Events Calendar

Music Graduate Colloquium: Catherine Coppola

Friday, November 20, 2020
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
via Zoom
Graduate Colloquium Series

Presented by Graduate Studies in Music, the Don Wright Faculty of Music Graduate Colloquium series includes lectures by distinguished guests, Western faculty members, and senior graduate students on all fields of research and creative activity in music.

Catherine Coppola (City University of New York)
“Why We Need Mozart Now More Than Ever”

Admission is free, and all are welcome to join.

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For musicology to remain relevant in how society moves forward from the tipping point of 2020, we must welcome uncomfortable conversations around canonic works. Many of us have been quietly doing this work for some time now, but it has recently taken on greater urgency. In this talk I will share my approach to Mozart, built on a perhaps unexpected standpoint, that the wish to excuse, revise, or even ban his works stems from two fallacies: one of context—presuming that he was unaware of forward thinkers in his time; and one of change—that we have progressed far enough to be shocked by offensive aspects of eighteenth-century opera. Nuanced contradictions in Mozart’s time and ours steer us around heavy-handed productions that critique works like Don Giovanni as antifeminist, or, at the other extreme, distort the responses of the women toward complicity, even though, as I show, complicity is plainly at odds with the music and text. For Così fan tutte, I consider the gender-inclusive School for Lovers as the tip of an iceberg under which the context for titular equivalence renders it moot: all may behave ‘like that’, but all are not equally deceived, nor do all receive the same consequences. Rather than minimize antifeminist aspects of the work, I place it alongside Diderot’s notion of male jealousy as an economic construct with no female equivalent, and connect the outcomes to violence against women today. In what some see as the most problematic of all Mozart’s works, The Magic Flute, audiences groan as Sarastro’s Speaker says, “a woman does little, chats much” yet female Supreme Court justices are interrupted three times more frequently than are males. We feel awkward when Papageno is explicitly startled by the black skin of Monostatos, but he quickly acknowledges his own ignorance, a far cry from the horrors visited upon black bodies in response to the danger narrative today. Relegating racism and misogyny to an uncomfortable past ignores the ways in which they were resisted in the eighteenth century and are perpetuated now. Thus, context is key to the afterlives of these operas, not to reflexively critique Mozart; but perhaps, through his works, to support the work that lies ahead. 

Audrey Yardley-Jones - Graduate Program Assistant
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