Professor Suzanne Aspden

Suzanne Aspden’s research centres on 18th-century opera and dramatic music, and on the ways in which this music facilitates the expression of identity, whether national, personal, or dramatic.  Seeing identity as performative inevitably requires detailed historical contextualisation and analysis of performance aesthetics of the period.  Suzanne’s publications manifest these interests in varying ways; her recent monograph, The Rival Sirens: Performance and Identity on Handel’s Operatic Stage (Cambridge, 2013) brings them together.  Her next book, on music and national identity in 18th-century Britain, will offer another approach to these themes.

Hailing from New Zealand, Suzanne has a D.Phil. from Oxford and has held research positions at Cambridge and in the U.S.  She taught at the University of Southampton (2003-2005) before returning to Oxford in 2005. She has broadcast extensively on BBC Radio and Television on Handel and on opera in 18th-century Britain, as well as acting as BBC Radio 3’s official blogger on Handel during their year-long anniversary celebrations in 2009.  Suzanne is co-editor of the Cambridge Opera Journal.  She is also co-editing a volume of essays on Francesco Cavalli’s Erismena with Michael Burden.

Suzanne’s teaching for the Music Faculty includes undergraduate courses on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century opera, medieval drama, music-word relations c.1600, dance music and Handel’s operas and oratorios. Her postgraduate courses cover issues in opera and musical nationalism.

Suzanne’s non-academic profile can be found here.


The Rival Sirens: Performance and Identity on Handel’s Operatic Stage (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Articles, Essays in Conference Proceedings, and Review Articles

‘The Role of the Countertenor on the Eighteenth-Century English Stage’, in
Gegen│Tenöre. Die männliche Falsettstimme vom Mittelalter bis ins 21. Jahrhundert, ed. Corinna Herr  and Arnold Jacobshagen (2013)
‘Opera and National Identity’ in The Cambridge Companion to Opera Studies, ed.
Nicholas Till (Cambridge, 2012)
‘Bach and the Feminised Galant’, Understanding Bach 5 (2010)
‘The “rival queans” and the play of identity in Handel’s Admeto’, Cambridge Opera
Journal 18 no. 2 (2006)
‘“Fam’d Handel breathing, tho’ transformed to stone”: the Composer as Monument’,
Journal of the American Musicological Society 55/1 (2002), 39-90
‘Arne’s Paradox: National Opera in Eighteenth-Century Britain’, in Word and Music
Studies 4, ed. Suzanne Lodato, Suzanne Aspden, Walter Bernhart (Rodopi:
Amsterdam, 2002), 195-215
‘Ariadne’s Clew: Politics, Allegory, and Opera in London (1734)’, The Musical Quarterly
85/4 (2001), 735-70
‘Ballads and Britons: Imagined Community and the Continuity of “English” Opera’,
Journal of the Royal Musical Association 122 (1997), 24-51
‘“An infinity of factions”: Opera in Eighteenth-Century London and the Undoing of
Society’, Cambridge Opera Journal 9 (1997), 1-19, republished in Opera Re-Made, ed.
Charles Dill (Ashgate, 2010)

Research interests in 17th and 18th-century opera; music in Britain; the construction of identity through music; music and politics; 18th-century performance aesthetics; dance music.