Opera for Everyone

The Industry's Experiments with American Opera in the Digital Age

Subjects: Music, Music Composition, Musicology, Theater and Performance, Cultural Studies
Open Access : 9780472904303, 308 pages, 8 illustrations, 6 tables, 6 x 9, April 2024
Paperback : 9780472056644, 308 pages, 8 illustrations, 6 tables, 6 x 9, April 2024
Hardcover : 9780472076642, 308 pages, 8 illustrations, 6 tables, 6 x 9, April 2024
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How one opera company represents the economic precarity and aesthetic possibilities of operatic performance in the twenty-first century U.S.

Table of contents

From Recession to Pandemic: Operatic Contexts
Yuval Sharon and The Industry
Methods: Precarity, Perspectives, and Critique
Plan of Book
Chapter 1: Opera as Mobile Music: Invisible Cities                                    
Experiencing Mediated Performance: Logistics
Interpretive Ambiguity, Audience Agency
Performance History and Digital Adaptation
Writing for Headphones: Making Sound Design Visible
New Rules of Spectatorship: Listening to Invisible Cities
Audile Techniques and Consumerism
Wagner’s Invisible Theater, Brecht’s headphones?
Convention or Experimentation?
Conclusions: Contradictory Spectatorships and the Operatic Genre
Chapter 2: Operatic Economics: Liveness and Labor in Hopscotch
Operatic Tradition on Wheels: The Production
Fractured Logistics
Hybrid Spectatorships
The Labor of the Live
Mediated Entertainment and Operatic Distance
Look at Me! Isolation in Digital Performance
Curation and Commodification
Mediating Intimacy and Isolation
Performers, Participants, and Power
Participating in Precarity
Commodities and Conclusions
Chapter 3: Experiments with Institutionality: Galileo, War of the Worlds, and ATLAS 
Precarities and Production: Galileo and War of the Worlds
Traditional Structures and Closed Systems
Closed Institutional Precedents and Contemporary Manifestations
New Approaches to Political Economy: Open Models of Production
Open Institutional Lineages: Economic and Experimental Tensions
War of the Institutional Frameworks?
Chapter 4: “What you remember doesn’t matter”: Toward an Anti-Colonial Opera
Colonizer Opera
New Models of Collaboration
Experimenting with Form: From Workshop to Film
Representing Individuals, Rejecting Tokenism, Re-envisioning Opera
Moving Beyond Colonial Collaboration: Rehearsals
Moving Beyond Colonial Collaboration: Performer Composition
“If you’re going to change opera, you have to change it”: Lingering Colonial Hierarchies
Conclusion: Colonial Hauntings, Anti-Colonial Ambiguities
Closing the Curtain on Sweet Land: March-November 2020
The Future of Opera for Everyone and The Industry’s Artistic Director Collective
Everyone’s Opera


Opera for Everyone: The Industry’s Experiments with American Opera in the Digital Age draws on seven years of multi-sited ethnography to examine the acclaimed experimental productions of Los Angeles-based opera company The Industry. Steigerwald Ille understands The Industry’s productions as part of an emerging wave of U.S. operas that integrate new media and interactive performance through means such as site-specificity and simulcast video, and then traces the company’s path from Crescent City (2012), the company’s first production, to Sweet Land (2020), the company’s final production before switching to a new production model. Steigerwald Ille argues that by moving opera outside of the opera house, The Industry’s productions expose the economic and aesthetic structures key to the circulation of operatic performance at the same time that they deploy opera as a tool for digital listening, community engagement, popular entertainment, and commentary on systemic racism and settler colonialism. Through ethnographic work with The Industry’s creators and performers, and close examination of the company’s first decade of work, this book reveals how The Industry paradoxically provides both a roadmap and boundary line for experimental and traditional companies trying to find new ways to approach operatic performance in the twenty-first century United States.

Megan Steigerwald Ille is Assistant Professor of Musicology at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

Opera for Everyone is a substantive, enlightening, and important work of scholarship that lays the groundwork for further research in the lively field of opera studies. In her examination of The Industry, Steigerwald Ille draws on a multiplicity of voices—a strategy that complements the multivalent complexity of opera—and her sincere, thoughtful engagement with the ethics of contemporary opera production offers an excellent model for the study of performing arts in the twenty-first century.”
—Ryan Ebright, Bowling Green State University

- Ryan Ebright

“Compared to how abundantly pieces of contemporary musical theatre and opera are present on all kinds of scenes, the literature about this field is still meager. Opera For Everyone is extremely welcome as it illuminates the world and poetics of contemporary opera and it turns this interest into a dynamic book.”
—Jelena Novak, CESEM (Center for Study of the Sociology and Aesthetics of Music), FCSH, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa

- Jelena Novak