Date of Award

Summer 8-2013

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Maryann Kyle

Advisor Department



Celebrated as having written “songs for the ages”, twentieth century American composer Lee Hoiby is known for having composed tonal, lyrical music in a time when his peers were exploring serialism and atonality. Now regarded as a monumental contributor to American music, he composed songs, operas, and choral works as well as instrumental and chamber music. Hoiby’s compositions are especially revered by singers, many of whom state that Hoiby was gifted at writing highly crafted songs because he “knew the voice”. Although his works did not achieve as much fame in his lifetime as the atonal works of his contemporaries, Hoiby’s death in March 2010 sparked a renewal of interest and acclaim for his music.

The purpose of this thesis is to present the process for preparing an operatic role inspired by a celebrity public figure in a twentieth century operatic monologue: character study, examination of musical style, and the use of staging. These elements of preparation and performance will be manifested both in the methods chapter of this thesis as well as through a public performance. Lee Hoiby’s operatic monologue delivered by an actress portraying Julia Child entitled Bon Appétit! will be the focus of this project.

As an opera performer, it is imperative for one to be able to assume a character with different physical and vocal mannerisms from her own. I will present information on Julia Child and traits of her persona that I observe in watching footage of her cooking show The French Chef, and I will use this research to build a recognizable character. I will transcribe portions of the text of Bon Appétit! using the International Phonetic 2 Alphabet so that I may more accurately imitate the vocal sounds of Julia Child. I will analyze Hoiby’s musical style and attempt to make connections between his compositional choices and the character of Julia Child. I will also research previous performances of the work to obtain ideas about how to stage the work and how to effectively utilize the comedic aspects of the opera’s text. The process of preparing this opera role will be presented through research, preparation, and the performance of Lee Hoiby’s Bon Appétit!.