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Operatic Geographies

The Place of Opera and the Opera House

Operatic Geographies

The Place of Opera and the Opera House

Since its origin, opera has been identified with the performance and negotiation of power. Once theaters specifically for opera were established, that connection was expressed in the design and situation of the buildings themselves, as much as through the content of operatic works. Yet the importance of the opera house’s physical situation, and the ways in which opera and the opera house have shaped each other, have seldom been treated as topics worthy of examination.

Operatic Geographies invites us to reconsider the opera house’s spatial production. Looking at opera through the lens of cultural geography, this anthology rethinks the opera house’s landscape, not as a static backdrop, but as an expression of territoriality. The essays in this anthology consider moments across the history of the genre, and across a range of geographical contexts—from the urban to the suburban to the rural, and from the “Old” world to the “New.” One of the book’s most novel approaches is to consider interactions between opera and its environments—that is, both in the domain of the traditional opera house and in less visible, more peripheral spaces, from girls’ schools in late seventeenth-century England, to the temporary arrangements of touring operatic troupes in nineteenth-century Calcutta, to rural, open-air theaters in early twentieth-century France. The essays throughout Operatic Geographies powerfully illustrate how opera’s spatial production informs the historical development of its social, cultural, and political functions. 

320 pages | 39 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2018

Geography: Cultural and Historical Geography

Music: General Music


“This volume goes beyond the old and prevalent Marxian interpretation of the place of the opera house as an expression of centralized power, instead exploring the more nuanced possibility of a network of competing powers at play. Original and thought-provoking, these essays offer a multitude of new and fresh perspectives on the ‘situatedness’ of opera.”

Pierpaolo Polzonetti, author of Italian Opera in the Age of the American Revolution

"Operatic Geographies is a rich, diverse and thought-provoking collection of essays from which geographers will learn a great deal. Above all, perhaps, the essays produced by Aspden's contributors raise a question as to why historical geographers concerned with spaces of knowledge have tended to restrict their interest over the past few decades to spaces of scientific knowledge, production and reception. If the focus has been on labs and museums, on the ship and the scientific instrument, perhaps there are also narratives that deserve to be written about the theatre and the concert hall, about the travelling player and the musical instrument. These essays about the spaces of opera show us that many spaces of knowledge and culture would benefit from a more geographically-sensitive analysis."

Journal of Historical Geography

"Operatic Geographies takes up a great many important questions. . . . The book is beautifully produced and edited with care."

Revue de Musicologie (Translated from French)

"The contributions to this volume all breathe new life into our sense of what opera means."

Cambridge Opera Journal

"Operatic Geographies brings to the fore questions of space, performance aesthetics, and expressions of power at the local, national, and international levels... The book itself is an ambitious enactment of not only the drama of opera or the city, but also that of historical writing."

Opera Quarterly

Table of Contents

1          Introduction: Opera and the (Urban) Geography of Culture
Suzanne Aspden

2          The Legal Spaces of Opera in The Hague
Rebekah Ahrendt

3          Opera at School: Mapping the Cultural Geography of Schoolgirl Performance
Amanda Eubanks Winkler

4          London’s Opera House in the Urban Landscape
Michael Burden

5          Opera and the Carnival Entertainment Package in Eighteenth-Century Turin
Margaret Butler

6          Cockney Masquerades: Tom and Jerry and Don Giovanni in 1820s London
Jonathan Hicks

7          The City Onstage: Re-Presenting Venice in Italian Opera
Susan Rutherford

8          Between the Frontier and the French Quarter: Operatic Travel Writing and Nineteenth-Century New Orleans
Charlotte Bentley

9          L’italiana in Calcutta
Benjamin Walton

10        Thomas Quinlan (1881–1951) and His “All-Red” Opera Tours, 1912 and 1913
Kerry Murphy

11        Empires in Rivalry: Opera Concerts and Foreign Territoriality in Shanghai, 1930–1945
Yvonne Liao

12        “Come to the Mirror!” Phantoms of the Opera—Staging the City
Peter Franklin

13        Open-Air Opera and Southern French Difference at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
Katharine Ellis

14        Pastoral Retreats: Playing at Arcadia in Modern Britain
Suzanne Aspden

15        The Opera House as Urban Exhibition Space
Klaus van den Berg

16        Underground in Buenos Aires: A Chamber Opera at the Teatro Colón
Roberto Ignacio Díaz


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