Student Spotlight: Molly Geraghty


In writing my grant proposal for the Senior Fall Break Travel and Research Grant, I had prepared an agenda to look at specific resources in the the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris (BHVP) so I could get right to work on my first day in Paris.

However, Paris had different plans. Upon arriving at the BHVP, I found that it would be closed throughout the week for construction and repair, though this notice was not listed on any websites relating to the BHVP, including those of the French government and the national library system.

Instead of seeing this as a defeat, I chose to view it as an opportunity to explore other resources. Given my research interest in the popular reception of opera in revolutionary France, particularly at the Opera Garnier, I found my way into the library/museum of the national opera of France, the Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opéra. I also found resources to consult at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF), which led me down roads of discovery that I never would have come across if the BHVP hadn’t been closed.


As an added bonus, I got to work inside the Opera Garnier itself, the illustrious edifice that served as a setting for the events in the Phantom of the Opera, the story that inspired my original research!

As a result of this small roadblock, I was able to discover one of the most exciting truths about research — it is always changing. Researchers must constantly adapt to keep up with it as they find new resources and discover new ideas.

The research I did in Paris over fall break 2014 was a continuation of the trail of discoveries I began a year earlier during fall break of 2013, through another grant from the Nanovic Institute. Previously, I had studied two specific incidences of audience interaction at the Opera: the modern film adaptation of the fictional story of the Phantom of the Opera and the failed premiere of Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhaeuser at the National Opera of Paris in 1861. I had learned during my last visit to the Paris libraries that these incidences of audience interaction at the Paris Opera were not accidental coincidences but rather two instances of a greater historical trend. It seemed that the opera was used as a stage by far more than just the performers.


This time around, I thought it would be interesting to expand my search and explore this tradition of audience interaction during revolutionary times, when the atmosphere of rebellion and independence would only support and encourage uprisings at the opera. As it turned out, history was just as entertaining as fiction.

My time in Paris showed me the dynamic nature of research. I also learned a great deal more about the topic of audience interaction, which I am currently developing into a thesis with the help of my research mentor, Professor Julia Douthwaite, and found fascinating stories that serve both as support for my thesis and as entertainment to help the long hours spent at the library pass by quickly.

People have a remarkable ability to adapt in order to survive tough circumstances, and my time in Paris over fall break exploring the active role of the audience in the Paris Opera through times of struggle and oppression allowed me to both learn about that and experience it firsthand!

Molly Geraghty (’15)
Major in Science Pre-Professional Studies and French
Senior Fall Break 2014 Travel and Research Grant

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