My research applies methods from musicology, analytic philosophy, and literary theory to the study of opera and musical theatre. Despite musicology’s increasing engagement with philosophy, the discipline remains disconnected from Anglophone philosophy, which is primarily in the analytic (as opposed to continental) tradition. My work constitutes a pioneering effort to bring musicology and analytic philosophy into a closer rapport.
In Storytelling in Opera and Musical Theater, I do not merely apply philosophical ideas to the study of opera but do philosophy, using operatic works and performances to refine and even challenge philosophical accounts of narrative, point of view, and the work-performance relationship. I examine the roles of narrators in sung drama, how music can orient spectators to characters’ points of view, how subjective access to characters may engender sympathy or empathy, and how the performers’ choices affect not only who is telling the story but what story is being told.
My next book project asks Why do we speak of the operas of Mozart, Verdi, and Britten rather than those of Da Ponte, Piave, and Piper? What, precisely, is the nature of opera authorship and how should this be reflected in opera scholarship? I address these questions on two fronts. On the theoretical side, I subject the concepts of authorship and collaboration to closer scrutiny than they have hitherto received in opera studies by bringing the field into dialogue with work in the philosophy of cinema. On the practical side, I put these new theoretical understandings of opera authorship and collaboration into practice through case studies of contemporary North American operas and musicals.
I have also published on the American musical and film music. “Rethinking the Diegetic/Nondiegetic Distinction in the Film Musical” (Music and the Moving Image 2017) exposes problems with the use of the terms diegetic and nondiegetic in connection with film-musical numbers. As a replacement, I define two scalar concepts, one tracking the number’s level of realism, the other its degree of formality. I am also contributing a chapter to the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Music on Korngold’s score to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935).
This research has been supported by