Storytelling in Opera and Musical Theater

Storytelling in Opera and Musical Theater

Nina Penner
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 10/06/2020
ISBN: 978-0-253-04998-8
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Storytelling in Opera and Musical Theater is the first systematic exploration of how sung forms of drama tell stories. Through examples from opera's origins to contemporary musicals, Nina Penner examines the roles of character-narrators and how they differ from those in literary and cinematic works, how music can orient spectators to characters' points of view, how being privy to characters' inner thoughts and feelings may evoke feelings of sympathy or empathy, and how performers' choices affect not only who is telling the story but what story is being told. Unique about Penner's approach is her engagement with current work in analytic philosophy. Her study reveals not only the resources this philosophical tradition can bring to musicology but those which musicology can bring to philosophy, challenging and refining accounts of narrative, point of view, and the work-performance relationship within both disciplines. She also considers practical problems singers and directors confront on a daily basis, such as what to do about Wagner's Jewish caricatures and the racism of Orientalist operas. More generally, Penner reflects on how centuries-old works remain meaningful to contemporary audiences and have the power to attract new, more diverse audiences to opera and musical theater. By exploring how practitioners past and present have addressed these issues, Storytelling in Opera and Musical Theater offers suggestions for how opera and musical theater can continue to entertain and enrich the lives of 21st-century audiences.

Author Bio

Nina Penner completed this book during a postdoctoral fellowship at Duke University's Department of Music funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She is an independent scholar based in Montréal, and this is her first book.


""[This book] breaks new interdisciplinary theoretical ground for musicologists, for philosophers, for literary narratologists, and for performance/drama theorists While the author is a musicologist by training, she is deeply versed in the philosophical literature and manifestly expert at analytic modes of analysis. [Penner's] discussions of narrative, point of view, performance, and "work" are all enriched by this new interdisciplinary theorizing. Her double focus on both bigpicture issues like these and microanalyses of specific (and well chosen) examples allows the author to address larger issues around the relevance/role of musical theatre and opera today." — Linda Hutcheon, author of A Theory of Adaptation and Opera: The Art of Dying"

 (Linda Hutcheon)

""[This book] makes a sustained contribution to interdisciplinarity in the arts: by exploring the intersection between analytic philosophy, literary criticism, theatre studies, and new musicology. Penner builds on existing scholarship/critical studies on opera and musical theatre [and her work] contains a wealth of insights into the repertoire of opera and [musical] theater." — Yayoi Uno Everett, author of Reconfiguring Myth and Narrative in Contemporary Opera"

 (Yayoi Uno Everett)

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Table of Contents

1. What is a Narrative?
2. Telling, Operatically
3. Character-Narrators
4. Orchestral Narration & Authorial Commentary
5. Character-Focused Narration
6. Works & Performances
7. Performances of Works
8. Performances as Works