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Significations of Religious Desire in Louise Talma’s The Alcestiad

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Abstract American composer Louise Talma’s opera The Alcestiad can be read as a highly autobiographical work; its themes can be understood as crucial elements of Talma’s own life. These correlations include: the demands and restrictions of society upon women’s behavior and desires, particularly its emphasis upon conforming to heteronormative performance, represented by Alcestis’s hesitant acceptance of marriage and motherhood, and Talma’s reluctant career as a pedagogue and internal conflict over her relationship with Nadia Boulanger; and the yearning for a life of devotion to a religion and a single art, in which Alcestis’s desire to serve as an oracular priestess of Apollo and Talma’s desire to dedicate herself to her work as a Catholic and as a composer are parallel tropes. This essay explores these parallels and demonstrates the ways in which the close relationships between The Alcestiad and Talma’s life are manifested in Talma’s use of rhythm in text-setting within the work.

Affiliations: 1: Loveland, Ohio


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