The Diva Plato on Tradition and Belief

Part 1: The Diva.

How does the newspaper review help us to understand the singing qualities of an operatic diva such as Callas

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We have learnt from the DVD on the subject of ???The Diva??™ that the role of an operatic Diva is that of a larger than life character, that takes a great deal of practice, rehearsal and preparation to fulfil the role. The definition of the word ???Diva??™ is that of someone of supreme ability in which the Diva conveys the ???emotional nuances of the music??? (E. Moohan p, 163) and performance of character to her audience.
The newspaper review written by Winthrop Sargeant in 1958, is both a reliable and valuable source in which we are able to understand the singing qualities of Maria Callas. The source is of the time, a primary source and a source that is without bias opinion. After all, the writer is an opera critic who disliked Maria Callas??™ performance the previous season. However, the season that Callas performs the role of Violetta, Sargeant was left in ???complete agreement??? with her admirers and that her interpretation of the part was ???far and away the finest??? that he had encountered.
There a few things in the newspaper review that support the argument about the ability of Maria Callas??™ vocal talents. The timbre of her voice is indeed of a ???reedy??™ nature (oboe and clarinet), and when Callas starts to sing at (0.12) and her voice starts off softly (piano) this characteristic can be heard. Sargeant mentions a ???wobble??™ in her voice a number of times throughout the article. Again this is a characteristic of Callas??™ voice and can be evident in the high register notes when sung powerfully (1.04). At (1.14 – 1.18) in the recording the ???wobble??™ is noticeable again in the closing notes of the melody that reach the perfect cadence before there is a pause to start the next lines. These notes are sung with power and conviction in much the same way as the final cadence at the end of the piece (2.51) which conveys the emotion needed to portray the role of Violetta.
Sargeant mentions that Callas does not posses a ???pure, innocent voice??™, and that there are other singers whose voice is more ???beautiful??? (Phillip p178). This characteristic of her voice can be linked to her personnel life where she struggled to gain notoriety in her early singing days when she failed several auditions in 1945 (Reading 6.4), Callas lost 30 kilos in weight, She divorced in 1959 before suffering ill health in 1965, all f these struggles in her private life would of shaped her voice and given it the characteristics discussed above.
Overall musically the aria is very sparse with the instruments more or less playing through the chord changes, with stabs and arpeggios. The aria is all abut the voice. The big voice that Maria Callas possessed. The aria in opera works in much the same way as a soliloquy in drama (DVD ???The Diva??™), it??™s a point in the piece where focus is n the Diva and the singer can convey further emotions to the audience and listener.

Winthrop Sargeant (1958) review of the performance of La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, on 6 February 1958, The New Yorker; available online at (Accessed 30 July 2012)

The Diva ??“ DVD Video (2008) (AA100 DVD), Milton Keynes, The Open University.

Moohan E., Jones N. and Phillip, R. (2008) ???The Diva??™, in Moohan E. (ed.) Reputations (AA100 Book 1), Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 161 – 96

Part 2: Plato on Tradition and Belief.

1. Towards the beginning of the passage, Socrates gets Laches to agree to a new definition of courage. What is it

Socrates gets Laches to agree that courage is admirable, and that wise endurance is a new definition of courage.

2. What conclusions do Socrates and Laches reach at the end of the passage Why might Laches be surprised by this conclusion

The conclusion that is reached and what Laches agrees to is that foolish endurance is courage. In Reading 1.3, Socrates and Laches are discussing how courage is admirable. Laches is then asked the question whether endurance when coupled with foolishness could be considered admirable. Laches disagrees with this comment which contradicts the conclusion that is reached in paragraph 9 in the printed passage. In paragraph 9 Laches has a change of heart and agrees with Socrates that foolish endurance is in fact courage. For this reason Laches would be surprised by the conclusion.

3. How does Socrates argue for this conclusion

Socrates argues for his conclusion by use of his deductive argument process. The example that Socrates uses is that of opposing soldiers at war. This example is used to give the two premises needed in his deductive reasoning in order to obtain a valid and sound conclusion. The first premise is taken up by the soldier that has calculated his chances and has realised that his counterparts will support him in his actions (wise endurance). The second premise is taken up by the opposing soldier who is willing to stand against him and fight (foolish endurance). The two premises add up to the conclusion that foolish endurance is courage.

4. In Readings 1.2 and 1.3, Laches has already offered two definitions of courage. Explain what they are and how Socrates argues against each of them. Then briefly identify one objection that might be made to one of Socrates??™ arguments.

In Reading 1.2 Laches offers the definition that courage can be found in someone that stands to face an enemy and will not retreat. This definition seems to be a traditional belief about what we think courage to be, in someone who is brave and not afraid. Socrates then goes to show how this definition fails to cover every case of what may be classed as courage raising other possibilities other than soldiers of war such as sailors at sea, political leaders and of people with illness. Laches is then forced to make a new statement about courage in which it covers the question asked by Socrates more broadly. Socrates uses his deductive argument theory to refute the claims of Laches. Socrates states that (premise 1) courage is something that all examples of courage share (premise 2) that standing firm in battle is not something that all examples share so therefore (conclusion ) standing firm in battle is not courage. In Reading 1.3 Laches??™ definition is that endurance is courage, something that is in someone??™s character and that courage is an admirable thing. Once again Socrates refutes his claim by again using the deductive argument. In it Socrates states that, (premise 1) courage is an admirable thing, (premise 2) foolish endurance is not an admirable thing therefore (conclusion) foolish endurance is not a kind of courage.
One objection that can be made to the argument Socrates makes in refuting Laches ideal of courage in Reading 1.2 is that of the moral traditionalist approach as oppose to the rationalism of Socrates??™ ideas. Traditional moral ideas, are ideas that are passed through generations in order for the members of the community to act inacordance with the blief. By this I mean that when Socrates first asks Laches what his definition of courage is, Laches gives his definition as one of a traditional belief. Courage is someone who stands tall in the face of adversity and someone who is brave. Most of us are moral traditionalists and when asked what our definition of courage would be it would be the same as Laches??™ first definition. We would have no need to be rationalist and break the definitions down through a series of further questions in order to find out a different meaning.


Plato, Laches, (192d ??“ 193d); reprinted in AA100 Assignment booklet (February 20013), Milton Keynes, The Open University, p. 26.

Price, Carolyn, (2008) ???Plato on Tradition and Belief??™, Tradition and Dissent (AA100 Book 2), Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp 3 ??“ 38.

???Plato??™s Laches ??“ a discussion with Tim Chappell??™ (2008) (AA100 Audio CD), Milton Keynes, The Open University.