Opera Studies Forum: Our History

The University of Iowa Opera Studies Forum (OSF) was established in 1999 with encouragement and assistance from the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies (OCAS). Beginning in fall 2000, the OSF, with generous financial assistance from the Office of the Vice President for Research, OCAS, 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. As of fall 2014, the OSF returned to its OCAS birthplace, as a special collaboration.

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 guest 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, Wendy Heller, Mary Hunter, David J. Levin, Michael Pisani, Pierpaolo Polzonetti, Hilary Poriss, John A. Rice, Thomas L. Riis, David B. Rosen, Jesse Rosenberg, Mary Ann Smart, Ruth Smith, and Nicholas Vazsonyi.

The OSF was also 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) [then co-directors of the OSF], 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. The competitively selected multi-disciplinary group of seminar participants drawn from the United States, Canada, France, and England included Robert L. A. Clark, Rachel Cowgill, Tili Boon Cuillé, Charles Dill, Grace Kehler, Robert C. Ketterer, Waltraud Maierhofer, and Anne Williams. Several invited guests participated in the seminar: the late Wye J. Allanbrook, David J. Levin, Herbert Lindenberger, the late Harold Powers, and Ellen Rosand. A book of essays based on the seminar, titled Operatic Migrations: Transforming Works and Crossing Boundaries, published by Ashgate Press in 2006, was short-listed for the American Musicological Society’s Ruth A. Solie Award.

In fall 2001, OSF organized a major lecture series, sponsored by International Programs. Titled “Perspectives on the Music of Verdi” and coordinated by OSF co-director Roberta Montemorra 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 the late Pierluigi Petrobelli. The OSF has also hosted two University of Iowa Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Professorships: Linda Hutcheon and Michael Hutcheon in 2004 and Herbert Lindenberger in 2007 (see Past Events for additional information).

The OSF has sponsored other activities over the years. From 2009 through 2015, the Institute for Italian Opera Studies, the Iowa branch of the Center for Italian-American Opera Studies (CIAO) at the University of Chicago, was a constituent unit within the Opera Studies Forum. Beginning in 2009, the OSF began its (ongoing) Metropolitan Opera in Iowa Lecture Series, coordinated with the Met Live in HD theater transmissions; the series received a grant from Humanities Iowa in 2010-2011, the Iowa branch of the National Endowment for the Humanities.