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Operatic GeographiesThe Place of Opera and the Opera House$
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Suzanne Aspden

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226595962

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226596150.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 28 September 2021

The Opera House as Urban Exhibition Space

The Opera House as Urban Exhibition Space

Chapter:
(p.213) Fifteen The Opera House as Urban Exhibition Space
Source:
Operatic Geographies
Author(s):

Klaus van den Berg

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226596150.003.0015

The early twentieth-century critical theorist, Walter Benjamin, developed a pioneering analysis of buildings as constellations of historical forces and contemporary perceptions unfolded in space. Although Benjamin did not address opera directly, his ideas help us understand how opera has reshaped its cultural identity over the past half century. New opera-house projects need to create a visual scenography in order to establish opera’s urban cultural significance. This chapter addresses the site dramaturgy of three paradigmatic buildings and opera-house locations: New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Paris’ Bastille Opera, and Dallas’ Winspear Opera. Focusing on the insertion of opera buildings into these cities’ block structures, I argue that the buildings have become scenographic models of cultural identity. Unable to find a location in the existing block system, the Met (completed in 1966) became an exemplary urban renewal project, replacing an entire neighborhood. In contrast, the Bastille opera emerged in 1989 as one element of Francois Mitterand’s Grands Travaux. Finally, the Dallas Opera (2009) is located in the Dallas Arts District, one of the densest accumulations of architectural projects in the world, in which the opera is constructed as part of both an art exhibition and a movie set that travellers or audience members traverse.

Keywords:   Walter Benjamin, New York, Metropolitan Opera, Paris, Bastille Opera, Dallas, Winspear Opera, Norman Foster

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