Thursday, November 11, 2010

Opera Signs

Today I'm wrestling with something new...something I've never thought about and am not sure if it could or will go anywhere. I'm wondering about the use of gesture in opera. Anyone who has seen my work knows that I use gesture a lot, I find the body an expressive tool. I was reading this morning about poetics, and something the struck me in this article was insertion of the absurd (in a literal sense, ie. something that is intentionally non-logical within the given context) into a poem creates a level of concentration in the reader/listener. Could it not be the same on the stage? That the use of gesture is an absurdist element that focuses the audience member?

That isn't really what I'm wrestling against, but rather the notion of the use of sign-language in opera. I can't even tell you what I mean by that. I'm sure it isn't a literal use of ASL or ISL or BSL or any SL. Opera is an art form for the hearing, it can't be argued otherwise, so the gestures used have to communicate with a hearing audience. And yet an essential element of signed linguistics, and especially of signed poetry, is neoglism, or the creation of new words. Essentially meaning that the contemporary state of sign language is such that new signs have to be created all the time, it is common practice. And, in looking at signed poetry, signs are al the time adapted to make them more beautiful or flowing within the poetic context and/or experience. So surely I could develope a gestural language to move in and out of sync with the textual language of a production. But how...I don't know yet. That is what I'm working on.

In the meantime I found this video. It is some highschool performance, and of a terrible song from a terrible musical. BUT, the gestures are beautiful, I almost would go further and say stunning. And though I don't know ASL, after some research into the common signs for many of these words, this pair of students have made heavy use of neoglism to create an art that is between dance and signing. I find it compelling and encouraging.

1 comment:

aw said...

What a neat idea! Agreeing that opera is essentially an art form for the hearing, we have to address the issue that much of the art involved in marrying the libretto to the music is lost on the audience when the language of the opera is foreign to them. Although not deaf in the traditional sense, one can argue that they are deaf to a vital aspect of the art form. Could be quite an exploration in the accessibility of opera...