Pretending an opera together
Chafin, Theresa Beverly
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Fred Rogers is an icon in 20th-century American life: his daily television program for preschoolers, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, was on the air for over 40 years. The Neighborhood was heavily scored with live jazz and hundreds of original songs sung by Rogers and others characters. Still, few realize that Rogers wrote all the songs himself, or that he held a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Composition, or that he composed 14 original Television Operas, and produced them on the Neighborhood, from 1968 to 1989. This dissertation first demonstrates the extraordinary importance that Rogers placed on music in his own life, his television program, and the lives of his viewers. Then, through three case studies [the Babysitter Opera (1968), Spoon Mountain (1982), and Josephine the Short-Neck Giraffe (1989)], it assess the unique musical design, presentation, and idea content of Rogers’ operatic productions. It connects these works with the broader issues of mid-20th-century Television Opera, Rogers’ experience with collaborative operatic production, and performance traditions throughout opera history. It will consider the operas in light of Rogers’ presumed goals of encouraging creativity and making opera accessible to all, and demonstrate that they are a precise reflection of the rest of the Neighborhood.
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