Katherine SyerAssistant Professor of Musicology
B.A. (Economics), B.A.(Music) and M.A.(Music), McMaster University; Ph.D. (Musicology), University of Victoria.
Katherine Syer’s main research areas include the history of opera production through to the present, and the music and aesthetics of the long nineteenth century, especially Wagner. Attention to creative process, or genetic criticism, permeates much of her work. Syer is the recipient of a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung (2007-8, 2009-10), during which she was affiliated with the Bayerische Akademie der schönen Künste in Munich. Syer has often led seminars in conjunction with the Wagner Festival at Bayreuth and regularly lectures on Wagner production history on both sides of the Atlantic. Her research in the area of production history overlaps with dramaturgical work for staged productions. She served as artistic advisor for Moisés Kaufman’s play 33 Variations, which reached Broadway in 2009.
Syer is co-editor, together with William Kinderman, of A Companion to Richard Wagner’s Parsifal (Camden House Press, 2005). Her contributions to the volume include a generous chapter on the production history of Wagner’s last opera from 1882 through to the 21st century. In her most recent article Syer examines significant traces of Wagner's early development as a dramatist hroughout his mature oeuvre: “‘It left me no peace’: From Carlo Gozzi's La donna serpente to Wagner's Parsifal,”Musical Quarterly 94/3 (2011). Syer’s essay “Wagner as Regisseur” appeared in the volume Wagner and his World, edited by Tom Grey (Princeton University Press, 2009). Book chapters in press include “Tracing Wotan’s incendiary past: the evolution of storms and fire in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen” in a volume edited by Sabine Lichtenstein (Rodopi). Her chapter “Production Aesthetics, Materials, and Sources” considers aspects of opera production across four centuries; it will appear in the Oxford Handbook of Opera edited by Helen Greenwald. Other articles include a study of Beethoven’s “Eroica” sketchbook, Landsberg 6, in Bonner Beethoven-Studien 5 (2006). Her reviews have been published in The Journal of Musicological Research, Notes, and Music and Letters.
Syer’s two larger book projects in progress include Altered States, a study of the nature and significance of altered states of consciousness in Wagner’s dramas from Die Feen through the Ring, as well as a monograph focused on major trends in the production history of the Ring, performances of which have increased steadily during the last generation.