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The Opera Journal: Recent Issues

Please note: Abstract and Keyword publication began in Spring/Summer 2022 Vol. 55, no. 1, as did the shift to a “Spring/Summer” “Autumn/Winter” designation.

Spring/Summer 2023: Vol. 56, no. 1

Breena Loraine, “The 'Feminine Other': Italian Opera, the Female Body, and the Society of Dilettanti in Mid-Eighteenth-Century London

Abstract: This essay explores the Society of Dilettanti’s penchant for connoisseurship, preoccupation with female bodies as erotic objects for observation and aesthetic pleasure, and inclination to promote Italian opera in eighteenth-century London. Analysis of Paolo Antonio Rolli’s libretto for Baldassare Galuppi’s Penelope (1741) examines the characterization of the titular character, highlighting the importance of Greek mythology and hierarchical gender roles to the society. Discussion of musical and performative elements, which synthesizes musicological and historical scholarship theorizing the female voice and body on the eighteenth-century theatrical stage, offers interpretations of aspects of gender and sexuality. Musicologist Thomas McGeary’s classification of Italian opera as “feminine Other” suggests the gendered genre itself may be situated at the apex of the society’s understanding of the feminine; but a critical perspective must also, as Nancy Armstrong argues, mirror eighteenth-century developments in the power dynamic of the male spectator gazing upon the female as spectacle. In addition to the way in which female roles were characterized and onstage female bodies were put on display, Italian opera—as a genre—fulfilled the function of female spectacle for the male spectator. 

Keywords: gender in opera, 18th-century England, connoisseurship, early modern women, sexuality in music

Lydia Bechtel, “Cast a Diva as Fidès: Pauline Viardot’s Collaborative Role in Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Le Prophète

Abstract: Histories of music often present composer-centric narratives, idolizing the role of a singular figure over all other contributors and undervaluing explorations of the collaborative aspects of the compositional process. However, studying performers like Pauline Viardot, who collaborated with composers on the roles created for her, can create a more inclusive narrative. This article explores Viardot’s working relationship with Giacomo Meyerbeer in her preparation of the role of Fidès in Le prophète (1849). An examination of journal entries and correspondence, in consultation with the score, demonstrates Meyerbeer’s willingness to incorporate her suggestions during the revisions process—from orchestration changes in her aria to changes in a scene that did not include her character. When the opera made its London debut, Meyerbeer chose Viardot to lead the musical direction of the production—a role that included her accompanying at the piano and articulating changes to the score to the other performers. Additionally, as a performer, Viardot’s contributions to Le prophète’s success were widely noted in contemporary accounts. In exploring Viardot and Meyerbeer’s collaborative relationship through these documents, this essay recontextualizes Viardot as a musical co-author and artistic cocreator of Le prophète

Keywords: Viardot, Meyerbeer, Le prophète, Fidès, collaboration

Jordan Lenchitz, “'What Is It That Could Have Some Like I Into It': Christopher Knowles and the Aesthetic of Einstein on the Beach

Abstract: This article explores the relations between Christopher Knowles and the aesthetic of Einstein on the Beach, and in particular how the dynamics of his collaboration with Bob Wilson paved the way for this “opera beyond drama.” Drawing on disability studies, performance studies, and published interviews with Knowles and Wilson, I recontextualize the opera’s aesthetic. If one seeks an adjective to describe the underpinnings of Einstein on the Beach the best choice should be Knowlesian, which avoids ableist essentialism and rectifies the imbalance of credit given to Knowles relative to Wilson and Philip Glass. Thinking about Einstein on the Beach through this lens can help audiences both appreciate and understand the opera on its own terms. 

Keywords: Christopher Knowles, aesthetic, Einstein on the Beach, Knowlesian

Autumn/Winter 2022: Vol. 55, no. 2

Deborah Burton, “Puccini’s Last Act: Finishing Turandot

Abstract: Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot is an opera about solving riddles. But the final riddle is how Puccini would have finished the last scene had he not died before completing it in November 1924. This paper first briefly discusses previous attempts at completing the opera—including those by Franco Alfano, Luciano Berio, Janet Maguire, and Hao Weiya—as historical and compositional context. It then examines my own process of completion based both on known and previously unpublished autograph sketches, guided as well by clues gleaned from Puccini’s correspondence and from analyses of all his scores.

My process involved using as many of the extant Puccini sketches as possible, choosing among alternate versions of the same passage, placing textless sketches in appropriate dramatic situations based on similar musical moments in earlier Puccini operas, creating music based on earlier Puccini models of similar dramatic moments (model composition) where there were no sketches extant, and making sure that a coherent tonal plan was in place. Specifically, my analytical approach to Puccini’s compositional style as reflected in his correspondence and other completed operas drew on the following: the concept of la solita forma, Puccini’s desire for an orchestral “peroration,” references to Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, a preponderance of anapestic rhythms, the testimony of Puccini’s neighbor Salvatore Orlando, and the pictures of Wagner and Beethoven that Puccini kept on his piano during the composition. 

Keywords: Puccini, Turandot, Tristan, Berio, sketch

Nana Wang, “Changing Images of Isabelle: A Study of Keyboard Transcriptions Based on Meyerbeer’s ‘Robert, toi que j’aime’”

Abstract: Nineteenth-century piano transcription as a genre exists as a target of derision for being derivative, but is yet illustrative and familiarizing for historical musical life. Current scholarship criticizes it as “bastard and obsolete genre, the worst crimes.” Nevertheless, works of this type reached a wider public than their operatic sources did, which greatly increased the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the original opera. This article sheds light on this issue by examining and comparing three currently lesser-known piano transcriptions based on “Robert, toi que j'aime.” As a highlight in Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable, it is one of the most frequently transcribed extracts from the original opera. This cavatina, featuring the image of a despairing Isabelle, portrays her pleadings for mercy from her beloved Robert who is under the control of the evil Bertram. Although all three piano transcriptions are based on the same cavatina, the three transcribers’ respective creative processes each use different musical strategies. Musical analysis and consideration of each through the lenses of different theories in translation demonstrate a fluidity of both transcriptional praxis and resulting musical-dramatic intertextuality. 

Keywords: piano transcription, cavatina, translation theory, comparison, analysis

Kevin Skelton, “Opera or Contemporary Gesamtkunstwerk? An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the Nederlandse Reisopera’s L’Orfeo

Abstract: In the 2019–20 season, the Nederlandse Reisopera mounted an innovative production of Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo. Notably, the production became closely tied with the concept of a “contemporary Gesamtkunstwerk” at various levels, encompassing the production’s creation, performance, and reception. Interviews with the participating creative and performing artists reveal an understanding of Gesamtkunstwerk that is inseparable from the processes involved in its creation and performance. These insights thereby extend more traditional conceptualizations of Gesamtkunstwerk and offer an important perspective for future consideration of transdisciplinary performing practices.

Drawing on a performer-researcher perspective, this article works to bridge the academy and the professional opera world by confronting the expertise and experiences of operatic “insiders” with “outsider” approaches well established in opera studies and criticism. The discourse intersects with the growing field of artistic research by demonstrating how the application of interpretative phenomenological analysis can be a viable participant-observer methodology in opera studies. The article concludes by drawing on ethnomusicologist Christopher Small’s concept of “musicking” to reframe established conceptions of both opera and Gesamtkunstwerk.

Keywords: Gesamtkunstwerk, interpretative phenomenologial analysis, transdisciplinary, interdisciplinary, artistic research

Spring/Summer 2022: Vol. 55, no. 1

Christy Thomas Adams and Joshua Neumann, “Letter from the Editors”

Allison R. Smith, “Stable Itinerancy: The Entanglement of Past and Present in Postaparteid South African Opera”

Abstract: This essay examines the ways in which opera singers make a living in contemporary South Africa. South African opera companies almost exclusively tour abroad, forcing singers to travel internationally often. Additionally, the singers must travel far to attend rehearsals and performances because many live in townships, or shanty towns, which are far from the city center where opera rehearsals and performances occur. This domestic travel is often expensive, undependable, and unsafe. However, the local opera industry frames this constant movement or travel as opportunity. Rather, I argue that such movement is a result of a broken wage system borne from racial and wealth inequality maintains the status quo of movement as a means to maintain economic stability as an opera singer in South Africa. This essay draws from fieldwork conducted virtually and in Cape Town between 2019 and 2022, as well as from Black studies (Hartman 1997) and opera studies (Abbate 2001; Dolar 2006). It also incorporates two case studies: one of Christopher Honoré’s 2016 production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte performed by the Cape Town Opera, and one of the film version of Isango Ensemble’s U-Carmen eKhayelitsha (2006). The essay concludes with possible topics for further research.

Keywords: opera, South Africa, movement, apartheid

Rebekah M. Erdman, “The Immortal Hour of the English Choral Drama”

Abstract: Rutland Boughton’s opera, The Immortal Hour, premiered on August 26, 1914, just weeks following the start of World War I. Despite the less-than-ideal premiere conditions, positive reception grew steadily over the following years as the opera gained supporters and received increased critical attention, until its record-breaking 1922 and 1923 London runs. Press responses reveal that the key element that led to the success of the opera was the belief that Boughton had created of a truly “English opera” through his use of Fiona MacLeod’s play as a basis for his libretto and his effective setting of the English text. Nonetheless, these alone do not explain the work’s unprecedented success. As the press accounts confirm, it was arguably Boughton’s innovations in the choral drama form that secured its success. With choral singing already an important element in the English musical tradition, combined with the chorus’s roles as living scenery, character, narrator, commentator, and a cappella self-accompaniment, the chorus became a fully integrated and essential part of the opera and the deciding factor for its success. Boughton’s choral drama was able to express human emotions, thereby enhancing the impact of the drama and enchanting English audiences, critics, and musicians alike.

Keywords: Rutland Boughton, choral drama, English opera, The Immortal Hour

Henry Price, “Emanuel and Eleonore Schikaneder: Coming into Their Own, 1777–79”

Abstract: Emanuel Schikaneder is remembered as the impresario and librettist behind the creation of Die Zauberflöte (1791). Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed the music for Theater auf der Wieden in Vienna, which was managed by Schikaneder and his wife Eleonore. Most of the secondary literature about Emanuel Schikaneder focuses on the period of his directorship of Theater auf der Wieden (1788-1801). But there has been relatively little focus on Eleonore Schikaneder’s contributions, nor on the couple’s first years as theater directors (1778-1779).

This article uses previously unpublished archival documentation and recently available digital sources—namely the published journals of company member Friderich Hasenest—to follow the Schikaneders’ strategies for securing engagements during their first two years leading a theater company. It also underscores the accomplishments of Eleonore Schikaneder. The accompanying tables allow the reader to trace the company’s grueling schedule of performances and evolving repertory. The author provides new translations of contemporary reviews and commentary. The documentation presented illustrates that although the Schikaneders ran afoul of authorities more than once, they were still able to parlay success with the public and support of influential friends into the development of a private theatrical enterprise of lasting importance.

Keywords: Schikaneder, Mozart, Neukäufler, Hasenest, Wandertruppen

December 2021: Vol. 54, no. 2


Michael S. Richardson, “Wagner’s Tannhäuser, Hagen’s Minnesinger, and the Missing Volksbuch

Marianna Sideri, “Opera in Opera: A Catalogue of Self-Referential Italian Operas”

Jessica Sommer, “Britten’s Singing Ghosts: Embodied Narrative in The Turn of the Screw

Amy Zigler, “‘What a splendid chance missed!’: Dame Ethel Smyth’s Der Wald at the Met”

Historic Interview:

Bruce Duffie, “Andrew Foldi, bass-baritone/director”

Book Review:

Kathleen Roland-Silverstein, “Naomi André’s Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement

June 2021: Vol. 54, no. 1


Ephraim David, “Dialectic Norma: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Bellini’s Opera”

Michael Halliwell, “The readiness is all: Brett Dean’s Hamlet in Glyndebourne and Adelaide”

Stephen Mould, “From bel canto to verismo: How the rise of the conductor influenced the transformation of Italian opera during the long nineteenth century.”

Historic Interview:

Bruce Duffie, “Thomas Gilbert, Props Manager, Chicago Lyric Opera”

December 2020: Vol. 53, no. 2


Alessandra Petrina, “‘This opera will win for me a martyr’s crown’: Conflict in Beethoven’s Fidelio

Jacomien Prins, “Music as Remedy for Lovesickness in Francesco Cavalli’s Artemisia

Timothy S. Flynn, “Thoughts of an Opera Composer: Some Primary Source Materials of Gian Carlo Menotti in the Mario di Bonaventura Collection at Northwestern University”

Historic Interview:

Bruce Duffie, “William Brown, tenor”

Book Review:

Kathleen Roland-Silverstein, “Alex Ross’s Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music

June 2020: Vol. 53, no. 1


Ji Yeon Lee, “A Critical Survey of Musical Dynamism from Bel canto to Verismo Opera”

Richard Masters, “The Doge Comes to America: A Reception History of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra in the United States”

Historic Interview:

Bruce Duffie, “Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor”

Book Review:

Kathleen Roland-Silverstein, “Lynn Helding’s The Musician’s Mind: Teaching, Learning, and Performance in the Age of Brain Science

December 2019: Vol. 52, no. 2


Linda Lister and Matthew Hoch, “Opera Composed by Women: A Brief History”

Lisa Pollock Mumme, “‘Angelica di voce’: Ángela Peralta as Nineteenth-Century Diva”

Historic Interview:

Bruce Duffie, “Dawn Upshaw, soprano”

Book Review:

Kathleen Roland-Silverstein, “Claudia Friedlander’s The Singer’s Audition & Career Handbook

June 2019: Vol. 52, no. 1


Piper Pack-Smith, “Rediscovering the Unique Role of the Contralto in the Operas of Gioachino Rossini”

Michael Ewans, “Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten: Motifs and Meanings”

Research in Practice:

Sooah Park, “Video Integration in Mozart’s The Magic Flute

Historic Interview:

Bruce Duffie, “Charles Nelson Reilly, actor/director”

Book Review:

Kathleen Roland-Silverstein, “Susan McClary’s The Passions of Peter Sellars: Staging the Music

Justin John Moniz, “Robin Rice’s Great Teachers on Great Singing

December 2018: Vol. 51, no. 2


Bonnie Cutsforth-Huber, “More than a Songbird: The Career of Gloria Cutsforth Allen”

Jared Hedges, “Ekphrasis and Frank Martin’s Aesthetic Ethic in Der Sturm

Research in Practice:

Ariana Wyatt, Tracy Cowden, Ico Bukvic, and Katie Dredger, “OPERAcraft: Opera Outreach for the 21st Century”

Historic Interview:

Bruce Duffie, “Janine Reiss, vocal coach”

Book Review:

Kathleen Roland-Silverstein, “Linda Lister’s So You Want to Sing Light Opera: A Guide for Performers

June 2017: Vol. 50, no. 1


Michael S. Richardson, “Wagner’s Tannhäuser, Hagen’s Minnesinger, and the Missing Volksbuch

Historic Interview:

Bruce Duffie, “Andrew Foldi, bass-baritone/director”

Book Review:

Kathleen Roland-Silverstein, “Naomi André’s Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement

For content information about previous issues, please contact the Executive Director at with the volume/issue or date requested.