The Operatic Archive : American Opera as History book cover
1st Edition

The Operatic Archive
American Opera as History

ISBN 9780367134327
Published April 27, 2020 by Routledge
230 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The Operatic Archive: American Opera as History extends the growing interdisciplinary conversation in opera studies by drawing on new research in performance studies and the philosophy of history. Moving beyond traditional aesthetic conceptions of opera, this book argues for opera’s powerful potential for historical impact and engagement in late twentieth- and twenty-first-century works by American composers.

Considering opera’s ability to serve as a vehicle for memory, historical experience, affect, presence, and the historical sublime, this volume demonstrates how opera’s ability to represent and evoke historical events and historical experience differs fundamentally from the representations and recreations of other modes (specifically, literary and dramatic representations).

Building on the work of performance scholars such as Joseph Roach, Rebecca Schneider, and Diana Taylor, and in consultation with recent debates in the philosophy of history, the book will be of interest to a wide range of scholars and researchers, particularly those working in the areas of opera studies and performance studies.

Table of Contents

Introduction: History the extravagant art

Chapter 1: Opera and/as history

Chapter 2: Opera as (mi)lieu de mémoire

Chapter 3: Opera as historical experience

Chapter 4: Ghost notes: Opera, history, and time

Chapter 5: Opera at the limits of history

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Colleen Renihan is Assistant Professor and Queen’s National Scholar in Music Theatre and Opera at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON, Canada.


This is an exciting and original work that challenges the conventional ‘wisdom’ about both opera and historiography. The author takes on the interrelations of performed musical theatre and history, with an innovative interdisciplinary focus on recent theoretical work in performance studies, as well as historiography.

Linda Hutcheon, University Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature, University of Toronto