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Old Enough to Sing Tosca: the paradox of age and femininity and the opera diva

Karantonis, P (2012) 'Old Enough to Sing Tosca: the paradox of age and femininity and the opera diva.' In: Dolan, J and Tincknell, E, eds. Aging Femininities: Troubling representations. Cambridge Scholars Press, Newcastle upon Tyne, pp. 171-182. ISBN 9781443838832

Abstract

Older women have never been so visible, or so problematised, in popular media culture as now, but what kinds of representations are being offered and how can we make sense of them in the context of post-feminism and global economic change? "Aging Femininities: Troubling Representations" offers a timely intervention into the hiatus between the visibility of aging femininity in contemporary circuits of culture and its marginalisation in cultural theory. From "graceful agers" and Saga subscribers, to make-over models and pop divas, each of the essays in this collection interrogates the different manifestations of "aging femininity" in terms both of its historic invisibility and its new visibility. The book forges links between contemporary "lived" experience and feminist cultural theory and research, often through the direct and autobiographical knowledge of the writers themselves. Divided into four sections - Cultural Herstories, Regulations and Transgressions, Problematic Postfeminists? and Divas and Dolls - plus a thought-provoking photo essay, it wrests the discourse of aging away from the twin hegemonies of consumer culture and gerontology to present a diverse selection of essays and positions. "Aging Femininities: Troubling Representations" establishes the long overlooked richness and the complexity of this field of study.

Item Type: Book Chapter or Section
Additional Information:

This article was produced after my participation in an AHRC-funded workshop dealing with women, ageism and media representation, held at the University of the West of England, Bristol in 2008. My specific area of investigation was the paradox of post-WWII operatic vocal performance by women which requires the maturity of chronological age in a female performer but sometimes also requires a youthful appearance in her stage characterisation. The exception, to some extent, is the phenomenon created by Maria Callas’s ‘Tosca’, whose vocal frailty in notable performances at a later stage in her career and the drama of her biographical story added a narrative of ‘gravitas’ to her characterisation, suggesting a positive example of where ‘age’ and ‘experience’ are read as desirable elements of celebrity performativity. The article also investigates the medicalisation of women’s voices as they age, with some evidence that the models applied to gynaecology also map onto the hormone-led treatment of mid-to-late career intervention in the opera singer. This contrasts with case studies where re-training success is achieved through recent findings in vocal pedagogy. The editors of the volume, Dolan and Tincknell, are committed to carrying the contents and message of the book forward into a political arena. They site a link as evidence of this plan: “Women, Ageing and Media - included in the AHRC's Impact Task Force Report (2009) as a good example of impact. The report is seen by UK MP’s, civil servants, senior academics and other stakeholders.” http://www.wam-research.org.uk/about/

Keywords: Older women. Women in mass media. Women — Sociological aspects.
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 04 Mar 2013 11:08
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2016 14:06
URI: http://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/1348
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