood trauma, its long-term psychological effects, and its possible connections to her final days. My goal is to explore and expand upon aspects of her biography that have hitherto been hidden or misunderstood and to more fully comprehend the full, and sometimes troubling pedagogical context in which she became one of the most celebrated vocalists of her day.

Attend the seminar in person, or online via zoom (Meeting ID: 998 9220 5308; Passcode: 390939)  

Location: Music Department, Room D003, Sally Baldwin Buildings, Wentworth Way

Email: rachel.cowgill@york.ac.uk