A Passion for Opera

The BBC is celebrating Opera Passion Day today, in conjunction with eight opera companies, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry. Like all of these institutions, the Music Faculty is a hub of operatic activity, whether writing about opera, composing it, or performing it.

Academic work on opera from Faculty members is hugely wide-ranging, including Suzanne Aspden’s book on the divas of the eighteenth-century stage, Michael Burden’ famous article on latrines in opera houses, Roger Allen’s recent book on Wagner’s prose writings, and Jonathan Cross’s work on Harrison Birtwistle.

The Faculty’s composers ensure that we not only deal with pre-existing operas, but also produce new ones. Thomas Hyde’s opera That Man Stephen Ward has recently been recorded by George Vass and the Nova Musica Opera Ensemble, while Robert Saxton’s radio opera, The Wandering Jew, was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and recorded in 2010 by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Singers.

The Faculty is just as active in opera performance, from the many student productions of opera to the work of New Chamber Opera. Each year, we have a Visiting Professor in Opera Studies. This year we’re hosting Stephen Langridge, Artistic Director (Opera/Drama) of GöteborgsOperan, the Gothenburg Opera. Previous holders have included Katie Mitchell, Jane Glover, and Graham Vick. Meanwhile, Jonathan Williams’s Rameau Project is currently exploring ways of performing the many works of the eighteenth-century French composer, including everything from student workshops to a production of the opera Dardanus with English Touring Opera.

However you celebrate Opera Passion Day, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter Oxford’s Music Faculty somewhere, whether it’s in a book, a score, on stage, or in alumnus Roderick Williams’s exploration of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte after his recent celebrated performances as Papageno at the Royal Opera House.