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  • A Note from the Guest Editors
  • Gundula Kreuzer and Clemens Risi

There is no doubt that the study of opera has been changing significantly over the last several decades. From a concern with the operatic work—with texts, librettos, and scores—through an engagement with cultural contexts and sociopolitical issues, we have transitioned to a lively interest in opera as an event. Among other publications, recent issues of Opera Quarterly bear witness to the current scholarly discourse on the performative dimension of opera and what is often (if somewhat reductively) called its "visual" side: operatic stagings both historical and contemporary, their material traces, mechanical practices, hermeneutic implications, and medial dissemination.

At the same time, the operatic object itself has been undergoing some remarkable transitions: directorial paradigms are shifting both geographically and conceptually, and so are technologies of production and mediation. In some sense, of course, opera has always been in transition. Historically, it has morphed from private to public entertainment, from Italian export product to object of national pride; from vehicle for vocal display to dramatic spectacle; and so on. Conceptually, the typical genesis of an opera comprises a series of collaborative transitions from one medium to the next, from words to music to spectacle. The practical stage realization itself could be analyzed in terms of multiple transitions. As a culturally and technologically contingent performance, it relates opera to changing contexts and audiences; as an event, it partakes in the staged opera's passing through time by linking past and future performances; as a corporeal manifestation of materiality, it mediates between the intended concept of a production and its individual concretizations (which always embrace nonintentional, spontaneous elements), as well as between performers and spectators, stage and auditorium. Both the process of operatic staging and its history could therefore be described as complex chains of ephemeral transitions.

Within this perpetually fluctuating field, operatic production and reception have recently begun to see what is arguably a whole new level of performative and medial transitions. Regietheater approaches have been gaining increasing exposure beyond Europe, while their sway over German-language stages is showing certain signs of waning: in some recent productions of operatic classics, the long-defended musical Werktreue—or faithfulness to the most "authentic" score—has become porous, giving way to experimental, creatively invasive treatments of the operatic texts. The use of video (both prerecorded and live) in performances has been proliferating for some time, while digital aesthetics are [End Page 149] meanwhile also rubbing off on opera. What is more, the high-definition transmissions pioneered by the Metropolitan Opera since 2006 have established new avenues of mediation and spectatorial liveness, and have in turn influenced production styles themselves. In all, an unprecedented number of productions are simultaneously available around the globe via DVDs, podcasts, live streaming, or HD broadcasts. Opera, it seems, is transitioning out of its much-discussed twentieth-century wavering between revival and death into the current era of digital remediation. As with Euridice in the 1609 ending of Monteverdi's Orfeo, opera is increasingly disembodied and transformed into objects that—like the stars standing in for Euridice—are more widely visible and, less ephemeral than are live performances.

What drives the essays written for this double issue of Opera Quarterly is a playful application of the notion of transition to some intersections between these recent scholarly and practical developments. A common interest of the authors as well as our two rubric articles is the changing influence of media or mediation (whether through directorial schools, bodily presence, theatrical modes, or technology) on operatic performance and vice versa. Other concerns that are shared among several contributions include the notions of fixity or repetition of the ossified repertory and of specific directorial approaches or visual images; the transitions between representation and presence in performance; and the role of the individual spectator's perceptions and memories in the effects produced by opera onstage (or on screen).

The first two essays pursue a diachronic perspective to bring into focus both constancy and changes in productions of a single composer over time. With Rossini, Mary Ann Smart focuses on an apparent stepchild of revisionist Regie: musical repetition and dramatic stasis, she holds, are key...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1476-2870
Print ISSN
0736-0053
Pages
pp. 149-152
Launched on MUSE
2012-03-02
Open Access
No
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