I write about music, history, and culture, both as a scholar and as a critic. I am Assistant Director of Studies and Lecturer on History and Literature at Harvard University.
My first book, High Culture on the Lower Frequencies: African Americans and Opera in the Early Twentieth Century, is under contract with Harvard University Press. It argues that early-twentieth-century African Americans redefined the genre of opera as a wellspring of antiracist activism, collective sociality, and aesthetic innovation. Exploring the work of performers, composers, critics, pedagogues, and students, I show how Black artists transformed opera into a rich vein of lived experience under Jim Crow, an aesthetic endeavor that powerfully expanded the parameters of Black cultural production by facilitating new modes of self-making and world-making.
I also write frequently for public audiences. For example, I’ve written for Boston Lyric Opera about feminist dystopias, for The New Yorker about the New Orleans company OperaCréole, and for National Sawdust Log about making music in the midst of political crisis. In 2016, I received the Rubin Prize for Music Criticism.
I received a Ph.D. in American Studies and African American Studies from Yale University in 2019. While at Yale, I also earned a master’s concentration in Public Humanities. My dissertation was awarded Yale’s Sylvia Ardyn Boone Prize and the Society for American Music’s Wiley Housewright Award; it was also the finalist for the Society of American Historians’ Allan Nevins Prize.
You can reach me at lcaplan at fas dot harvard dot edu or lucymcaplan at gmail dot com.