Storytelling in Opera and Musical Theater
Published by: Indiana University Press
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.
1. What is a Narrative?
2. Telling, Operatically
4. Orchestral Narration & Authorial Commentary
5. Character-Focused Narration
6. Works & Performances
7. Performances of Works
8. Performances as Works
"Shaking up both musicology and (analytic) philosophy by putting them in dialogue, Nina Penner throws important new light on how sung drama tells stories. In the process she offers significant new insights for scholars in both fields—as well as for those studying literary narrative, theatre, performance, cinema, and adaptation. Her innovative choice to argue from both opera and musical theatre allows her to use astutely selected case studies to theorize staged sung drama as narrative in a lucid, accessible, indeed elegant manner."~Linda Hutcheon, University Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto
"Through close analysis of examples from Gluck to Sondheim – and beyond – Nina Penner develops a detailed, flexible theory of how the stories of music dramas are conveyed to their audiences. Considering the roles of work and performance, orchestra and singer, and composer and character in how operas and musicals tell their stories, Penner's book is essential reading for any scholar with a serious interest in narrative or music drama."~Andrew Kania, Professor of Philosophy, Trinity University
"With a musician's ear and a philosopher's conceptual rigor, Penner's evocative new account of musical drama charts the fascinating rhythms of character, narrative and point of view that pull opera and show audiences into the scene onstage. Mapping broad historical and cultural terrain — from Mozart to Wagner, Britten to Sondheim — Penner presents a fully performative understanding of opera and music theater, and a brilliant analysis of recent production styles. This lively book will engage scholars and performers, directors and set designers, or anyone ever captivated by a story told in music."~Philip Rupprecht, Professor of Music, Duke University
"Nina Penner's Storytelling in Opera and Musical Theater is a stimulating, accessible and engaging read for stage directors, conductors, singers, and opera managers. She reminds us that 'opera is a medium for presenting stories' and that between facilitating the audiences' access to the original narrative of an opera and creating a unique personal expression, stage directors have a broad scope for their creativity. Opera managers, who have long worried about how to retain and build opera audiences in the 21st century, also get a clearer perspective on how to balance the reportorial choices between 'traditional' productions and those that seek to address present-day concerns. Broadly conceived and deeply researched, Penner demonstrates how the same piece of music can tell many different stories."~Rare Cristian Trifan, stage director and arts manager