Fall 2017

“Film Melodrama and Opera: La Tosca in Italian Cinema” by Bernhard Kuhn

Abstract:

This article focuses on the relationship between film melodrama and opera from an intermedial perspective. In addition to drawing on relevant literature in the fields of intermediality and melodrama studies, it incorporates literary and musicological theories. It argues that while opera and melodrama are related, the operatic and the melodramatic are distinct modes of artistic expression. Comparable to the melodramatic mode, the operatic mode appears in many media and is highly relevant for the Italian cinema. In the first part, the article distinguishes between the operatic and melodramatic mode and points to relevant elements of the relationship between melodrama, opera, and the Italian cinema. To illustrate significant aspects of this connection, the second part of this article reflects on two films based on Victorien Sardou’s drama La Tosca (1887): Carlo Koch’s Tosca (1941) and Luigi Magni’s La Tosca (1973). The two films incorporate operatic and melodramatic elements very differently. While in Koch’s version the musical discours is at times comparable to arias in opera, the film also incorporates instances of melodrama. Magni’s film, on the other hand, transforms Sardou’s drama into a musical film reminiscent of opera buffa. It communicates less on the affective level and rather evokes a cognitive reflection on Italy’s reality of the early 1970s.