Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2010

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



The career of French actress Sarah Bernhardt spanned more than sixty years, and established her as the first modern international superstar. Among the many singular characteristics of Bernhardt's acting style, her unique voice (often described as the "voix d'or") compelled critics and audiences to respond with elaborate musical metaphors and greatly affected music and musicians of the Belle Epoque. This dissertation investigates Bernhardt's hitherto unstudied impact on musical culture, largely through the lens of incidental music scores included in her plays. Incidental music was an important part of the Parisian musical soundscape, as thousands of audience members absorbed this music at theatrical performances.

My analysis of the incidental music scores used in Bernhardt's productions scrutinizes the complex relationships between performer and theatrical music. While music enhanced Bernhardt's productions and accentuated her vocal style, it also had the power to detract from the audibility of her words, steal her spotlight, or add unsustainable financial expense. Drawing on manuscript and printed music, theatrical reviews, play texts, memoirs, stage and costume designs, and personal papers, this study explicates the unsung role of music in Bernhardt's theatrical performances.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Hugh MacDonald

Committee Members

Elizabeth C. Childs, Todd Decker, Stamos Metzidakis, Peter Schmelz, Robert Snarrenberg


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Available for download on Monday, December 15, 2110

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