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Nina Triaridou

Reflections of Opera in Moulin Rouge! Aesthetics, Gender and Social Class

ISBN: 978-3-96146-961-1

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Produktart: Buch
Verlag: Diplomica Verlag
Erscheinungsdatum: 11.2023
AuflagenNr.: 1
Seiten: 64
Sprache: Englisch
Einband: Paperback


This book traces the origins of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! (2001) to opera, employing a variety of theoretical frameworks to highlight their aesthetic and ideological correlation. Through intertextuality, allusions to opera are examined in terms of story, setting and character, while issues of social class, gender representation and orientalism are raised. Prominent examples from opera include Verdi’s La Traviata, Puccini’s La Bohème as well as 19th century French opera, such as works by Offenbach, Massenet and Gounod. Furthermore, the book explores how the formal elements of opera are translated into the film with a postmodern twist, thus enhancing the interplay between the two media. Moulin Rouge!’s theatricality and self-reflexivity renegotiate the tropes of stage performance, rendering the film a love letter to opera.


Text sample: Chapter 2.1 Quotations without Inverted Commas”: Framing Intertextuality: As a postmodern film, Moulin Rouge! includes references to multiple films, cultural texts, media and past forms of entertainment through intertextuality. More specifically, Moulin Rouge! celebrates the ancestors of the Hollywood musical, namely the European cabaret, the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan as well as the more serious” 19th-century Italian opera (Kinder 52). As Angela Ndalianis has argued, in her study about the neo-baroque in contemporary cinema, the multiplicity of intertextual allusions in postmodern film creates a labyrinth, since each allusion points to yet another alternate path-text that exists outside the film and invites the audience to explore it (Ndalianis 26-7). In a similar vein, we may argue that Moulin Rouge! points to multiple paths so, let’s follow the path of opera. Hence, focusing on the film’s musical and narrative nods to the operatic canon, I explore opera’s influence on Moulin Rouge! as a way to highlight the convergence of the two media in the film through intertextuality. Before delving into specific similarities, it would be useful to provide a framework of how this study approaches intertextuality as a theoretical concept in the context of postmodernism. French theorist Roland Barthes observes the intertextual nature of texts by arguing that a text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation” (Barthes, The Death of the Author” 148). Barthes’ views seem to align with a postmodern understanding of intertextuality, as both highlight the connectivity of the text to other pre-existing texts. In contrast to author-centered readings, by abolishing the author’s imposition of meaning upon the text, we come to realize that the text is a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash” ( The Death of the Author” 146). In this way, the text consists of signs that can never be securely interpreted, with its meaning being constantly deferred ( The Death of the Author” 147). In a sense, the Text is plural [w]hich is not simply to say that it has several meanings, but that it accomplishes the very plural of meaning: an irreducible […] plural” (Barthes, From Work to Text” 159). Thus, no text is an island not only does it engage into dialogue with previous texts, but it is in fact constructed and created out of other texts. For Barthes, intertextuality is woven into a text’s fabric to the point that the text constitutes nothing more than an amalgamation of previous innumerable texts that can never be fully traced. According to Barthes, the text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture” ( The Death of the Author” 146). We could connect this to bricolage, a key concept in postmodern aesthetics. Bricolage constitutes the arrangement of diverse past and present representations, which are brought together and re-signified (Barker and Jane 237). Bringing together diverse representations and texts goes hand in hand not simply with Barthes’ view of intertextuality as an intricate network that runs through all texts, but with a more self-conscious brand of intertextuality that explicitly alludes to a specific previous text (Barker and Jane 237). Intertextuality in postmodernism acquires a different function, in the sense that previous texts are referenced in a self-reflexive fashion in film studies, this has been associated with Noël Carroll’s concept of allusionism”. It is important to note here that this kind of postmodern intertextuality is different in scope and function than Barthes’ view of intertextuality, since these allusions are carefully-planned references within a text’s pre-existing fabric. To delineate the intricacies of allusion culture, Carroll places it within the context of New Hollywood and 1970s American cinema. For Carroll, allusion is viewed as an umbrella term covering a mixed lot of practices, including, among others, quotations, the memorialization of past genres, the reworkings of past genres [and] homages” (Carroll 52). Building on this definition, Carroll points out the tendency of 1970s and 1980s films to overtly evoke past films and genre tropes (51). While letting nostalgia pervade 1970s and 1980s Hollywood cinema, this practice allowed a reconfiguration of film as a medium standing at the crossroads of past and present (51). The most relevant aspect of Carroll’s ideas in relation to this study is how past genres are memorialized through exaggeration and imitation in films such as Star Wars (1977) and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), where the genre becomes a symbol in itself (62). In addition, these films constitute a remembrance of things past, such as serials, comics and pulp novels, which are an integral part of pop culture (62).

Über den Autor

Nina Triaridou has completed her undergraduate studies in English Language and Literature at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece) with a focus on postmodernism and feminism in film and media. She is currently pursuing an MA in Anglophone Literatures and Cultures at the University of Vienna. She is a young podcast creator, with her podcast series FemArt Echoes” on feminism and art having participated in international festivals, among them the 62nd Thessaloniki International Film Festival (Greece) and the 18th HollyShorts Film Festival (Los Angeles, USA). During 2022-23, she participated in the research project Unraveling the Cocoon of Memory: Women’s Narratives in a Fading World”, a collaboration between Columbia University’s SNFPHI and Aristotle University of Thessaloniki’s LNR. Her love for diverse forms of art motivated her to adopt an interdisciplinary approach in her study of the aesthetic and ideological extensions of cultural texts. As an opera enthusiast and a film connoisseur, she was inspired to explore Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! from an intermedial perspective.

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