Enjoying the Operatic Voice: A Neuropsychoanalytic Exploration of the Operatic Reception Experience

by Carlo Zuccarini

Purchase this book

$ 99
Availability: Available through resellers
currency displayed based on your location
(click here to change currency)

There has been a long-standing and mutually-informing association between psychoanalysis, literature and the arts. Surprisingly, given the oral/aural basis of the ‘talking cure’, music has largely been overlooked by psychoanalysis. Notably, neuroscientific research investigating music reception and production has been steadily increasing in range and scope over the years. However, in order to avoid confounding factors, empirical studies have focused primarily on non-vocal music. Remarkably, operatic vocal music has not featured prominently in either field. Yet the multi-dimensional, multi-layered nature of opera, which fuses together a number of different arts, would appear to provide fertile soil for both disciplines.
This book aims to fill that gap, providing a stepping stone for further research. It leverages the individual strengths of psychoanalysis and neuroscience both separately and jointly as the inter-discipline of neuropsychoanalysis. By combining various theories of mind with knowledge about music processing in the brain, this book comprehensively examines the operatic reception experience, providing an account in subjective as well as objective terms. It explores the bittersweet enjoyment of operatic vocal music, which can literally move an operaphile to tears. The explanation for this may be found in a number of subjective dynamics that are unique to the reception of opera, rather than in any distinct objective neural processes, which are common to the reception of all music. These subjective dynamics, which are recruited during neural processing, are triggered by the equally unique features of the operatic voice, in combination with a number of auxiliary elements that are specific to opera. This book will be of interest to academics in a broad range of science and arts disciplines related to music perception and performance, such as music psychology and operatic performance. It may also appeal to passionate operaphiles who wish to understand what drives their addiction!

Foreword by Alexander Carpenter
Chapter 1 Setting the scene
Chapter 2 A (very) concise history of opera
Chapter 3 The historical tension between words and music in opera – Prima la musica o le parole?
Chapter 4 The ‘layers’ of opera
Chapter 5 Feminism, queer theory, gender and opera
Chapter 6 Opera at the nexus of psychoanalysis and the neurosciences (neuropsychoanalysis)
Part I - Psychoanalysis
Chapter 7 Opera and psychoanalysis
Chapter 8 Applying psychoanalysis to music – some considerations
Chapter 9 The voice and the gaze
Chapter 10 The big ‘O’ in opera
Chapter 11 Symbolic, Imaginary and Real
Chapter 12 The operatic voice and the fetish
Chapter 13 The transitional experience of opera
Part II - Neuroscience
Chapter 14 Music and (neuro)science
Chapter 15 The origins of music and singing
Chapter 16 Music: culture, society, language and memory
Chapter 17 The overlap between the neural processing of music and language
Chapter 18 How music is processed in the brain and enjoyed
Chapter 19 The music and emotion debate
Chapter 20 Music, emotion, gender and sexuality
Part III - Neuropsychoanalysis
Chapter 21 The duet between psychoanalysis and neuroscience
Chapter 22 What is the origin and nature of the powerful emotional response that is evoked in some listeners by the operatic voice?
Chapter 23 Does enjoyment of the operatic voice have something erotic about it?
Chapter 24 The reception of the operatic voice: from the neural processing of acoustic input to the subjective experience of vocal jouissance – a theoretical formulation
Chapter 25 Grand finale

Carlo Zuccarini holds a PhD in Psychology and an MA in Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Society, both from Brunel University in London. This book is based on his doctoral research. He is an independent scholar, and his research interests include psychoanalysis, in particular, applied to operatic performance and the singing voice and music psychology/neuropsychology. He has presented his research on the reception of the operatic voice at conferences in England and Austria, including the Mozart & Science conference in Vienna. In addition to combining his research with his long-standing passion for opera, he is an established translator specialising in psychoanalysis, psychology and medicine.

music psychology, psychoanalysis and music, neuropsychology of music perception, brain and music, neural processing of music, transitional space of opera, operatic orgasm, operatic voice, opera performance and reception, vocal jouissance, vocal lost object, pure cry, music and emotion, emotive response to opera, globus hystericus, piloerection

Bibliographic Information

Book Title

Enjoying the Operatic Voice: A Neuropsychoanalytic Exploration of the Operatic Reception Experience





Number of pages


Physical size



10 B&W

Publication date

March 2019