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Nineteenth-Century Opera and the Scientific Imagination


David Trippett, Benjamin Walton, James Q. Davies, Benjamin Steege, Carmel Raz, Céline Frigau Manning, Julia Kursell, James Deaville, Deirdre Loughridge, Ellen Lockhart, Gavin Williams, Myles Jackson, James Kennaway, Alexander Rehding
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  • Date Published: August 2019
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107111257

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About the Authors
  • Scientific thinking has long been linked to music theory and instrument making, yet the profound and often surprising intersections between the sciences and opera during the long nineteenth century are here explored for the first time. These touch on a wide variety of topics, including vocal physiology, theories of listening and sensory communication, technologies of theatrical machinery and discourses of biological degeneration. Taken together, the chapters reveal an intertwined cultural history that extends from backstage hydraulics to drawing-room hypnotism, and from laryngoscopy to theatrical aeronautics. Situated at the intersection of opera studies and the history of science, the book therefore offers a novel and illuminating set of case studies, of a kind that will appeal to historians of both science and opera, and of European culture more generally from the French Revolution to the end of the Victorian period.

    • Establishes a new interdisciplinary field of opera and science studies to inform and shape future work that brings musicology and opera studies closer to the history and philosophy of science
    • Brings together contributors from history and philosophy of science and from musicology, and includes chapters on vocal physiology, material culture, sensory communication, stage technologies, theories of listening, electricity, hypnotism, and biological degeneration
    • Continues the development of new ways of thinking about the history of material culture for music studies and includes well-grounded examples of how historians can work in this hybrid field
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'There is an interesting discussion of whether opera was beneficial or dangerous for the mentally ill. This exploration of the intersection of two important aspects of 19th-century Western life will interest scientists and musicians alike.' R. Pitts, Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107111257
    • length: 396 pages
    • dimensions: 263 x 183 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.94kg
    • contains: 25 b/w illus. 2 tables 15 music examples
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: the laboratory and the stage David Trippett and Benjamin Walton
    Part I. Voices:
    2. Pneumotypes: Jean de Reszke's high pianissimos and the occult sciences of breathing James Q. Davies
    3. Vocal culture in the age of laryngoscopy Benjamin Steege
    4. Operatic fantasies in early nineteenth-century psychiatry Carmel Raz
    5. Opera and hypnosis: Victor Maurel's experiments in suggestion with Verdi's Otello Céline Frigau Manning
    Part II. Ears:
    6. Hearing space in the music of Hector Berlioz Julia Kursell
    7. From distant sounds to Aeolian ears: Ernst Kapp's auditory prosthesis David Trippett
    8. Wagner, hearing loss, and the urban soundscape of late nineteenth-century Germany James Deaville
    Part III. Technologies:
    9. Science, technology and love in late eighteenth-century opera Deirdre Loughridge
    10. Technological phantoms of the opéra Benjamin Walton
    11. Circuit listening Ellen Lockhart
    Part IV. Bodies:
    12. Excelsior as mass ornament: the reproduction of gesture Gavin Williams
    13. Automata, physiology and opera Myles Jackson
    14. Wagnerian manipulation: Bayreuth and the sciences of the mind James Kennaway
    15. Unsound seeds Alexander Rehding.

  • Editors

    David Trippett, University of Cambridge
    David Trippett is University Senior Lecturer at the University of Cambridge. His first monograph, Wagner's Melodies (Cambridge, 2013), examines the cultural and scientific history of melodic theory in relation to Wagner's writings and music. He recently co-edited the Companion to Music in Digital Culture (Cambridge, forthcoming) and produced a critical reconstruction of Liszt's opera, Sardanapalo for the Neue Liszt Ausgabe, which he orchestrated for Schott.

    Benjamin Walton, University of Cambridge
    Benjamin Walton is University Senior Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Jesus College. His monograph, Rossini in Restoration Paris: The Sound of Modern Life (Cambridge) was published in 2007, and a collection of essays entitled The Invention of Beethoven and Rossini (2013) was co-edited with Nicholas Mathew. From 2014–18 he was co-editor of Cambridge Opera Journal.


    David Trippett, Benjamin Walton, James Q. Davies, Benjamin Steege, Carmel Raz, Céline Frigau Manning, Julia Kursell, James Deaville, Deirdre Loughridge, Ellen Lockhart, Gavin Williams, Myles Jackson, James Kennaway, Alexander Rehding

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