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September 2021

Mad scenes in early 19th-century opera

Author(s): Hoff, P.

Journal/Book: Acta Psychiat Scand. 2000; 102: 35 Norre Sogade, PO Box 2148, Dk-1016 Copenhagen, Denmark. Munksgaard Int Publ Ltd. 310-313.

Abstract: Objective: It is our objective to examine the phenomenon of mad scents in bel canto opera from a modern perspective. Method: The development of psychiatry and music at the beginning of the 19th century is described. Common elements of romantic music and mental disorders are discussed. It is shown how bel canto composers represent psychiatric illness by musical means. The psychopathology depicted in a prototypical mad scene is evaluated. Results: Early romantic music is characterized by imagination, illusion and loss of structure; characteristics which can be well expressed in mad scenes. While madness (Withdrawal into a utopian world) gained a certain attraction in society, clinical psychiatry increasingly focused on emotional causes of illness and on drug-induction of mental disorders. Conclusion: Mad scenes in bel canto opera can be understood as expression of an increasing interest in emotional aspects in music and society as well as in clinical psychiatry.

Note: Article Erfurth A, Univ Munster, Klin Psychiat & Psychotherapie, Albert Schweitzer Str 11, D-48129 Munster, GERMANY

Keyword(s): mental disorders; music; history; PSYCHOSES


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