University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Admiring La Stupenda: Edinburgh version 2019

Somerville, Daniel ORCID: (2019) Admiring La Stupenda: Edinburgh version 2019. [Performance]

Admiring La Stupenda SCRIPT 2019 Edinburgh FINAL FINAL (002).pdf

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The title of the practice research output, Admiring La Stupenda, is a playful homage to Kazuo Ohno’s landmark Butoh performance Admiring L’Argentina, in which Ohno combined memories of a famous Tango dancer with memories of his mother. The research aim, conducted from the positionality of the ‘opera queen’, was to identify and describe the ‘operatic’ with particular reference to movement. A choreographic vocabulary called Body Opera was developed and is deployed in the performance. The research methodology involved not only interviewing singers, but also observing and sketching them and capturing their gestures using embodiment techniques derived from Butoh in which Butoh-fu (evocative poetic images that are embodied) are used to notate performance. Sketching was recognised both as a record of what was observed and as a kinaesthetic activity that contributed to the understanding of the movement observed and the creation of specific Butoh-fu. In this way a bridge was created between the spectatorial position and that of the performer. Thereby, it was possible to transfer the operatic movement quality of singers into the bodies of non-singing performers and to identify and describe ‘the operatic’.
Kinaesthetic empathy (concerning mirror neurons) was identified as the mechanism through which the operatic quality of movement, which does not form part of formal training, was transferred between singers. The diverse sample showed that this transference occurred regardless of the singer’s voice type, gender, age or career point. The researcher’s positionality revealed how the kinaesthetic empathy experienced by singers, also played a role in the embodiment of operatic movement for opera queens in a process that reaches beyond mimicry or parody. Not merely a gay man who likes opera, the opera queen experiences a strong sense of identity with a particular diva, leading to an intertextual experience of opera spectatorship that recognises the performer and performed and draws together the narrative of the opera, other performances of the diva, their life and the opera queen’s lived experience.
As practice research involves non-verbal communication, data gathering and analysis, the live performance of Admiring La Stupenda was considered the most effective way to articulate the findings. The researcher, an opera queen, is also the performer, which leads to the inclusion of autobiography in the fabric of the performance. Within the narrative of the performance a parallel is drawn between the opera queen’s favourite diva (Joan Sutherland – La Stupenda) and his mother (an echo of Ohno’s Admiring L’Argentina). This narrative thread acts as a lubricant for the delivery of the research findings within the frame of the performance and grew across the different iterations of Admiring La Stupenda, culminating in this full-length version presented at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019.
The research was underpinned by Queer Theory, evident not only to the use of cross-dressing and discussion of sexual orientation in the performance but also in a philosophical gendering of opera (as an artform), analogously employing gender performativity in describing operatic-ness. This, and the use of anecdote and autobiography, became the departure point for a further research project called Pavarotti and Me.

Item Type: Performance
Additional Information:

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Admiring La Stupenda 2nd-17th August 2019 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Greenside @ Nicolson Square, Emerald Theatre.

Admiring La Stupenda 17th September 2019 Worcester Arts Workshop.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: opera, operatic, opera queen, Butoh, queer, gay, LGBTQ, mental health, anxiety, Joan Sutherland, La Stupenda, mothers, queer theory, gender theory, cross-dressing, kinaesthetic empathy, embodiment, aging, movement, autobiography, Donizetti, Bellini, Handel, Puccini, bel canto, mad scene, madness, Norma, Lucia di Lammermoor, Anna Bolena, Turandot, Alcina, Home Sweet Home, domesticity, performance, performance lecture, practice research, memory, nostalgia, story telling, anecdote, Covent Garden, Sydney Opera House, spectatorship, postmodernism
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Arts
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Daniel Somerville
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2020 11:17
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2020 17:14

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