Italian in Performance: Opera as a Holistic Framework for Language Pedagogy

From musical references woven into urban landscapes to the use of arias in films, opera has forged a certain idea of Italianness, whether ironic, serious or stereotypical. Because of its powerful cultural reach and multimedial and collaborative dimensions, opera is a gateway to approaching specific aspects of the Italian language. My project investigates the potential of opera for performance-based pedagogy. I propose the study of one or more operas over one semester, in their historical, linguistic, gestural, and musical aspects; then, students will stage a performance of selected scenes. Though Italian opera is my case study, I will present a set of guidelines for a performance-based course that could be used by instructors across languages and cultures. I aim not only to develop a pedagogic strategy but also to raise awareness in order to think critically about different cultural soundscapes – a crucial dimension that is rarely addressed in the language classroom.
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