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Musical Tale and Children’s Opera in the English-speaking World

Marcin Stawiarski

LISA e-Journal seeks contributions on topics related to the musical tale and children’s opera in the English-speaking world. Particular focus will be given to young audiences and musical entertainment in the contemporary world.

English opera is thought to have been born from a musical work for young audiences as one of the earliest English operatic productions, Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Æneas (1689), was performed by young pupils at the Boarding School for Girls, in Chelsea, in London. Over the following centuries, children were sometimes involved in musical performances, only to mention The Beggar’s Opera (1728) in the 18th century or children’s companies performing Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas in the 19th century. However, it was mainly in the 20th century that composers genuinely started targeting young audiences. In the United States, Aaron Copland composed The Second Hurricane (1937) —an opera specifically designed for school performances—, while in Britain Benjamin Britten created his children’s opera The Little Sweep (1949), and later his opera-oratorio Noye’s Fludde (1957), which brought together amateur artists and young singers. The 20th century also saw the emergence of the musical comedy genre engaging with young audiences through such works as Mary Poppins (1964) or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). The musical tale, less spectacular than opera, represents a unique type of word and music interrelations. Like opera, the musical tale implies a narrative work as it is usually based on a plot, but its smaller size lends itself better to a great variety of performative genres, including chamber music, or small theater and school shows, with an obvious link to the tradition of oral performance and didactic and moral purposes, as is evident in Liza Lehmann’s Four Cautionary Tales and a Moral (1909).

This special issue aims to explore these two somewhat similar yet different traditions, offering opera specialists, musicologists and historians an opportunity to discuss a vast array of topics in relation to the musical tale and the opera for children. The collection aims to explore the specificity of compositions and productions for children in the English-speaking cultural spheres by focusing on a variety of styles and musical genres. We invite proposals which focus on questions of specific techniques, structural patterns or tools used in musical compositions aimed at young audiences as well as papers which aim to examine the background and the institutional framework of such productions. Contributions may address issues linked to educational, political and moral concerns, including pedagogical, ideological, or moral aspects of children’s compositions. Submissions may be rooted in historical and traditional perspectives related to early performance practices, but they can also rely on more theoretical and critical analyses of relevant contemporary productions. Special emphasis will be laid on the evolution of the modern music industry and current trends in entertainment for young audiences, including not only innovative approaches, but also more practical considerations, such as those relating to financial or technical aspects of contemporary musical entertainment for youth.

 

Submissions, in English or in French, should include a title, a 250-300-word summary, key-words, a short biographical note, and the author’s professional or academic affiliation. Submissions should be sent to Marcin Stawiarski (marcin.stawiarski@unicaen.fr) by October 15, 2024.

 

Full papers are due by January 15, 2025 (between 5,000 and 9,000 words).

 

Contributions should adhere to LISA submission guidelines: https://journals.openedition.org/lisa/159

Bibliographie

ABOULKER Isabelle, « Composer des opéras pour enfants : témoignage », La création lyrique en France depuis 1900, Cécile Auzolle (éd.), Rennes : PUR, 2015 (https://doi.org/10.4000/books.pur.79167).

BUNCH Ryan, Oz and the Musical. Performing the American Fairy Tale, Oxford: OUP, 2022.

COLE Hugo, “Children’s Opera”, Grove Music Online, 2001 (https://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/grovemusic/display/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-5000901058)

COOPER Barry, Child Composers and Their Works: A Historical Survey, Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, 2009.

FINZI Graciane et Anne-Claire DI MEGLIO, « Limites et enjeux de l’opéra pour enfants », La création lyrique en France depuis 1900, Cécile Auzolle (éd.), Rennes : PUR, 2015 (https://doi.org/10.4000/books.pur.79173).

KNOWLES Katie, “‘Generational Drag’: All-Child Performances in the Seventeenth and Nineteenth Centuries in Britain”, New Theatre Quarterly, Volume 39, Issue 3, Cambridge UP, 2023, 181-199.

ROSSI Pamela J., “Young Children’s Opera: Having a Multiple Literacy Experience from the Inside-Out”, Youth Theatre Journal, 14/1, 2000, 26-39.

SCHMITZ Theresa, L’Opéra jeune public, Paris : Vrin, 2023.

SMITH Barbara, SMITH, Charles, The Non-Musician’s Guide to Children’s Music, Glendale, California: International Center for Learning, I.C.L. Concept Books, 1977.

SUTHERLAND Andrew, Children in Opera, Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010.

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