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  • A Note from the Co-Executive Editor
  • Ryan Minor

This is the first "unthemed" issue of Opera Quarterly in recent years to reach the dimensions of a double issue. And while heft alone was never our goal, the intellectual vitality and breadth it represents certainly was. Indeed, taken as a whole this issue covers some extraordinarily vast territory. From Rebekah Ahrendt's consideration of the prologue(s) to Lully's Armide to Federico Fornoni's analysis of Maria Stuarda's calculated dramaturgy; from Céline Frigau Manning's explanation of electrical metaphors in describing singers in the first half of the nineteenth century to Jonathan Neufeld's meditation on beauty in Billy Budd; and from Clemens Risi's essay on Wagner's staging instructions for Der fliegende Holländer to Erling Sandmo's account of Turks on the Swedish opera stage—these six articles, together with Gabriela Cruz's review of recent work on grand opera, encompass a wonderfully eclectic range of methodologies, rhetorical strategies, and authorial voices in addition to the obvious geographical and chronological breadth of their subject matter.

Within—or despite—this range, however, there are also shared interests that both reflect and, hopefully, promote some promising new directions in thinking about opera. Most striking for me was the sustained and rigorous attention to the production, performance, and reception of opera not only across, but radically within, borders: thus Neufeld's account of beauty in Billy Budd is not only about the generic differences between Britten's and Melville's works but also the medial categories that underlie both; Frigau Manning's description of electricity and automation is not only about opera's importation of scientific metaphors but also the mutual social space between the two; Risi's consideration of Wagner's stage instructions is not only about the gulf between written prescription and performed realization but also the necessarily productive failure in bridging that gap.

Along similar lines, some of what may seem to be more traditional analyses of musical structure or historical context are no less concerned with the interstices between work and performance. Fornoni shows how Donizetti's careful dramaturgy between the rival queens could both enable and complicate the real-world rivalry between two singers; Sandmo uses the case of Sweden to show how "Turkish" operas managed to frighten and entertain so much of eighteenth-century Europe precisely because the opera house encompassed a literal space of encounter between staged Orientalist fantasy and real-life Turks; and Ahrendt demonstrates both the power of allegory in Lully's prologues as well as its limited ability to signify beyond confessional and national borders. A related concern is explored in Cruz's [End Page 129] review, in which she interrogates the necessity of understanding grand opera of the 1830s as a reflection of history rather than exploring the gaps between the two. Indeed, it is within gaps—which is to say between text and context, work and production, past and present—that this entire issue of the journal resides. [End Page 130]

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