Opera Studies Forum

The University of Iowa Opera Studies Forum (OSF) was established in 1999 to provide opportunities to explore opera and related genres from interdisciplinary perspectives. The forum’s purpose is to bring together scholars, practitioners, and members of the public who have special expertise or interest in opera to share their views on various issues associated with research and performance of operatic works. From its inception, the OSF has drawn faculty and advanced graduate students from several departments including Musicology, French and Italian, Classics, German, Theater Arts, History, Religion, Film Studies, American Studies, Women’s Studies, Art History, English, Music Theory and Composition, and others; units within International Programs such as CAPS, ESG, and SASP; as well as participants from sister institutions and the community.

The activities of the forum include both formal and informal gatherings addressing a myriad of topics ranging from aesthetics to performance practices and from literature to religion. Many of our on-campus members share their recent research with the group through paper presentations and discussions of new and exciting work in progress. Graduate students too have had opportunities to present their ongoing work to a wide group of scholars for feedback. We invite everyone to join us for these events; please check News and Events.

Beginning in fall 2000 the OSF, with generous financial assistance from the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the School of Music, began to bring guest speakers to campus on a regular basis. The following year it became one of the constituent units in International Programs. A number of the Forum’s lectures have been offered in collaboration with other departments or programs on campus, including the Sound Research Seminar, Classics Colloquium, Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Interdisciplinary Colloquium, School of Music Choral Area, Musicology Colloquium, and Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies. Among the speakers who have been hosted by the Opera Studies Group are Rosamund Bartlett, Jennifer Williams Brown, Joy Calico, Alessandra Campana, David Charlton, Martha Feldman, Denise Gallo, Jonathan Glixon, Philip Gossett, Larry Hamberlin, Ellen T. Harris, Mary Hunter, David Levin, Michael Pisani, Pierpaolo Polzonetti, Hilary Poriss, John Rice, Thomas L. Riis, David Rosen, Jesse Rosenberg, Mary Ann Smart, Ruth Smith, and Nicholas Vazsonyi.

The OSF also was integral to the Obermann Center Summer Research Seminar in 2001. “Opera in Context: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Creation, Performance, and Reception,” co-directed by Downing A. Thomas (French and Italian) and Roberta M. Marvin (International Studies) focused on the relationship between opera and the social worlds in which, and for which, it was created. Scholars addressed the ways in which individual operas or operatic traditions have shaped, and been shaped by, their publics and the cultural and political circumstances in which they existed. New approaches to opera and new problems in opera studies were particularly encouraged. In addition to the select group of seminar participants drawn from the United States, Canada, France, and England, several invited guests participated in the seminar: the late Wye J. Allanbrook (University of California, Berkeley), David Levin (University of Chicago), Herbert Lindenberger (Stanford University), the late Harold Powers (Princeton University), and Ellen Rosand (Yale University). A book of essays based on the seminar, titled Operatic Migrations: Transforming Works and Crossing Boundaries, was published by Ashgate Press in 2006 and was short-listed for the American Musicological Society’s Ruth Solie Award.

In fall 2001 International Programs at the University of Iowa's sponsored a major lecture series as part of the OSF’s activities. Titled “Perspectives on the Music of Verdi” and coordinated by Roberta M. Marvin, the series commemorated the centenary of the death of Giuseppe Verdi with lectures and seminars, by bringing four distinguished opera scholars to the University of Iowa: the late Julian Budden, Philip Gossett, Roger Parker, and Pierluigi Petrobelli. The OSF has also hosted two University of Iowa Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Professorships, Linda Hutcheon and Michael Hutcheon in 2004 and Hebert Lindenberger in 2007 (see Past Events for additional information).

In 2009 the Institute for Italian Opera Studies, the Iowa branch of the Center for Italian Opera Studies at the University of Chicago, became a constituent unit within the Opera Studies Forum. Beginning in 2009 the OSF began its Metropolitan Opera in Iowa Lecture Series, coordinated with the Met Live in HD theater transmissions; the series continued in 2010-2011 with the support of Humanities Iowa, the Iowa branch of the National Endowment for the Humanities.