Opera and Hypnosis. Victor Maurel’s Experiments with Verdi’s Otello - Université Jean-Monnet-Saint-Étienne Access content directly
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Opera and Hypnosis. Victor Maurel’s Experiments with Verdi’s Otello


In his Cours d’esthétique vocale et scénique, Victor Maurel develops a theory of identification based on his art as an actor-singer and on his experience with hypnosis. When one of Maurel’s friends brings to him Lina de Ferkel – a subject for De Rochas’ hypnosis sessions – Maurel goes beyond the usual musical themes played on the piano and sings Era la notte from Verdi’s Otello. Very likely chosen because of the baritone’s relationship with the role of Iago, but also because of its musical rhetoric of persuasion, the piece musically parallels the situation of hypnosis: while Iago lulls to sleep Otello’s faculty for reasoning, and simultaneously awakens his suspicions, Maurel, in “restricting [himself] from making any gesture”, claims to arouse in Lina “some of the gestures which [he himself] used in this famous piece.” To him, this proves that “objectivation”, defined as the exteriorisation of passions through expressions and gestures, comes from the unknown, from the invisible. Maurel’s approach will be compared with other contemporaneous medical theories in order to explore the link, established by proponents of hypnosis, between interiority and identification. In a renewed approach to acting, autosuggestion allows the actor-singer to draw on his profound interiority, and to bring back to the corporal surface a range of “natural”, transhistorical gestures. Moreover, such gestures are more than simple signs of an affect which captures – or hypnotises – the soul: they are truly part of this affect, allowing the singer to use interiority as a space for creating artificial but "true" emotional states.
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hal-03928420 , version 1 (20-03-2023)



Céline Frigau Manning. Opera and Hypnosis. Victor Maurel’s Experiments with Verdi’s Otello. Nineteenth-Century Opera and the Scientific Imagination, 1, Cambridge University Press, pp.84-106, 2019, ⟨10.1017/9781316275863.005⟩. ⟨hal-03928420⟩
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