Emotions induced by operatic music: psychophysiological effects of music, plot, and acting: a scientist's tribute to Maria Callas.Brain Cogn. 2011 Jun; 76(1):146-57.BC
Operatic music involves both singing and acting (as well as rich audiovisual background arising from the orchestra and elaborate scenery and costumes) that multiply the mechanisms by which emotions are induced in listeners. The present study investigated the effects of music, plot, and acting performance on emotions induced by opera. There were three experimental conditions: (1) participants listened to a musically complex and dramatically coherent excerpt from Tosca; (2) they read a summary of the plot and listened to the same musical excerpt again; and (3) they re-listened to music while they watched the subtitled film of this acting performance. In addition, a control condition was included, in which an independent sample of participants succesively listened three times to the same musical excerpt. We measured subjective changes using both dimensional, and specific music-induced emotion questionnaires. Cardiovascular, electrodermal, and respiratory responses were also recorded, and the participants kept track of their musical chills. Music listening alone elicited positive emotion and autonomic arousal, seen in faster heart rate, but slower respiration rate and reduced skin conductance. Knowing the (sad) plot while listening to the music a second time reduced positive emotions (peacefulness, joyful activation), and increased negative ones (sadness), while high autonomic arousal was maintained. Watching the acting performance increased emotional arousal and changed its valence again (from less positive/sad to transcendent), in the context of continued high autonomic arousal. The repeated exposure to music did not by itself induce this pattern of modifications. These results indicate that the multiple musical and dramatic means involved in operatic performance specifically contribute to the genesis of music-induced emotions and their physiological correlates.