The “Other” Voice: High Male Voices between Gluck and Rock

A Symposium of the International Gluck Opera Festival in Nuremberg, 5-7 July 2019

The international symposium, “The ‘Other’ Voice: High Male Voices between Gluck and Rock”, which will take place during the International Gluck Opera Festival in Nuremberg from 5-7 July 2019, seeks to address current research questions about the meaning, appropriation, aesthetic, and reception of high male voices in musical theater of the 18th century through to Pop and Rock.

Musical theater at the time of Christoph Willibald Gluck was shaped in large part by performing vocalists, which, particularly with the castrati in Italian opera seria, can be traced back to culturally conditioned aesthetic preferences for both high (male) voices and an ideal sonority (typical for the period), just as much to institutional factors, casting conventions, public expectations, and mechanisms of reception relating to voice, body, gender, and image.

That the object of fascination, the high male voice, is not limited to opera at the time of Gluck reveals corresponding trends in music of the 20th and 21st centuries, where high-range vocal parts for male performers are omnipresent—in theatrical and non-theatrical vocal genres alike. The casting of parts for countertenors, from Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to György Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabreand Olga Neuwirth’s Bählamms Fest, continues to enjoy great popularity. It also represents important facets of musical theater up to the present day. Indeed, high male and falsetto voices are also of great musical and aesthetic importance in the realms of Pop (e.g., James Blunt, Justin Timberlake, A-ha, etc.) and Rock music (e.g., ACDC, Placebo, etc.). In certain instances, furthermore, the timbre generated by the falsetto voice goes beyond the aesthetics of pure sound to form part of a transgendered staging of the artistic persona (e.g., David Bowie, Freddie Mercury or Pharrell Williams).

In conjunction with a new production of Gluck’s Antigono for the International Gluck Opera Festival 2019, this interdisciplinary symposium approaches this complex subject from a variety of historical contexts, theoretical perspectives, and methodological vistas.

Possible themes include:

  • High male voices as part of the staging of artistic personalities in historical and contemporary contexts
  • Casting conventions in 18th-century musical theater
  • Aesthetics of counter song in Neue Musik as well as popular musical forms of the 20th and 21st centuries
  • Countertenors in contemporary historical performance practice
  • High male voices and the aesthetics of reception
  • Gender stereotypes in 18th-century musical theater and 20th/21st-century vocal music

Individual presentations are allocated 20 minutes, followed by 10-minutes of discussion. The conference languages are German and English. Please send an abstract of no more than 250 words in German or English, as well as a short biography (CV, research interests), to gluck–forschungsstelle@sbg.ac.at no later than 15 August 2018. Acceptance notifications will be sent out by the end of September 2018.

Concept and Organization

  • Dr. Irene Brandenburg (University of Salzburg, Gluck Research Center)
  • Prof. Dr. Nils Grosch (University of Salzburg, Gluck Research Center)
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Seedorf (University of Music, Karlsruhe)
  • Dr. Ingeborg Zechner (University of Salzburg, Gluck Research Center)http://www.gluck-forschungsstelle.uni-salzburg.at