The space between : contemporary opera and the novel : a study in metaphrasis.
The process of metaphrasis denotes the translation of a work of art from one medium into another. Opera is fundamentally an adaptive art form and contemporary opera has increasingly turned to the novel as the sophistication and range of the resources of modem music theatre have expanded. This dissertation will examine the contemporary operatic adaptation of five works of fiction. The method employed is a comparison of fictional and operatic discourse and an analysis of the translation of fictional narrative into operatic narrative. Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights poses particular narrative problems for operatic adaption while Herman Melville's Billy Budd is characterised by its intrusive narrator and a pervasive ambiguity. Joseph Conrad's novel, Under Western Eyes, exemplifies many of the narratological complexities of modernism, whereas Patrick White's Voss, a seminal postcolonial text, offers the operatic adaptor opportunities for the transcendence of language through music. The final chapter of this study will examine Henry James's tale, liThe Aspern Papers II , which incorporates many of James's reflections on literature and the literary life. The postmodernist operatic adaptation transmutes this self-reflexive fictional work into an opera profoundly concerned with the ontology of opera itself. This study will test the thesis that opera's affinity lies with the novel rather than with drama: that the fundamental narrative mode of opera is diegetic rather than mimetic. The main theoretic thrust proposes that the orchestra in opera performs a similar function to the narrator in fiction. As fictional characters exist only through the medium of their 'text' therefore, it will be argued, operatic characters exist only as part of their 'musical' text. Fictional narrative, while frequently conveying the impression of mimesis is essentially diegetic; operatic characters appear to possess a similar autonomy to their counterparts in drama, but can be seen as analogous to those in fiction and as a function of the diegesis of operatic narrative. Operatic characters are 'created' by the orchestral-narrator and have their being only as part of this narrative act.