Deborah Burton

Deborah Burton

Associate Professor, Music

Deborah Burton is currently Associate Professor of Music at Boston University. Her research concerns opera analysis, counterpoint, and the history of music theory, emphasizing Italian sources.  She has taught at Harvard University; University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Florida International University, Fordham, University of Michigan and Adrian College. In Spring 2016, she was a Visiting Professor at the University of Rome, Tor Vergata, and gave a two-day seminar on opera analysis sponsored by the Società Italiana di Musicologia (SIdM) and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, entitled,“Si può, si deve analizzare l’opera?”

Professor Burton was president of the New England Conference for Music Theory from 2006-2008. Her monograph, entitled Recondite Harmony: Essays on Puccini’s Operas, was published by Pendragon Press in Autumn 2012. Dr. Burton collaborated with Gregory Harwood to write a prize-winning annotated translation of Francesco Galeazzi’s 1796 Elementi Teorico-Practici, volume II, entitled The Theoretical-Practical Elements of Music, Parts III and IV as volume 5 of the Studies in the History of Music Theory and Literature of the University of Illinois Press (2012).  She wrote an introduction to Brepol’s facsimile edition of Giorgio Antoniotto. L’arte armonica (1760), and presented on that author’s work at the national meeting of the Society of Music Theory in Fall 2017.

In October 2013, Dr. Burton organized a series of events celebrating the 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth, collectively entitled Wagner in Context. These included lectures by Gottfried Wagner, Donald Palumbo and William Berger of the Met Opera, the filmmaker/documentarian Hilan Warshaw, and an interdisciplinary round-table with BU faculty members. The Facebook page for the festival is In December 2010, in honor of the centenary of Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West, she created a website, moderated a special panel discussion on the opera at the Italian Cultural Institute of New York, and organized a symposium and exhibition in conjunction with Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Center, videos of which can be seen at: In Spring 2008, she organized and presented at the interdisciplinary conference Opera and Society at Boston University.  She has been a guest lecturer at the University of Rome, at the Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artists Program, and at the Hartt School of Music. Dr. Burton presented a paper on operatic Formenlehre at the national meeting of the Society for Music Theory in November 2015. She gave two research presentations at the 2008 AMS-SMT national meeting in Nashville, and presented at the 2006 Fourth International Schenker Symposium, and the 2005 meeting of the New England Conference of Music Theorists. Dr. Burton was an originator of and participant in the interdisciplinary conference “Tosca 2000” in Rome, honoring the centennial of Puccini’s opera and the bicentennial of the events that inspired it. Co-editor of Tosca’s Prism: Three Moments of Western Cultural History (Northeastern University Press, 2004), which won an AMS subvention prize, she has published articles and reviews in journals including Music Theory Spectrum Music Theory and Analysis, Rivista di Analisi e Teoria Musicale, Studi Musicali, Nuova Rivista Musicale Italiana, and Opera Quarterly.

  • Chapter “Le scarpe di Figaro:  substitution, revolution, compassion.” In Tra ragione e pazzia: saggi di esegesi, storiografia e drammaturgia musicale in onore di Fabrizio Della Seta, eds. Federica Rovelli, Claudio Vellutini, Cecilia Panti, Edizione ETS, 2021.
  • Chapter: “Opera Analysis.” In Handbuch Musikanalyse.  Method und Pluralität.  Edited by Ariane Jessulat, Oliver Schwab-Felisch, Jan Philipp Sprick and Christian Thorau.  (Bärenreiter-Verlag and Metzler-Verlag: forthcoming).
  • Chapter: “Stormy Weather: Issues of Form, Deformation and Continuity in Opera Analysis.” In Singing in Signs. Edited by Matthew Shaftel and Gregory Decker, (Oxford University Press, 2020). Winner of the Society for Music Theory’s Special Citation of Merit 2020.
  • Introduction to Giorgio Antoniotto. L’arte armonica (1760), a facsimile edition in the Series ‘Musical Treatises’ (Turnhout: Brepols, April 2017).
  • Chapter: “Men Who Love Too Much:  Operatic Heroes and the Metric and Tonal Disturbances that Follow them.” In Essays from the Fourth International Schenker Symposium  – Volume 2. Edited by L. Poundie Burstein, Lynne Rogers, Karen M. Bottge. Studien und Materialien zur Musikwissenschaft. New York: Olms, 2013.
  • Monograph: Recondite Harmony: Essays on Puccini’s Operas. An analytically based
  • exploration of Puccini’s compositional techniques with short essays on each opera. New York:  Pendragon Press, 2012.
  • Book co-authored with Gregory Harwood. The Theoretical-Practical Elements of Music, Parts III and IV, Studies in the History of Music Theory and Literature, vol. 5. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012.
  • Book co-authored with Susan Vandiver Nicassio and Agostino Ziino, eds. Tosca’s Prism: Three Moments of Western Cultural History. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 2004. [Co-editor and contributor.]
  • Article:  “The Puccini Code.” Rivista di Analisi e Teoria Musicale XIX (2013/2): 7-32.
  • Article:  “Ariadne’s Threads:  Puccini and Cinema.” Studi Musicali (2012/1): 219-246.
  • Article:  “Guida e Conseguente:  Padre Martini and Galeazzi on Fugue.” Rivista di Analisi e Teoria Musicale XVII/1-2 (2011): 121-147.
  • Article:  “Padre Martini’s Preface to his Esemplare, Part II:  an original, annotated translation” Theoria, 11 (2004): 35-108.
  • Article:  “Orfeo, Osmin and Otello: Towards a Theory of Opera Analysis.” Studi Musicali, (2004/2): 359-385.
  • Article:  “A Journey of Discovery:  Puccini’s ‘motivo di prima intenzione’ and its applications in Manon Lescaut, La Fanciulla del West and Suor Angelica.” Studi Musicali, (2001/2):  473-499.
  • Article:  “Possibili fonti storiche per la Tosca.” Nuova Rivista Musicale Italiana, 4/2 (April/June 2000): 199-220.
  • Chapter: “Tristano, Tosca  e Torchi.” In Studi Musicali Toscani:  Giacomo Puccini:  L’uomo, il musicista, il panorama europeo, edited by Gabriella Biagi Ravenni and Carolyn Gianturco, 127-145. Lucca:  Libreria Musicale Italiana, 1997.
  • Article: The Creation of Tosca: towards a clearer view.” Opera Quarterly 12/3 (Spring, 1996):  27-34.
  • Article: “Michele Puccini’s Counterpoint Treatise.” Quaderni pucciniani (1996): 173-181.
  • American Academy in Rome, Visiting Scholar,  2004, 2009, 2014, 2017
  • Junior Fellowship, Humanities Foundation, Boston University, one-term sabbatical for Fall 2009 for work on the manuscript Recondite Harmony: the Music of Puccini
  • Placard honoring doctoral work on Puccini’s Tosca installed at the Casa Puccini, Vacallo, Switzerland. 2007-present
  • Harvard University, Visiting Scholar research appointment, 2003-2004