Jun 2, 2021
Decolonizing Music
Play • 51 min

What does opera look like today? What stories are being told with opera, and who is telling them? How is opera, and classical music generally, responding to social justice movements like Black Lives Matter? 

Our first episode of series two features our conversation with Dr. Nina Penner, who is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Music and specializes in opera, musical theatre, and film music. This past year, Dr. Penner has been teaching the "Music in Global Cultures" and "Music in Western Cultures" courses and she will share how the teaching of music history in North America is changing. She will also demystify the world of opera and share with us how modern opera is responding to social justice movements.

Dr. Penner is the author of the recently published book Storytelling in Opera and Musical Theater (Indiana University Press). The book is an exploration of how sung forms of drama tell stories, how music can orient spectators to characters' points of view, and how performers' choices affect not only who is telling the story but what story is being told. 

Transcript available online at


Storytelling in Opera and Musical Theater (Indiana University Press)

Dr. Nina Penner faculty bio

Brock University Department of Music

"Redesigned course explores global music and identities" (Brock News 31 July 2020)

"'Opera can make us see, feel and hear the world differently': the UK's opera chiefs tell us why their art form matters" (Guardian 9 May 2014)

Christopher Jenkins “Is Classical Music Racist: An Aesthetic Approach” 

The Industry’s Sweet Land (2020)

Nashville Opera, One Vote Won (2020)

Against the Grain Theatre, Messiah/Complex

Against the Grain Theatre, La bohème

Ian Cusson, new aria for Louis Riel

Ian Cusson, Fantasma (forthcoming)

Ian Cusson (and others), Namwayut, spearheaded by Marion Newman (Kwagiulth/Stó:lō) 

Tapestry Opera

Key Change a podcast from the Canadian Opera Company


Thank you to listening to Foreword. 

Find our footnotes, links to more information, transcripts, and past episodes on our website

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Foreword is hosted and produced by Alison Innes for the Faculty of Humanities at Brock University. 

Our sound design and editing is by Nicole Arnt. Theme music is by Khalid Imam

Special thanks to Brock University’s MakerSpace and Brock University Marketing and Communications for studio and web support. 

This podcast is financially supported by the Faculty of Humanities at Brock University. 

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