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date: 28 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Despite increasing interest in canonic discourses in the arts, relatively little attention has been given to opera. Reasons include its close relationship with commerce and the relative fluidity of its texts. But it is also an inherently problematic sort of canon, one that evolved very differently from that of concert music: current issues include the increasing restriction of its core, even while the viable repertory is arguably broadening, and especially the fact that the most revered works are all more than a century old. The financial difficulties being experienced by opera houses around the world, even some of the most famous, seem connected to these issues. This introduction explores some of the different meanings of operatic canonicity and the associated terminology, the methods by which it is determined, and, through a survey of some of the main arguments advanced in the ensuing chapters, the historical forces that shaped it.

Keywords: canonic discourse, aging canon, canon vs. repertory, Joseph Kerman, music institutions, novelty, early music revival, cultural anniversary, decadence, reform

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