Two Recent Books

Two books by members of the Faculty of Music have recently been published.

Operatic Geographies: The Place of Opera and the Opera House, edited by Suzanne Aspden, has been published by the University of Chicago Press. The book grew out of an international conference organised in Oxford by Professor Aspden.

Since its origin, opera has been identified with the performance and negotiation of power. Once theatres specifically for opera were established, that connection was expressed in the design and situation of the buildings themselves, as much as through the content of operatic works. Yet the importance of the opera house’s physical situation, and the ways in which opera and the opera house have shaped each other, have seldom been treated as topics worthy of examination.

Operatic Geographies invites us to reconsider the opera house’s spatial production. Looking at opera through the lens of cultural geography, this anthology rethinks the opera house’s landscape, not as a static backdrop, but as an expression of territoriality. The essays in this anthology consider moments across the history of the genre, and across a range of geographical contexts – from the urban to the suburban to the rural, and from the ‘Old’ world to the ‘New’. One of the book’s most novel approaches is to consider interactions between opera and its environments – that is, both in the domain of the traditional opera house and in less visible, more peripheral spaces, from girls’ schools in late seventeenth-century England, to the temporary arrangements of touring operatic troupes in nineteenth-century Calcutta, to rural, open-air theaters in early twentieth-century France. The essays throughout Operatic Geographies powerfully illustrate how opera’s spatial production informs the historical development of its social, cultural, and political functions.

Delius and the Sound of Place by Daniel Grimley has been published by Cambridge University Press.

Few composers have responded as powerfully to place as Frederick Delius (1862–1934). Born in Yorkshire, Delius resided in the United States, Germany and Scandinavia before settling in France, where he spent the majority of his professional career. This book examines the role of place in selected works, including ‘On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring’, Appalachia and The Song of the High Hills, reading place as a creative and historically mediated category in his music. Drawing on archival sources, contemporary art and literature, and more recent writing in cultural geography and the philosophy of place, this is a new interpretation of Delius’ work, and he emerges as one of the most original and compelling voices in early twentieth-century music. As the popularity of his music grows, this book challenges the idea of Delius as a large-scale rhapsodic composer, and reveals a richer and more productive relationship between place and music.