Operatic GeographiesThe Place of Opera and the Opera House

Operatic GeographiesThe Place of Opera and the Opera House

Suzanne Aspden

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780226595962

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Opera and its urban environment have developed side-by-side throughout the genre’s 400-year history. This volume of essays applies the lens of cultural geography to contend that the notion and performance of place are as important to opera's instantiations and developmental history as this most prestigious of art forms has been to the development of civic and national identity wherever opera is established. In its sixteen chapters, the volume sets about exploring that evolving relationship throughout opera's history as a genre, from the peripatetic and contingent nature of late seventeenth-century opera and its venues, to the establishment of opera houses as defining civic spaces in their own right in the eighteenth century, to the opera house (and opera-going) as cultural commodity and source of regional, national and international territorial definition in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to the challenges and disillusionments attending on that success and diffusion of the operatic (and opera-house) ideal in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In charting opera's developing relationship with its environment in chronological terms, the volume also bears witness to the genre's geographical spread: while the first half of the book focuses on opera in European cities and towns (The Hague, London, Turin, Venice), opera's global dissemination is attested by chapters considering the dynamics of touring or colonialist opera in New Orleans, Calcutta, Melbourne, Sydney, and Shanghai. Later chapters show that opera's negotiation becomes increasingly self-conscious, whether in urban Vienna, the French or English countryside, urban Paris, New York, Texas, or Buenos Aires.