Werner Wolf, Walter Bernhart, eds. WMS 19. Brill: Leiden/Boston, MA. 2022
‘Make It Old’: Retro Forms and Styles in Literature and Music
Call for Papers
Some controversy surrounds one of the earliest operatic productions in the English-speaking world: Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Æneas (1689) was supposedly performed by young pupils at the Boarding School for Girls, in Chelsea, in London. English opera may thus have been born as a musical genre for young audiences.
The following centuries saw a spectacular boom in opera and operetta in Europe, but mainly adult audiences were targeted and it was not until the 20th century that producers started currying favor with younger spectators. In the United States, Aaron Copland composed The Second Hurricane (1937), an opera
specifically designed for school performances, while in the United Kingdom Benjamin Britten created his children’s opera The Little Sweep (1949), then his opera-oratorio Noye’s Fludde (1957), which brought together amateur artists and young singers.
The twentieth century also saw the emergence of the musical comedy genre, which soon engaged with young audiences with well-known works such as Mary Poppins (1964) or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). Lately, a young English prodigy, Alma Elizabeth Deutscher, made her debut at the age of seven with her first opera
The Sweeper of Dreams (2012), then, at the age of ten, wrote her second opera Cinderella (2016), outshining the young Mozart who was twelve when he composed his first singspiel Bastien und Bastienne (1768).
The musical tale, less spectacular than the opera, developed in the 20th century especially with the appearance of new mass media. This specific genre, akin to both song and opera, requires a unique approach to word and music interrelations in works destined for young audiences.
Like opera, the musical tale hinges on a plot and tells a story, but its smaller size, enabling easier rote learning, lends itself better to a greater variety of stage uses, including small theaters or school shows. Its concise structure makes it possible to hold the audience’s attention more easily.
Even if it depends on music in a less central and more utilitarian way than opera, remaining attached to the literary tradition of text recitation, the musical tale remains a musical work in its own right and is undoubtedly best known for its didactic or moral purposes.
This conference’s main argument lies at the crossroads of these two somewhat similar yet different traditions, offering specialists an opportunity to discuss a vast array of topics in relation to the musical tale and the opera for children,
with a particular focus on the role of young audiences and young musicians in the field of musical entertainment and musical productions intended for young audiences in the contemporary world.
This international conference will be held at the University of Caen Normandy. It is hosted by ERIBIA research group and coorganized by IDEA (Interdisciplinarité Dans les Études Anglophones, UR 2338).
This conference is mainly dedicated to subjects arising in English-speaking countries, but contributions from diverse contexts and interdisciplinary fields are welcome.
Submissions should include a title, a 250-300-word summary, a short biographical note, your academic affiliation, and should be sent to email@example.com by June, 30th, 2023.
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Location: Université de Caen, Amphithéâtre de la MRSH (Campus I, Caen, Esplanade de la Paix)
Dates: 22-23 November 2023