Pre-organised session - Analyzing Mozart's Operas: External Stakes, Intrinsic Challenges
Chair: Nathan Martin
In a recent review, Deborah Burton called for “the entrance of theorists into the field of opera analysis,” a field “long . . . dominated by musicologists” but now allegedly abandoned by them “in favor of a phenomenological approach based on memory and listening experience.” If opera analysis no longer seems to figure self-evidently among “the most vital and interesting areas of musical research today,” as it once did for James Webster, it has nonetheless been quietly yet diligently pursued by music theorists across the last decades, even if frequently in the margins of other projects. In light of Burton’s polemicizing, as well as Mary Ann Smart’s independent call for renewed attention to opera analysis, it seems appropriate to highlight this ongoing work. The time has come to reincorporate opera analysis into the resurgence of interest in eighteenth-century music and music theory that has marked music theory in the last decades.
Collectively, the five papers in this session offer a kind of panorama or group portrait of the “living options” (William James) available for analyzing Mozart’s operas. In so doing, they undertake to draw together the various strands of analytical work on this repertoire that are currently scattered throughout the secondary literature, to begin synthesizing these disparate threads, and in so doing to provide a foundation for future analytical and theoretical work on Mozart’s operas.