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date: 23 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter looks back at the core canon in opera, tracing its evolution and mutation during the half century when its author served as a professional critic and then festival director. The chapter sees the core canon as either fixed or shrinking over the last ninety years. The public’s resistance to Modernist dissonance led to an explosion of repertory in areas immediately outside what had been the traditional canon. The need for novelty has been sated by directorial innovation (Regietheater), the early music revival (with George Frideric Handel the principal operatic beneficiary), and the ceaseless search for new curiosities to revive from the past. Moreover, the operatic canon has been enlarged by lighter forms of musical theater (West Side story and Sweeney Todd) and also by influence from non-Western cultures bearing their own canonic traditions and repertories. This chapter is paired with Kasper Holten’s “Inside and outside the operatic canon, on stage and in the boardroom.”

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