Music 105
Storytelling on Stage: Introduction to Musical Theater and Opera

In the now-famous words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”

Ranging from modern hits like Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Wicked, and Chicago, to works of early opera, Music 105 explores questions of genre, identity, and representation on opera and musical theater stages in the past and the present. How are stories told on stage? Who tells them, to whom, and what do they mean? Did you know Shakespeare wrote some of his most famous works while in quarantine? How are today’s artists and performers adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic? How have composers in the past pushed boundaries, musically, dramatically, and culturally? We will explore these and many other questions.

Topics include the histories and formations of musical theater and operatic genres and their relationships to culture and society. Through a study of video excerpts of staged and filmed productions and other materials, we will examine how composers have confronted controversial topics of their time: issues of the 19th-century’s working class, capital punishment, sexual identity, ethnicity, racially-motivated violence, madness, and other topics. And we’ll look at how entertainment and comedy works, focusing on song, dance, staging, and spectacle, and how they come together to keep us laughing.

This is an introductory course for the general student; no reading knowledge of music is required. In Fall 2020 the course will be taught online with some face-to-face meetings for students who enroll in WC sections. Contact the instructor, Prof. Margaret Butler, at mrbutler@wisc.edu with any questions.