Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Heartfelt Love: Singing Maiden Characters in Romantic Vocal Music, 1800-1850

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Version 2 2023-09-22, 01:44
Version 1 2021-12-09, 11:18
posted on 2023-09-22, 01:44 authored by Liu, Haiman

The images of maidens in Italian opera and German lieder from the period 1800-1850 are vivid. In the plots of the operas and the scenes and stories of the lieder almost invariably these characters focus enthusiastically on heartfelt love. This exegesis explores the relationship between the expression of love by unmarried women in selected lieder and opera of the first half of the nineteenth century and performance of these works by the young soprano in the twenty-first century. In the period when these songs and operas were written, performers of lieder would often have been of a similar age to the maiden characters portrayed in the songs, and in the case of Italian opera at the time, the singers who created such roles were usually in their twenties or early thirties. As a young soprano myself, in my study I consider some questions which are relevant for twenty-first century female singers who choose to perform these nineteenth-century portrayals of virgin characters. The figures in the works I have selected to study display a wide variety of personalities, moods and emotions, from the tenacious wild rose in Schubert’s ‘Heidenröslein’, to his passionate Gretchen and the melancholic Amina in Bellini’s La Sonnambula. I consider how the soprano may express the different emotions involved and approach performing young maiden characters such as these, whose experiences of life and status in society may be substantially removed from twenty-first century experiences.   In order to address these questions, I examine the selected song and aria texts in terms of the relationship between the content of the stories and the characters, as well as analyzing the vocal skills that can be used and vocal effects that may be applied when shaping these roles according to the music as written. In addition, I combine the background to the story and the plot with the musical markings in selected phrases to explore the emotional variety of the characters so as to interpret the deeper significance in the compositions. Through learning and performing these particular pieces I have explored the vocal techniques which are required in singing them from a practical perspective and this enables me to contribute insights I have gained to the general understanding of the skills required for this particular area of the repertoire. Having chosen repertoire for this study which combines Italian opera arias and lieder, and I also consider how the differences I have found in the vocal works may reflect their respective genres and distinguish the skills required for each. Through writing about my own research into the performance of these works, I provide new insights and ideas about these maiden characters which may be applicable to any young sopranos who sing repertoire from this period, and useful for their own vocal perfo


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

CC BY 4.0

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Music

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

University Library

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

New Zealand School of Music


Wollerman, Jenny; Rij, Inge van