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Kurt Weill Prize – 2019

The 2019 Kurt Weill Prize for an outstanding scholarly book on music theater since 1900 has been awarded to Opera in Postwar Venice: Cultural Politics and the Avant-Garde, by Harriett Boyd-Bennett, an Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Nottingham. Boyd-Bennett’s book, published by Cambridge University Press as part of the Cambridge Studies in Opera Series in 2018, was selected by the Kurt Weill Prize advisory panel from a field of six books as most deserving of distinction. The panel praised Boyd-Bennett’s book as “virtually a model of how one fluently and elegantly theorizes cultural practices,” and summarized its decision by stating, “This richly detailed volume sheds entirely new light on how opera in post-War Venice can be read as a metaphor for the wider problems of Italy’s cultural adjustment after the atrocities of the previous decade. Although she provides incisive musical analysis, Boyd-Bennett’s significant achievement is to show how exploring music theater in its wider context can provide greater insight than composer-focused discussions–and in doing so, she reveals a fascinating new look at a previously overlooked period in operatic history.”

The $2,000 article prize went to Emily Richmond Pollock, Associate Professor of Music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for her article “Opera by the Book: Defining Music Theater in the Third Reich,” published in The Journal of Musicology in 2018. The prize panelists singled out Pollock’s article from a pool of forty-five nominees for demonstrating “music scholarship at its most relevant and meaningful.”

The panel also awarded Special Recognition to a second article, “Confronting Opera in the 1960s: Birtwistle’s Punch and Judy,” by Heather Wiebe, Senior Lecturer of Music at King’s College London. Wiebe’s article, published in The Journal of the Royal Musical Association in 2017, looks at how Birtwistle’s opera represents both revolt and tradition and, according to the panel, provides an important model for how to understand twentieth-century opera in the context of changing cultural values and institutions.

Awarded biennially by the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, the Kurt Weill Prizes recognize distinguished scholarship in music theater since 1900, including opera and dance. Books and articles published in 2017-2018 were eligible for the 2019 prize; nominations were reviewed by a panel of music and theater experts. Nominations or self-nominations for the 2021 Prize are now open.

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