Cathy Berberian: From score to stage
We would like to discuss the relationship of the score, the sound of the voice and the theatricality in performances by Cathy Berberian. Berberian was a remarkable singer, a diva and performer, who inspired many composers such as Luciano Berio, John Cage, Igor Stravinsky and Sylvano Bussotti to write music especially for her voice. She also paved the way for new ways of vocality and musical performance, fusing different genres, styles and vocal techniques. Often referred to as a ‘cant’actrice’, her vocal performances were always very theatrical. We will compare the scores to recordings and film footage of her performances (which are rarely shown or discussed). We would like to look in particular at Berio’s pieces, namely Sequenza III, the Folk Songs, and Recital I for Cathy, and discuss Berberian’s interpretation in light of the notion of authoritative performance. The question of Cathy as an authority will guide us to a discussion of the work concept at the intersection between score and performance practice. Regarding the theatrical component, we will address issues of concert versus theatrical event, stage versus video recording, and sound versus theatrical gesture.
Pieter Verstraete is a Ph.D. candidate in the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis and the Theatre Department, University of Amsterdam. His research project is entitled, “The Frequency of Imagination, a narrative-perceptual study of the interrelations between sound, text and performative space”, to be completed in 2008. In 2001 Pieter Verstraete received his Licentiate degree in Germanic Languages and in 2002, he was awarded a postgraduate degree in Theatre Studies, both from the University of Antwerp (Belgium). From 2003 till 2004, he was awarded a DAAD scholarship to do research in the IPP programme Performance and Media Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz (Germany). His research deals with the narrative impulse of sound in music and audio theatre, and covers an interdisciplinary approach towards sound theories, aurality and audio culture.
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