Stockholms universitet

Johanna Ethnersson PontaraUniversitetslektor, docent

Om mig

Johanna Ethnersson Pontara är docent i musikvetenskap. Hon disputerade 2003 på avhandlingen Metastasiansk opera i Lovisa Ulrikas Sverige. Hennes forskning har fokuserat på opera och film med särskild tonvikt på performanceteori, musik och genus, intermedialitet och kulturstudier. Hon ingår i det pågående forskningsprojektet Classical music for a mediatized world: Visual and audio-visual representations of Western art music in contemporary media and society.

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I urval från Stockholms universitets publikationsdatabas

  • The Opera Singer of the 21st Century? Representations of the Singer Articulated by Benoît Jacquot’s Tosca (2001)

    2023. Johanna Ethnersson Pontara. Literature/Film Quarterly 51 (1)


    In recent decades, scholars have argued that a new way of understanding opera (and other classical music) has been articulated in 21st century feature films through a fragmentary and background-oriented way of using opera performances as well as opera music. Opera functions as an overall atmosphere, which means that a traditional notion of this type of music as a stable whole, and the focus of the listener’s attention, is challenged. In this article, by drawing attention to Benoît Jacquot’s film Tosca (2001), I discuss how this way of using opera affects the representation of the singer. This is a film adaptation of Giacomo Puccini’s opera Tosca that is characterized by an experimental approach to image and sound editing. Through an in-depth analysis of the way the opera’s two main characters are featured in the film in three famous arias, when the singers playing these characters are expected to showcase themselves as performers, I argue that the image of the opera singer is renegotiated by bringing it in line with contemporary feature film aesthetics. Two aspects of the vocal performance that are central for the conception of opera as a stable whole, and as an object of attention, are subverted: the embodiment of an opera character and the showcasing of a singer. The music-image combinations make the singers fade as vocal performers whereas the fictional characters are promoted. However, they are promoted in ways that differ from how these characters are modelled in Puccini’s score.

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  • The Phenomenal Side of the Operatic Performance

    2021. Johanna Ethnersson Pontara. Open Library of Humanities


    During recent decades, scholars have paid attention to the ways in which marketing strategies surrounded the participation of professional opera singers in 1930s/1940s Hollywood films. Opera singers used cinema to promote themselves as film stars, while Hollywood, in turn, made use of real-life celebrities in order to market films containing opera to a wider audience. Recent cinema, just like films from this earlier period, reflects cross-promotion strategies between cinema and the classical music industry through the participation of professional opera singers. When considering these singers; audio-visual appearances and the roles their performances play within the film plots, some films reveal interesting connections with the historical predecessors. This article investigates the use of cross-marketing strategies in three recent films and queries the broader tropes they adhere to through the configurations of the singers; performances and their roles in the fictional situations. Through exploring these films, I argue that they promote a representation of opera that combines two specific tropes in the process of marketing. An audio-visual display of the singers as real-life celebrities points to an elaboration of the aspect of singer promotion seen in films from the 1930s and early 1940s. Beyond this, the more recent trope of associating opera with an audience listening with rapt attention is included, which casts the opera singer in a new light and enhances this bodily promotion of the singer.

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  • The Intersection between Film and Opera in the 1960s

    2018. Johanna Ethnersson Pontara. The Power of the In-Between, 49-74


    The topic of this article is the intersection between media genres in 1960s Sweden. In a case study of Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf (1968) it is shown how the music contributes to intermedial qualities through the film’s connection with opera. It is argued that the film, by how the music is related to sound effects and images, can be seen as an example of formal imitation. The imitation of opera is created through technical media of film, such as foregrounding of media in the audio-visual space, and manipulations of sounds, music, and images. Of special interest is how, by alternating between synchronicity and counterpoint between images, sound effects, and music, Bergman attracts attention to the media as visual and sonic experiences and creates formal structures that deviate from the overall character of the film. The intermedial dimension of the film revealed by the analysis is contextualized in relation to the historical discussion of mixed versus pure medialities. The film is seen in the light of an interest in media genre mixedness versus media genre specificity in 1960s Sweden.

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  • Musical narration, performance and excess

    2017. Johanna Ethnersson Pontara. Act (7)


    Johanna Ethnersson Pontara examines the different layers in the opera Tintomara by Lars Johan Werle and Leif Söderström (Stockholm 1973), based on the short story The Queen's Jewel by Carl Johan Love Almqvist. Pontara’s thesis claims that the opera's message is expanded by the composition technique. By assembling the different styles Werle brings the relationship between narration and performance to oscillation. He uses his experience as a film music composer to create shock effects, such as those caused by the music in horror films, in order to perform them on the listeners' bodies. Ethnersson Pontara applies film theories to reveal how the orientation and disposition of the hermaphrodite Tintomaras is undermined by the power disparities between male subjects and female objects as they are traditionally represented in romances, porn and horror films.

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  • Narrative and performative modalities in the Swedish opera-in-the-round Dreaming about Thérèse

    2014. Johanna Ethnersson Pontara. Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning 96 (2)


    The Swedish opera Drömmen om Thérèse (Dreaming about Thérèse) attracted national and international attention in the 1960s for its inventive approaches as an opera-in-the- round. Although this staging influenced the music’s functions, so far the music of this opera has been evaluated in accordance with the hegemony of narrative opera. Drömmen om Thérèse, however, offers an example of a contemporary fascination with exploring the spaces between borders, for instance, high versus popular culture and event performance versus recording. This article shows how the performative level of music in opera here acquires a particular quality through the incorporation of the devices of pluralism of styles, music in space and instrumental theatre. Rather than intoxication, the narrative- disrupting effect consists of a theatrical alienation. A relationship between performance and audience based on intimacy, equality, and reflection contributes to this effect.

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  • Music as Excess

    2013. Johanna Ethnersson Pontara. STM-Online 16


    Lars Johan Werle’s and Lars Runsten’s opera Die Reise (Hamburg 1969) is characterized by pluralism of musical styles. The focus in this article is on how the pluralism is related to the other media in the opera, and what effects it is expected to have on the audience in the performance situation. My claim is that the stylistic pluralism is manifested in ways that connects the opera to the neo-baroque aesthetics that has been brought forth by scholars such as Omar Calabrese, Angela Ndalianis, and Cristina Degli-Esposti. It is a device that disrupts the narrative by way of attracting the attention of the audience. With an abundance of figurative representation, the music makes Die Reise an opera of ‘excess’.

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  • Music as mimetic representation and performative act

    2008. Johanna Ethnersson. STM-Online 11, 43


    The purpose of this article has been to investigate the question of the musical construction of sexuality and gender in the opera Semiramide riconosciuta (Venice 1745), set by Johann Adolf Hasse to the drama by Pietro Metastasio. Apart from analysing the music in relation to the drama, the method has been to analyse and to interpret the music in relation to the concept of performativity. The investigation has consisted of a comparative analysis between the two main characters in the opera, and between the two singers performing these characters.

    At the two high points of the performance, when the audience most likely were attentive to what happened on stage, there seems to have been a performative manifestation of the two main characters musically. The singers did different things to audience and the audience did different things to the singers and indirectly also to the musical constructions of the characters. In this way Hasse, who provided the singers with vocally suitable material, musically confirmed the message of Metastasio's drama: woman connected with passion and man connected with reason.

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