A not-quite Cliche of Operatic Madness: GIRL to WOMAN, IMPREGNATION to DERANGEMENT

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Lower left:  Cuiqiao in Pursuit of the Red Army Phantasm
Center Right:  Li XiOxie Sleepwalks in Song at Midnight

One of the scenes one expects sooner or later to encounter in tragic opera of whatever cultural provenance is the distraught, sleepwalking or displaced, soul-transported, in-flight-from-reality (“in denial”), brink-of-suicide poised, dressed-in-white bride-to-be. In its frequency of quotation it is as close as we come to a truly universal gestalt, if at least in that it inhabits “Eastern” as much as “Western” romantic opera, indeed turns up in pre-Renaissance as often as in pre-May 4 “Enlightenment” libretti – and of course is an idiot’s delight for those ever searching for new Freudian secrets and explications in the genre. (Of whom I confess guiltily I am one). Let us count them: Bride of Lamermoor, Il SONNAMBULA, Hamlet/Ophelia, Romeo and Juliet, Othello’s Desdemona….even (beyond opera, but no slight there) Federico García Lorca’s masterful “Blood Wedding Trilogy” (from which I have never recovered after a 1964 PBS performance), or of course Jane Eyre (albeit madness moved upstairs – but woe betide the naif who unlocks the door chains). A story set that seems never to lose power no matter how often how many times rehearsed: Freud would of course have the explanation, and the “told you so…”

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