I am a freelance opera dramaturg focused on opera history and musicology with combined degrees from Northwestern University in Drama, Religious Studies, and Music. I provide background information for parties interested in learning more about a specific aria, opera, or musical genre.
I conduct my research by immersing myself into the background of an opera at several key historical moments and by focusing on various points of view. I not only look at the culture surrounding the composition of a piece, but also at the source story as well. For this aspect, my Religious Studies background is vital to my research. Many of the works that I study have strong roots in religious mythologies, and even among those that do not use a religious work as the source, the skills in historical research that I developed through this focus are still applicable.
Once I have an understanding of the root story, I continue my research by looking into the life and culture surrounding the composition of a work. This covers a broad range of material, including the biographies of the composer, librettist, and producers; the cultural expectations of the original audience; musical and performance abilities in the early productions; and the role of censorship at the time and place of composition. For this information, I turn to scores and books on music history and musicology, and to texts on religion and major cultural influences dealing with gender roles, social structure, cultural clashes, and other relevant material. I find that this broad approach allows me to come as close as possible to understanding the emotional response that an original audience member might have felt when viewing or listening to a composition.
I then compare my knowledge of the source story to that of the composition period. This allows me to gain insight into how the story has changed by uncovering which elements of a composition were taken from a familiar story, and which plot points were removed or added. The contrast of the works can point to the aspects that were the most important to a composer, librettist, or audience, and suggest the aspects of a piece that hold the greatest significance.
I can provide information on a select topic in the form of essay, student guide booklet, or notes on suggested reference materials. I am also available to work with students to teach them how to conduct their own research.
If you are interested please contact me at PatriciaLawlis@gmail.com