An "overtone divined by the ear" : opera in Willa Cather's fiction
Skaggs, Carmen Trammell
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Although in her fiction Cather extensively references musical compositions and borrows from musical forms, for many years critics overlooked these references, considering them merely tangential to the narrative structure and interpretation of Cather’s novels. To appreciate fully Cather’s artistry, the reader must engage all of the musical allusions and strain to hear the melodies in her writing, even if they are obscured. Cather relies most heavily upon opera as a vehicle for her own art. She uses two key elements of operatic convention: the opera singer as artist and the opera as the ultimate blending of poetry and drama. For Cather, the opera singer exemplifies the aesthetic life of the artist. Not only does she choose a prima donna as her protagonist, she also uses carefully chosen allusions to operas in order to heighten narrative tens ion, develop her characters, and establish an emotional connection with the reader.