Black O, ampersand, D sits between simplistic black stage curtains.
Opera and Disability logo – a black O and D sit between simple black stage curtains.

Opera and Disability is a research blog dedicated to exploring the representation of disability in opera on stages and screens, past and present. It brings research in musicology, performance studies, and disability studies to a general audience, featuring articles on historical and contemporary opera productions, important issues in the industry, and more. 

Opera and Disability was founded in 2017 by musicologist Dr. Charlotte Armstrong, who is now retired from academia. Her scholarship continues to be made available in archival form through hosting sponsored by Opera Mariposa, North America’s first fully disability-led and run opera company.

Some Areas of Exploration

Narrative and Characterisation

  • How are disabled characters represented in opera narratives?
  • How do operas incorporate and engage with disability stereotypes (such as those found in literature, film, and television)?
  • How do narratives about disability reflect the cultures in which they were created?


  • How is disability depicted onstage (and onscreen) in opera productions?
  • How can production aspects like dramaturgy, casting, costume and set design affect the depiction of disability?


  • How do opera industry practices affect disability representation on our stages and screens?
  • How can we make the opera sector more accessible and inclusive?

Notes on Wording

“Disability” is a multifaceted and highly complex concept, and this complexity is amplified when we look at disability representation throughout time and across cultures. Opera and Disability therefore defines disability broadly, and the site sometimes covers related concepts in the operatic canon including illnesses, injuries, and visible differences.

Opera and Disability was founded on the belief that the most significant insights can arise from exploring and challenging (rather than ignoring) the views and language of the past. As such, some articles may occasionally use problematic terminology. The editors invite thoughtful commentary and critique on this, and any other, subject. If you would like to explore resources for more updated language around disability, we can recommend the National Center on Disability and Journalism’s Disability Language Style Guide or Lydia X. Z. Brown’s Glossary of Ableist Phrases as possible starting points.

The editors recognize that while talking about disability can sometimes be challenging, for those with lived experience, it can also be very personal. As such, the ways in which individuals self-identify with disability, and the words they choose to describe their own disability, are not up for debate.

About the Founder

Charlotte, a smiling white woman with brown hair and a white top, leans against a stone wall outdoors.
Charlotte, a smiling white woman with brown hair and a white top, leans against a stone wall outdoors.

Opera and Disability was founded by Dr. Charlotte Armstrong (she/her), a musicologist and performance studies scholar based in London. Having noticed the absence of discussions about opera and disability in both the opera industry and disability activism, she launched the Opera and Disability blog in 2017 as a way to bring the research she was doing to a wider audience. 

During the course of her academic career, Dr. Armstrong specialised in the politics and practice of disability representation in contemporary opera production, focussing on casting, set and costume design, and how opera companies engage with the wider dramaturgical implications of disability in their performances. She had additional research interests in early-twentieth-century ‘degenerate’ music, archiving and digital humanities. 

In 2023 following Dr. Armstrong’s retirement from academia, Opera and Disability’s hosting was assumed by Opera Mariposa to preserve access to her groundbreaking work and scholarship.

Support the Project

At present, Opera and Disability is not funded, and is maintained by a small, all-disabled team on a voluntary basis. If you would like to support the project, donations of any size are gratefully accepted. Funds raised will be used to help cover the hosting and maintenance of the site and make improvements to the site’s accessibility.