Music Theatre

Music Theatre

The aim of the Music Theatre working group is to examine a broad range of methodological and theoretical perspectives on all kinds of music theatre, from opera and popular forms (such as Broadway and British musicals) to contemporary experiments with new forms of music theatre.

The background for the working group lies in our perception of the need to find new ways to deal with a subject which is part of at least two disciplines – theatre studies and musicology – but which is not, in fact, at home in either field. In our experience, musicologists tend to ignore the performance aspects and theatre scholars often forget about the music, so there is no doubt that we need to discuss music theatre from an interdisciplinary perspective. What our approaches all have in common is that they start from a notion of music theatre as theatre, performance and experience, always dealing with the interplay between all of the senses. Certainly not exhaustive, some areas of concern that extend to theatre and performance, broadly understood, include:

  • Acoustemologies of theatre / performance
  • Music in / as theatre and performance
  • Performativities of song and dance
  • Materialities of the voice
  • Phenomenology of sound / music in performance
  • Hearing cultures in performance: Cultural sounds and sounds in culture
  • Politics and aesthetics of Opera
  • Politics and aesthetics of Musicals
  • Composed Theatre
  • The Broadway and British Musical
  • Experimental music theatre
  • Hermeneutics of auditory reception in performance
  • Aurality and performance; Listening and Voice
  • Philosophies of sound / music in performance
  • Politics of silence
  • Noise / Music
  • Intersections of music, sound and the performing body
  • The Actor-Singer-Dancer

We welcome any scholar who works in the areas of sound / music and performance and would love for you to join us.
If you would like to know more about the Working Group, or if you have changed your e-mail-address, please contact the convenors (see below). 

WORKPLAN 2019-2022
The Music Theatre Working Group will be convened by Marcus Tan (National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University Singapore) and Tereza Havelkova (Charles University, Prague). The Working Group has just published a special issue of Theatre Research International 46.2 "Sounding Corporealities", together with the Choreography and Corporeality Working Group. More information can be found here. The Working Group is also currently preparing a new edited book, Music Theatre and Politics: Hegemonies, Resistances, Utopias, currently under review by Oxford University Press and is expected to be published in 2023. It continues to advance scholarship in the areas of music theatre, musical theatre, opera, soundscapes in performance and sound in performance. 

WORKPLAN 2015-2018
The Working Group is a forum for the discussion of the field of music and/in theatre, broadly. This includes forms of music theatre, musical theatre, opera, soundscapes in performance and sound in performance. The Working Group would like to develop critical scholarship in these specific areas and supports projects that may arise from interests the develop such fields (publications, conferences, open panels, etc.). 


Galway 2021 (Virtual Conference)
The Working Group will be in meeting Galway (virtual) for the IFTR conference 2021.

Shanghai 2019
The Working Group met in Shanghai for the IFTR conference 2019. Attendance for Shanghai was smaller: there were only 6 papers presented but these engaged a wide variety of issues from the construction of memory in Cambodian music theatre to considerations of the 'urban' in U.S. civil war musicals and existential vaudeville.

Belgrade 2018
The Working Group met in Belgrade for the IFTR conference 2018. There were a total of 8 papers presented with these covering a range of issues of performance forms from musical theatre to opera and K-Pop. An election was held to elect new convenors for the term 2019-2022. 

Sao Paulo 2017
The Working Group did not manage to meet in Sao Paulo. 

Stockolm 2016
The Working Group met in Stockholm with twenty papers presented by WG members; there were many additional participants who sat in the sessions to contribute to the proceedings. There was significant focus on musical theatre, such as Hair and Hamilton, and opera with other papers examining the role of music in Shakespeare performance. A discussion on a possible Working Group publication was discussed at the Working Group meeting. In addition to the Working Group sessions, the Working Group also sponsored a panel, 'Sacre Variations: Adorno, Disney, Le Roy.'

Hyderabad 2015
The Working Group did not meet for IFTR 2015.

The group has published two edited collections with essays derived from discussions of the working group and comprised of chapters contributed by individual members.

Theatre Research International 46.2 "Sounding Corporealities" (2021)

This special issue emerges from the persistent questions that are asked in both music and dance studies in the context of performance practice and scholarship: what is the relationship between sound and the body, corporeality and sonicity? How does sound interrelate and interact with the body and movement beyond the recognised effects of rhythm and affect – the ways in which sound dictates bodies in motion and compels bodies to motion? How do audiences and performers experience this interaction, and how can scholars talk about it? What does this relationship mean to whom, where, when and why, and what common ground can we find between choreography and corporeality, and sonicity and musicality? "Sounding Corporeality" explores aspects of this intricate relationship as it is encountered and evidenced in theatre and performance. This issue is also an acknowledgement and examination of the intimate interactions, intersections and interventions of this sonic-corporeal relationship, of how corporeality sounds and of how sonicity moves. What "Sounding Corporeality" adds to the discourse are the ways embodied sound and choreographed sonification in theatre and performance bring into motion, and make visible, socio-political and cultural questions.

The Legacy of Opera: Music Theatre as Experience and Performance (Rodopi Press, 2013) 

The first collection considers the way in which ideological and cultural assumptions have impacted on our contemporary view of music theatre, focussing in particular on the way that opera’s development as a form and status as an art has inscribed a very particular set of assumptions and expectations about the musical stage that twentieth century developments have had to negotiate. In this respect, opera is seen as a defining cultural form and practice whose shadow looms large over the popular and modernising developments of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Gestures of Music Theatre: The Performativity of Song and Dance (Oxford University Press, 2013). 

There are two principal questions posed through this series of essays: how do song and dance function as physical and material gestures, as dimensions or perhaps sub-sets of music theatre works? How might identities be constituted for characters, performers and audiences within and through the song and dance of music theatre? The first consideration, through a series of philosophical discussions, engages with music theatre’s substance, function and form; the second, through analyses of those song and dance gestures in a range of music theatre contexts, engages with its reception, effect and affect.

Marcus Tan (; [2019-2022]
Tereza Havelkova ( [2019-2022]




18 August, 2014 | 0 comments

The aim of the Music Theatre working group is to discuss a broad range of methodological and theoretical perspectives on all kinds of music theatre, from opera and popular forms (such as Broadway musicals) to contemporary experiments with new forms of music theatre. Read more

Call for papers

Call for papers

07 July, 2014 | 0 comments

We're very excited to have received such a good response to the IFTR's call for papers. We have a packed schedule for the music theatre working group, and are really look forward to hearing your paper at this year's conference in Warwick (28th July to 1st August 2014). We are writing at this stage to begin preparing for the working group sessions, and also to remind you of some of the upcoming dates and deadlines for the conference. This email therefore asks you for a number of responses, so please read thoroughly and reply as appropriate. Read more

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