Opera, Libretti and History

14 september 2018
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Opera, which Dr. Johnson described as 'exotic and irrational', has long been the focus of both aesthetic and social debates. Regicides and revolutions have been staged and set to music; it has been a temple of art and a battleground of ideas, a cultural institution and a flash-point for social change. What is the appeal and power of opera? On September 14 (5:00 pm) Rutger Helmers, Krisztina Lajosi, Sabine Lichtenstein and Mischa Spel will talk about opera at Spui25.

Opera is one of the most controversial genres. No other art form has provoked such unrivalled emotions among the public and had such a wide appeal, ranging from princely patrons to common fans. Opera has triggered revolutions and shaped political emotions for centuries. What is its appeal? Why do people love or hate opera? This musical dramatic art, combining text with music and promoting vocal skills that sound artificial to the untrained ear, has been the target of many debates and discussions since its inception in sixteenth-century Italy. What is more important: text or music? By what criteria can a libretto be judged? How should operas be understood? What is the source of their social and political impact? These questions are explored in the two books presented during this event. The speakers will be interviewed by Mischa Spel, music critic of the NRC Handelsblad, and musicologist Dr. Rutger Helmers (UvA) will act as moderator.

About the speakers

Dr. Rutger Helmers is Assistant Professor at the department of Musicology at the University of Amsterdam. He is specialized in the history of nineteenth-century music, Russian music, and opera and nationalism.

Dr. Krisztina Lajosi is a Senior Lecturer in Modern European Culture at the Department of European Studies of the Universiteit van Amsterdam. Her main research area is nationalism and transnationalism studies, with a special focus on the intersections between the history, media and political thought.

Dr. Sabine Lichtenstein she taught at the Institute of Musicology of the University of Amsterdam for almost 30 years. She has published in a variety of fields ranging from comparative literature and art to Jewish music. Currently she gives lectures on music for opera-, concert- and other audiences and continues to publish articles on music.

Mischa Spel studied Musiocology at the University of Amsterdam and Utrecht University. Since 1999 she has been appointed as editor for the classical music section of the NRC Handelsblad.

You can sign up for this program for free on Spui25's website

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MINDBOOKSATH : athenaeum