ABSTRACT

Philip Glass’s opera for ensemble and film La Belle et la Bête was composed for his own ensemble (Figure 5.1) alongside Jean Cocteau’s film of the same title (1946), which itself is based upon Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont’s eighteenthcentury fairy tale.1 The film in this situation resembles a ventriloquist’s dummy: muted, all sound from the film removed (including the music originally composed by Georges Auric), but with a sound whose source is elsewhere-synchronized through the singers and the live playing of the Philip Glass Ensemble. Glass synchronizes the singing voice and instrumental music to the film image of the speaking body, and he achieves an unusual operatic result that relies on the logic of synchronization and its multiple embodiments, between what is seen and what is heard, opera and film, live and reproduced, human and animal. It is not in the singing style that a significant change is marked in Glass’s piece compared with, for example, French neoclassic operas; what has changed is the status of the vocalic body and its function in the opera. It reveals a new methodology in the creation of an operatic work that might expose the voice as a replaceable object, reinventable, and possibly “transplantable” to another body.