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  • A Note from the Executive Editor
  • David J. Levin

This issue marks a further turning point in this journal's recent history. Over the past few years, we have presented our readership with a series of themed issues encompassing a diverse set of topics (e.g., echoes, obsolescence, early opera) and works (e.g., Parsifal, Manon Lescaut, Moses und Aron). Like each of those issues, the work we present here offers some of the most innovative thinking in the performance, theory, and history of opera. But unlike those recent issues, the essays presented her are not gathered together under a single topic or devoted to a single work.

We begin with Gabriela Cruz's polemical meditation on Giacomo Meyerbeer's pursuit of a new musical poetics of sensation and perception in L'Africaine and its relationship to emerging modernist aspirations—an association, as Cruz points out with obvious impatience, that hardly squares with the standard historical narratives of Meyerbeer or French Grand Opera. Along similar lines if in a very different idiom, Gloria Staffieri offers an important corrective to the received history of the itinerary and exigencies of French grand opera as it took to the road in Italy in the 1830s and 1840s.

From the middle of the nineteenth century, we skip fifty years, to 1890, and then fifty years again, to 1940. It is within the span of that half century that Richard Strauss produced versions of his Guntram, an opera which, in Adrian Daub's reading, juxtaposes the "overweening vocality" of its eponymous male hero and the emphatic muteness of its heroine, leading to "a strange drama of voice, causality and identity."

From Vienna (in its fin-de-siècle and World War II incarnations), we skip to postwar Britain and Majel Connery's essay on Peter Maxwell Davies's Taverner and Resurrection. Connery zeroes in on "the theological aspect of Davies's querulousness," suggesting that Christianity, in the composer's hands, "is never a priori but instead is on trial." Connery's account of the twists and turns of that trial offer a powerful argument for a sustained reconsideration of the ethical stakes of the composer's grotesqueries for the stage. In his essay on Sir Michael Tippett's Midsummer Marriage, Robert Savage explores the self-conscious and polemical manner in which the piece declares its allegiance to an older tradition of pretense, fantasy, and excess.

Our "Notes from the Stage" rubric features a contribution from the young British stage director and scholar Sinéad O'Neill, who examines the opportunities [End Page 167] afforded by unconventional performance spaces, arguing that opera has much to gain by changing old habits and embracing new opportunities.

We are delighted to present our readers with this broad panoply of current thinking about opera. But in doing so, we also hope to initiate something of a trend if not a tradition, encouraging individual, unbundled submissions to the journal. We expect to gather together the best of those submissions in an annual unthemed issue. And, as always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions. [End Page 168]

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