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Hear Jane sing: narrative authority in two musical versions of Jane Eyre

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Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre focuses heavily on the development of the protagonist's voice, as the reader can trace the young Jane's transition from a vulnerable gothic heroine to an authoritative autobiographical narrator. Film adaptations of the novel often fail to convey this transition due to the inability of the film-maker to successfully incorporate Jane's narration into the piece. Two recent musical versions of Jane Eyre present interesting solutions to this problem; the ability to layer voices through song, along with the potential for musical commentary as opposed to voice-over, allows for innovative approaches to rectifying the problems regarding Jane's narration in other media. However, although the stage musical version by John Caird and Paul Gordon and the chamber opera adaptation by Michael Berkeley and David Malouf both attempt to preserve Jane's narrative authority, the writers are unable to fully capture the novelistic nuances of the heroine's development from abused orphan to omniscient storyteller.

Keywords: Bronte; Jane Eyre; adaptation; musical; narrative; opera

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Publication date: 2008-06-05

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  • Studies in Musical Theatre is a refereed journal which considers areas of live performance that use vocal and instrumental music in conjunction with theatrical performance as a principal part of their expressive language.
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