Why (What, How, If) opera studies?
interlocutor: Your title alone portrays you on the defensive. Why all those questions? If it's a new field you're seeking to institute, your hesitancy is not likely to win converts.
author: Don't get me wrong. I don't want to persuade anybody to institute still another field, of which the modern university boasts more than it needs. I just want to deal with the practical institutional problems we face studying a phenomenon such as opera, which, as it happens, straddles a number of distinct fields.
interlocutor: But the moment I hear the term studies attached to an area, I sense a political agenda guiding you: think of those other fields that have imposed themselves on universities in recent years: feminist studies, Afro-American studies, Chicano studies, gay and lesbian studies, disability studies, animality studies and any number of others that, in the future, will be seeking a place in the academic sun.
author: So everything calling itself studies has to be politically motivated? What about film studies? Surely this would be the appropriate analogy to opera studies. Like film studies, opera studies is dedicated to the understanding of a particular genre or, more properly, a medium. Except, of course, that opera encompasses four times as many years of history and impinges on a larger number of other disciplines: musicology, obviously, but also theater history, art history, and every one of the literature fields in those countries where opera has thrived.