Featured this month on Music and Literature, an article written by Elodie Olson-Coons.
an abbreviated excerpt from this very thorough article:
“Much of Barbara Hannigan’s appeal lies in the extreme nature of her performances, blending physical strength, vocal technique, and feats of memorization with a burning emotional intensity. Opera, that most contrived of art forms, has not traditionally been the home of ultra-realism, peopled as it is with fairy tale characters and commedia dell’arte caricatures—as well as the occasional artiste with an ego too overinflated to stoop much to acting at all. But there have been historical shifts away from this: the post-romantic Italian verismo, for instance, which brought white-hot passion and gory violence center-stage. An even more naked kind of realism made its appearance onstage towards the turn of the 20th century, in, say, Janáček’s Jenůfa and Berg’s Wozzeck, as poor people, difficult people, mad people—real people—became opera material, too. Barbara Hannigan seems to gravitate particularly to this latter category of role, which encourages us to read her “full-bodied commitment” as metamorphosis. It is easier, after all, to read identification into these contemporary figures than into mythological princesses or Norse gods …”