Dramatic Impulse: Diegetic Music in the Operas of Giacomo Puccini

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This dissertation examines diegetic music as a rationale for the juxtaposition of traditional and modern idioms in operas by Giacomo Puccini. Through this perspective, I consider the resulting unevenness of style in Puccini’s works as an expression of the music’s dramatic function, rather than a consequence of any compositional shortcoming. Originally proposed in relation to film, diegetic music identifies music that exists within a portrayed world and is therefore recognized by fictional characters as music. In these pages, I argue that Puccini regularly steps into the world of his operas, adopting the persona of a fictional entity to compose in an old-fashioned Classical style that is distinct from his usual late Romantic idiom. I also propose and employ a tripartite analytical methodology for identifying and assessing diegetic music in opera, complete with a new definition for diegetic music that is specific to this genre. Approached in stages, this methodology first considers textual analysis of the words characters sing and the stage directions published in the score to establish a hypothesis for the presence or absence of diegetic music in specific passages. Musical analysis then aims to confirm or refute this supposition through clearly defined Classical forms that are otherwise absent in Puccini’s musical texture. Finally, dramatic analysis seeks to resolve any discrepancies between the textual and musical evidence, as well as assess the music’s contribution toward the plot and/or themes of the opera.






Messina, Karen Elaine Hovey (2020). Dramatic Impulse: Diegetic Music in the Operas of Giacomo Puccini. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/22163.


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