Castrato Time: Bodies, Voices, and the Queer Musical Temporality of Opera Seria

Thu, Mar 14, 2024
4:30 pm EDT - 6:00 pm EDT

This conversation between GRAMMY-winning countertenor Anthony Roth Constanzo and opera scholar Jessica Gabriel Peritz revolves around the problems—and the possibilities—generated by the genre known as opera seria (eighteenth-century Italian serious opera). From its anachronistic rewrites of ancient history to its curiously circular dramaturgy to its celebration of gender-fluid castrato voices, opera seria sits uncomfortably within both the modern performing canon and work-centric narratives of music history. By talking through these aesthetic and historiographical challenges and delving into the rich culture of operatic performance then and now, Constanzo and Peritz explore how opera seria can create new spaces in the present for engaging imaginatively with music’s pasts.


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Presenter bios

Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo began performing professionally at the age of 11 and has since appeared in opera, concert, recital, film, and on Broadway. He was recently awarded a GRAMMY, an Honorary Doctorate from Manhattan School of Music, a visiting fellowship from Oxford University, and the History Makers Award from the New York Historical Society. He is a distinguished visiting scholar at Harvard, a recipient of the 2020 Beverly Sills Award from the Metropolitan Opera, a winner of the 2020 Opera News Award, and Musical America’s 2019 Vocalist of the Year. Costanzo has appeared with many of the world’s leading opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, English National Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Los Angeles Opera, and many more. He graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton University, where he has returned to teach, and received his Masters of Music from the Manhattan School of Music, where he now serves on the board of Trustees.

Jessica Gabriel Peritz is Assistant Professor in the Department of Music and Affiliated Faculty in Italian Studies and Early Modern Studies at Yale University. A cultural historian of the long eighteenth century, she studies the relationships between voices, bodies, and politics in Italian opera. Her first book, The Lyric Myth of Voice: Civilizing Song in Enlightenment Italy (California, 2022), was awarded the Scaglione Prize in Italian Literary Studies by the Modern Language Association. Her articles are published in the Cambridge Opera Journal, the Journal of Musicology, and the Journal of the American Musicological Society, and forthcoming in the Journal of the Royal Musical Association. Her work has won numerous prizes and fellowships from, among others, the American Musicological Society, the Mellon Foundation, and the American Academy in Rome. Her current book project, entitled Histories Out of Time: Opera Seria and the Limits of Historicism, interrogates the assumptions of modern historiography by exploring alternative configurations of temporal experience through the performance culture of opera seria.