Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



First Advisor

Corbelita Astraquillo


The coloratura "mad scene" was an outstanding feature found in several nineteenth-century operas. Significant in its display of the performer's talent, it requires the ultimate combination of vocal virtuosity and dramatic expression. Each scene exhibits the numerous individual musical characteristics of its specific composer. This study will seek to define and illustrate some of these characteristics as found in the following six scenes: (1) "Al dolce guidami," Anna Bolena (1830), Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848); (2) "Ah! Non credea mirarti," La Sonnambula (1831), Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835). (3) "Qui la voce," I Puritani (1835), Bellini. (4) "Argon gl'incensi," Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), Donizetti. (5) "Ombra leggiera," Dinorah (1859), Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864). (6) "Ah vos yeux, mes amis," Hamlet (1868), Ambroise Thomas (1811-1896). The introductory chapter of this monograph surveys the musical, literary, and social influences which affected the development of the Romantic era mad scene. Particular attention is given to the effect of French "grand opera" and the Italian opera composer Gioacchino Rossini (1795-1868) on the operas of Meyerbeer, Donizetti, Bellini, and Thomas. Chapters two through seven examine each mad scene individually. The libretto, the dramatic action in the scene, and certain elements of musical style are examined for their contribution to the effectiveness of the scene. The final chapter presents a comparative analysis of all six mad scenes to evaluate the relative effectiveness of the scenes. The effectiveness of the scenes is measured in terms of their providing material for a vivid portrayal of insanity. This study concludes that the heroines of Anna Bolena and Lucia di Lammermoor seem the most believable in their madness. In these two operas, plot, libretto, and music contribute the elements needed by the performer to make the insanity of the character plausible. However, these elements are not sufficient in themselves to warrant believability. The final contribution to the success of the scene must be made by the performer relying heavily upon her own acting ability.