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Moravian College

Nathania Young

2009-2010 Honors Student

Name: Nathania Young
Honors in: Music
Hometown: Quakertown, PA
Major(s): Music--Vocal Performance

Title of project: Mozart's Soubrettes

Abstract or brief description: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was considered by many to be a great social observer throughout his compositional career.  During times when women were below men in European class rank, Mozart wrote interesting, sophisticated music for women in his operas.  He especially loved writing for the soubrette (a stock character, a coy maid or witty servant from the commedia dell¹arte theatre tradition), and featured her in a number of his operas.  This character, to Mozart, often outsmarted the other characters, and remained steadfast in times of difficulty.  It was Mozart who transformed the soubrette into an astute, tangible woman to whom the European audience members could relate. 

Because of his resonance with the lower class female, Mozart took a great deal of interest in the soubrette, and devoted much of his time and energy to her in his comic operas, despite her lower class rank.  With each new opera came a different, more compound interpretation of the same stock character.  This project discusses five comic operatic soubrettes:  Bastienne from “Bastien und Bastienne” (1768), Blonde from “Die Entführung aus dem Serail” (1782), Susanna from “Le Nozze di Figaro” (1786), Zerlina from “Don Giovanni” (1787), and Despina from “Così fan Tutte” (1790). From shallow, adolescent Bastienne to bitter, street-wise Despina, Mozart’s interpretation of the soubrette character evolves with each libretto he sets to music. 

How did you get interested in your topic?  I performed some of these roles, and they fascinated me.  Further research about Mozart's life made me want to specifically focus on his soubrettes.

Do you intend to research your topic further, if so, how? Absolutely.  I intend to continue analyzing and studying the operatic works of Mozart as I pursue a performance career.  I hope to perform these roles in graduate school and as an opera singer. 

How did you benefit academically by conducting research/participating in honors? The historical background and musical analysis made me a well-rounded and sophisticated performer.

How has the department in which you studied prepared you for the future? The faculty has always been helpful, and each professor/instructor has proven to be a wealth of knowledge.  They have offered me private coachings, career advice, as well as support in every area in which I have become interested.  They are also well-versed in the field of performance, and have offered many connections with other performers in the community, as well as performance opportunities.  

What advice do you have for other students interested in honors? Start early, and keep focused.  Do some work every week, and the last week before the thesis is due will not seem so overwhelming.  You MUST be self-motivated and love your topic.