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Title: Operatic futures in Second Empire Paris
Author: Willson, Flora
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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My dissertation focuses on Paris during the latter decade of Napoleon III’s Second Empire (1852-1870). It concentrates particularly on the status of opera in the period, placing contemporary operatic discourse and practice within a cultural and political landscape marked by both identification with the past and fascination with the future. While opera continued to be a central part of Paris’s social life and its self-image as the pre-eminent modern metropolis, the period offers the first sustained evidence of operatic canon-formation, with increasing numbers of old works revived. In part because such revivals were often believed to be replacing new commissions, the emerging canon provoked much discussion. Responding to this debate, I ask how opera’s turns to the past in the 1860s related to the period’s preoccupation with the idea of ‘progress’: my enquiry thus aims to contribute to existing scholarship on mid-century musical historicism while also tracing how operatic practices related to contemporary cultural and technological change. After a brief introduction, the dissertation focuses on four moments: the 1859 revival of Gluck’s Orphée, a significant step in the transition towards the operatic ‘imaginary museum’ of the future; three concerts conducted by Richard Wagner in 1860 to showcase his ‘musique de l’avenir’, heard as an explicit instance of operatic soothsaying; the 1867 premiere of Verdi’s Don Carlos, a work whose mixed reception bears witness to changing modes of operatic listening; and commentary surrounding the Parisian funeral celebrations of Meyerbeer in May 1864 and Rossini in November 1868, occasions that foregrounded numerous anxieties about what was to come after the demise of two deeply symbolic figures – one embodying opera’s glorious past, the other believed to have held the key to its future.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available