Global Opera?

29 November 2022, 4.30 PM - 29 November 2022, 6.00 PM

Benjamin Walton, University of Cambridge

Victoria's Room, Department of Music, The Victoria Rooms


In this paper, I explore what is gained by casting the spread of Italian opera beyond Europe during the early decades of the nineteenth century as a global phenomenon. With a focus on the first troupe to perform a circumnavigation of the globe, I argue that their travels can best be understood as both a realisation and an undermining of contemporaneous fantasies about the long-range dissemination of Western art music at the time, at once bolstering and calling into question the civilizing rhetoric in which the performance of opera was routinely packaged at the time, as well as some of the critique of such rhetoric in later scholarship. Attention to such forgotten moments in the history of nineteenth-century music, I suggest, participates in an ongoing rethinking of our operatic geographies, adopting the problematic category of the global, but within a microhistorical frame.


Benjamin Walton is Professor of Music History in Cambridge, and Fellow and Director of Studies in Music at Jesus College. Aside from writing on his global opera troupe, his recent research has included work on the history of operatic staging and machinery, and a chapter on Music and Society entitled 'Unthinking Music History' in the forthcoming Cultural History of Western Music in the Industrial Age, to be published by Bloomsbury. A former editor of Cambridge Opera Journal, he is currently co-editing the Cambridge History of Italian Opera Since 1800, due to appear in 2024.

A colour image/portrait of Benjamin Walton

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