Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Fine Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Diana Hallman


At the turn of the twenty-first century, many scholars, musicians, and critics have turned their attention towards an unexpected rebirth of opera experimentation. A surprising number of experimental opera companies have emerged with fresh creativity and attempts to connect younger generations of performers and audience members. Productions of participatory opera, a type of experimental opera developing since the 1950s, have become increasingly prevalent over the last two decades. These productions distinguish themselves by upsetting traditionally hierarchical roles of author, performer, and spectator by inviting spectators to join in authorship and/or performance. Through the examination of specific participatory elements, this dissertation offers a new taxonomy of “participatory opera” as a special sub-genre and explores ways it challenges and subverts traditional roles of “audience,” “performer,” and/or “author” (including composers, librettists, directors, and/or producers) while situating participatory opera within its broader context of participatory art since the 1950s. Case studies of contemporary opera productions illuminate how participatory operas of the latter half of the twentieth century and early twenty-first centuries go beyond traditional opera to incorporate audiences as integral players and creators of opera.

The aim of this dissertation is threefold: (1) to illuminate how some new operas and new opera productions go beyond traditional opera by using specific participatory elements; (2) to articulate how these elements reflect social structures, behaviors, and modes of expression; and (3) to theorize why this experimentation is resonant with some postmodern audiences.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This study was supported by Rey M. Longyear Assistantship Award (2015) and several Rey M. Longyear Research and Travel Grants (2017-2019) from the University of Kentucky School of Music.

Available for download on Wednesday, January 02, 2030