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Opera is traditionally regarded as an elitist art form, far removed from reality with its fantastical plots and melodramatic divas. This lush new book shows that beneath all the opulent sets and sumptuous costumes, opera—like all the arts—draws on essential human emotions, creating an experience that can be endlessly reinvented to reflect changes in society. Through the lens of seven opera premieres in seven cities across the past 400 years, the authors look at snapshots in time where politics, art, and social history intersected, providing an immersive account of the society from which these pieces and performances evolved. Noted opera designers, performers, conductors, singers, and directors come together with musicologists and historians to discuss the following premieres:
• Venice, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea (1642)
• London, Handel’s Rinaldo (1711)
• Vienna, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (1786)
• Milan, Verdi’s Nabucco (1842)
• Paris, Wagner’s Tannhäuser (1861)
• Dresden, Strauss’ Salome (1905)
• St Petersburg, Shostakovitch’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (1934)
This book will fascinate seasoned opera goers and history buffs alike.
About the Author
Kate Bailey is senior curator of design and scenography in the Theatre and Performance department of Victoria and Albert Museum.
Kasper Holten is director of opera, Royal Opera House, London.