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The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather as an Opera Completed by University of The Song of the Lark Opera in seven Acts Cast of Characters Thea Kronborg …………………………………………………………………………… Soprano Doctor Howard Archie ………………………………………………………… Tenor Freddy Ottenburg …………………………………………………………………… Bass Spanish Johnny ………………………………………………………………………… Mezzo-soprano Act I (Childhood) Thea's (main character) growing up is depicted. At this point in the story, she is merely learning how to play the piano with the German instructor Wunsch who also happens to be an alcoholic. From the beginning The Song of the Lark has a mythic aura, as if to make us at least look toward the gods. "Kronborg" is a Scandinavian name, but does it not also suggest Kronos (or Saturn), ruler of the elder gods and king of the Golden Age of the Titans? (Gornick 76) "Thea" is identified as the daughter of Uranus (the most ancient of all gods) and Terra. That Thea's first teacher and motivator is named Wunsch deliberately places the story in Teutonic myth as well as Greek (Gornick 56-59). Professor Wunsch thinks of his hopes for Thea: "It was long since he had wished anything or desired anything beyond the necessities of the body," but now "he was tempted to hope for another" (37). He says to Thea, "There is only one big thing—desire" (95). The music Wunsch gives to Thea as a special sign of his hope for her is from Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice. Act II (The Song of the Lark) Thea leaves Moonstone for Chicago. Themes of awakening and movement are suggested by Wunsch's teaching and the trip outside Moonstone that Ray Kennedy arranges for Thea and her mother. Then we see Kennedy's notebook of "Impressions," Whose pages "were like a battlefield; the laboring author had fallen back from metaphor after metaphor, abandoned position after position." This was the "treacherous business of recording impressions, in which the material you were so full of vanished mysteriously under your striving hand"(146). But it is Ray Kennedy whose desire for Thea's future is fulfilled, his death the instrument of her beginning in art (http://us.penguingroup.com/static/rguides/us/song_of_the_lark.html). The periods of her development are marked symbolically in the scenes of her room in moonlight, of Panther Canyon, and of the stage and her triumph as Sieglinde. These scenes of awakening have several things in common: each one has a physical confinement (the room, the canyon, the stage); each is an extension of Thea's powers, a quickening; each has a movement or journey outward; each has both mythic overtones and deep physical involvements (http://us.penguingroup.com/static/rguides/us/song_of_the_lark.html). Act III (frustration) Thea is upset when she understands how changeable people can be. Immediately after we are told of Ray Kennedy's death, the events of the story move away. In Panther Canyon, Thea's awakening is to a sense of history and personal heroism, a physical involvement with the ancient people, the primitive past, all elemental things, and man's passion to create (Lindemann 57). She finds music in "a sensuous form," thinking becomes sustained sensation, identity with lizards, stones, the sound of cicadas, the simple primitive force of life: sensation first, then attitudes of body, then passion. The eagle—bird of Jupiter and Odin—sails into the canyon and mounts "until his plumage was so steeped in light that he looked like a golden bird." Thea salutes it —"endeavor, achievement, desire" (398-399). And then there is the journey upward and outward as Fred (like Orpheus) leads her out of the canyon through the storm and darkness (Lindemann 59). Act IV (Ancient people and doctor Archie) Thea gets a long-desired rest at Navajo ruins. Then Dr. Archie visits Thea in New York and lends her money to alow her study in Germany. Later on, a transitional scene with Thea and Fred in Central Park some ten years later links Thea with primitive, animal forces (Lindemann 62). She is in furs "like some rich-pelted animal, with warm blood, that had run in out of the woods." Fred observes that she is as much at home on the stage as in Panther Canyon—"as if you'd just been let out of a cage." When Fred asks if she didn't get some of her ideas there, Thea answers, "For heroic parts, at least." Act V (Kronborg) Thea enjoys the life of a famous opera star. At the same time the novel returns to her native town of Moonstone and depicts her aunt living completely alone. When Thea sings in Die Walkure her former teacher Harsanyi watches, "his one yellow eye rolling restlessly and shining like a tiger's in the dark." (402) Then, in the moonlight, her voice like the spring "blossomed into memories and prophecies." Thea rises "into the hardier feeling of action and daring," to "strength and hero-blood," and to victory (Lindemann 62). The house applauds intensely. When Harsanyi is asked her secret, he says, "Her secret? . . . passion. That is all." (404) Passion—and Harsanyi meant just what he said. Not something safely abstract, but emotion and power; something vibrant, yearning, physically alive. The Song of the Lark finds its essential inspiration in the use of a singer's creative growth as an ideal analogy for the discovery and expression of all art (Lindemann 64). The portrait of an artist as a beautiful woman serves too as a gathering of Cather's association with grand opera’s golden hour. The combined passion of the folk artist and the educated intelligence of the professional make up the atmosphere to which Thea Kronborg comes (Lindemann 57-58). Her generous distribution of the treasure reveals to us the value of the struggle. As Thea Kronborg comes into her own as a magnificent singer, music figures the spiritual bridge between men. Part II There were a number of problems in seeing The Song of the Lark as an opera. First, this work is a novel, which, naturally, differs – in composition and structure – from the opera. Second, the tonality of the voices and behavior of the characters in the original novel do not always meet the requirements of the corresponding pitches in opera. For instance, soprano (by tonality of the voice) usually represents a heroin; mezzo-soprano represents typically either a best friend or a bad girl, a villain; and tenor usually represents a good character. Finally, the characters in the novel change their perceptions of the world and their attitudes in the course of the story – thus making their classification as the soprano, tenor or mezzo-soprano singers more difficult.
In other words, the opera sets strict standards as to what character can be a soprano, a tenor, or a bass. The novel, on the other hand, is not restricted by such standards: characters in the story are free to change as they wish. On the one hand with Spanish Johnny being the unreliable alcoholic and Thea coming nearest to the elemental impulse of the earth as it is echoed in man, these characters represent well the mezzo-soprano (a villain type) and soprano (the female with high pitch). Yet, there are some troubles with these very characters if we try to imagine them as opera singers. First, Spanish Johnny, though being a bad type of a hero in the novel, is a male character, but not a female one as set by the most typical requirements of the novel. Second, Spanish Johnny gradually turns into a good or at least positive character that makes brilliant music. The songs Johnny plays on a mandolin is frenzied and exceptionally skillful, but its strength and beauty reside in the racial consciousness, which is at the heart of his songs. At the same time, Thea corresponds well with the role of the soprano singer. For instance, in the second part of the novel, after she returns from a year of formal study in Chicago, she identifies the emotional freedom she enjoys with the Mexicans through the ethnic current in their music. Among Mexicans, and especially with Johnny, music is a felt reality and a common expression (Lindemann 59-60). Even their movements have "a kind of natural harmony" (289). When she sings before a "really musical people" like the Mexican neighbors, Thea receives "the response that such a people can give" (292) -- pleasure and affection. Transcending social or racial fact, music unites Thea with emotional allies for whom society provides no regular means of exchange. Among the Mexicans she unearths a collective human feeling through songs of joy, love, riches, and delicate swallows: Ultimo Amor," Noches de Algeria," Fluvia de Oro, La Golandrina (Lindemann 63)" The spiritual transfer with simple people is important. During her operatic career, Thea constantly draws from the deep reservoir of basic human yearning (Lindemann 67). At the close of The Song of the Lark the final measurement of her brilliant Sleglinde is the "'Brava! Brava!'" of "a grey-haired little Mexican" (572) perched in the top gallery. His excitement assures us that Thea Kronborg's voice reaches the sympathetic center of those from whom she first learned music's primitive energy. At this point, it is necessary to analyze the problems with Doctor Howard Archie’s characters being a tenor in the opera. On the one hand, Thea's closest Moonstone friend fits into the role of the opera tenor (he is a positive hero in the novel). The intellectual of the town, Archie is able to explain questions of religion, personal responsibility, and human destiny which puzzle Thea. He makes no concessions to her young mind; he speaks maturely (Lindemann 62). However, Doctor Archie acts very superficially in some cases, thus opposing the notion of the tenor character. For example, the nasty death of a tramp, who spites the town's meanness by drowning himself in the standpipe and contaminating the water supply, for example, shocks Thea; and Archie does not sentimentalize experience to lessen the shock (Lindemann 64). At the same time, Doctor Archie doesn’t meet the requirements of being a strong character in the story: he is a positive hero, yet he is weak in his deeds and emotions. In other words, a tenor is supposed to be a kind, decisive, and willful person. Archie obviously doesn’t meet the two of the conditions. He is a physician, too timid to call a halt to an unsuccessful marriage and to leave a town he finds limiting. He cares for her from cradle to artistic coronation (http://us.penguingroup.com/static/rguides/us/song_of_the_lark.html). What is more, the indifference of everyone (including Archie) to the tramp's needs strikes Thea as a mockery of the Christian principles society asserts. She is also disturbed by a man's falling desperately far out of good fortune. Perplexities of these kinds will, Archie assures her, always arise, and her serious notions of religion will not solve them. He offers in place of conventionalized restriction a doctrine of pleasure: the important duty is "'to live . . . ; to do all we can and enjoy all we can'" (175). That she does overcome the inevitable, momentary reverses of desire and circumstance demonstrates an ability to brush ugliness and misfortune aside in favor of searching out "'the best things of this world'" (175). At the same time, Freddy Ottenburg is a good bass character. Willa Cather uses the famous lament in Gluck Orpheus and Eurydice to represent Wunsch's tragedy. The music and myth shaping the opera reference contain as well the symbolic locus of the novel. The opera is first mentioned as one of Wunsch's favorite works of music, "'the most beautiful opera ever made'" (89) he tells Thea, and when she shows interest, he cannot resist going over the lament. The deep feeling he brings to the melody shows the identification of his personal loss of music with the operatic hero's loss of Eurydice. As usual, Willa Cather provides a few verses of a piece to suggest background and draws upon the implied context in developing the action. The aria runs: I have lost my Eurydice. Nothing can equal my despair. Cruel fate, no hope is left me. Nothing can equal my despair. This is more than life can bear. Eurydice, Eurydice, reply! What torture! Answer me! It is thy faithful Orpheus; Hark to my voice that calls to thee. I have lost my Eurydice. Deathly silence, Hope is vain, What suffering, What torments tear my heart (http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=0375706453)! When Wunsch plays and Thea sings of a life without the thing one needs most, the reader is invited to participate aurally in the moment when two talents, following separate paths on the Orphic landscape, intersect. The high thoroughfare that the young girl, not fully aware of her genius, will take to success crosses the worn trail of an old man resigned to wanderings. Again, the larger service of music is to introduce the classical legend that Willa Cather is reworking in The Song of the Lark. Myth holds the old human stories; music the old feelings. In this novel it is the legend behind Gluck's opera that Willa Cather uses, but her thematic sense frequently calls for a particular tonal emphasis which music supplies (http://www.
powells.com/biblio?isbn=0375706453). The story of Orpheus recounts the lasting drama of man's search for expression. Specifically for Willa Cather, the story polishes the relationship between art and life and the relationship between instrument and material. For Orpheus, the supreme lyric artist, the emergency of life determines the emergency of art. Only through art can he retrieve his beloved. Art can redeem life for the singer. If he can articulate his grief, hell can be won over to his need. Not only must the feeling be intense, then, but the intensity must be released in communicable form and adapted to those it must bend. This Orpheus can do. But the course is parabolic. Even if art can rise to triumph over the will of hell, there remains the descent back into personal passion for which discipline of self is required. The law of hell is cunning; it makes no concession to human weakness though that weakness is the substance of the song it respects. When Orpheus must check his feelings, he fails: he looks back at Eurydice. Success in the greater task aids not at all in the lower. Art gives meaning, emotion in communicable shape, to life but does not necessarily provide a way of meeting its demands. In The Song of the Lark, however, Willa Cather proposes a triumphant solution. It is not quite so mechanical as Gluck's union, which is arranged by Cupid, but the novel does waive the fatal clause in the pact between the singer and hell and bring together seemingly incompatible things, life and art. The marriage between life and art is brought about through the transformation of life into art. Art for Thea Kronborg solves the crisis of life by absorbing it. When Archie expresses concern about the singer's lack of personal life, she replies: "'My dear doctor, I don't have any. Your work becomes your personal life. You are not much good until it does. It's like being woven into a big web. You can't pull away, because all your little tendrils are woven into the picture. It takes you up, and uses you, and spins you out; and that is your life'" (546). It is toward this final integration that The Song of the Lark moves. Works Cited Cather, Willa. The Song of the Lark. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1963. Gornick, Vivian. The End of the Novel of Love. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997. Lindemann, Marilee. Willa Cather, Queering America. Columbia University Press, 1999. Summary and materials on The Song of the Lark. Available at: http://us.penguingroup.com/static/rguides/us/song_of_the_lark.html. Summary and materials on The Song of the Lark. Available at: http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=0375706453. Last accessed: 3 June 2006. Actual Texts and References DOWNLOADED FROM: http://us.penguingroup.com/static/rguides/us/song_of_the_lark.html The Song of the Lark is the story of an artist's growth and development from childhood to maturity. More particularly—and decidedly more rarely—it traces the development of a female artist supported by a series of male characters willing to serve her career. Inspired by Willa Cather's own development as a novelist and by the career of an opera diva, The Song of the Lark examines the themes of the artist's relationship with family and society, themes that would dominate all of Cather's best fiction. Thea Kronborg is a Scandinavian-American singer who works her way up from the dusty desert town of Moonstone, Colorado, to the boards of the Metropolitan Opera house. Although Willa Cather herself was not a musician, the portions of the novel covering childhood, apprenticeship, and artistic awakening in the western landscape are frankly autobiographical. Its final section, dealing with Thea's professional life, is drawn largely from the career of the Wagnerian soprano Olive Fremstad, who was the kind of artist Willa Cather still aspired to be. For although Cather was forty-two when The Song of the Lark was published in 1915, it was only the third of her twelve novels, and belongs to the early stage of her distinguished literary career. After its publication, however, the great literary critic H. L. Mencken said that it placed Cather in "the small class of American novelists who are seriously to be reckoned with." Thea, like Olive Fremstad, comes of Swedish-Norwegian stock and is the musical daughter of a Methodist minister, obliged to give lessons and play and sing at the prayer meetings and revivals. Most of the other details of her youth, however, are drawn directly from Cather's own experience. Like Cather, Thea is one of seven children growing up in an overcrowded little house in Moonstone, Colorado, a small western town that resembles Cather's own hometown, Red Cloud, Nebraska. Her parents recognize and respect their daughter's unusual gifts, but her more conventional siblings and neighbors think of Thea as spoiled, rebellious and stuck-up. Her refuge is a tiny room in the high-windowed gable of the attic, a rose-papered bower where she can read, write, and dream in peace. Thea's closest friends are a handful of adult men who appreciate her qualities and are themselves restless or unhappy in Moonstone. All have counterparts in Cather's life: the chivalrous, self-educated railroad brakeman Ray Kennedy, who loves to explore cliff ruins, combines features of her brother Douglass and his railroading friends. Professor Wunsch, the romantic, alcoholic piano teacher, is a sympathetic portrait of Herr Schindelmeisser, an itinerant musician Cather knew in Red Cloud; while the wild mandolin player Spanish Johnny was inspired by the musical Mexicans Cather had met in Arizona. Thea's most important childhood friend, the town physician, Dr. Howard Archie, was modeled on Dr. G. E. McKeeby, with whom Cather assisted as a teenager on prairie housecalls. When Thea leaves home to study music in Chicago, she manages to remain oblivious to the city itself, with its bustling crowds, brilliant shops, and obnoxious loitering men. What grips her imagination is a Jules Breton painting in the Art Institute called "The Song of the Lark," depicting a peasant girl standing in a field, arrested by the song of a meadowlark. The image reinforces an even more important revelation in the concert hall, when Dvorák's New World Symphony reveals to Thea a link between the landscape in her memory and the musician she wants to become.
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From that moment she understands what she wants, and she leaves determined that "as long as she lived that ecstasy was going to be hers. She would live for it, work for it, die for it; but she was going to have it, time after time, height after height." Thea's first teacher in Chicago, a sensitive, one-eyed Hungarian violinist named Harsanyi, discovers her voice, and steers her away from piano to the voice teacher Madison Bowers. But Thea's demands and ambition are beyond Bowers' reach or interest, and his cynicism and slovenly standards make her depressed and surly. She finds both a champion and a romantic interest in the musical dilettante Fred Ottenburg. Thea's full artistic awakening does not take place in the cold gray canyons of Chicago, where she labors at her music lessons, but in a brilliant desert canyon where Fred sends her to rest and recuperate. There she comes upon an isolated gorge sheltering silent prehistoric ruins and spends weeks lying alone on the sunbaked rock ledges and in the shade of ancient pueblo rooms. Enfolded in the shelter of the canyon she sheds restrictive clothing and mental debris, bathes naked in the stream at its base, naps under an Indian blanket, and opens every pore until her body becomes completely receptive, a vehicle of sensation. Thus poised, she suddenly recognizes the spiritual connection between the shards of ancient Indian pottery she finds in the stream—vessels designed to bear life-giving water—and her own throat, a vessel which carries song: "what was any art but an effort to make a sheath, a mould in which to imprison for a moment, the shining, elusive element which is life itself?. . . In singing, one made a vessel of one's throat and nostrils and held it on one's breath, caught the stream in a scale of natural intervals." From here on, Thea views her vessel, her body, as part of the sacred order of things. Her daily bath in the stream in Panther Canyon "came to have a ceremonial gravity. The atmosphere of the canyon was ritualistic." To Thea, the vessel bearing spiritual gifts deserves to be treated sacramentally. Becoming an artist means being able simultaneously to abandon her body to sensuous experience and to control that experience, keeping it from contamination. "The condition every art requires," Cather would later explain, is "freedom from adulteration and from the intrusion of foreign matter," and at this point, Thea severs those human ties that threaten to compromise her. The mature Thea Kronborg we meet in the novel's last section is ten years older than the young woman who came of age in Panther Canyon. She has returned from study and successful performances in Germany, and is now a reigning soprano at the Metropolitan Opera. The diva Thea Kronborg, whose first name means "gift of God" and surname means "crown fortress," is presented as a woman both blessed and isolated by her divine gift. Her professional crown is won by the resolute defense of her person as the vehicle through which that gift can be perfected and returned. Her family, mentors, and suitors serve Thea the woman only as they serve Thea the artist. She is completely obsessed with the intellectual and physical rewards of her craft. Her regimen is grueling, and her exacting standards make her arrogant and lonely. She is sometimes frightened, and more than once the idea of marrying and being taken care of tempts her. She grieves at the conflict between personal and professional needs, particularly when choosing an important European debut over a journey home to see her dying mother. But art always comes first. It takes every ounce of strength, leaving her drained, aged, and often unfit for company. When urged to take more time for her "personal life," she replies, "Your work becomes your personal life. You're not much good until it does." Her work requires the kind of perfect dedication that Nietzsche called chastity, and its goal is a paradox, the kind of "sensuous spirituality" which is also the goal of the mystic. In this novel of an artist's single-minded pursuit of beauty, Cather made one of her most eloquent statements about the artistic vocation. Although the claims of personal attachments are made persuasively at times in The Song of the Lark, it is clear that for Cather the serious artist must renounce these claims and in an environment of solitude labor to fulfill the dreams of creation. DOWNLOADED FROM: http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=0375706453 Publisher Comments: In this powerful portrait of the self-making of an artist, Willa Cather created one of her most extraordinary heroines. Thea Kronborg, a minister's daughter in a provincial Colorado town, seems destined from childhood for a place in the wider world. But as her path to the world stage leads her ever farther from the humble town she can't forget and from the man she can't afford to love, Thea learns that her exceptional musical talent and fierce ambition are not enough. It is in the solitude of a tiny rock chamber high in the side of an Arizona cliff — "a cleft in the heart of the world" — that Thea comes face to face with her own dreams and desires, stripped clean by the haunting purity of the ruined cliff dwellings and inspired by the whisperings of their ancient dust. Here she finds the courage to seize her future and to use her gifts to catch "the shining, elusive element that is life itself — life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose." In prose as shimmering and piercingly true as the light in a desert canyon, Cather takes us into the heart of a woman coming to know her deepest self. Synopsis: In this powerful portrait of the self-making of an artist, Willa Cather created one of her most extraordinary heroines. In a remarkable journey, a young woman whose exceptional talents lead her far from the security of home and family comes face to face with her dreams and desires and finds the courage and passion to seize her future. Alison Elliot, Arliss Howard, and Maximillian Schell star. PARTS ARE BASED ON THE BOOK Willa Cather, Queering America Book by Marilee Lindemann; Columbia University Press, 1999 Page 57-58 Opera and romance, which figure prominently in The Song of the Lark, are both discourses of excess that serve to liberate Cather's third novel from the confines of literary realism, making possible the text's corporeal utopianism and its wide-ranging critique of white heteronormativity.
“The savage blonde” (224) is the ideal vehicle for such a critique, in part because Thea's “Sapphonic” voice, as Elizabeth Wood describes it, is a “border-crossing, ” “transvestic enigma, belonging to neither male nor female as constructed—a synthesis, not a split. ” Challenging the polarities of gender and sexuality, “the Sapphonic voice is a destabilizing agent of fantasy and desire, ” which, in its “capacity to embody and traverse a range of sonic possibilities and overflow sonic boundaries, may vocalize inadmissible sexualities and a thrilling readiness to go beyond so-called natural limits, an erotics of risk and defiance, a desire for desire itself” (32–3). Where Alexander's Bridge and O Pioneers! were, as we have seen, preoccupied with defining limits and policing borders, The Song of the Lark is concerned with “go[ing] beyond” limits not by transcending them but by constantly pushing up against them, sneaking around them, shaking them up from within. “You'll always drive ahead, ” Fred tells Thea in a moment of angry insight. “You will always break through into the realities” (444). Driven and forceful, Thea is also a pragmatist—she has a way of finding and profiting from what she needs. She parlays the $600 Ray Kennedy leaves her and the money Dr. Archie loans her into a career that earns her “a thousand dollars a night, ” as Tillie is fond of reminding her neighbors in Moonstone (576). She is as skilled an entrepreneur as Alexandra, but she is also a defiant queer: larger than life, disruptive of familial and social order, fabulously accessorized. (On the night she is summoned to fill in for a soprano stricken with fainting fits mid-performance, Thea orders Dr. Archie into her trunk-room and points him toward a white trunk “ ‘full of wigs, in boxes. Look until you find one marked “Ring 2. ” Bring it quick!’ While she directed him, she threw open a square trunk and began tossing out shoes of every shape and colour” .) Page 59 In the end Thea does “break through” to the “truthfulness” and the “passion” that is “every artist's secret, ” according to Harsanyi, the piano teacher credited with discovering Thea's voice (570–1). The terms of that breakthrough connect the romance of The Song of the Lark to Hawthorne, Whitman, and Frank Norris as well as Melville, for Hawthorne and Norris had both defined buried truths and truthfulness as the province of romance, while Whitman's influence is apparent in a description that articulates Thea's triumph as a movement into open space:“this afternoon the closed roads opened, the gates dropped” (571). 26 The romance of The Song of the Lark is Whitmanesque in broad terms as well as in specific details—in the capaciousness of the narrative and its genial embrace of contradiction, in its celebration of the body in action and in the world. The diva whose body is “absolutely the instrument of her idea” (571) puts the lie to the ideal of disembodied subjectivity and proves that corporeality can and must be the grounds for a “dynastic, dignified, and pleasuring” notion of citizenship (Berlant 565). Even Thea's mother participates in the romances spun out of her daughter's impressive physicality, taking pleasure in Thea's “good looks” and recalling that “as a baby, Thea had been the ‘best-formed’ of any of her children. ” She even conducts her own hands-on examination of Thea's developing body when she is home for a summer visit, “feeling about”on her chest and declaring, “You're filling out nice” (282–3). Such maternal interest and approval elicit from Thea the recognition that “There was no sham about her mother, ”which is the basis of an affection that endures long after Thea has left home for good, having recognized that she is not a part of her family, that her siblings in particular, instead of being “of her kind, ” were in fact “among the people whom she had always recognized as her natural enemies” (301, emphasis in original). Page 60-61 In The Song of the Lark the crossing of borders is fraught with risk, though it does not result in death, as it does in Alexander's Bridge and O Pioneers!. When Johnny comes north, he encounters racial hostility. When Thea ventures south on her trip to Mexico with Fred Ottenburg, she faces the sexual and social vulnerability of being an unmarried woman traveling with a man who, unbeknownst to her, is married to someone else at the time. Still, the crossing of borders and the blurring of boundaries is necessary to the “queering” of “America” that The Song of the Lark finally if at times ambivalently enacts. That “queering” is rooted in Thea's denial of her family, for in rejecting a blood-based system of kinship— which she does in marking her siblings as “natural enemies” who are not “of her kind”—she attacks as factitious the racial and sexual logic of a representational system that constructs her own ultrawhite body as clean and Johnny's nonwhite body as “dirty, ” the epithet her brother Gunner hurls at Johnny. The narrative may cryptically deliver Thea to heterologic in slipping in an allusion to her marriage to Fred in the epilogue, but it never delivers her to reproduction, 27 and the narrative proper ends in homologic, in the queer space of the opera, where Thea performs for “her kind, ” claiming kinship not with her family—none of whom is present at this performance, though Spanish Johnny is—but with an audience whose response is “almost savage in its fierceness” (569). Interestingly, the only moment of the opera, Wagner's Die Walkure, that is fully detailed in the diegesis of the novel is the duet in the first act in which Sieglinde and Siegmund, who are sister and brother, recognize their passion for and relationship to one another. The duet ends with the incestuous couple racing off together into a beautiful spring night. Thea and the audience thus join ecstatically in celebrating the Volsung pair's violation of the taboo that defines and sustains the patriarchal family, a taboo rooted in the impossible desire to stabilize the boundary between the natural and the unnatural, between endogamy and exogamy. The “savage blonde”—as Diva Citizen, Viking soprano, Cliff-Dweller, American Girl, and antiAmerican Queer—unsettles those boundaries and with a “flaming cry” (568) invites us to revel in the wrecked machinery of the sex-race-gender system. With “savage … fierceness, ” we comply.
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