Monday 4 December 2017

5.30 pm for 7.00 pm start at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts

A Box at the Theatre des Italiens, Eva Gonzalès, oil painting, 1874, France. © Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

Take a break from preparing for Christmas and the holiday season with our Bite Size Brum lecture on opera.












In Mozart's day, who would have known who he was and how?  Why did the 'prima donna' get her fiery reputation?  Which have been better for opera: dictatorships or democracies?  Has opera ever been truly self-financing?  When did opera audiences begin to turn up on time and remain quiet during performances?  And how did a supposedly 'elitist' art form take root in such egalitarian societies as Australia and the USA?  These are some of the questions addressed in Daniel Snowman's richly illustrated lecture about the history of an art form that incorporates all the others. From the birth of opera in late Renaissance Italy we move to Louis XIV's Versailles, Handel's London, Mozart's Vienna, Verdi's Italy, Wagner's Germany, Gilded Age America and the world-wide spread of opera in C20.  The lecture concentrates on the 'demand' rather than the 'supply' and considers (for example) patronage of the arts, the changing nature of the operatic professions, opera and politics, theatrical architecture and stage design, and the impace of new technologies from gaslight to digital downloads.

By the C21, opera had become truly global in its appeal.  Yet, with the core repertoire seeming to slip into an ever-receding past and the world plunged into economic recession, the question must be addressed: 'does opera have a future?'

Daniel Snowman is a social and cultural historian. He was born in London, educated at Cambridge and Cornell, and at 24 was a Lecturer at the University of Sussex. For many years, he worked at the BBC where he was responsible for a wide variety of radio series on cultural and historical topics. Since 2004, Daniel has held a Senior Research Fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research (University of London) for whom he has given lectures, organised and chaired both academic and public Seminars and recorded a succession of interviews with leading fellow historians.

Fascinated by Opera?  


Opera: Passion, Power and Politics is a landmark exhibition by the V&A and the Royal Opera House exploring the vivid story of opera from its origin in late Renaissance Italy to the present day.  Daniel has been involved throughout the planning process, has contributed to the catalogue and is presenting an accompanying lecture course.

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