Hearing Voices: Neuropsychoanalysis and Opera

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Opera essentially combines three layers — drama, music and singing — that have one thing in common: language. As neuroscience continues to explore how music is processed in the brain, similarities with language processing are becoming increasingly apparent. Listening to music involves the activation of numerous brain regions, including the so-called reward and pleasure centres, as well as some of the same areas associated with language processing. However, these findings do not explain why some people experience intense emotion, feel choked up or tearful, upon hearing an operatic voice. With language as a common denominator, Lacanian theory may provide some insight into this particular relationship between operatic vocal music and emotion. Therefore, a neuropsychoanalytic approach, combining current neuroscientific knowledge and psychoanalytic theory, may contribute to a deeper understanding of how and why the operatic voice is capable of evoking such powerful emotion.

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