Childhood and the Operatic Imaginary

Joy Calico, 2009–2010 Radcliffe Institute Fellow
Justin Vickers
, Illinois State University 

The seminar has three primary aims: to catalyze new interdisciplinary ways of thinking about children and childhood among opera scholars and practitioners from several fields; to foster collaborative writing and research in the humanities; and to provide an opportunity for participants to engage with two Boston-based experts whose perspectives will enhance our humanistic work. Together, we will lay the groundwork for a multi-authored book that will be the first to propose methods for analyzing three overlapping categories of child-focused opera: operas for, about, and with children since 1900.

Despite the boom in interdisciplinary opera studies in recent decades, the field has not engaged with parallel developments in music and childhood studies. Our seminar will convene a broad spectrum of international participants in a cross-generational, interdisciplinary mix featuring cutting-edge perspectives from musicology, ethnomusicology, American studies, African American and African studies, women’s and gender studies, music education, medicine, English, and performance. Participants will read short (three-page) summaries of one another’s work in advance, and use half of the seminar sessions to brainstorm, collaborate, and cross-pollinate one another’s work-in-progress. Our plenary guests will help us develop a shared vocabulary and conceptual framework for addressing common themes, such as childhood trauma, age-appropriate content, acculturation, and children’s reception of artforms in which they are both audience and subject.