Citation
The More Mischievous the Better

Material Information

Title:
The More Mischievous the Better Octavian and Queer Opera Performance in Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal's Der Rosenkavalier
Creator:
D'Ettore, Peter A, Jr
Place of Publication:
[Gainesville, Fla.]
Florida
Publisher:
University of Florida
Publication Date:
Language:
english
Physical Description:
1 online resource (52 p.)

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Master's ( M.A.)
Degree Grantor:
University of Florida
Degree Disciplines:
English
Committee Chair:
Mennel, Barbara
Committee Members:
Offerle, Frank Anthony
Graduation Date:
12/14/2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Composers ( jstor )
Femininity ( jstor )
Gender performativity ( jstor )
Gender roles ( jstor )
Grammatical gender ( jstor )
Librettos ( jstor )
Masculinity ( jstor )
Opera ( jstor )
Swords ( jstor )
Women ( jstor )
English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
gender, german, hofmannsthal, opera, performance, queer, rosenkavalier, sexuality, strauss
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent) ( marcgt )
born-digital ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
English thesis, M.A.

Notes

Abstract:
Despite the thriving gay fanbase opera has developed over the years, this art form continues to cater to conservative ideologies and traditions--especially concerning matters of gender and sexuality. As discussed in studies such as Catherine Clement's 1979 Opera, or the Undoing of Women, opera has built its enduring popularity on traditional, heterosexual narratives that conclude with the dramatic demise of their heroines. In this thesis, I argue that composer Richard Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal subvert these established notions of gender and sexuality in the opera Der Rosenkavalier through the character of the young Count Octavian Rofrano. Utilizing the operatic practice of casting a female singer as a male character (commonly known as a trouser role), Strauss and Hofmannsthal prevent Octavian from inhabiting a strictly masculine or feminine, heterosexual or homosexual identity. This unique, non-heteronormative characterization endows Octavian with a fluid, non-static gendering that helps to destabilize gender binarity. After offering an historical analysis of the trouser role, paying especial attention to the figure of the castrato and the pageboy archetype, I contend that Strauss and Hofmannsthal--through cues in the opera's libretto, musical score, and staging--endeavor to mold a character that refuses the boundaries of male or female, heterosexual or homosexual labeling. By permitting Octavian to exist within this 'queer,' nongendered space, Strauss and Hofmannsthal force viewers of Der Rosenkavalier to reassess traditional gender and sexual roles--both when the opera was premiered in 1911 as well as today. Thus, my thesis offers an analysis that not only situates the opera in the context of the early twentieth century but also outlines the opera's commentary on gender and sexual roles that are still valuable for contemporary culture, particularly discussions of queer theory. ( en )
General Note:
In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note:
Includes vita.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description:
Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description:
This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Thesis:
Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local:
Adviser: Mennel, Barbara.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Peter A D'Ettore.

Record Information

Source Institution:
UFRGP
Rights Management:
Copyright D'Ettore, Peter A, Jr. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Classification:
LD1780 2007 ( lcc )

Downloads

This item has the following downloads:


Full Text





tableau at the premiere of the opera in 1911, and, as if willfully ignorant of the staging of what

appeared to be a blatant sexual transgression, the opera went on to become an instant success

with the public. Overlooking or excusing this elephant in the room, the audience at the

premiere-as well as audiences since-seemed to dismiss this subverted heterosexuality as a

mere operatic sleight of hand. While this practice of women performing the roles that had been

left vacant after the demise of the male-bodied, soprano-voiced castrati stretches back through

historical operatic performance-from Handel and Rossini to Mozart and Bellini-only very

recently has opera and gender scholarship finally begun to unpack the multifarious and often

unquestioned gender-bending of these trouser roles.

Not content simply to use the trouser role in their historic purpose as surrogates for the

obsolete castrati, Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, composer and librettist of the

aforementioned Der Rosenkavalier, utilized this operatic trickery as a means of destabilizing and

reassessing the gender roles of the early twentieth century. As Sam Abel asserts in Opera in the

Flesh: Sexuality in Opera Performance, the "female-to-male cross-dresser ... always poses a

threat. Women dressed as men violate male hegemony by attempting to reject their secondary

social role and to assume male power or, more powerfully, to reject the whole concept of binary

gender division" (151). In this thesis, I would like to refine Abel's discussion of the subversive

quality of drag. Rather than arguing that Octavian is apriori subversive simply because the

character is in actuality a woman in man's clothing (i.e., a woman who has attained male power),

I would like to posit that Octavian's malleable gender prevents the character from identifying

completely as either male or female, placing Octavian at a site of subversive power that fosters a

critique of dyadic, heteronormative gender roles. Indeed, the presence of this central trouser role

in Strauss and Hofmannsthal's Der Rosenkavalier does more than provide audiences with lesbian









ACT III
MUSICAL ANALYSIS OF OCTAVIAN AND THE TROUSER ROLE

While the more literary aspects of Der Rosenkavalier's libretto point to a multigendered

characterization of Octavian, the most recognized feature of opera tends not to be the text but the

music. German composer Richard Strauss gained fame (and notoriety) by writing operas that

explored complex and oftentimes disturbing portrayals of gender and sexuality. As I mentioned

before, Strauss' first triumph as an opera composer came after the premiere of Salome in 1905.

Adapted from Oscar Wilde's dramatic treatment of the biblical story, the opera recounts the

young Salome's obsession and lust after Jokanaan (John the Baptist) and closes with an extended

scene where she sings a fascinating and horrific song of desire to his severed head. Even

Strauss' follow-up opera, 1909's Elektra, focuses on the Greek tragedy where the eponymous

heroine plots the death of her mother, Klytemnastra, who has murdered Elektra's father. Aside

from their psychosexual subject matter, both of these operas were also marked by Strauss' use of

harsh and unnerving dissonance in order to convey the equally unsettling narratives of sexual

deviance (Plaut 268). While the later Der Rosenkavalier has been criticized as a retreat from the

more adventurous compositions in the darker Salome and Elektra, the composer by no means

balks from musically molding yet another character who explores non-normative gender and

sexuality. Indeed, Strauss not only endows Octavian with both masculine and feminine motifs in

his musical signatures but also orchestrally shapes Octavian's scenes in order to draw the

audience's attention to the character's queered presence.

In her landmark text on feminism and opera, Opera, or the Undoing of Women, Catherine

Clement devotes a section to the discussion of Der Rosenkavalier, describing Octavian, in

particular, as "the young count Octavian, [who] is distinctly unruly, scatterbrained enough and

with a good enough start under ladies' skirts to be known tenderly as Quinquin. And Richard









In the concluding act, readers can finally begin to envision Octavian's full character arc

as well as the non-normative sexuality with which Hofmannsthal has provided him. When the

Marschallin finally arrives at the inn, subsequently ending the convoluted plot Octavian had

devised to thwart Baron Ochs' plans of marrying Sophie, she informs the police commissioner

that "the whole thing was a charade and nothing more" ["das Ganze war halt eine Farce und

weiter nichts"] (189) and "'Tis a Viennese masquerade nothing more" ["Is eine wienerische

Maskerad' und weiter nichts"] (190). Ostensibly, the Marschallin is referring to the ploy

concocted by Octavian involving numberless characters now dressed as widows, children, and

ghosts, but the pointed use of the words "charade" and "masquerade" echo the notion of fantasy

and alternative sexualities exemplified in the Presentation of the Rose scene. But this leaves the

audience wondering, "Was all of this, then, a hoax? An operatic sleight of hand?"

If so, the return to the triangle of lovers at the opera's denouement and the deservedly

famous final trio seem to silence any suspicion of the opera's continuing insincerity. The

moving, even if melodramatic, display of emotions in the Marschallin's relinquishment of

Octavian and the charming, even if ephemeral, pairing of the young lovers in the final duet

contradict any arguments that may claim that the manygendered Octavian is merely a charade or

inassimilable other. At the end of the opera, whether or not Sophie and Octavian remain together

long after the curtain's close, Hofmannsthal allows this symbol of non-heteronormative sexuality

to exist and to merit affording a happy ending.









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

First and foremost, I would like to thank Dr. Barbara Mennel for her generous support and

guidance in a project that refused to be defined by any one academic discipline. Her

intradepartmental studies proved to be an invaluable resource for an equally intradepartmental

thesis. I would also like to thank Dr. Anthony Offerle, whose unique knowledge of opera and

constant enthusiasm aided in refining and strengthening my musical scholarship. I must also

offer my thanks to Dr. Maureen Turim, whose patience and kindness during the early stages of

this project were absolutely vital in helping it to become the thesis that it is now. Lastly, I cannot

forget the limitless love and encouragement of my parents, Peter and Marie D'Ettore, to whom I

owe more than I could possibly hope to enumerate here.










difficult to separate which voice belongs to Octavian and which voice belongs to Sophie. In the

climatic measure especially (beginning at the section labeled 36 in figure 2), the two singers'

melodies synch up perfectly, remaining only a third apart from one another on the musical scale,

emphasizing the transvocality of Octavian who, through the course of the duet, sings as both

male and female:


ae.. C T57 .-36 _

em nem s' gen An ea-bick, denwillKb h ne ver.
a.- tcr -'rWyfts ho y

OPa
gehnl daa itin ma 1e ger Au ge-n-bick, deAanl ie -
an,; Ay to ___ a 0 t&r i ,y, er Sty y





K cre4 b- a .... 7
-a-- 5
IPtA4)


179

ankl b


Got.


Figure III-2. Der Rosenkavalier; Act II (Source: Strauss 175-76)

Thus, through his composition and orchestration in the Presentation of the Rose duet,

Strauss adds an additional dimension to Hofmannsthal's textual description of the scene,









with the objects of his affection other than as comedic (and ultimately ineffectual) playacting.

Indeed, in David J. Levin's discussion of Cherubino in Unsettling Opera: Staging Mozart, Verdi,

Wagner, and Zemlinsky, the author notes that, unlike the focal relationships in Le nozze di Figaro

(e.g., Figaro and Susanna, the Count and Countess, and Bartolo and Marcellina), Cherubino and

Barbarina's relationship remains narratively unresolved because their marriage is still

"unscheduled when the opera comes to a close" (78). Levin goes on to claim that this thwarted

resolution is a result of Cherubino's gender confusion: "To the extent that Cherubino embodies

something that would resist being tied down, we might describe that 'something' as the fact or

problem of the figure's peculiar embodiment itself, a kind of erratic traffic in and between

gender" (79). This trope of the fervently sexual, but ultimately sexless, pageboy (what Levin

refers to as Cherubino's libidinall surplus" [78]) continues throughout the nineteenth century

until the emergence of the character of Octavian in Richard Strauss and Hugo von

Hofmannsthal's Der Rosenkavalier in the early twentieth century who manages to transcend the

obstacles of rigid gender and sexual representation that had thwarted the pageboy tradition

before him.

Octavian, the Knight of the Silver Rose

By the close of the nineteenth century, Victorian notions of sexuality had been brought to

the fore of European social consciousness by Richard von Krafft-Ebing's P%~yL /i qu Ithiia sexualis

andfin de sikcle decadence epitomized by writers such as Joris-Karl Huysmans and Oscar

Wilde-not to mention the latter's infamous sodomy trial. Richard Strauss, certainly no stranger

to these cultural developments, had recently completed two operas that explored the darker

realms of sexuality: 1905's Salome, adapted from Wilde's play, and 1909's Elektra, Strauss' first

collaboration with Hugo von Hofmannsthal. While Strauss experimented with modernist

orchestration in these two pieces, employing chromaticism, dissonance, and atonality to reflect









Strauss gives him a disturbing woman's voice" (108). I find that Clement's choice of words in

referring to Octavian as having a "disturbing ... voice" robs the character of its powerful position

of gender reevaluation as a figure which overlaps genders. Clement's comment also seems to

dismiss that this very particular voice allows Octavian to maneuver more fluidly between the

genders represented by the other characters in the opera. For example, in the first act, Strauss

often features horn fanfares to represent Octavian's arrogant and specifically-masculine behavior

when he attempts to overpower the Marschallin's doubts of his fidelity. Indeed, in his article,

"Kitsch, Camp, and Opera: Der Rosenkavalier," Gary Le Tourneau describes the use of brass as

ejaculatoryry' horn calls" (93). While, in this quotation, Le Tourneau assigns a masculine

vocality to the character of Octavian, he continues on to argue that "Octavian is made a member

of both genders by the music" (93, emphasis mine). Certainly, despite Octavian's musical and

verbal ejaculations, he can often revert to a more lyrical and feminine line that mirrors the

musical characterization of his female lover, the Marschallin. In the selection provided in figure

1, as Octavian and the Marschallin intimately coo over one another, their alternating pet names

become repeated musical phrases that produce the effect that the two female voices echo or

answer one another:









Erte's costume designs for the 1980 Glyndebourne Festival similarly straddle depictions

of masculinity and femininity:










-j
















Figure IV-4. Octavian at the end of Act I Figure IV-5. Octavian's runners
(Source: Erte 19) (Source: Erte 25)

Unlike the more ambiguous genders of the figures in Roller's sketches, the image of

Octavian in figure 4 at first may appear to be an unquestionable female in men's clothing, as if

designer Erte makes no attempt to hide the gender of the actor playing Octavian; however, when

compared to the accompanying paintings of Octavian's retinue (figure 5)-male characters,

especially those associated with the fantastical Presentation of the Rose scene, who would

actually be performed onstage by male actors-they appear similarly effeminate. Thus, the

fashion-oriented Erte displays Octavian's fluid gender not through the same androgyny of









imagines challenging the Marschallin's husband to a duel and light and lyrical when he comforts

and woos his older lover, Octavian and his vocal characterization, even in the span of the first

scene, swing wildly from the masculine to the feminine. This multigendered vocal line that

Strauss attributes to Octavian (Strauss himself was no stranger to Mozart, and it is believed that

Octavian's character and name are drawn from the character of Don Ottavio from Don Giovanni

[Abel 159]) reinforces the complex gender construction of the character, allowing Octavian to

transcend the limiting label of a lesbian "sameness" and represent an even more universal,

ungendered figure.

The female ensembles also especially emphasize this tricky destabilizing of gender in

Octavian's character. Like the previous examination of Hofmannsthal's libretto during the

Presentation of the Rose scene and duet, Strauss' orchestration highlights the mystical,

otherworldly quality of this scene which undermines traditional concepts of time and sexuality.

Strauss' prominent usage of celesta, harp, and flute in the descending theme of the duet creates a

shimmering, glossy effect which enhances the un-/surreality of the moment.

To the fore of Strauss' orchestration during this scene, however, are the twin female

voices of Octavian and Sophie. As the duet begins, Octavian sings in a low, almost monotone

voice, even dipping down to a C sharp below the staff to sing the word "Jungfer." While Sophie

begins in a similar monotone, she soon soars up to a B above the staff when extolling the beauty

of the silver rose ("Wie himmelische..."). This marked contrast between the lower-lying

passages of Octavian's more masculine voice and Sophie's high, feminine tones present the

listener with very separately-gendered voices-aural signifiers of Octavian's masculinity versus

Sophie's femininity; however, when Octavian and Sophie begin singing together, the yearning

triplet pattern of their shared musical line becomes almost identical, and the audience finds it









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ..............................................................................................................4

LIST OF FIGURES .................................. .. ..... ..... ................. .6

A B S T R A C T ........... ................... .................. .......................... ................ 7

HISTORICAL ANALYSIS OF OCTAVIAN AND THE TROUSER ROLE.............................13

T he R ise and F all of the C astrato ................................................................ ..................... 13
The Trouser R ole and the Pageboy ........................................... ........ ..... ............... .15
Octavian, the Knight of the Silver Rose .................................................... .................. 17

TEXTUAL ANALYSIS OF OCTAVIAN AND THE TROUSER ROLE.................................22

MUSICAL ANALYSIS OF OCTAVIAN AND THE TROUSER ROLE............................... 30

VISUAL ANALYSIS OF OCTAVIAN AND THE TROUSER ROLE.................. ............38

Silver Roses, Swords, and the Gendered Props ofDer Rosenkavalier ................................38
Alfred Roller, Erte, and the Costuming of Octavian ...................... ........................ ....40
Fassbaender, Kirchschlager, and the Filmed Performances of Der Rosenkavalier ...............44

P O S T L U D E ...............................................................................................................4 8

L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S .............................................................................. ...........................50

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H .............................................................................. .....................52









BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Peter D'Ettore is a native of Florida, born and raised in Pembroke Pines. He earned his

bachelor's degree in English literature with a minor in women's studies from Florida State

University in December 2004. Over the course of his graduate study, he has developed interests

in 20th century women's poetry, gender and queer studies, and opera studies. After receiving his

master's degree from the University of Florida in December 2007, he plans to pursue a career as

a junior college literature and writing instructor.









queerness, when viewed in conjunction with a number of purposefully non-masculine references,

Hofmannsthal complicates and problematizes Octavian's seemingly "straight"-forward role as a

man in the context of the opera.

While Octavian physically flirts with a more feminine sexuality (most prominently, when

he dresses as the handmaid Mariandl in order to escape Baron Ochs' notice as he's leaving the

Marschallin's room after a night of lovemaking), this more feminine characterization of Octavian

also translates to Hofmannsthal's textual treatment of the character. Probably the most

consistent example of this is Hofmannsthal's use of a thematic sexual sameness in the dialogue

between Octavian and the other two female leads, the Marschallin and Sophie. Beth Hart

explores this mirroring motif between the opera's all-"female" love triangle in "Strauss and

Hofmannsthal's Accidental Heroine: The Psychohistorical Meaning of the Marschallin." In her

examination of the opening scene between Octavian and the Marschallin, Hart rhetorically asks

her reader, "We wonder what need Octavian fulfills in the Marschallin as she mirrors him in

voice and gaze, calling him her boy, her darling boy" (421). As Hart suggests, despite the

difference in their characters' genders, the female actors portraying the Marschallin and Octavian

reflect one another vocally and visually. Even Octavian's effusive tendresse manifests itself in

poetic waxings that begin to blur the boundaries between the Marschallin and Octavian, the

feminine and masculine: "You, you-what does it mean, this 'you'? This 'you' and 'I'? ... but

this 'I' is lost in this 'you'" ["Du, du, du-was heilt das >Du? Was >du und ich? ... aber das

Ich vergeht in dem Du"] (61). Octavian's emphatic lapsing of the two pronouns carries a

significant added weight when considering the similar lapse that occurs between the genders of

both Octavian and the Marschallin: like the actor portraying the Marschallin, the supposedly

male Octavian actually possesses the body of a woman (the actor who plays him). To rearrange



































For my Mother, to whom each of my accomplishments are dedicated, whether or not I remember
to say so.









Le Tourneau, Gary. "Kitsch, Camp, and Opera: Der Rosenkavalier." Canadian University
Music Review. 14 (1994): 77-97.

Leonardi, Susan J. and Rebecca A. Pope. The Diva's Mouth: Body, Voice, and Prima Donna
Politics. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1996.

Levin, David J. Unsettling Opera: Staging Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, and Zemlinsky. Chicago: U
of Chicago P, 2007.

Oosterhuis, Harry. Stepchildren of Nature: Krafft-Ebing, Psychiatry, and the Making of Sexual
Identity. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2000.

Plaut, Eric A. Grand Opera: Mirror of the Western Mind. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1993.

Reynolds, Margaret. "Ruggiero's Deceptions, Cherubino's Distractions." Blackmer and Smith
132-51.

Roller, Alfred. "Octavian Rofrano: Drittes Kostim, Erster Aufzug." Blumer 17.

S"Octavian Rofrano: Viertes Kostim, Zweiter Aufzug." Blumer 25.

S"Octavian Rofrano Genannt Quinquin: Erstes Kostim, Erster Aufzug." Blumer 5.

Der Rosenkavalier. Dir. Otto Schenk. Perf. Dame Gwyneth Jones, Brigitte Fassbaender, Lucia
Popp, Manfred Jungwirth, Carlos Kleiber. 1979. DVD. Deutsche Grammophon, 2005.

Dir. Robert Carsen. Perf. Adrianne Pieczonka, Angelika Kirchschlager, Miah Persson,
Franz Hawlata, Semyon Bychkov. DVD. TDK, 2004.

Smart, Mary Ann, ed. Siren Songs: Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Opera.
Princeton: Princeton UP, 2000.

Strauss, Richard. "Dear Herr von Hofmannsthal." 9 July 1909. Opera: A History in Documents.
Ed. Piero Weiss. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. 266-68.

Der Rosenkavalier. Vocal Score. New York: Boosey & Hawkes, 1943.

Tambling, Jeremy. Opera and the Culture ofFascism. New York: Oxford UP, 1996.









The silver rose [...] carr[ies] the charge of an unspeakable and chronology-stopping love
because a connection arose in the late nineteenth century between itmit 11' ig ii th time
and it mle' ii, i i ith gender.
Disturb gender, and you disturb temporality; accept the androgyne, and you
accept the abyss. (218)

Here Koestenbaum asserts that the artificiality and unreality of the ceremony-as well as the

silver rose around which it revolves-opens a site for reassessing concepts of time and gender

which appear equally fantastic. Indeed, Hofmannsthal's libretto reflects this notion that the

Presentation of the Rose ceremony represents something queer and other that has ripped the

fabric of conventional understandings of time, beauty, and gender. When Sophie first smells the

silver rose, she notes that it smells not only like an actual rose but also like "roses of heaven, not

of earth like roses of holy paradise" ["Wie himmelische, nicht irdische, wie Rosen vom

hochheiligen Paradies"] (115). Sophie's recognition (or failed recognition) of what is the fantasy

and what is the reality of the rose parallels the audience's own recognition of the meshing of

fantasy and reality in the performed gender of the character of Octavian. Hofmannsthal's clever

use of the metaphorical silver rose in the libretto (as a symbol of the unreal) thus comments upon

his and Strauss' purposeful decision to cast the character of Octavian as similarly illusory, by

using a female soprano or mezzo soprano to portray the male knight of the rose.

Even the simultaneously spoken words of Octavian and Sophie's duet during this scene

further the idea that the opera has suspended reality, allowing the queer and the other to emerge

in this fantastical staged world disconnected from the more realistic and typical ideas and

traditions of the early twentieth century. Calling to mind Koestenbaum's aforementioned

discussion of temporality and sexuality, Sophie exclaims, "There's Time and Eternity in this

moment of bliss" ["Ist Zeit und Ewigkeit in einem sel'gen Augenblick"] (116), while Octavian

speaks of the tenuousness of his own gender: "I was a boy and did not know her yet. Who am I









Roller's images, but through an almost effeminized masculinity, which endows the male

characters in the opera, whether being performed by male or female actors, with a beauty

typically associated with females. So, both Roller and Erte maintain a multigendered portrayal

of Octavian through their respective costume sketches by recognizing both the masculine and

feminine qualities of the character.

Even more so than two-dimensional images and sketches, though, the three-dimensional

costuming of Octavian plays an integral role in the comprehension ofDer Rosenkavalier's queer

performativity. Over the course ofDer Rosenkavalier, Octavian dons women's clothes and

disguises himself as Mariandl-first to escape notice when leaving the Marschallin's boudoir

and secondly to entrap Baron Ochs in order to thwart his marriage arrangement to Sophie. This

double cross-dressing by the actor playing Octavian draws even more attention to the genderplay

at work in the opera. For example, when the Marschallin kisses Octavian dressed as a woman

("You darling! And I can give you no more than a kiss" ["Du Schatz! Und nicht einmal mehr

als ein Busserl kann ich dir geben."] [69]) and calls after him, "And come back, darling, but in

man's clothing and by the front door, if you please" ["Und komm' Er wieder, Schatz, aber in

Mannskleidern und durch die vordre Ttir, wenn's Ihm beliebt"] (69), she makes known her

preference that Octavian return to her in the drag costuming of his male clothes. Thus, the

Marschallin doesn't desire Octavian as a lesbian (as many modern scholars have interpreted the

Marschallin-Octavian affair) or as a heterosexual woman, but instead desires the other-gendered

Octavian who inhabits both realms of sexuality.

Fassbaender, Kirchschlager, and the Filmed Performances of Der Rosenkavalier

Lastly, I would like to examine briefly two performances of Der Rosenkavalier available

on DVD and how their respective actors' portrayals of Octavian enhance (or fail to enhance) the

notion of gender mutability I have espoused throughout this project. The first filmization is a









ACT II
TEXTUAL ANALYSIS OF OCTAVIAN AND THE TROUSER ROLE

In examining the opera Der Rosenkavalier, Octavian's multifarious gender and sexuality

can been seen in virtually each facet of operatic performance: from the musical to the visual;

however, I would like to begin my examination of the opera with a textual analysis of the

libretto, because it is often this literary aspect of opera that is overlooked in current scholarship.

Indeed, while opera layperson and fanatic alike may often attribute authorship of Der

Rosenkavalier to Richard Strauss solely, the work finds a great deal of its shape and narration

through the libretto of Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Like the famous collaboration between Mozart

and Lorenzo da Ponte, Strauss and Hofmannsthal's professional partnership has been, and still is,

touted as one of opera's greatest composer-librettist pairings (an extra-textual homosocial

relationship linked to Der Rosenkavalier that has not gone unnoticed by opera scholars and queer

theorists alike), and their extensive correspondence helped to shape the convoluted birth of the

opera. Also, in Stepchildren of Nature: Krafft-Ebing, Psychiatry, and the Making of Sexual

Identity, Harry Oosterhuis asserts that for Hugo von Hofmannsthal "sexuality was an intriguing

subject that could be deployed to unveil bourgeois society's sense of security as a facade, full of

empty conventions" (260). Thus, I propose that Hofmannsthal, via his textual cues throughout

the opera's libretto, knowingly endows the character of Octavian with a manyheaded and fluid

sexuality. This non-static gendering present in Der Rosenkavalier not only prevents the lesbian-

coded relationships in the opera from being read as merely pornographic, functioning solely to

excite sexually and sensationally, but also presents audiences with an indefinable sexuality that

helps to liberate gender and sexual representations from the male/female, hetero-/homosexual

dyad, both in our current cultural conceptions as well as the microcosmic realm of the operatic

mise-en-scene.










or ceremonial outfits while also introducing "feminine" and ornate touches to complicate the

character's masculinity:


AF


CHRflS IOVTUM
fRSItHAUFZUC


Figure IV-1. Octavian Rofrano: Figure IV-2. Octavian Rofrano:
Drittes Kostum, Erster Aufzug Viertes Kostum, Zweiter Aufzug
(Source: Roller 17) (Source: Roller 25)

In these original 1910 costume sketches for the opera's premiere in Dresden, Alfred

Roller portrays Octavian with a lithe, boyish figure stripped of any marker of the femaleness

underneath (except, perhaps, for the more pronounced hips of the figure in the second image).

The faces, however, are certainly more androgynous. In figure 1, Octavian's colored cheeks and

feline eyes make him more pretty and feminine, while the cherubic face in figure 2 seems to defy


5TO (TMI M-7 : ?-









female mezzo soprano or contralto in lieu of the castrato. Perhaps most famously, George

Frideric Handel often employed both male castrato and female mezzo sopranos-vocal ranges

that sonically overlap-for the same roles in his operas, simply depending upon the availability

of the artists. Margaret Reynolds describes this blurring of the lines between voice and gender in

her essay, "Ruggiero's Deceptions, Cherubino's Distractions":

In Handel's day there was sexual anarchy on stage. Men (or ex-men) played the parts of
heroes in high voices. Women, dressed up as men, sang heroes in high voices. Men,
dressed up as women, played their consorts with high or low voices. And if you couldn't
hire the singer of the sex required, you settled for the voice and didn't worry. (138)

As apparent in Reynolds' reading of the opera stage during the eighteenth century, opera served

as a site for gender deconstruction where feminine-sounding men stood alongside armor-clad

women. Indeed, Handel wrote operas where high, almost feminine, voices could be either male

or female and could evoke a number of vocal qualities that ran the gamut from heroism and

seduction to virginity and villainy. In his most famous opera, Giulio Cesare, the voice types of

the lead roles-Giulio Cesare, Cleopatra, Sesto, Tolomeo, and Cornelia-all fall into similarly

high-voiced tessituras that could be sung by both male castrati and women regardless of whether

the character was male or female; however, as opera edged further away from the opera seria

realm of the castrati to the class struggles and 'battle of the (heterosexual) sexes' subject matter

of opera buffa, the newly-established trouser role began to signify a new type of sexuality.

The Trouser Role and the Pageboy

After the cessation of the practice of castration, as well as the moral clash of the eerily-

juxtaposed masculine body and feminine voice of the castrato with the sexual mores of the late

eighteenth century, castrati became virtually obsolete outside of the church. The sidelining of

the complicated sexual embodiment of the castrato did not, however, stop composers from

writing music for their voice type; now, these composers began to write specifically for the









singing the role of the Marschallin, that the first five minutes ofDer Rosenkavalier are "the most

awkward to perform in any opera" (Castle 46), and "[o]nce you get past these first few minutes

when you are in bed with another woman, you can get on with the role" (Castle 56). As these

examples show, the subversiveness of Octavian's characterization is not simply a theoretical

performativity that can only be identified and teased out through academic scholarship; it is an

unsettling representation of non-normativity recognizable to both the performers and viewers of

the opera as well.

What specifically seems to be so frightening to these performers about the sexuality

inherent in the role of Octavian? For one, at the very beginning of the post-coital tableau that

opens the opera, the audience is privy to the fact that Octavian, unlike Cherubino, actually

experiences the sexual consummation all the other pageboys spend so much time longingly

wishing for in song. Or, as succinctly written by Sam Abel in Opera in the Flesh, "Cherubino

fantasizes about sex, but Octavian actually has sex" (159). Thus, the playful sexual threat posed

by the pageboy and his indiscernible gender finally becomes realized in the character of

Octavian.

While Strauss and Hofmannsthal's characterization of Octavian as sexually active

certainly touches upon emerging notions of early-twentieth-century sexual sensibility, I would

argue that Octavian offers audiences even more complexity than that. In concluding her

examination of the Cherubino figure, Heather Hadlock remarks that twentieth-century composers

and librettists

no longer treat female travesty as a problem or a challenge, and [Strauss and
Hofmannsthal's] (excessively) frank staging of the relationship between Octavian and the
Marschallin puts the female lovers in a spotlight, clearly intended to titillate. Their
"Cherubino" no longer undresses behind a screen, and this very shamelessness, this
abandonment of over a century of shadows and veils over the page's body and desire,
leaves less to "read." (92)









51 Marsehllwin,


ct ..n.n Oc ta r -mn!

Mn ne The res'! H1 chet tc!
Ma ife rt rer?:' A cAst s!
mA sso assai


Eanco.
N L


A~ I. L


Quin- quin! o P'p..


S I (l/?to nsprnei&ro


Figure III-I. Der Rosenkavalier; Act I (Source: Strauss 24-5)

This androgynous vocalizing in the first act also resembles the vocal and gender leaps of

Octavian's pageboy predecessor, Cherubino. Naomi Andre explores this notion of Cherubino's

two voices in Voicing Gender: Castrati, Travesti, and the Second Woman in Early-Nineteenth-

Century Italian Opera:

As for Cherubino, the aria ["Non so piu"] illustrates the tug and pull he experiences
between his "two voices."... [I]t is as though he is trying to tame his voice and push it
down to a lower tessitura, yet it keeps popping up to a higher range, almost beyond his
control.... Split between his higher and lower voices, his "I am" encompasses the two
simultaneous aspects of the childlike boy and the budding adult male personalities he
embodies. (109)

Much like this doubled voice that exists inside the character of Cherubino, Octavian experiences

a similar multivocality. With a vocal line that alternates between violent and bombastic as he









have graduated through or swapped the female roles over the course of their careers. Since

Strauss composed all three characters for the soprano voice (although Octavian is most often

performed by a mezzo soprano), many singers have found the transition between these

differently-gendered characters to be surprisingly smooth and natural. Christa Ludwig and

Gwyneth Jones both essayed the role of the Marschallin after successful portrayals of Octavian,

and Swiss soprano Lisa della Casa has the distinction of having performed as each of the three

lead roles at different stages in her operatic career. This fascinating mobility that performers

have found shifting between the roles of the male Octavian and the female Marschallin and

Sophie speaks to the same textual/sexual ambiguity that Hofmannsthal gives to the character of

Octavian throughout his libretto.

Hofmannsthal likewise imbues Der Rosenkavalier's operatic mise-en-scene (especially

during the love scenes) with a whimsical surreality that hints at the queerness at work in the

character of Octavian. In what is perhaps the opera's most famous set piece, the second act's

Presentation of the Rose scene, Octavian bears a silver rose to Sophie in recognition of her

betrothal to Baron Ochs. When staged, this scene is quite often visually resplendent, with a

silver-clad Octavian arriving at his musical cue with a train of similarly clad officers amidst the

filigreed architecture of Faninal's opulent home; however, while the visual markers of the

scene's fantastic qualities are no doubt in plain view, even the opera's libretto iterates the

otherworldliness of this realm where roses smell celestial and a woman playing a man can be

both and neither genders. In The Queen's Throat, Wayne Koestenbaum elaborates upon the

ways in which this scene arrests the flow of time and how that chronological topsy-turvydom

corresponds to the opera's queer sexuality:









trouser role-a female singer (usually mezzo soprano) who performs as a man in men's clothing.

The most famous archetype to emerge from this newfound operatic role was the pageboy. The

quintessential young man on the verge of sexual awakening, the pageboy is a figure caught

between adulthood and childhood, man and not-man, making the androgynous female drag

performance functional as well as aesthetic. While the stock character of the pageboy recurs in

operas such as Verdi's Un ball in maschera and Wagner's Tannhduser, the most prominent and

popular of these characters is certainly Cherubino from Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. A

secondary character that nevertheless sends Mozart's buffa plot careening into motion,

Cherubino is a sexually-volatile page who falls in love with virtually every female character in

the opera's cast. In her discussion of the pageboy figure of Cherubino in "The Career of

Cherubino, or the Trouser Role Grows Up," Heather Hadlock explains that the

variety of names for the practice [of female-to-male cross-dressing in opera], variously
known as the "trouser role," "breeches part," or "pants part," Hosenrolle or travesti,
testifies both to its international appeal and to the necessity of the singer's having slim,
boyish legs. Equally essential ... is a light and clear voice [and the] page's "talk of love"
is typically translated into melancholy or flirtatious staged songs, directly or indirectly
addressed to an inaccessible beloved, of which Cherubino's "Voi che sapete" remains the
archetype. (68)

Indeed, the figure of the pageboy is part erotic spectacle (the sight of women's legs, even clothed

in men's stockings, was a novelty for the stage at that time) and a true example of form fitting

function-the singer's androgynous voice, much like the voice of a boy experiencing the

hormonal rushes of puberty, is at times lovely and light while at others plummy and deep.

Yet, the character of the pageboy is a limited one. While beloved, the pageboy is often a

minor character in the opera's drama, rarely eclipsing the traditional heterosexual coupling of the

lead soprano and tenor/baritone. Also, despite the pageboy's zealous sexual appetite, the opera

composer and librettist rarely allow this nontraditionally-gendered character to interact sexually









POSTLUDE

So, in examining the extraordinarily vital textual, musical, and visual features ofDer

Rosenkavalier, modem operagoers and scholars can begin to see how Strauss and Hofmannsthal

as well as subsequent opera directors, producers, costume designers, and performers have each

attempted to preserve the fascinating sexual and gender mores of the opera and its eponymous

hero(ine). As I bring this project to a close, I would like to draw your attention to a

correspondence written by composer Richard Strauss to librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal on the

ninth of July, 1909. Replying to a draft of the second act that Hofmannsthal had recently sent,

Strauss discusses the character of Octavian and his elaborate plot to foil Baron Ochs' plans of

marrying Sophie: "The more mischievous Octavian is the better" (267). Whether or not Strauss

intended this comment to refer specifically to Octavian's complicated cross-dressing as Mariandl

or simply the convoluted scheme in general, I feel that this quotation helps us to grasp the very

purposeful intent behind the character of Octavian: to function as a contrary to

heteronormativity. Not simply a lesbian or homosexual figure, Octavian is a powerfully-

ungendered other that opens a site for questioning accepted genders and sexualities and

challenging the status quo. As we look over the long lineage of the trouser role and its

multifaceted methods of commenting on gender and sexuality, from the onstage gender anarchy

of Handel to Mozart's lusty pageboy, arriving at Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal's

Der Rosenkavalier brings us to a point in operatic history where the queer sensibilities currently

so synonymous with opera truly began to emerge and, even to this day, flourish.

So, as opera continues to build an even larger gay and lesbian following, queer scholars

and fans alike can continue to expand and refine the discourse of gender rebellion that occurs on

the operatic stage. By viewing opera through the lens of queer and gender studies, we can

unlock perceptions and interpretations long obscured by the more conservative ideologies that









Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

THE MORE MISCHIEVOUS THE BETTER:
OCTAVIAN AND QUEER OPERA PERFORMANCE
IN RICHARD STRAUSS AND HUGO VON HOFMANNSTHAL' S DER ROSENKAVALIER

By

Peter D'Ettore

December 2007

Chair: Barbara Mennel
Major: English

Despite the thriving gay fanbase opera has developed over the years, this art form

continues to cater to conservative ideologies and traditions-especially concerning matters of

gender and sexuality. As discussed in studies such as Catherine Clement's 1979 Opera, or the

Undoing of Women, opera has built its enduring popularity on traditional, heterosexual narratives

that conclude with the dramatic demise of their heroines. In this thesis, I argue that composer

Richard Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal subvert these established notions of

gender and sexuality in the opera Der Rosenkavalier through the character of the young Count

Octavian Rofrano. Utilizing the operatic practice of casting a female singer as a male character

(commonly known as a trouser role), Strauss and Hofmannsthal prevent Octavian from

inhabiting a strictly masculine or feminine, heterosexual or homosexual identity. This unique,

non-heteronormative characterization endows Octavian with a fluid, non-static gendering that

helps to destabilize gender binarity.

After offering an historical analysis of the trouser role, paying especial attention to the

figure of the castrato and the pageboy archetype, I contend that Strauss and Hofmannsthal-

through cues in the opera's libretto, musical score, and staging-endeavor to mold a character









In the final act, Ochs brings Mariandl (Octavian dressed as a chambermaid) to an inn

where he plans to bed her. Unbeknownst to the Baron, Octavian has devised an elaborate plot

involving masked men and a woman disguised as the Baron's supposedly-abandoned widow in

order to expose the Baron's infidelities. As the evening progresses and an outraged Faninal and

Sophie eventually arrive at the inn to witness the Baron with the "chambermaid," Ochs can no

longer hold Sophie to her marital obligation. Just as Ochs begins to realize the trick that has

been played on him, the Marschallin arrives, sending the Baron away in shame and, despite her

own love for Octavian, uniting the young lovers at the opera's denouement.

Certainly, whether operagoers chose to ignore or dismiss the non-normative gender

depictions in Strauss' opera, they could no longer passively assume that this operatic genderplay

was a simple smoke-and-mirrors illusion meant to stealthily place a women's voice in the body

of a man. From the moment the curtain rises on Der Rosenkavalier, the opera immediately

confronts its audience with the image of two female actresses in bed together. The homoerotic

sexual tension of this first scene was so dangerous to some that the opera was censored and even

banned shortly after its premiere.2 From the opera's inception to its more recent productions, the

complex tinderbox of sexuality also did not go unnoticed on its performers. As recounted in

Philip Brett and Elizabeth Wood's collaborative essay, "Lesbian and Gay Music," famous opera

singer Mary Garden refused to "create the role of Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier because of its

lesbian implications" (353-54). Similarly, New Zealand soprano Kiri te Kanawa has stated, on

2 In "Ruggiero's Deceptions, Cherubino's Distractions," Margaret Reynolds recounts an example
of the censorship Der Rosenkavalier faced in England:

The first act bed caused trouble in London where the Lord Chamberlain intervened when
Thomas Beecham declared his intention to stage the opera in 1912: either the bed had to
go from the scene or there was to be no reference to it in the text sung by the performers.
Beecham decided that the former was preferable, so the Marschallin and Octavian
conducted themselves with upright propriety. (144)









underpinning the break from gender tradition and convention captured in the duet's otherworldly

atmosphere and Octavian's fluctuating musical line that at times embodies both masculine and

feminine characteristics.

Strauss' attention to the gendered vocality of Octavian becomes even more focused in the

final trio and duet. In the celebrated trio ("Hab' mir's gelobt"), the composer layers the voices of

his female performers to create an almost impenetrable mesh of feminine sound. In Opera and

the Culture ofFascism, Jeremy Tambling describes this ensemble, explaining that "the voices

soar, and it is not clear which voice is being heard, whether that of the stage women or the

putative male-that is, Octavian" (190). Surely, in composing this piece, Strauss was aware of

this inevitable aural confusion-a confusion that, in obscuring the gender of the male Octavian

among the female voices of Sophie and the Marschallin, undermines gender binaries, giving

form to a character without tangible or definite male- or femaleness. Even more so than its role

in the Presentation of the Rose scene, Octavian's voice alternates between its masculine and

feminine colorations, at times providing the supportive moving line while the voices of Sophie

and the Marschallin draw out their high notes and then suddenly soaring higher than both the

other voices (as seen when Octavian sings "Ist den nein groBes Unrecht..." in figure 3):









1979 performance of the Bayerisches Staatsorchester, conducted by Carlos Kleiber; Brigitte

Fassbaender performs the role of Octavian. The second is a 2004 Salzburg Festival performance

by the Wiener Philharmoniker conducted by Semyon Bychkov; the Octavian is Angelika

Kirchschlager. Although the 1979 performance is more traditional and typical in its production

and staging choices, I feel that this filmic representation conveys more successfully than the

avant-garde and controversial Salzburg Festival entry the plastic and fluid gender of Octavian's

character.

In her justly-famous assumption of the role of Octavian, Brigitte Fassbaender creates a

character whose complicated web of genders and cross-dressings are always utterly believable.

Never betraying discomfort in her intimate interactions with Gwyneth Jones or Lucia Popp (the

actors who portray the Marschallin and Sophie, respectively), Fassbaender and her ease of

performance naturalizes the non-heteronormativity of her drag character; however, despite her

studied mimicry of masculinity, Fassbaender is never satisfied to simply perform as a man. In

her essay, "In Praise of Brigitte Fassbaender: Reflections on Diva Worship," Terry Castle

explains just how Fassbaender's complex performance as Octavian avoids a seamless illusion of

maleness:

Precisely to the degree that Fassbaender seems to enter "into" her male roles, precisely as
I watch her approach (though without ever reaching) a kind of "zero degree masculinity,"
I find myself becoming more and more acutely aware of, and aroused by, her femininity.
The very butchness with which she tackles, say, a role like Octavian-the sheer,
absolutist bravado of the impersonation-infuses it with a dizzying homosexual charge.
(43)

Indeed, while Fassbaender certainly makes her masculinity believable (seen particularly

convincingly when an uncomfortable, almost homophobic, tension builds at the prospect of

Octavian, in the double-drag as Mariandl, kissing Baron Ochs-though, in reality, a heterosexual

kiss between a male and female actor), as Castle notes, the singer never achieves a perfect





























2007 Peter D'Ettore









argue that, through composer Richard Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal's use of

libretto, musical score, and staging, Octavian functions as a purposefully queeredd" character

whose successful existence without definable gender reflects the emergence of non-normative

sexualities in the social consciousness of the early twentieth century that are still relevant today.









ACT I
HISTORICAL ANALYSIS OF OCTAVIAN AND THE TROUSER ROLE

The Rise and Fall of the Castrato

Before embarking on my discussion of the breeches role in Der Rosenkavalier, it is

necessary to provide a brief background of these roles in opera's performance history. Before

women were universally permitted to grace the stage, whether theatrical or operatic, the castrato

sang the high-voiced alto and soprano roles most commonly associated nowadays with women.

Susan J. Leonardi and Rebecca A. Pope, whose study on diva politics and worship discusses the

rise and fall of the castrato at length, trace the practice of castration in The Diva'sMouth: Body,

Voice, Prima Donna Politics:

Castration was, perhaps, the price patriarchy paid to keep women silent and its authority
intact. "As in all congregations of God's people, women should keep silent at the
meeting," St. Paul advised the Corinthians (I Cor. 14.33-34), and his namesake Pope Paul
IV (1555-1559) codified Paul's advice by officially banning women from singing in St.
Peter's. Church choirs depended on boys and adult male falsettists to sing soprano and
alto parts, but as monody gave way to increasingly complicated polyphony, more
powerful voices and mature musicians (especially singers who would not be lost once
their voices changed) were needed for upper-register parts. (25)

In order to fulfill this need for a voice as light as a child's, while also as strong as an adult's, the

custom of castrating young boys to preserve their young, high voices, in what is known as an

orchiectomy, was born. Although practiced by the Roman Catholic Church, the Church itself

publicly shunned the act, and thus, it is uncertain exactly when the practice began; however,

documentation exists of castrati performing as early as 1562 (Leonardi and Pope 25). On the

other hand, the appearance of women on the stage, even outside the Catholic Church, was often

looked upon as an act of gross impropriety. This is not to say that women did not perform

publicly; however, because they were often prohibited from appearing and singing onstage, the

figure of the castrato began to serve as a proxy for the female performer and the staged female

body of the era.










While Hadlock's reading of the pageboy trope via the character of Cherubino is insightful

in its investigation of what is often obscured from view, I believe that the author oversimplifies

the characterization of Octavian when she claims that his lesbian visibility (the "female lovers")

automatically de-problematizes his gender travesty, as if the characters in Der Rosenkavalier

become transparently and unproblematically homosexual. Surely, the more sexually suggestive

aspects in the "lesbian" relationship between Octavian and the Marschallin (and later Octavian

and Sophie) cannot be completely swept under the rug, but I would argue that Octavian's

characterization is far too mercurial to be labeled as simply homosexual. By blending together

the seemingly binary genders embodied in the character of Octavian, merging the feminine and

girlish with the masculine and boyish, Strauss and Hofmannsthal not only move Octavian

beyond the limited depiction of the operatic pageboy, but reify emergent non-heteronormative

sexualities that are still surprisingly relevant in contemporary society.









gender categorization completely. Even the costumes themselves, especially the silver outfit in

figure 2, are almost feminine in their sartorial opulence and finery.


Figure IV-3. Octavian Rofrano Genannt
Quinquin: Erstes Kostum, Erster Aufzug
(Source: Roller 5)

The Octavian in figure 3, also by Alfred Roller, brings the actor's femaleness even more

to the fore as the jacketless figure's feminine hips and backside are now visible (even though,

surprisingly, the face appears more masculine than the previous two images). Thus, in each of

these sketches, Roller emphasizes both the masculine and feminine qualities of the Octavian

character, creating a figure that balances between, rather than resolving into, a strict male or

female gender identity.


11Q1 ;LlI 1. 9-1111 I









THE MORE MISCHIEVOUS THE BETTER:
OCTAVIAN AND QUEER OPERA PERFORMANCE
IN RICHARD STRAUSS AND HUGO VON HOFMANNSTHAL' S DER ROSENKAVALIER




















By

PETER D'ETTORE


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2007









semblance of masculinity. Fassbaender, I believe, is even aware of this disjuncture, and often, in

her characterization of the multigendered Octavian, fondles his sword, sheathing and

unsheathing it, in symbolic recognition of her own-and, by extension, the character's-ultimate

phallic lack. Thus, I feel that Fassbaender succeeds in providing an interpretation of Octavian

that truly explores the character's ungendered qualities, rather than simply assigning Octavian

either a masculine or even subversively lesbian identity.

Angelika Kirchschlager, on the other hand, for all her many musical talents, fails to

succeed in providing the wholly complex characterization so evident in Fassbaender's

interpretation. The problems with Kirchschlager's performance surface most prominently when

her Octavian is dressed as Mariandl. In the first act, when she's attempting to escape Baron

Ochs, no amount of playacting can disguise the fact that Kirchschlager has now reverted back to

being a woman. Wearing red lipstick and her breasts unbound, it becomes obvious to the

audience that the actor playing Octavian is, in reality, female. It is almost as if director Robert

Carsen had wanted to divulge the theatrical secret of Octavian's character by having the actress

dress in female clothing in order to reveal her "true" identity. Unlike the aforementioned 1979

performance, which never tips its hand either way about Fassbaender's true gender (even during

the curtain calls, Fassbaender chivalrously leads Jones and Popp out in front of her), this more

recent performance breaks the operatic conceit and, even more detrimentally, explains the

previously unexplainable gender of the Octavian character.

In the final scene of the Salzburg performance, when Octavian dresses as Mariandl in

order to seduce Baron Ochs, Kirchschlager is costumed in layered lingerie and comes sashaying

campily through a circle of women in her new disguise. Almost completely antithetical to her

previous double cross-dressing, Kirchschlager now treats femininity not as Octavian's true









As the opera begins, the viewer is automatically provided with visual clues that suggest

Octavian's sexual otherness. Immediately, the audience is confronted with the image of a

woman in man's clothing; however, even the listener (or reader, if the opera house employs

surtitles) can recognize the unique space that Octavian inhabits through the words of the opera.

This liminal space is often seen when the audience, recognizing the femaleness of the actor

portraying the male character of Octavian, is continuously reminded by the libretto, through

gendered names or pronouns for example, of Octavian's maleness. In order to reinforce the

theatrical illusion of Octavian's male gender within the diegesis of the narrative, Hofmannsthal

saturates the libretto with various references to Octavian's maleness and masculinity. For

instance, the Marschallin constantly refers to Octavian as "mein Bub'," a term of affection

typically translated as "my boy" (61, 64). Even this simple pet name between lovers signifies

with a very specific male gender. Also, on two separate occasions, the Marschallin remarks how

the queerly-gendered Octavian behaves much like other men do. When Octavian reacts

petulantly and possessively to the Marschallin's fear of abandonment in the first act, she pleads,

"No, please, do not be as all men are" ["Nein bitt' sch6n, sei Er nur nicht, wie alle Manner

sind!"] (104). Then, near the end of the last act, the Marschallin relinquishes Octavian to his

new love, Sophie, both chiding his fickle heart and his sex as a whole when she bittersweetly

comments, "You are so like a man-go to her!" ["Er ist ein rechtes Mannsbild, geh' Er hin"]

(196). Not only do these purposeful references to Octavian's maleness and masculine behavior

keep the femaleness of the actor performing the role textually hidden, but the juxtaposition of

these remarks with the actor's true gender also provide for a sly undercurrent of self-referential

humor at the genderplay involved in the opera. Although these purposes may strike the reader as

both expected and even necessary in reinforcing a more conservative masking of Octavian's









Hart's rhetorical inquiry, perhaps the more fitting question to ask is "What does the Marschallin

fulfill in Octavian," because it is when Octavian conflates his own self and gender with the

Marschallin's that his role moves beyond the simple woman-as-man transvestite performance to

a more complex, ungendered one.

Even Octavian's interaction with Sophie reveals a similar mirroring trend. After Sophie

meets the loutish Baron Ochs, she confides her dissatisfaction to the dashing young Octavian.

When Octavian promises to oppose the marriage arrangement on her behalf, he makes her a

request: "All alone, you must now stand for us both!" ["Nun mu3 Sie ganz allein fiur uns zwei

einstehn!"] (132). The provided translation reinforces the doubleness of the Octavian and Sophie

figures as Octavian not only asks that Sophie "stand" up for both of their honor but also that she

"stand for" (i.e., "represent") both characters. Again, these textual choices made by librettist

Hofmannsthal muddy what initially appears to be a conventionally-masculine characterization of

Octavian.

Still more convincingly, only minutes after their pact, the frightened Sophie insists that

Octavian stand up for her: "No, no! I can't open my mouth. You speak for me!" ["Nein! Nein!

Ich bring' den Mund nicht auf Sprech' Er fiur mich!"] (137). At the textual level, Sophie's

request speaks to the similarity between the gender of the two characters insomuch as the one

can stand in for the other; however, at this moment, Octavian's mercurial gender even transcends

the confines of the libretto, as the audience will recognize that the female actor playing the male

Octavian, when speaking her next lines, actually does speak for Sophie with an almost identical

female voice.

This sexual sameness between Octavian and both the Marschallin and Sophie located

within the libretto can also be seen in the flesh, so to speak, in the ways in which varying artists









identity, but as full-blown parody. Instead of fleshing out the varying genders and sexualities

that comprise Octavian's identity, this parodic portrayal of Octavian's double drag performance

turns the character's sexual slippage into a humorous-but meaningless-joke, rather than a

source of gender exploration and examination.

Then again, some viewers and scholars may argue that the subversive sexuality absent in

Kirchschlager's performance can be seen more openly in the vivid and unabashed sexual

displays throughout the 2004 production. Certainly, the opera's bookending scenes feature

Octavian and the Marschallin (Adrianne Pieczonka)-and Sophie (Miah Persson) in the finale-

in various stages of undress, passionately kissing, embracing, and rolling around on beds.

Unfortunately, I see this seeming celebration of Der Rosenkavalier's queer sensibilities as

ultimately limited. Rather than truly exploring the sexual complexities of Octavian's character,

these scenes simply exploit the more prurient and sensationalist homosexual aspects of the

opera's casting, as evidenced by the remainder of the pre-World War II Regietheater production,

which sets the final scene in a brothel where numerous couples simulate intercourse in the

background. In contrast to the Presentation of the Rose scene, where the otherworldly

atmosphere queers gender and sexuality, the scenes of sexuality in Carsen's production ofDer

Rosenkavalier simply serve to shock and titillate.









LIST OF REFERENCES

Abel, Sam. Opera in the Flesh: Sexuality in Operatic Performance. Boulder: Westview, 1996.

Andre, Naomi. Voicing Gender: Castrati, Travesti, and the Second Woman in Early-Nineteenth-
Century Italian Opera. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2006.

Bashant, Wendy. "Singing in Greek Drag: Gluck, Berlioz, George Eliot." Blackmer and Smith
216-41.

Blackmer, Corinne E. and Patricia Juliana Smith, eds. En Travesti: Women, Gender Subversion,
Opera. New York: Columbia UP, 1995.

Blumer, Rodney, ed. Der Rosenkavalier. LP Booklet. London: Decca, 1969.

Brett, Philip and Elizabeth Wood. "Lesbian and Gay Music." Queering the Pitch: The New Gay
andLesbian Musicology. Eds. Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas. New
York: Routledge, 2006. 351-89.

Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex." New York: Routledge,
1993.

Castle, Terry. "In Praise of Brigitte Fassbaender: Reflections on Diva-Worship." Blackmer and
Smith 20-58.

Clement, Catherine. Opera, or the Undoing of Women. Trans. Betsy Wing. Minneapolis: U of
Minnesota P, 1988.

Erte. Erte 's Costumes and Sets for Der Rosenkavalier in Full Color. New York: Dover, 1980.

Hadlock, Heather. "The Career of Cherubino, or the Trouser Role Grows Up." Smart 67-92.

Hart, Beth. "Strauss and Hofmannsthal's Accidental Heroine: The Psychohistorical Meaning of
the Marschallin." Opera Quarterly. 15.3 (Summer 1999): 414-34.

Hofmannsthal, Hugo von. Der Rosenkavalier. Libretto. London: Decca, 1984.

Hunter, Mary. The Culture of Opera Buffa in Mozart's Vienna: A Poetics of Entertainment.
Princeton: Princeton UP, 1999.

Hutcheon, Linda and Michael Hutcheon. "Staging the Female Body: Richard Strauss's
Salome." Smart 204-21.

Koestenbaum, Wayne. The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery ofDesire.
New York: Poseidon, 1993.









almost performs a role of its own in propelling the narrative to its finale. In Opera in the Flesh,

Sam Abel explains the use of Octavian's sword in Der Rosenkavalier against the more blatant

psychosexual dramas of Salome and Elektra, claiming that "Strauss carries over the fetish-laden

atmosphere of his first two successes and transforms it into a much more subtle use of the

sexually obsessive symbol" (124). This "visual objectification of Octavian's elusive

masculinity" (124), as Abel calls it, often comes into play in the opera's plot in order to clarify

Octavian's maleness. In the first act, for example, Octavian accidentally leaves his sword in the

Marschallin's room as he runs to hide from Baron Ochs. Not only does the phallic sword, in this

instance, allude to the post-coital scene that opens the opera, but the Marschallin also chides

Octavian's masculinity for his misplacement of the weapon, stating, "You scatterbrain, how

careless of you! Is it the thing to leave one's sword lying around in a lady's bedroom? Have you

no manners?" ["Er Katzenkopf, Er Unvorsichtiger! La3t man in einer Dame Schlafzimmer

seinen Degen herumliegen? Hat Er keine besseren Gepflogenheiten?"] (63) This utilization of

the sword as a prop in this scene and the Marschallin's subsequent chastisement of Octavian's

maleness reinforce once again that Octavian is a character who has been gendered in multiple

ways by the staging of Der Rosenkavalier. Not only does the sword metaphorically signify

Octavian's masculinity, but his improper placement of it (i.e., his misuse of the phallus) labels

him as unmasculine and distinctly non-heteronormative.

In the second act, the sword takes on an even more significant role as the scuffle that

ensues between Baron Ochs and Octavian climatically sets into motion the conflict that will

bring about the opera's deus ex machine resolution. When Octavian initially confronts Ochs on

behalf of Sophie, Ochs is dismissive and condescending toward the young boy. Octavian rashly

challenges Ochs to a duel, brandishing his sword, which results in Ochs accidentally wounding









"Rabin has described the progression as moving 'from independent statements for the two

participants, through dialogue, to a closing tutti in parallel thirds and sixths.' The 'independent

statements' often repeat the same melody" (162). By extension, this same structure applies to

Strauss' Mozartian "Ist ein Traum"-"Sptr' nur dich." Indeed, even though Sophie and

Octavian's duet begins with the tutti, after the first unison section, Octavian and Sophie trade off

the melody as mentioned above. Just like Don Giovanni's heterosexual seduction of Zerlina in

"La ci darem la mano," the male and female figures of Octavian and Sophie alternate the

melodic line of the duet until closing the opera with their shared reprise of the duet's main

theme. In composing this duet, whose format and content would be familiar to operagoers,

Strauss places Octavian and Sophie in the longstanding tradition of heteronormative gender roles

in opera; however, at the same time, the conscious choice to use the androgynous voice of

Octavian as a participant in the duet works against a strictly "straight" reading of the scene. The

similarity of the two female voices when swapping identical melodic lines or even when singing

in harmony enhances the sexual sameness of these supposed differently-gendered characters.

Also, the recurrence of celesta, harp, and flute echoes their same thematic uses in the queered

Presentation of the Rose scene. So, not only does Strauss present his audience with a non-static

character that constantly maneuvers between genders, but his is a character more fully-formed

than the pageboys of operatic past, for while Cherubino sings love songs to the world's women

in "Non so piu" and "Voi che sapete," these arias are sung alone; Octavian, on the other hand, is

permitted to function in a romantic relationship-to sing a love song to another character and

have that character reciprocate his desire.









PRELUDE

Nowadays, opera is gay. Twenty-first century audiences tend to associate the exquisite

excesses of opera with homosexuality. The phrase "opera queen"-usually used to describe a

white, upper middle class, effeminate gay man who frequents the opera-has become a

commonly-recognized entry in the ever-growing gay lexicon, and, with the advent of twentieth-

century technology, the gay interest has spread to the internet in the form of websites and blogs,

such as the self-proclaimed "queer opera zine" Parterre Box (http://www.parterre.com/).

Despite opera's close association with queerness, many opera houses still play to conservative

audiences and ideologies. Even though operatic "divas," epitomized by Maria Callas, have

become synonymous with homosexual sensibilities, the operatic stage still caters to the elaborate

fetishization of female demise; as Catherine Clement famously and poetically remarks in her

groundbreaking 1979 Opera, or the Undoing of Women, "[O]n the opera stage women

perpetually sing their eternal undoing" (5).

It is precisely because of this atmosphere of conservative, even patriarchal, interest in

opera that its queer transgressions become so powerful. In the mid-1990s critics from academic

realms as varied as literature, psychology, and musicology, lead by Wayne Koestenbaum's

seminal text on homosexuality and opera, The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the

Mystery ofDesire, began to explore opera's undeniably queer leanings. Take, for example, the

opening scene of Richard Strauss' popular opera, Der Rosenkavalier. The curtain rises: it is

morning. As woodwinds alternate the chirpings of a morningbird song, two women sleepily

rouse from their passionate embrace. One of these women is the aging princess known only by

her title, the Marschallin; the other woman, however, is the young Count Octavian Rofrano-a

male character portrayed by a female actor. Dresden audiences witnessed this very operatic









have dominated this multimedia art form. Thus, if we truly recognize and embrace the queerness

of opera-from its travesti to its divadom to its still untapped realms of non-heteronormativity-

lovers of opera can begin to mine the rich depths of subversion inherent in these extravagant,

melodramatic, campy-and fabulously gay-works of art.









then? ... Were I not a man, I should lose my senses" ["Ich war ein Bub' da hab' ich die noch

nicht gekannt. Wer bin denn ich? ... War' ich kein Mann, die Sinne mochten mir vergehn"]

(116). Indeed, even Octavian himself draws attention to his complex gender characterization by

voicing his own confusion about his identity in this surreal and chimerical scene; however,

Hofmannsthal does not intend for this glimpse of an indefinable, non-normative sexuality to

remain encapsulated inside the hermetically-sealed world of the opera. As mentioned earlier, the

sodomy trial of Oscar Wilde (on whose play Strauss had based his 1905 opera Salome) had

occurred less than twenty years before the premiere ofDer Rosenkavalier, and Richard von

Krafft-Ebing wrote his psychiatric study of sexual deviance, Psychopathia sexualis, which

catalogued and medicalized homosexuality in the nineteenth century,3 only ten years prior to

that. Wendy Bashant provides a link between Hofmannsthal's world of opera and the then-

emerging understandings of sexuality in her essay, "Singing in Greek Drag: Gluck, Berlioz,

George Eliot." Bashant explains that the "[u]nbridled, gender-bending women like Salome were

created by men after Krafft-Ebing's theories linking athletes, feminists, and 'opera singers and

actresses who appear in male attire on the stage by preference' were published in 1889. They

were meant to be viewed as monstrous women" (222-23). Certainly Octavian can be included in

this discussion of "gender-bending women"; however, even with his knowledge of these cultural

happenings, Hofmannsthal uses the character of Octavian not as a symbol of fear, mutation, or

disease, but, moving beyond the moral decay of nineteenth century decadence, creates a

character who is complexly-gendered and yet still endowed with a sympathetic humanity.



3 For more on Krafft-Ebing's influence on homosexuality in the nineteenth century, see
Oosterhuis, who makes the claim that sexual perversion was "recognized, confirmed, and
legitimized" through the dialogue between patient and psychiatric community present in Krafft-
Ebing's numerous case studies (212).









that refuses the boundaries of male or female, heterosexual or homosexual labeling. By

permitting Octavian to exist within this "queer," nongendered space, Strauss and Hofmannsthal

force viewers ofDer Rosenkavalier to reassess traditional gender and sexual roles-both when

the opera was premiered in 1911 as well as today. Thus, my thesis offers an analysis that not

only situates the opera in the context of the early twentieth century but also outlines the opera's

commentary on gender and sexual roles that are still valuable for contemporary culture,

particularly discussions of queer theory.









titillation or reinforce patriarchal constructions by endowing a woman with masculinity; instead,

the character of Octavian captures an image of a queered gender fluidity that destabilizes notions

of gender binarity, refusing to resolve into either masculinity or femininity, male or female.

Before beginning my close examination of the various texts in Der Rosenkavalier, I must

explicate my reading of the word "queer," which becomes an essential descriptor of Octavian's

manygendered characterizationl-rather than strictly hetero- or homosexual, lesbian or gay-in

this project. My usage of the word "queer" draws from the work of Judith Butler in Bodies That

Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex. In her discussion of this multifaceted and recursive

term, Butler states "that queeringg' might signal an inquiry into (a) theformation of

homosexualities (a historical inquiry which cannot take the stability of the term for granted,

despite the political pressure to do so) and (b) the deformative and misappropriative power that

the term currently enjoys" (229, italics in original). Butler goes on to explain that a possible

function of this word is to "resist the more institutionalized and reformist politics sometimes

signified by 'lesbian and gay'" (228). Thus, Butler offers a definition of "queer" that, like my

argued characterization of Octavian, describes a sexual identification that exists constantly in

flux, defying codifiable gender labels. In terms of this paper, I offer it as an alternative to the

more limiting and often static identities of "gay" and "lesbian" in hopes that it will signify an

even more complex and critical theoretical idea.

So, while Octavian has come to be read as a representative or iconographic lesbian figure

in recent gender and opera criticism (see Brett and Wood 359 and Hadlock 265n. 34), I would


' While I understand the possible limitations and complications inherent in a term that suggests
the existence of "many" genders without defining them, I use the term "manygendered" (as well
as "multigendered") as a linguistic shorthand to symbolize a fluid gender characterization that,
rather than representing a character who simply and statically inhabits both masculinity and
femininity, maneuvers freely on the continuum between these socially-constructed gender roles.









ACT IV
VISUAL ANALYSIS OF OCTAVIAN AND THE TROUSER ROLE

Last, but most definitely not least, in reading the queerness ofDer Rosenkavalier

audiences and scholars alike must pay especial attention to the staging and production of the

opera. Although the visual aspect of opera is often its most vivid and striking quality, audiences

are deprived of this crucial tool to understanding opera performance when it is heard as a

recording. Because this visual component is often ignored by scholars in opera analysis, Linda

and Michael Hutcheon argue for the necessity of examining this physical space of opera in their

2000 essay, "Staging the Female Body: Richard Strauss's Salome":

While it may seem obvious that the staged body is central to any form of theatrical
representation, it is the voice-almost a disembodied voice-that has come to dominate
discussions of opera, especially since the technological advances in audio recording and
radio transmissions. In a related move, opera criticism has been dominated by
considerations of the music that voice sings-usually separated from the libretto's verbal
text and the dramatic staged narrative. Musicologists confidently assert: "It is after all
the music that an opera-lover goes to hear." But, speaking for these opera-lovers, at least,
we go to see as well as hear a performance, and that performance includes a verbal text
and a staged dramatic narrative-for which that (admittedly important) music was
especially written. Opera is an embodied art form; it is the performers who give it its
"phenomenal reality." Indeed, opera owes its undeniable affective power to the
overdetermination of the verbal, the visual and the aural-not to the aural alone. And it
is specifically the body-the gendered, sexualized body-that will not be denied in
staged opera. (206)

Indeed, the gendered bodies of the characters in Der Rosenkavalier are extraordinarily vital

means through which audiences may apprehend the complexities of the work, not to mention the

ways in which various aspects of the opera as seemingly inconsequential as props and costumes

further the queer representations of Octavian.

Silver Roses, Swords, and the Gendered Props of Der Rosenkavalier

Aside from the titular silver rose, perhaps the most famous prop that cleverly comments

upon Octavian's sexuality is his sword. Serving as a surrogate phallus for the female actor's

literal lack, Octavian's sword doesn't simply sit at his side for the entirety of the opera but









the tension of this new and troubling sexuality (Plaut 265), the composer returned to more

traditional composition and themes for what would become his most successful and popular

composition, Der Rosenkavalier. Despite what was then viewed as Strauss' musical and

ideological retreat into safer settings and melodic structures, the composer, as well as his

librettist, Hofmannsthal, endowed the work with an even more complex and avant-garde

treatment of gender and sexuality.

Before fully exploring the complicated gender depictions of Octavian in Der

Rosenkavalier, a brief synopsis of the opera is in order. Der Rosenkavalier narrates the story of

the young Count Octavian and his illicit affair with the Marschallin. As mentioned earlier, when

the opera begins, the lovers are in bed together; however, the Marschallin's cousin, the boorish

Baron Ochs, calls on the princess to request a young nobleman to perform the ceremonial

Presentation of the Silver Rose for his fiancee, Sophie. Unable to escape before Ochs' entrance,

Octavian must don the clothes of a chambermaid and soon finds himself dodging the lascivious

advances of the Baron. To appease Ochs, the Marschallin suggests that Octavian bear the silver

rose to Sophie.

In the second act, Octavian arrives at the house of Sophie's father, the nouveau-riche

Faninal, to present his daughter with the silver rose. During the scene, Octavian and Sophie are

entranced by one another's beauty, and, after Sophie repulses Ochs' crass, oversexed

propositions, they pledge their love to one another. Later, while trying to defend Sophie's honor,

Octavian inadvertently wounds the Baron with his sword; however, Ochs is undeterred and still

plans to marry Sophie. At the end of the act, Ochs receives a letter written by the Marchallin's

chambermaid (actually Octavian) requesting a clandestine rendezvous.









himself on the weapon. As Ochs blusters over the slight injury he receives, he remarks, "One is

what one is and has no need to prove it" ["Man ist halt, was man ist, und braucht's nicht zu

beweisen"] (140). Again, Octavian's sword and Ochs' response draw attention to the limitations

of Octavian's maleness. Even the ineffectual wounding of Ochs (other than the tantrum it elicits

from the Baron) reemphasizes Octavian's inability to wield his substitute phallus and to

successfully perform expected male roles. Thus, Strauss and Hofmannsthal's effective use of the

sword as prop and symbol throughout the narrative and staging of Der Rosenkavalier work to

further Octavian's complex characterization as a fluidly-gendered figure that destabilizes

conventional binary gender constructions.

Alfred Roller, Ert6, and the Costuming of Octavian

More so than most operas (the spartan production values and costuming of Wagner and

verismo operas immediately come to mind), Der Rosenkavalier gains a majority of its appeal

from its distinctive, elaborate visual style. This confectioner's sugar coating has garnered the

opera many critiques for being too superficial, but I would argue that this surface sheen serves as

yet another important facet in fleshing out a queered sensitivity of this work. The costuming in

particular functions to both masculinize and feminize the character of Octavian. In his

discussion of Victorian representations of trouser roles in Opera in the Flesh, Sam Abel notes

that artists often made no attempt to hide the femaleness of the travesti performers:

There is no attempt at realistic illusion; the contours of the ideal feminine body are often
more highlighted in drag than in "proper" women's clothes. The male clothes emphasize
the female parts. Images of hourglass figures, wasp waists, and large bosoms recur in
these engravings, clearly evoking the ideal of feminine sexual allure. (211)

In the sketches available from the original 1911 Der Rosenkavalier premiere, however, the

costume designs literally obscure the gender of the actor playing Octavian under men's military









LIST OF FIGURES

Figure page

III-1 D er R osenkavalier; A ct I ......................................................................... ....................32

III-2 D er R osenkavalier; A ct II.......................................................... ..................................34

III-3 D er Rosenkavalier; A ct III .................................. ........................... ............... 36

IV-1 Octavian Rofrano: Drittes Kostim, Erster Aufzug .................................................41

IV-2 Octavian Rofrano: Viertes Kostim, Zweiter Aufzug ....................... ........................... 41

IV-3 Octavian Rofrano Genannt Quinquin: Erstes Kostim, Erster Aufzug ...........................42

IV -4 O ctavian at the end of A ct I ......................................... .. ........................... ...................43

IV-5 Octavian's runners ................................... .. ........... .. ............43










li. |. r J r IL .L m >r m n n

ni der knien dart- vor der Frat nd mkht ihr as
la dyk ftl, L..- 1--j IMwt kLed yt j in WouN I

I f a I
eFur t. er Rse ndr giaavier; Act III (Surc: Straus
atte to te e uroti i l, levin hie nd Otin ne to efo th o a fna

mpie, -rume it- trtwait en ir? nut denies gro listener a rs uet s-
ow rlatil y convntional the piec sounds after the co le wrong a euvin d hora











Figure 111-3. Der Rosenkavalier; Act III (Source: Strauss 439)

This inseparable web of female voices dissipates soon after when the Marschallin exits to

attend to the neurotic Faninal, leaving Sophie and Octavian alone to perform the opera's final

piece, the duet "1st ein Traum"-"Spur' nur dich." What strikes the listener about this duet is

how relatively conventional the piece sounds after the complex vocal maneuverings and chordal

dissonances of the trio. The duet's more typical and familiar structure and delivery stem

specifically from the tradition of the heterosexual love duet that runs throughout operatic

performance history. As Eric A. Plaut recounts in Grand Opera: Mirror of the Western Mind, it

was Hofmannsthal himself who suggested to Strauss that he compose a "Mozartian duet" for the

opera's finale (281). Both structurally and tonally, this closing duet in Der Rosenkavalier

follows the pattern of the Mozartian heterosexual love duet typified by the famous "La ci darem

la mano" from Don Giovanni. In The Culture of Opera Buffa in Mozart's Vienna, Mary Hunter

explains the "predictable" duet structure of Mozart's duet via the scholarship of Ronald Rabin:









In the 1740s, however, the popularity of castrati began to wane significantly. In The

Diva's Mouth, Pope and Leonardi offer a number of suggestions as to why the castrato began to

disappear from the public eye: an economic boom in the 1730s which eased dependence upon

the cruel and desperate process of castration in order to secure a son's future, "a decline in the

number of religious orders in Italy ... and the dissolution of others with the coming of the

French," and attempts by Napoleonic governments to outlaw castration (42). Most importantly

for this project, however, is the notion that castrati fell out of favor because of a decline in the

florid vocal stylings synonymous with the castrato and a movement towards more realism in

opera performance (42). Under the guise of making opera more realistic, the complex, non-

heteronormative gender roles embodied in the castrato were shunned by opera composers and

librettists. It is only in the early twentieth century, when Strauss and Hofmannsthal introduced

their more fantastical Octavian and Composer pants roles (the latter appearing in Ariadne auf

Naxos) that opera performance truly regained some of the powerful gender complexity present in

the era of the castrato.

Contrary to modern listeners' conceptions of voice and gender, men's heroic operatic

voices before the 1800s were rarely deep and heavy. Instead, the male protagonists in opera

could have high, light voices-voices that are now commonly associated with women and

femininity; however, with the sparse population of castrati available, opera companies were often

forced to seek alternative bodies and voices to reproduce roles that were once the sole domain of

the castrato. While some opera composers transposed their music, dropping the vocal lines to

lower tessituras in order to accommodate male tenors, baritones, and basses (e.g., Gluck rewrote

Orfeo edEuridice so that the once-castrato role of the young poet Orpheus could now be

performed by a male tenor), other opera companies began to substitute the similarly-sounding




Full Text

PAGE 1

1 THE MORE MISCHIEVOUS THE BETTER: OCTAVIAN AND QUEER OPERA PERFORMANCE IN RICHARD STRAUSS AND HUGO VON HOFMANNSTHALS DER ROSENKAVALIER By PETER DETTORE A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007

PAGE 2

2 2007 Peter DEttore

PAGE 3

3 For my Mother, to whom each of my accomplishmen ts are dedicated, whether or not I remember to say so.

PAGE 4

4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS First and forem ost, I would like to thank Dr. Barbara Mennel for her generous support and guidance in a project that refu sed to be defined by any one academic discipline. Her intradepartmental studies proved to be an invaluable resource for an equally intradepartmental thesis. I would also like to thank Dr. Anthony Offerle, whose unique knowledge of opera and constant enthusiasm aided in refining and stre ngthening my musical scholarship. I must also offer my thanks to Dr. Maureen Turim, whose patience and kindness during the early stages of this project were absolutely vital in helping it to become the thesis that it is now. Lastly, I cannot forget the limitless love and encouragement of my parents, Peter and Marie DEttore, to whom I owe more than I could possibly hope to enumerate here.

PAGE 5

5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 LIST OF FI GURES.........................................................................................................................6 ABSTRACT .....................................................................................................................................7 HISTORICAL ANALYSIS OF OC TAVIAN AND THE TROUSER ROLE .............................. 13 The Rise and Fall of the Castrato ........................................................................................... 13 The Trouser Role and the Pageboy .........................................................................................15 Octavian, the Knight of the Silver Rose .................................................................................17 TEXTUAL ANAL YSIS OF OCTAVI AN AND THE TROUSER ROLE................................... 22 MUSICAL ANAL YSIS OF OCTAVI AN AND THE TROUSER ROLE.................................... 30 VISUAL ANALYSIS OF OCTA VIAN AND THE TROUSER ROLE ....................................... 38 Silver Roses, Swords, and the Gendered Props of Der Rosenkavalier ..................................38 Alfred Roller, Ert, and th e Costum ing of Octavian.............................................................. 40 Fassbaender, Kirchschlager, and the Film ed Performances of Der Rosenkavalier ................44 POSTLUDE ....................................................................................................................... ............48 LIST OF REFERENCES ...............................................................................................................50 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .........................................................................................................52

PAGE 6

6 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page III-1 Der Rosenkavalier ; Act I ...................................................................................................32 III-2 Der Rosenkavalier ; Act II ..................................................................................................34 III-3 Der Rosenkavalier ; Act III.................................................................................................36 IV-1 Octavian Rofrano: Dritte s Kostm Erster Aufzug............................................................41 IV-2 Octavian Rofrano: Vier tes Kostm Zweiter Aufzug........................................................41 IV-3 Octavian Rofrano Genannt Quinquin: Erstes Kostm Erster Aufzug..............................42 IV-4 Octavian at the end of Act I.............................................................................................. .43 IV-5 Octavians runners........................................................................................................ .....43

PAGE 7

7 Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts THE MORE MISCHIEVOUS THE BETTER: OCTAVIAN AND QUEER OPERA PERFORMANCE IN RICHARD STRAUSS AND HUGO VON HOFMANNSTHALS DER ROSENKAVALIER By Peter DEttore December 2007 Chair: Barbara Mennel Major: English Despite the thriving gay fanbase opera has developed over the years, this art form continues to cater to conservati ve ideologies and traditionse specially concerning matters of gender and sexuality. As discussed in studies such as Catherine Clments 1979 Opera, or the Undoing of Women, opera has built its enduring popularity on traditional, heterosexual narratives that conclude with the dramatic demise of their heroines. In this thesis, I argue that composer Richard Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmanns thal subvert these established notions of gender and sexuality in the opera Der Rosenkavalier through the character of the young Count Octavian Rofrano. Utilizing the operatic practice of casting a female singer as a male character (commonly known as a trouser role), Strauss and Hofmannsthal prevent Octavian from inhabiting a strictly masculine or feminine, he terosexual or homosexual identity. This unique, non-heteronormative characteriza tion endows Octavian with a fl uid, non-static gendering that helps to destabilize gender binarity. After offering an historical analysis of the trouser role, paying esp ecial attention to the figure of the castrato and the pageboy archetype I contend that Strauss and Hofmannsthal through cues in the operas libretto, musical sc ore, and stagingendeavor to mold a character

PAGE 8

8 that refuses the boundaries of male or female, heterosexual or homosexual labeling. By permitting Octavian to exist within this qu eer, nongendered space, Strauss and Hofmannsthal force viewers of Der Rosenkavalier to reassess traditional gender and sexual rolesboth when the opera was premiered in 1911 as well as today. Thus, my thesis offers an analysis that not only situates the opera in the context of the early twentieth century but also outlines the operas commentary on gender and sexual roles that are still valuable for contemporary culture, particularly discussi ons of queer theory.

PAGE 9

9 PRELUDE Nowadays, opera is gay. Twenty-first century audiences tend to associate the exquisite excesses of opera with homosexuality. The phras e opera queenusually used to describe a white, upper middle class, effeminate gay ma n who frequents the operahas become a commonly-recognized entry in the ever-growing ga y lexicon, and, with the advent of twentiethcentury technology, the gay interest has spread to the internet in the form of websites and blogs, such as the self-proclaimed queer opera zine Parterre Box ( http://www.parterre.com/). Despite operas close association with queerness, m any opera houses still play to conservative audiences and ideologies. Even though operati c divas, epitomized by Maria Callas, have become synonymous with homosexual sensibilities, the operatic stage still caters to the elaborate fetishization of female demise; as Catherine Clment famously and poetically remarks in her groundbreaking 1979 Opera, or the Undoing of Women [O]n the opera stage women perpetually sing their eternal undoing (5). It is precisely because of this atmosphere of conservative, even patriarchal, interest in opera that its queer transgressions become so powerful. In the mid-1990s critics from academic realms as varied as litera ture, psychology, and musicology, lead by Wayne Koestenbaums seminal text on homosexuality and opera, The Queens Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire began to explore operas undeniably queer leanings. Take, for example, the opening scene of Richard Strauss popular opera, Der Rosenkavalier The curtain rises: it is morning. As woodwinds alternate the chirpi ngs of a morningbird song, two women sleepily rouse from their passionate embrace. One of these women is the aging princess known only by her title, the Marschallin; th e other woman, however, is the young Count Octavian Rofranoa male character portrayed by a female actor. Dr esden audiences witnessed this very operatic

PAGE 10

10 tableau at the premiere of the opera in 1911, and, as if willfully ignorant of the staging of what appeared to be a blatant sexual transgression, th e opera went on to become an instant success with the public. Overlooking or excusing this elephant in the room, the audience at the premiereas well as audiences sinceseemed to dismiss this subverted heterosexuality as a mere operatic sleight of hand. While this practic e of women performing the roles that had been left vacant after the demise of the male-bodie d, soprano-voiced castrati stretches back through historical operatic performancefrom Hande l and Rossini to Mozart and Bellinionly very recently has opera and gender scholarship finally begun to unpack the multifarious and often unquestioned gender-bending of these trouser roles. Not content simply to use the trouser role in their historic purpose as surrogates for the obsolete castrati, Richard Stra uss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, composer and librettist of the aforementioned Der Rosenkavalier utilized this operatic trickery as a means of destabilizing and reassessing the gender roles of the early twentieth century. As Sam Abel asserts in Opera in the Flesh: Sexuality in Opera Performance the female-to-male cross-dresser always poses a threat. Women dressed as men violate male he gemony by attempting to reject their secondary social role and to assume male power or, more powerfully, to reject the whole concept of binary gender division (151). In this thesis, I would like to refine Abels discussion of the subversive quality of drag. Rather th an arguing that Octavian is a priori subversive simply because the character is in actuality a woman in mans clothi ng (i.e., a woman who has attained male power), I would like to posit that Octavians malleable gender prevents the character from identifying completely as either male or female, placing Octavian at a site of subvers ive power that fosters a critique of dyadic, heteronormative gender roles. Indeed, the presence of this central trouser role in Strauss and Hofmannsthals Der Rosenkavalier does more than provide audiences with lesbian

PAGE 11

11 titillation or reinforce patriarchal constructions by endowing a wo man with masculinity; instead, the character of Octavian captures an image of a qu eered gender fluidity that destabilizes notions of gender binarity, refusing to reso lve into either masculinity or femininity, male or female. Before beginning my close examination of the various texts in Der Rosenkavalier I must explicate my reading of the word queer, which becomes an essential descriptor of Octavians manygendered characterization1rather than strictly heteroor homosexual, lesbian or gayin this project. My usage of the word queer draws from the work of Judith Butler in Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. In her discussion of this multifaceted and recursive term, Butler states that queering might signal an inquiry into (a) the formation of homosexualities (a historical i nquiry which cannot take the stab ility of the term for granted, despite the political pressure to do so) and (b) the deformative and misappropriative power that the term currently enjoys (229, italics in original ). Butler goes on to explain that a possible function of this word is to resist the more institutionalized and reformist politics sometimes signified by lesbian and gay ( 228). Thus, Butler offers a de finition of queer that, like my argued characterization of Octavian describes a sexual identification that exists constantly in flux, defying codifiable gender labels In terms of this paper, I offer it as an alternative to the more limiting and often static identities of gay and lesbian in hopes that it will signify an even more complex and critical theoretical idea. So, while Octavian has come to be read as a representative or iconogr aphic lesbian figure in recent gender and opera criticism (see Br ett and Wood 359 and Hadlock 265n. 34), I would 1 While I understand the possible limitations and complications inherent in a term that suggests the existence of many genders without defining them, I use the term manygendered (as well as multigendered) as a linguistic shorthand to symbolize a fluid gender characterization that, rather than representing a character who simply and statically inhabits both masculinity and femininity, maneuvers freely on the continuum be tween these socially-con structed gender roles.

PAGE 12

12 argue that, through composer Richard Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthals use of libretto, musical score, and stag ing, Octavian functions as a pur posefully queered character whose successful existence without definable ge nder reflects the emergence of non-normative sexualities in the social conscious ness of the early twentieth century that are still relevant today.

PAGE 13

13 ACT I HISTORICAL ANALYSIS OF OCTAVIAN AND THE TROUSER ROLE The Rise and Fall of the Castrato Before em barking on my discussion of the breeches role in Der Rosenkavalier it is necessary to provide a brief background of these roles in operas performance history. Before women were universally permitted to grace the stag e, whether theatrical or operatic, the castrato sang the high-voiced alto and soprano roles most commonly associated nowadays with women. Susan J. Leonardi and Rebecca A. Pope, whose st udy on diva politics and worship discusses the rise and fall of the castrato at lengt h, trace the practice of castration in The Divas Mouth: Body, Voice, Prima Donna Politics : Castration was, perhaps, the price patriarchy pa id to keep women silent and its authority intact. As in all congregations of Gods people, women should keep silent at the meeting, St. Paul advised the Corinthians (I Cor. 14.33-34), and his namesake Pope Paul IV (1555-1559) codified Pauls advice by officially banni ng women from singing in St. Peters. Church choirs depended on boys and adult male falsettists to sing soprano and alto parts, but as monody gave way to increasingly complicated polyphony, more powerful voices and mature musicians (espec ially singers who would not be lost once their voices changed) were needed for upper-register parts. (25) In order to fulfill this need for a voice as light as a childs, while also as strong as an adults, the custom of castrating young boys to preserve their young, high voices, in what is known as an orchiectomy, was born. Although practiced by th e Roman Catholic Church, the Church itself publicly shunned the act, and thus it is uncertain exactly when the practice began; however, documentation exists of castrati performing as early as 1562 (Leonardi and Pope 25). On the other hand, the appearance of wome n on the stage, even outside th e Catholic Church, was often looked upon as an act of gross impropriety. Th is is not to say that women did not perform publicly; however, because they were often prohi bited from appearing and singing onstage, the figure of the castrato began to serve as a proxy fo r the female performer and the staged female body of the era.

PAGE 14

14 In the 1740s, however, the popularity of castr ati began to wane significantly. In The Divas Mouth Pope and Leonardi offer a number of suggestions as to why the castrato began to disappear from the public eye: an economic boom in the 173 0s which eased dependence upon the cruel and desperate process of castration in order to secure a sons future, a decline in the number of religious orders in Italy and the dissolution of others with the coming of the French, and attempts by Napoleonic governments to outlaw castration (42). Most importantly for this project, however, is the notion that castra ti fell out of favor because of a decline in the florid vocal stylings synonymous with the cast rato and a movement towards more realism in opera performance (42). Under the guise of making opera more realistic, the complex, nonheteronormative gender roles embodied in th e castrato were shunned by opera composers and librettists. It is only in the early twentieth cen tury, when Strauss and Hofmannsthal introduced their more fantastical Octavian and Compos er pants roles (the latter appearing in Ariadne auf Naxos ) that opera performance truly regained some of the powerful gender complexity present in the era of the castrato. Contrary to modern listene rs conceptions of voice and gender, mens heroic operatic voices before the 1800s were rarely deep and he avy. Instead, the male protagonists in opera could have high, light voicesvoices that ar e now commonly associat ed with women and femininity; however, with the spar se population of castrati availabl e, opera companies were often forced to seek alternative bodies and voices to re produce roles that were once the sole domain of the castrato. While some opera composers transp osed their music, dropping the vocal lines to lower tessituras in order to accommodate male te nors, baritones, and basses (e.g., Gluck rewrote Orfeo ed Euridice so that the once-castrato role of the young poet Orpheus could now be performed by a male tenor), other opera compan ies began to substitute the similarly-sounding

PAGE 15

15 female mezzo soprano or contra lto in lieu of the castrato. Perhaps most famously, George Frideric Handel often employed both male cas trato and female mezzo sopranosvocal ranges that sonically overlapfor the same roles in hi s operas, simply depending upon the availability of the artists. Margaret Reynolds describes this blurring of the lines between voice and gender in her essay, Ruggieros Deceptions Cherubinos Distractions: In Handels day there was sexual anarchy on stag e. Men (or ex-men) played the parts of heroes in high voices. Women, dressed up as men, sang heroes in high voices. Men, dressed up as women, played their consorts wi th high or low voices. And if you couldnt hire the singer of the sex required, you se ttled for the voice and didnt worry. (138) As apparent in Reynolds reading of the opera stage during the eighteenth century, opera served as a site for gender deconstruction where feminine-sounding men stood alongside armor-clad women. Indeed, Handel wrote opera s where high, almost feminine, voices could be either male or female and could evoke a number of vocal qualities that ran the gamut from heroism and seduction to virginity and villainy. In his most famous opera, Giulio Cesare, the voice types of the lead rolesGiulio Cesare, Cleopatra, Sesto, Tolomeo, and Corneliaall fall into similarly high-voiced tessituras that could be sung by both male castrati and women regardless of whether the character was male or female; however, as opera edged further away from the opera seria realm of the castrati to the class struggles and b attle of the (heterosexual) sexes subject matter of opera buffa the newly-established trouser role bega n to signify a new type of sexuality. The Trouser Role and the Pageboy After the cessation of the pract ice of castration, as well as the moral clash of the eerilyjuxtaposed masculine body and femi nine voice of the castrato with the sexual mores of the late eighteenth century, castrati became virtually obsole te outside of the chur ch. The sidelining of the complicated sexual embodiment of the castrato did not, however, stop composers from writing music for their voice type; now, these composers began to write specifically for the

PAGE 16

16 trouser rolea female singer (usually mezzo sopr ano) who performs as a man in mens clothing. The most famous archetype to emerge from th is newfound operatic role was the pageboy. The quintessential young man on the verge of sexua l awakening, the pageboy is a figure caught between adulthood and childhood, man and not-m an, making the androgynous female drag performance functional as well as aesthetic. Wh ile the stock character of the pageboy recurs in operas such as Verdis Un ballo in maschera and Wagners Tannhuser, the most prominent and popular of these characters is cer tainly Cherubino from Mozarts Le nozze di Figaro. A secondary character that ne vertheless sends Mozarts buffa plot careening into motion, Cherubino is a sexually-volatile page who falls in love with virtually every female character in the operas cast. In her discussion of the pageboy figure of Cherubino in The Career of Cherubino, or the Trouser Role Grows Up, Heather Hadlock explains that the variety of names for the practice [of female-t o-male cross-dressing in opera], variously known as the trouser role, breeches part, or pants part, Hosenrolle or travesti testifies both to its international appeal and to th e necessity of the singers having slim, boyish legs. Equally essential is a light and clear voice [and the] pages talk of love is typically translated into melancholy or flir tatious staged songs, directly or indirectly addressed to an inaccessible beloved, of which Cherubinos Voi che sapete remains the archetype. (68) Indeed, the figure of the pageboy is part erotic sp ectacle (the sight of wo mens legs, even clothed in mens stockings, was a novelty for the stage at that time) and a true example of form fitting functionthe singers androgynous voice, much like the voice of a boy experiencing the hormonal rushes of puberty, is at times lovely and light while at others plummy and deep. Yet, the character of the pageboy is a limite d one. While beloved, the pageboy is often a minor character in the operas drama, rarely ec lipsing the traditional heterosexual coupling of the lead soprano and tenor/baritone. Also, despite the pageboys zealous sexual appetite, the opera composer and librettist rarely a llow this nontraditionally-gendered character to interact sexually

PAGE 17

17 with the objects of his affection other than as comedic (and ultimately ineffectual) playacting. Indeed, in David J. Levins discussion of Cherubino in Unsettling Opera: Staging Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, and Zemlinsky, the author notes that, unlike the focal relationships in Le nozze di Figaro (e.g., Figaro and Susanna, the Count and Countess, and Bartolo and Marcellina), Cherubino and Barbarinas relationship remains narratively unresolved because their marriage is still unscheduled when the opera comes to a close ( 78). Levin goes on to claim that this thwarted resolution is a result of Cherubinos gender conf usion: To the extent that Cherubino embodies something that would resist being tied down, we mi ght describe that somet hing as the fact or problem of the figures peculiar embodiment itsel f, a kind of erratic traffic in and between gender (79). This trope of the fervently sexual, but ultimate ly sexless, pageboy (what Levin refers to as Cherubinos libid inal surplus [78]) continues throughout the nineteenth century until the emergence of the ch aracter of Octavian in Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthals Der Rosenkavalier in the early twentieth century who manages to transcend the obstacles of rigid gender and se xual representation that had thwarted the pageboy tradition before him. Octavian, the Knight of the Silver Rose By the close of the nineteenth century, Victor ian notions of sexuality had been brought to the fore of European social cons ciousness by Richard von Krafft-Ebings P sychopathia sexualis and fin de sicle decadence epitomized by writers such as Joris-Karl Huysmans and Oscar Wildenot to mention the latters infamous sodomy trial. Richard Straus s, certainly no stranger to these cultural developments, had recently co mpleted two operas that explored the darker realms of sexuality: 1905s Salome adapted from Wildes play, and 1909s Elektra Strauss first collaboration with Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Wh ile Strauss experimented with modernist orchestration in these two pieces, employing chromaticism, dissonance, and atonality to reflect

PAGE 18

18 the tension of this new and troubling sexuality (Plaut 265), the compos er returned to more traditional composition and themes for what w ould become his most successful and popular composition, Der Rosenkavalier Despite what was then view ed as Strauss musical and ideological retreat into safer settings and me lodic structures, the composer, as well as his librettist, Hofmannsthal, endowed the work with an even more complex and avant-garde treatment of gender and sexuality. Before fully exploring the complicated gender depictions of Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, a brief synopsis of the opera is in order. Der Rosenkavalier narrates the story of the young Count Octavian and his illicit affair with the Marschallin. As mentioned earlier, when the opera begins, the lovers are in bed together; however, the Marschallins cousin, the boorish Baron Ochs, calls on the princess to request a young nobleman to perform the ceremonial Presentation of the Silver Rose for his fiance, So phie. Unable to escape before Ochs entrance, Octavian must don the clothes of a chambermai d and soon finds himself dodging the lascivious advances of the Baron. To appease Ochs, the Mars challin suggests that Octa vian bear the silver rose to Sophie. In the second act, Octavian arrives at the house of Sophies father, the nouveau-riche Faninal, to present his daughter with the silver rose. During the scene, Octavian and Sophie are entranced by one anothers beauty, and, after Sophie repuls es Ochs crass, oversexed propositions, they pledge their love to one anothe r. Later, while trying to defend Sophies honor, Octavian inadvertently wounds the Baron with his sword; however, Ochs is undeterred and still plans to marry Sophie. At the end of the act, Oc hs receives a letter wr itten by the Marchallins chambermaid (actually Octavian) requesting a clandestine rendezvous.

PAGE 19

19 In the final act, Ochs brings Mariandl (Oct avian dressed as a chambermaid) to an inn where he plans to bed her. Unbeknownst to the Baron, Octavian has devi sed an elaborate plot involving masked men and a woman disguised as the Barons supposedly-abandoned widow in order to expose the Barons infidelities. As the evening progresses and an outraged Faninal and Sophie eventually arrive at th e inn to witness the Baron with the chambermaid, Ochs can no longer hold Sophie to her marital obligation. Just as Ochs begins to realize the trick that has been played on him, the Marschallin arrives, se nding the Baron away in shame and, despite her own love for Octavian, uniting the yo ung lovers at the operas dnouement. Certainly, whether operagoers chose to ignore or dismiss the non-normative gender depictions in Strauss opera, they could no long er passively assume that this operatic genderplay was a simple smoke-and-mirrors illusion meant to stealthily place a womens voice in the body of a man. From the moment the curtain rises on Der Rosenkavalier the opera immediately confronts its audience with the image of two fema le actresses in bed together. The homoerotic sexual tension of this first scene was so dangerous to some that the opera was censored and even banned shortly after its premiere.2 From the operas inception to its more recent productions, the complex tinderbox of sexuality also did not go u nnoticed on its performers. As recounted in Philip Brett and Elizabeth Woods collaborative essay, Lesbian and Gay Music, famous opera singer Mary Garden refused to c reate the role of Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier because of its lesbian implications (353-54). Similarly, New Zealand soprano Ki ri te Kanawa has stated, on 2 In Ruggieros Deceptions, Cherubinos Distractions, Margaret Reynolds recounts an example of the censorship Der Rosenkavalier faced in England: The first act bed caused trouble in London where the Lord Chamberlain intervened when Thomas Beecham declared his intention to st age the opera in 1912: either the bed had to go from the scene or there was to be no refere nce to it in the text sung by the performers. Beecham decided that the former was pref erable, so the Marschallin and Octavian conducted themselves with upright propriety. (144)

PAGE 20

20 singing the role of the Marschallin, that the first five minutes of Der Rosenkavalier are the most awkward to perform in any opera (Castle 46), and [ o]nce you get past these first few minutes when you are in bed with another woman, you can ge t on with the role (Cas tle 56). As these examples show, the subversiveness of Octavians characterization is no t simply a theoretical performativity that can only be identified and teased out through academic scholarship; it is an unsettling representation of non-normativity rec ognizable to both the performers and viewers of the opera as well. What specifically seems to be so frighteni ng to these performers about the sexuality inherent in the role of Octavian? For one, at the very beginning of th e post-coital tableau that opens the opera, the audience is privy to the fact that Octavian, un like Cherubino, actually experiences the sexual consummation all the other pageboys spend so much time longingly wishing for in song. Or, as succinctly written by Sam Abel in Opera in the Flesh Cherubino fantasizes about sex, but Octavian actually has se x (159). Thus, the playful sexual threat posed by the pageboy and his indiscernible gender fina lly becomes realized in the character of Octavian. While Strauss and Hofmannsthals characte rization of Octavian as sexually active certainly touches upon emerging notions of early-t wentieth-century sexual sensibility, I would argue that Octavian offers audiences even mo re complexity than that. In concluding her examination of the Cherubino figure, Heather Hadl ock remarks that twentieth-century composers and librettists no longer treat female travesty as a pr oblem or a challenge, and [Strauss and Hofmannsthals] (excessively) frank staging of the relations hip between Octavian and the Marschallin puts the female love rs in a spotlight, cl early intended to titillate. Their Cherubino no longer undresses behind a screen, and this very shamelessness, this abandonment of over a century of shadows a nd veils over the pages body and desire, leaves less to read. (92)

PAGE 21

21 While Hadlocks reading of the pageboy trope vi a the character of Cherubino is insightful in its investigation of what is often obscured from view, I believe that the author oversimplifies the characterization of Octavian when she claims that his lesbian visibility (the female lovers) automatically de-problematizes his gende r travesty, as if the characters in Der Rosenkavalier become transparently and unproblematically homos exual. Surely, the mo re sexually suggestive aspects in the lesbian relationship between Oc tavian and the Marschal lin (and later Octavian and Sophie) cannot be completely swept under the rug, but I would argue that Octavians characterization is far too mercurial to be labele d as simply homosexual. By blending together the seemingly binary genders embodied in the ch aracter of Octavian, merging the feminine and girlish with the masculine and boyish, Strauss and Hofmannsthal not only move Octavian beyond the limited depiction of the operatic pageboy, but reify emergent non-heteronormative sexualities that are still surprisingl y relevant in contemporary society.

PAGE 22

22 ACT II TEXTUAL ANALYSIS OF OCTAVIAN AND THE TROUSER ROLE In exam ining the opera Der Rosenkavalier Octavians multifarious gender and sexuality can been seen in virtually each facet of operatic performance: from the musical to the visual; however, I would like to begin my examination of the opera with a textual analysis of the libretto, because it is often this literary aspect of opera that is overlooked in current scholarship. Indeed, while opera layperson and fanatic alike may often attribute authorship of Der Rosenkavalier to Richard Strauss solely, the work finds a great deal of its shape and narration through the libretto of Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Like the famous collabor ation between Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte, Strauss and Hofmannsthals professional partnership has been, and still is, touted as one of operas great est composer-librettist pairings (an extra-textual homosocial relationship linked to Der Rosenkavalier that has not gone unnoticed by opera scholars and queer theorists alike), and their extensive corresponden ce helped to shape the convoluted birth of the opera. Also, in Stepchildren of Nature: Krafft-Ebing, Psychiatry, and the Making of Sexual Identity Harry Oosterhuis asserts that for Hugo v on Hofmannsthal sexuality was an intriguing subject that could be deployed to unveil bourgeois societys sense of secur ity as a faade, full of empty conventions (260). Thus, I propose that Hofmannsthal, via his textual cues throughout the operas libretto, knowingly e ndows the character of Octavian with a manyheaded and fluid sexuality. This non-static gendering present in Der Rosenkavalier not only prevents the lesbiancoded relationships in the opera from being read as merely por nographic, functioning solely to excite sexually and sensationally, but also presents audiences with an indefinable sexuality that helps to liberate gender and sexual representations from the male/female, hetero-/homosexual dyad, both in our current cultural conceptions as well as the microcosmic realm of the operatic mise-en-scne

PAGE 23

23 As the opera begins, the viewer is automatically provided with visual clues that suggest Octavians sexual otherness. Immediately, the audience is confronted with the image of a woman in mans clothing; howev er, even the listener (or reader, if th e opera house employs surtitles) can recognize the unique space that Octavian inhabits through the words of the opera. This liminal space is often seen when the audi ence, recognizing the femaleness of the actor portraying the male character of Octavian, is continuously reminded by the libretto, through gendered names or pronouns for example, of Octavi ans maleness. In order to reinforce the theatrical illusion of Octavians male gender within the diegesis of the narrative, Hofmannsthal saturates the libretto with various references to Octavians maleness and masculinity. For instance, the Marschallin constantly refers to Octavian as mein Bub, a term of affection typically translated as my boy (61, 64). Even this simple pet name between lovers signifies with a very specific male gender. Also, on two separate occasions, the Marschallin remarks how the queerly-gendered Octavian behaves much like other men do. When Octavian reacts petulantly and possessively to the Marschallins fear of abandonment in the first act, she pleads, No, please, do not be as all men are [Nein bitt schn, sei Er nur ni cht, wie alle Mnner sind!] (104). Then, near the end of the last act, the Marschallin relinqu ishes Octavian to his new love, Sophie, both chiding his fickle heart and his sex as a whole when she bittersweetly comments, You are so like a mango to her! [ Er ist ein rechtes Mann sbild, geh Er hin] (196). Not only do these purposeful references to Octavians maleness an d masculine behavior keep the femaleness of the acto r performing the role textually hidden, but the juxtaposition of these remarks with the actors true gender also provide for a sly undercurre nt of self-referential humor at the genderplay involved in the opera. Although these purposes may strike the reader as both expected and even necessary in reinforci ng a more conservative masking of Octavians

PAGE 24

24 queerness, when viewed in conjunction with a number of purposef ully non-masculine references, Hofmannsthal complicates and problematizes Octa vians seemingly strai ght-forward role as a man in the context of the opera. While Octavian physically flirts with a more feminine sexuality (most prominently, when he dresses as the handmaid Mariandl in order to escape Baron Ochs noti ce as hes leaving the Marschallins room after a night of lovemaking), th is more feminine characterization of Octavian also translates to Hofmannsthals textual tr eatment of the character. Probably the most consistent example of this is Hofmannsthals use of a thematic sexual sameness in the dialogue between Octavian and the other two female lead s, the Marschallin and Sophie. Beth Hart explores this mirroring motif be tween the operas all-female love triangle in Strauss and Hofmannsthals Accidental Heroin e: The Psychohistorical Meaning of the Marschallin. In her examination of the opening scene between Octavian and the Marschallin, Hart rhetorically asks her reader, We wonder what need Octavian fulf ills in the Marschallin as she mirrors him in voice and gaze, calling him her boy, her darling b oy (421). As Hart suggests, despite the difference in their characters genders, the female actors portraying the Ma rschallin and Octavian reflect one another vocally and vi sually. Even Octavians effusive tendresse manifests itself in poetic waxings that begin to blur the boundaries between the Marschallin and Octavian, the feminine and masculine: You, youwhat does it m ean, this you? This you and I? but this I is lost in this you [Du, du, duwas heit das D u? Was du und ich? aber das Ich vergeht in dem Du] (61). Octavians emphatic lapsing of the two pronouns carries a significant added weight when cons idering the similar lapse that occurs between the genders of both Octavian and the Marschallin: like the ac tor portraying the Marschallin, the supposedly male Octavian actually possesses the body of a woma n (the actor who plays him). To rearrange

PAGE 25

25 Harts rhetorical inquiry, perhaps the more f itting question to ask is What does the Marschallin fulfill in Octavian, because it is when Octavi an conflates his own self and gender with the Marschallins that his role moves beyond the simple woman-as-man transvestite performance to a more complex, ungendered one. Even Octavians interaction with Sophie re veals a similar mirroring trend. After Sophie meets the loutish Baron Ochs, she confides he r dissatisfaction to the dashing young Octavian. When Octavian promises to oppose the marriag e arrangement on her behalf, he makes her a request: All alone, you must now stand for us bot h! [Nun mu Sie ganz allein fr uns zwei einstehn!] (132). The provided tr anslation reinforces the doubleness of the Octavian and Sophie figures as Octavian not only asks that Sophie stand up for both of their honor but also that she stand for (i.e., represent) bo th characters. Again, these textual choices made by librettist Hofmannsthal muddy what initially appears to be a conventionally-masculin e characterization of Octavian. Still more convincingly, only minutes after thei r pact, the frightened Sophie insists that Octavian stand up for her: No, no! I cant open my mouth. You speak for me! [Nein! Nein! Ich bring den Mund nicht auf. Sprech Er fr mi ch!] (137). At the textual level, Sophies request speaks to the similarity between the gender of the two characters insomuch as the one can stand in for the other; however, at this mome nt, Octavians mercurial gender even transcends the confines of the libretto, as the audience will recognize that the female actor playing the male Octavian, when speaking her next lines, actually does speak for Sophie with an almost identical female voice. This sexual sameness between Octavian a nd both the Marschallin and Sophie located within the libretto can also be seen in the flesh, so to speak, in the ways in which varying artists

PAGE 26

26 have graduated through or swapped the female ro les over the course of their careers. Since Strauss composed all three characters for the soprano voice (although Octa vian is most often performed by a mezzo soprano), many singers have found the transition between these differently-gendered characters to be surprisingly smooth and natural. Christa Ludwig and Gwyneth Jones both essayed the role of the Mars challin after successful portrayals of Octavian, and Swiss soprano Lisa della Casa has the distin ction of having performed as each of the three lead roles at different stages in her operatic career. This fascinating mobility that performers have found shifting between the roles of the ma le Octavian and the female Marschallin and Sophie speaks to the same textual/sexual ambiguity that Hofmannsthal gives to the character of Octavian throughout his libretto. Hofmannsthal likewise imbues Der Rosenkavalier s operatic mise-en-scne (especially during the love scenes) with a whimsical surreal ity that hints at the queerness at work in the character of Octavian. In what is perhaps the operas most famous set piece, the second acts Presentation of the Rose scene, Octavian bears a silver rose to Sophie in recognition of her betrothal to Baron Ochs. When staged, this scene is quite ofte n visually resplendent, with a silver-clad Octavian arriving at hi s musical cue with a train of si milarly clad officers amidst the filigreed architecture of Faninals opulent hom e; however, while the visual markers of the scenes fantastic qualities are no doubt in plai n view, even the operas libretto iterates the otherworldliness of this realm where roses sm ell celestial and a woman playing a man can be both and neither genders. In The Queens Throat Wayne Koestenbaum elaborates upon the ways in which this scene arrests the flow of time and how that chr onological topsy-turvydom corresponds to the operas queer sexuality:

PAGE 27

27 The silver rose [] carr[ies] the charge of an unspeakable and chronology-stopping love because a connection arose in the late nineteenth century between tampering with time and tampering with gender Disturb gender, and you disturb te mporality; accept the androgyne, and you accept the abyss. (218) Here Koestenbaum asserts that the artificiali ty and unreality of the ceremonyas well as the silver rose around which it revolvesopens a site for reassessing concepts of time and gender which appear equally fantastic. Indeed, Hofmanns thals libretto reflects this notion that the Presentation of the Rose ceremony represents so mething queer and other that has ripped the fabric of conventional understand ings of time, beauty, and gender. When Sophie first smells the silver rose, she notes that it smells not only like an actual rose but also lik e roses of heaven, not of earth like roses of holy paradise [Wi e himmelische, nicht irdische, wie Rosen vom hochheiligen Paradies] (115). Sophies recogniti on (or failed recognition) of what is the fantasy and what is the reality of the rose parallels the audiences ow n recognition of the meshing of fantasy and reality in the perfor med gender of the character of Oc tavian. Hofmannsthals clever use of the metaphorical silver rose in the libr etto (as a symbol of the unreal) thus comments upon his and Strauss purposeful decisi on to cast the character of Octa vian as similarly illusory, by using a female soprano or mezzo soprano to portray the male knight of the rose. Even the simultaneously spoken words of Octavian and Sophies duet during this scene further the idea that the opera ha s suspended reality, a llowing the queer and the other to emerge in this fantastical staged world disconnected from the more realistic and typical ideas and traditions of the early twentieth century. Calling to mind Koestenbaums aforementioned discussion of temporality and sexuality, Sophie exclaims, Theres Time and Eternity in this moment of bliss [Ist Zeit und Ewigkeit in einem selgen Augenblick] (116), while Octavian speaks of the tenuousness of his ow n gender: I was a boy and did not know her yet. Who am I

PAGE 28

28 then? Were I not a man, I should lose my sens es [Ich war ein Bub da hab ich die noch nicht gekannt. Wer bin denn ich? Wr ich kein Mann, die Sinne mchten mir vergehn] (116). Indeed, even Octavian himself draws a ttention to his complex gender characterization by voicing his own confusion about his identity in this surreal and chimerical scene; however, Hofmannsthal does not intend for this glimpse of an indefinable, non-normative sexuality to remain encapsulated inside the hermetically-sealed world of the opera. As mentioned earlier, the sodomy trial of Oscar Wilde (on whose play Strauss had based his 1905 opera Salome ) had occurred less than twenty years before the premiere of Der Rosenkavalier and Richard von Krafft-Ebing wrote his psychiat ric study of sexual deviance, Psychopathia sexualis which catalogued and medicalized homosexuali ty in the nineteenth century,3 only ten years prior to that. Wendy Bashant provides a link between Ho fmannsthals world of opera and the thenemerging understandings of sexuality in her essay, Singing in Greek Drag: Gluck, Berlioz, George Eliot. Bashant explains that the [ u]nbridled, gender-bending women like Salome were created by men after Krafft-Ebings theories linking athletes, feminists, and opera singers and actresses who appear in male attire on the stage by preference were published in 1889. They were meant to be viewed as monstrous women (222-23). Certainly Octavi an can be included in this discussion of gender-bending women; however even with his knowledge of these cultural happenings, Hofmannsthal uses the character of Octavian not as a symbol of fear, mutation, or disease, but, moving beyond the moral decay of nineteenth century decadence, creates a character who is complexly-gendered and yet still endowed with a sympathetic humanity. 3 For more on Krafft-Ebings influence on homos exuality in the nineteenth century, see Oosterhuis, who makes the claim that sexual perversion was recognized, confirmed, and legitimized through the dialogue between patient and psychiatric community present in KrafftEbings numerous case studies (212).

PAGE 29

29 In the concluding act, readers can finally be gin to envision Octavian s full character arc as well as the non-normative sexuality with which Hofmannsthal has provided him. When the Marschallin finally arrives at the inn, subsequently ending th e convoluted plot Octavian had devised to thwart Baron Ochs plans of marrying Sophie, she informs the police commissioner that the whole thing was a charade and not hing more [das Ganze war halt eine Farce und weiter nichts] (189) and Tis a Viennese masquerade nothing more [Is eine wienerische Maskerad und weiter nichts] (190). Ostensib ly, the Marschallin is referring to the ploy concocted by Octavian involving numberless char acters now dressed as widows, children, and ghosts, but the pointed use of the words charade and masquerade echo the notion of fantasy and alternative sexualities exemplified in the Presen tation of the Rose scene. But this leaves the audience wondering, Was all of this, then, a hoax? An operatic sleight of hand? If so, the return to the triangle of lovers at the operas dnouement and the deservedly famous final trio seem to silence any suspic ion of the operas con tinuing insincerity. The moving, even if melodramatic, display of emo tions in the Marschallins relinquishment of Octavian and the charming, even if ephemeral, pairing of the young lovers in the final duet contradict any arguments that may claim that th e manygendered Octavian is merely a charade or inassimilable other. At the end of the opera, wh ether or not Sophie and Octavian remain together long after the curtains close, Ho fmannsthal allows this symbol of non-heteronormative sexuality to exist and to merit affording a happy ending.

PAGE 30

30 ACT III MUSICAL ANALYSIS OF OCTAVIAN AND THE TROUSER ROLE W hile the more literary aspects of Der Rosenkavalier s libretto point to a multigendered characterization of Octavian, the most recognized feature of opera tends not to be the text but the music. German composer Richard Strauss gain ed fame (and notoriety) by writing operas that explored complex and oftentimes disturbing portrayals of gender and sexuality. As I mentioned before, Strauss first triumph as an ope ra composer came after the premiere of Salome in 1905. Adapted from Oscar Wildes dramatic treatment of the biblical story, the opera recounts the young Salomes obsession and lust after Jokanaan (J ohn the Baptist) and closes with an extended scene where she sings a fascinating and horrific song of desire to his severed head. Even Strauss follow-up opera, 1909s Elektra focuses on the Greek tragedy where the eponymous heroine plots the death of her mother, Klytemnst ra, who has murdered Elektras father. Aside from their psychosexual subject matter, both of th ese operas were also marked by Strauss use of harsh and unnerving dissonance in order to convey the equally unsettli ng narratives of sexual deviance (Plaut 268). While the later Der Rosenkavalier has been criticized as a retreat from the more adventurous compositions in the darker Salome and Elektra the composer by no means balks from musically molding yet another ch aracter who explores non-normative gender and sexuality. Indeed, Strauss not only endows Octavian with both masculine and feminine motifs in his musical signatures but also orchestrally shap es Octavians scenes in order to draw the audiences attention to the characters queered presence. In her landmark text on feminism and opera, Opera, or the Undoing of Women Catherine Clment devotes a sectio n to the discussion of Der Rosenkavalier describing Octavian, in particular, as the young count Octavian, [who] is distinctly unruly, sc atterbrained enough and with a good enough start under ladies skirts to be known tenderly as Quinquin. And Richard

PAGE 31

31 Strauss gives him a disturbing womans voice (108) I find that Clments choice of words in referring to Octavian as having a disturbing voice robs the character of its powerful position of gender reevaluation as a figure which overlap s genders. Clments comment also seems to dismiss that this very particular voice allows Octavian to maneuver more fluidly between the genders represented by the other ch aracters in the opera. For example, in the first act, Strauss often features horn fanfares to represent Octavian s arrogant and specifically-masculine behavior when he attempts to overpower the Marschallins doubts of his fidelity. In deed, in his article, Kitsch, Camp, and Opera: Der Rosenkavalier Gary Le Tourneau describes the use of brass as ejaculatory horn calls (93). While, in this quotation, Le Tourneau assigns a masculine vocality to the character of Octa vian, he continues on to argue that Octavian is made a member of both genders by the music (93, emphasis mine). Certainly, despite Octavians musical and verbal ejaculations, he can often revert to a more lyrical and feminine line that mirrors the musical characterization of his female lover, the Marschallin. In the selection provided in figure 1, as Octavian and the Marschallin intimately c oo over one another, thei r alternating pet names become repeated musical phrases that produce th e effect that the two female voices echo or answer one another:

PAGE 32

32 Figure III-1. Der Rosenkavalier ; Act I (Source: Strauss 24-5) This androgynous vocalizing in the first act al so resembles the vocal and gender leaps of Octavians pageboy predecessor, Cherubino. Naom i Andr explores this notion of Cherubinos two voices in Voicing Gender: Castrati, Travesti, and the Second Woman in Early-NineteenthCentury Italian Opera : As for Cherubino, the aria [Non so pi] illustrates the tug and pull he experiences between his two voices. [I]t is as though he is trying to tame his voice and push it down to a lower tessitura, yet it keeps popping up to a higher range, almost beyond his control. Split between his higher and lower voices, his I am encompasses the two simultaneous aspects of the childlike boy and the budding adult male personalities he embodies. (109) Much like this doubled voice that exists inside the character of Cherubino, Octavian experiences a similar multivocality. With a vocal line that al ternates between violent and bombastic as he

PAGE 33

33 imagines challenging the Marschal lins husband to a duel and light and lyrical when he comforts and woos his older lover, Octavi an and his vocal characterization, even in the span of the first scene, swing wildly from the masculine to the feminine. This multigendered vocal line that Strauss attributes to Octavian (Strauss himself wa s no stranger to Mozart, and it is believed that Octavians character and name are drawn from the character of Don Ottavio from Don Giovanni [Abel 159]) reinforces the comple x gender construction of the char acter, allowing Octavian to transcend the limiting label of a lesbian samen ess and represent an even more universal, ungendered figure. The female ensembles also especially em phasize this tricky destabilizing of gender in Octavians character. Like the previous ex amination of Hofmannsthals libretto during the Presentation of the Rose scene and duet, Stra uss orchestration highlights the mystical, otherworldly quality of this scene which undermin es traditional concepts of time and sexuality. Strauss prominent usage of celesta, harp, and fl ute in the descending theme of the duet creates a shimmering, glossy effect which enhances the un-/surreality of the moment. To the fore of Strauss orch estration during this scene, however, are the twin female voices of Octavian and Sophie. As the duet begi ns, Octavian sings in a low, almost monotone voice, even dipping down to a C sharp below the st aff to sing the word Jungfer. While Sophie begins in a similar monotone, she soon soars up to a B above the staff when extolling the beauty of the silver rose (Wie himmelische). Th is marked contrast between the lower-lying passages of Octavians more masculine voice and Sophies hi gh, feminine tones present the listener with very separately-gen dered voicesaural signifiers of Octavians masculinity versus Sophies femininity; however, when Octavian and Sophie begin singing together, the yearning triplet pattern of their shared musical line becomes almost identical, and the audience finds it

PAGE 34

34 difficult to separate which voice belongs to Octavi an and which voice belongs to Sophie. In the climatic measure especially (beginning at the section labeled 36 in fi gure 2), the two singers melodies synch up perfectly, remaining only a thir d apart from one another on the musical scale, emphasizing the transvocality of Octavian who, through the course of th e duet, sings as both male and female: Figure III-2. Der Rosenkavalier ; Act II (Source: Strauss 175-76) Thus, through his composition a nd orchestration in the Pres entation of the Rose duet, Strauss adds an additional dimension to Hofmannsthals textual description of the scene,

PAGE 35

35 underpinning the break from gender tradition and convention captured in the duets otherworldly atmosphere and Octavians fluctuating musical line that at times embodies both masculine and feminine characteristics. Strauss attention to the ge ndered vocality of Octavian becomes even more focused in the final trio and duet. In the celebrated trio (Hab mirs gelobt), the compos er layers the voices of his female performers to create an almost impenetrable mesh of feminine sound. In Opera and the Culture of Fascism Jeremy Tambling describes this en semble, explaining that the voices soar, and it is not clear which voice is being heard, whether that of the stage women or the putative malethat is, Octavian (190). Surely, in composing this piece, Strauss was aware of this inevitable aural confusiona confusion that, in obscuring the gender of the male Octavian among the female voices of Sophie and the Ma rschallin, undermines gender binaries, giving form to a character without tangible or definite maleor femaleness. Even more so than its role in the Presentation of the Rose scene, Octavi ans voice alternates be tween its masculine and feminine colorations, at times providing the s upportive moving line whil e the voices of Sophie and the Marschallin draw out their high notes and then suddenly soari ng higher than both the other voices (as seen when Octavian sings Ist den nein groes Un recht in figure 3):

PAGE 36

36 Figure III-3. Der Rosenkavalier ; Act III (Source: Strauss 439) This inseparable web of female voices dissipat es soon after when the Marschallin exits to attend to the neurotic Faninal, leaving Sophie and Octavian alone to perform the operas final piece, the duet Ist ein TraumSpr nur dich. What strikes the liste ner about this duet is how relatively conventional the piece sounds af ter the complex vocal maneuverings and chordal dissonances of the trio. The duets more typical and familiar structure and delivery stem specifically from the tradition of the hetero sexual love duet that runs throughout operatic performance history. As Eric A. Plaut recounts in Grand Opera: Mirror of the Western Mind it was Hofmannsthal himself who suggested to Strauss that he com pose a Mozartian duet for the operas finale (281). Both structural ly and tonally, this closing duet in Der Rosenkavalier follows the pattern of the Mozartian heterosexual love duet typified by the famous L ci darem la mano from Don Giovanni In The Culture of Opera Buffa in Mozarts Vienna Mary Hunter explains the predictable duet st ructure of Mozarts duet via th e scholarship of Ronald Rabin:

PAGE 37

37 Rabin has described the progression as moving from independent statements for the two participants, through dialogue, to a closing tutti in parallel thirds and si xths. The independent statements often repeat the same melody (162). By extension, this same structure applies to Strauss Mozartian Ist ein TraumSpr nur dich. Indeed, even though Sophie and Octavians duet begins with the tutti after the first unis on section, Octavian and Sophie trade off the melody as mentioned above. Just like Don Giovannis heterosexual se duction of Zerlina in L ci darem la mano, the male and female figures of Octavian and Sophie alternate the melodic line of the duet until closing the opera w ith their shared reprise of the duets main theme. In composing this duet, whose format and content would be familiar to operagoers, Strauss places Octavian and Sophie in the longs tanding tradition of hete ronormative gender roles in opera; however, at the same time, the conscious choice to use the androgynous voice of Octavian as a participant in the duet works against a strictly straight reading of the scene. The similarity of the two female voices when swappi ng identical melodic lines or even when singing in harmony enhances the sexual sameness of thes e supposed differently-gendered characters. Also, the recurrence of celesta, harp, and flute ec hoes their same thematic uses in the queered Presentation of the Rose scene. So, not only does Strauss present his audi ence with a non-static character that constantly maneuvers between genders, but hi s is a character more fully-formed than the pageboys of operatic past, for while Ch erubino sings love songs to the worlds women in Non so pi and Voi che sapete, these arias are sung alone; Octavian, on the other hand, is permitted to function in a romantic relationshi pto sing a love song to another character and have that character reciprocate his desire.

PAGE 38

38 ACT IV VISUAL ANALYSIS OF OCTAVIAN AND T HE TROUSER ROLE Last, but most definitely not least, in reading the queerness of Der Rosenkavalier audiences and scholars alike must pay especial attention to th e staging and production of the opera. Although the visual aspect of opera is of ten its most vivid and striking quality, audiences are deprived of this crucial tool to understa nding opera performance when it is heard as a recording. Because this visual component is of ten ignored by scholars in opera analysis, Linda and Michael Hutcheon argue for the necessity of examining this physical space of opera in their 2000 essay, Staging the Female Body: Richard Strausss Salome : While it may seem obvious that the staged body is central to any form of theatrical representation, it is the voicealmost a dise mbodied voicethat has come to dominate discussions of opera, especially since the t echnological advances in audio recording and radio transmissions. In a related move opera criticism has been dominated by considerations of the music th at voice singsusually separate d from the librettos verbal text and the dramatic staged narrative. Musicologists confidently assert: It is after all the music that an opera-lover goes to hear. But, speaking for these opera-lovers, at least, we go to see as well as hear a performance, and th at performance includes a verbal text and a staged dramatic narrativefor wh ich that (admittedly important) music was especially written. Opera is an embodied art form; it is the performers who give it its phenomenal reality. Indeed, opera owes its undeniable affective power to the overdetermination of the verbal, the visual a nd the auralnot to th e aural alone. And it is specifically the bodythe gendered, se xualized bodythat will not be denied in staged opera. (206) Indeed, the gendered bodies of the characters in Der Rosenkavalier are extraordinarily vital means through which audiences may apprehend the complexities of the work, not to mention the ways in which various aspects of the opera as seemingly inconsequential as props and costumes further the queer representations of Octavian. Silver Roses, Swords, and the Gendered Props of Der Rosenkavalier Aside from the titular silver rose, perhaps the most famous prop that cleverly comments upon Octavians sexuality is his sword. Serving as a surrogate phallus for the female actors literal lack, Octavians sword doesnt simply sit at his side for the enti rety of the opera but

PAGE 39

39 almost performs a role of its own in pr opelling the narrative to its finale. In Opera in the Flesh Sam Abel explains the use of Octavians sword in Der Rosenkavalier against the more blatant psychosexual dramas of Salome and Elektra claiming that Strauss car ries over the fetish-laden atmosphere of his first two successes and transf orms it into a much more subtle use of the sexually obsessive symbol (124). This vis ual objectification of Octavians elusive masculinity (124), as Abel calls it, often comes into play in the operas pl ot in order to clarify Octavians maleness. In the first act, for exampl e, Octavian accidentally leaves his sword in the Marschallins room as he runs to hide from Baron Ochs. Not only does the phallic sword, in this instance, allude to the post-coital scene that opens the opera, but the Marschallin also chides Octavians masculinity for his misplacement of the weapon, stating, You scatterbrain, how careless of you! Is it the thi ng to leave ones sword lying arou nd in a ladys bedroom? Have you no manners? [Er Katzenkopf, Er Unvorsichtiger! Lt man in einer Dame Schlafzimmer seinen Degen herumliegen? Hat Er keine besseren Gepflogenheiten ?] (63) This utilization of the sword as a prop in this scene and the Marsch allins subsequent chastisement of Octavians maleness reinforce once again that Octavian is a character who has been gendered in multiple ways by the staging of Der Rosenkavalier Not only does the sword metaphorically signify Octavians masculinity, but his improper placement of it (i.e., his misuse of the phallus) labels him as unmasculine and dis tinctly non-heteronormative. In the second act, the sword takes on an even more significant role as the scuffle that ensues between Baron Ochs and Octavian climati cally sets into motion the conflict that will bring about the operas deus ex machina resolution. When Octavian initially confronts Ochs on behalf of Sophie, Ochs is di smissive and condescending toward the young boy. Octavian rashly challenges Ochs to a duel, brandishing his swor d, which results in Oc hs accidentally wounding

PAGE 40

40 himself on the weapon. As Ochs blusters over the slight injury he receives, he remarks, One is what one is and has no need to prove it [Ma n ist halt, was man ist, und brauchts nicht zu beweisen] (140). Again, Octavians sword and Ochs response draw atte ntion to the limitations of Octavians maleness. Even the ineffectual w ounding of Ochs (other than the tantrum it elicits from the Baron) reemphasizes Octavians inab ility to wield his substitute phallus and to successfully perform expected male roles. Thus, Strauss and Hofmannsthals effective use of the sword as prop and symbol throughou t the narrative and staging of Der Rosenkavalier work to further Octavians complex characterization as a fluidly-gendered figure that destabilizes conventional binary gender constructions. Alfred Roller, Ert, and the Costuming of Octavian More so than m ost operas (the spartan pr oduction values and costuming of Wagner and verismo operas immediately come to mind), Der Rosenkavalier gains a majority of its appeal from its distinctive, elaborate visual style. This confectioners sugar coating has garnered the opera many critiques for being too superficial, but I would argue that this surface sheen serves as yet another important facet in fles hing out a queered sensitivity of this work. The costuming in particular functions to both masculinize and feminize the character of Octavian. In his discussion of Victorian represen tations of trouser roles in Opera in the Flesh Sam Abel notes that artists often made no attempt to hide the femaleness of the travesti performers: There is no attempt at realistic illusion; the contours of the ideal feminine body are often more highlighted in drag than in proper womens clothes. The male clothes emphasize the female parts. Images of hourglass figur es, wasp waists, and large bosoms recur in these engravings, clearly evoking the ideal of feminine sexual allure. (211) In the sketches available from the original 1911 Der Rosenkavalier premiere, however, the costume designs literally obscure the gender of the actor playing Octavian under mens military

PAGE 41

41 or ceremonial outfits while also introducing f eminine and ornate touches to complicate the characters masculinity: Figure IV-1. Octavian Rofrano: Figure IV-2. Octavian Rofrano: Drittes Kostm, Erster Aufzug Viertes Kostm, Zweiter Aufzug (Source: Roller 17) (Source: Roller 25) In these original 1910 costume sketches for the operas premiere in Dresden, Alfred Roller portrays Octavian with a lithe, boyish figure stripped of any marker of the femaleness underneath (except, perhaps, for the more pronounced hips of the figure in the second image). The faces, however, are certainly more androgynous. In figure 1, Octavians colored cheeks and feline eyes make him more pretty and feminine, while the cherubic face in figure 2 seems to defy

PAGE 42

42 gender categorization completely. Even the costum es themselves, especially the silver outfit in figure 2, are almost feminine in th eir sartorial opulence and finery. Figure IV-3. Octavian Rofrano Genannt Quinquin: Erstes Kostm, Erster Aufzug (Source: Roller 5) The Octavian in figure 3, also by Alfred Roller, brings the actors femaleness even more to the fore as the jacketless figures feminine hips and backside are now visible (even though, surprisingly, the face appears more masculine than the previous two images). Thus, in each of these sketches, Roller emphasizes both the masc uline and feminine qualities of the Octavian character, creating a figure that balances between, rather than resolving into, a strict male or female gender identity.

PAGE 43

43 Erts costume designs for the 1980 Glyndebourne Festival similarly straddle depictions of masculinity and femininity: Figure IV-4. Octavian at the end of Ac t I Figure IV-5. Octavians runners (Source: Ert 19) (Source: Ert 25) Unlike the more ambiguous genders of the figures in Rollers sketches, the image of Octavian in figure 4 at first may appear to be an unquestionable female in mens clothing, as if designer Ert makes no attempt to hide the gende r of the actor playing Octavian; however, when compared to the accompanying paintings of Octa vians retinue (figure 5)male characters, especially those associated with the fantastic al Presentation of the Rose scene, who would actually be performed onstage by male actorsth ey appear similarly effeminate. Thus, the fashion-oriented Ert displays Octavians fluid gender not through the same androgyny of

PAGE 44

44 Rollers images, but through an almost effe minized masculinity, which endows the male characters in the opera, whethe r being performed by male or fe male actors, with a beauty typically associated with females. So, both Roller and Ert maintain a multigendered portrayal of Octavian through their respective costume sketches by recognizing both the masculine and feminine qualities of the character. Even more so than two-dimensional images and sketches, though, the three-dimensional costuming of Octavian plays an integral role in the comprehension of Der Rosenkavalier s queer performativity. Over the course of Der Rosenkavalier Octavian dons womens clothes and disguises himself as Mariandlfirst to escap e notice when leaving the Marschallins boudoir and secondly to entrap Baron Ochs in order to th wart his marriage arrangement to Sophie. This double cross-dressing by the actor playing Octavian draws even more atte ntion to the genderplay at work in the opera. For example, when the Marschallin kisses Octavi an dressed as a woman (You darling! And I can give you no more than a kiss [Du Schatz! Und nicht einmal mehr als ein Busserl kann ich dir geben. ] [69]) and calls after him, And come back, darling, but in mans clothing and by the front door, if you pl ease [Und komm Er wieder, Schatz, aber in Mannskleidern und durch die vordre Tr, wenns Ihm beliebt] (69), she makes known her preference that Octavian return to her in the dr ag costuming of his male clothes. Thus, the Marschallin doesnt desire Octavi an as a lesbian (as many modern scholars have interpreted the Marschallin-Octavian affair) or as a heterose xual woman, but instead desires the other-gendered Octavian who inhabits both realms of sexuality. Fassbaender, Kirchschlager, and the Filmed P erformances of Der Rosenkavalier Lastly, I would like to examine briefly two performances of Der Rosenkavalier available on DVD and how their respective acto rs portrayals of Octavian enha nce (or fail to enhance) the notion of gender mutability I have espoused throughout this project. The first filmization is a

PAGE 45

45 1979 performance of the Bayerisches Staatsorches ter, conducted by Carlos Kleiber; Brigitte Fassbaender performs the role of Octavian. Th e second is a 2004 Salzburg Festival performance by the Wiener Philharmoniker conducted by Semyon Bychkov; the Octavian is Angelika Kirchschlager. Although the 1979 performance is more traditional and ty pical in its production and staging choices, I feel that this filmic representation conveys more successfully than the avant-garde and controversial Salzburg Festival entry the plastic and fluid gender of Octavians character. In her justly-famous assump tion of the role of Octavian, Brigitte Fassbaender creates a character whose complicated web of genders and cr oss-dressings are always utterly believable. Never betraying discomfort in her intimate intera ctions with Gwyneth Jones or Lucia Popp (the actors who portray the Marschallin and Sophie, respectively), Fassbaender and her ease of performance naturalizes the non-heteronormativity of her drag character; however, despite her studied mimicry of masculinity, Fassbaender is ne ver satisfied to simply perform as a man. In her essay, In Praise of Brigit te Fassbaender: Reflections on Diva Worship, Terry Castle explains just how Fassbaenders complex performance as Octavian avoids a seamless illusion of maleness: Precisely to the degree that Fassbaender seems to enter into her male roles, precisely as I watch her approach (though without ever r eaching) a kind of zero degree masculinity, I find myself becoming more and more acutely aware of, and aroused by, her femininity. The very butchness with which she tackles, say, a role like Octavianthe sheer, absolutist bravado of the impersonationinfus es it with a dizzying homosexual charge. (43) Indeed, while Fassbaender certainly makes her masculinity believable (seen particularly convincingly when an uncomfortable, almost homophobic, tension builds at the prospect of Octavian, in the double-drag as Mariandl, kissing Baron Ochst hough, in reality, a heterosexual kiss between a male and female actor), as Castle notes, the singer neve r achieves a perfect

PAGE 46

46 semblance of masculinity. Fassbaen der, I believe, is even aware of this disjuncture, and often, in her characterization of the multigendered Octavian, fondles his sword, sheathing and unsheathing it, in symbolic recognition of he r ownand, by extension, the charactersultimate phallic lack. Thus, I feel that Fassbaender succeeds in providing an inte rpretation of Octavian that truly explores the characte rs ungendered qualitie s, rather than simply assigning Octavian either a masculine or even subversively lesbian identity. Angelika Kirchschlager, on the other hand, fo r all her many musical talents, fails to succeed in providing the wholly complex char acterization so evid ent in Fassbaenders interpretation. The problems with Kirchschlage rs performance surface most prominently when her Octavian is dressed as Mariandl. In the first act, when shes attempting to escape Baron Ochs, no amount of playacting can di sguise the fact that Kirchschlager has now reverted back to being a woman. Wearing red lipstick and her breasts unbound, it becomes obvious to the audience that the actor playing Octavian is, in realit y, female. It is almost as if director Robert Carsen had wanted to divulge th e theatrical secret of Octavians character by having the actress dress in female clothing in order to reveal her true identity. Unlike the aforementioned 1979 performance, which never tips its hand either way about Fassbaenders tr ue gender (even during the curtain calls, Fassbaender chiv alrously leads Jones and Popp out in front of her), this more recent performance breaks the operatic conceit and, even more detrimentally, explains the previously unexplainable gender of the Octavian character. In the final scene of the Sa lzburg performance, when Octavi an dresses as Mariandl in order to seduce Baron Ochs, Kirchschlager is co stumed in layered lingerie and comes sashaying campily through a circle of women in her new dis guise. Almost completely antithetical to her previous double cross-dressing, Kirchschlager now treats femininity not as Octavians true

PAGE 47

47 identity, but as full-blown parody. Instead of fleshing out the varying genders and sexualities that comprise Octavians identity, this parodic portrayal of Octavians double drag performance turns the characters sexual sl ippage into a humorousbut mean inglessjoke, rather than a source of gender exploration and examination. Then again, some viewers and scholars may ar gue that the subversive sexuality absent in Kirchschlagers performance can be seen more openly in the vivid and unabashed sexual displays throughout the 2004 production. Certainly, the operas bookending scenes feature Octavian and the Marschallin (Adrianne Pieczonka )and Sophie (Miah Persson) in the finale in various stages of undress, passionately kissing, embracing, and rolling around on beds. Unfortunately, I see this seeming celebration of Der Rosenkavalier s queer sensibilities as ultimately limited. Rather than truly exploring th e sexual complexities of Octavians character, these scenes simply exploit the more prurient and sensationalist homosexual aspects of the operas casting, as evidenced by the remainder of the pre-World War II Regietheater production, which sets the final scene in a brothel where numerous couples simulate intercourse in the background. In contrast to the Presentation of the Rose scene, where the otherworldly atmosphere queers gender and sexuality, the scenes of sexuality in Ca rsens production of Der Rosenkavalier simply serve to shock and titillate.

PAGE 48

48 POSTLUDE So, in exam ining the extraordinarily vital textual, musical, and visual features of Der Rosenkavalier, modern operagoers and scholars can begi n to see how Strauss and Hofmannsthal as well as subsequent opera dire ctors, producers, costume designe rs, and performers have each attempted to preserve the fascinating sexual a nd gender mores of the opera and its eponymous hero(ine). As I bring this project to a close, I would lik e to draw your attention to a correspondence written by composer Richard Stra uss to librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal on the ninth of July, 1909. Replying to a draft of the second act that Ho fmannsthal had recently sent, Strauss discusses the character of Octavian and his elaborate plot to foil Baron Ochs plans of marrying Sophie: The more mischievous Octavian is the better (267). Whether or not Strauss intended this comment to refer specifically to Oc tavians complicated cro ss-dressing as Mariandl or simply the convoluted scheme in general, I feel that this quotation helps us to grasp the very purposeful intent behind the character of Octavian: to function as a contrary to heteronormativity. Not simply a lesbian or homosexual figure, Octavian is a powerfullyungendered other that opens a site for ques tioning accepted genders and sexualities and challenging the status quo. As we look over the long lineage of the trouser role and its multifaceted methods of commenting on gender and sexuality, from the onstage gender anarchy of Handel to Mozarts lusty pageboy, arriving at Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthals Der Rosenkavalier brings us to a point in operatic hist ory where the queer sensibilities currently so synonymous with opera truly began to emer ge and, even to this day, flourish. So, as opera continues to build an even la rger gay and lesbian following, queer scholars and fans alike can continue to expand and refine the discourse of gender rebellion that occurs on the operatic stage. By viewing opera through the lens of queer and gender studies, we can unlock perceptions and interpretations long obscu red by the more conservative ideologies that

PAGE 49

49 have dominated this multimedia art form. Thus if we truly recognize and embrace the queerness of operafrom its travesti to its divadom to its still untappe d realms of non-heteronormativity lovers of opera can begin to mine the rich dept hs of subversion inherent in these extravagant, melodramatic, campyand fabulously gayworks of art.

PAGE 50

50 LIST OF REFERENCES Abel, Sam Opera in the Flesh: Sexuality in Operatic Performance Boulder: Westview, 1996. Andr, Naomi. Voicing Gender: Castrati, Travesti, and the Second Woman in Early-NineteenthCentury Italian Opera Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2006. Bashant, Wendy. Singing in Greek Drag: Gluck, Berlioz, George Eliot. Blackmer and Smith 216-41. Blackmer, Corinne E. and Patricia Juliana Smith, eds. En Travesti: Women, Gender Subversion, Opera. New York: Columbia UP, 1995. Blumer, Rodney, ed. Der Rosenkavalier LP Booklet. London: Decca, 1969. Brett, Philip and Elizabeth Wood. Lesbian and Gay Music. Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology Eds. Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas. New York: Routledge, 2006. 351-89. Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. New York: Routledge, 1993. Castle, Terry. In Praise of Brigitte Fassbaender: Reflections on Diva-Worship. Blackmer and Smith 20-58. Clment, Catherine. Opera, or the Undoing of Women Trans. Betsy Wing. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1988. Ert. Erts Costumes and Sets for Der Rosenkavalier in Full Color. New York: Dover, 1980. Hadlock, Heather. The Career of Cherubino, or the Trouser Role Grows Up. Smart 67-92. Hart, Beth. Strauss and Hofmanns thal's Accidental Heroine: Th e Psychohistorical Meaning of the Marschallin. Opera Quarterly 15.3 (Summer 1999): 414-34. Hofmannsthal, Hugo von. Der Rosenkavalier Libretto. London: Decca, 1984. Hunter, Mary. The Culture of Opera Buffa in Mozarts Vienna: A Poetics of Entertainment Princeton: Princeton UP, 1999. Hutcheon, Linda and Michael Hutcheon. Sta ging the Female Body: Richard Strausss Salome Smart 204-21. Koestenbaum, Wayne. The Queens Throat: Opera, Homosex uality, and the Mystery of Desire New York: Poseidon, 1993.

PAGE 51

51 Le Tourneau, Gary. Kitsch, Camp, and Opera: Der Rosenkavalier Canadian University Music Review 14 (1994): 77-97. Leonardi, Susan J. and Rebecca A. Pope. The Divas Mouth: Body, Voice, and Prima Donna Politics New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1996. Levin, David J. Unsettling Opera: Staging Mozart Verdi, Wagner, and Zemlinsky Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2007. Oosterhuis, Harry. Stepchildren of Nature: Krafft-Ebing, Ps ychiatry, and the Making of Sexual Identity Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2000. Plaut, Eric A. Grand Opera: Mirror of the Western Mind. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1993. Reynolds, Margaret. Ruggieros Deceptions, Cher ubinos Distractions. Blackmer and Smith 132-51. Roller, Alfred. Octavian Rofrano: Dritt es Kostm, Erster Aufzug. Blumer 17. Octavian Rofrano: Viertes Kostm, Zweiter Aufzug. Blumer 25. Octavian Rofrano Genannt Quinquin: Erstes Kostm, Erster Aufzug. Blumer 5. Der Rosenkavalier Dir. Otto Schenk. Perf. Dame Gwyneth Jones, Brigitte Fassbaender, Lucia Popp, Manfred Jungwirth, Carlos Kleiber. 1979. DVD. Deutsche Grammophon, 2005. Dir. Robert Carsen. Perf. Adrianne Pieczo nka, Angelika Kirchschlager, Miah Persson, Franz Hawlata, Semyon Bychkov. DVD. TDK, 2004. Smart, Mary Ann, ed. Siren Songs: Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Opera Princeton: Princeton UP, 2000. Strauss, Richard. Dear Herr von Hofmannsthal. 9 July 1909. Opera: A History in Documents Ed. Piero Weiss. New York: Oxford UP, 2002. 266-68. Der Rosenkavalier Vocal Score. New York: Boosey & Hawkes, 1943. Tambling, Jeremy. Opera and the Culture of Fascism New York: Oxford UP, 1996.

PAGE 52

52 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Peter DEttore is a native of Florida, born and raised in Pem broke Pines. He earned his bachelors degree in English literature with a minor in womens studies from Florida State University in December 2004. Over the course of his graduate study, he has developed interests in 20th century womens poetry, gender and queer studi es, and opera studies. After receiving his masters degree from the University of Florida in December 2007, he plans to pursue a career as a junior college literature and writing instructor.