23 September 2013

Opera Anniversaries Conference and Wagner One-Man Show

This September, OBERTO (Oxford Brookes: Exploring Research Trends in Opera) held its annual day-conference at Oxford Brookes University, with the theme ‘Staging Operatic Anniversaries’.

OBERTO, named after Giuseppe Verdi’s first opera, is the opera research unit directed by Alexandra Wilson and Barbara Eichner (Music, School of Arts). Hugo Shirley, Early Career Fellow in Opera Studies, assisted with the organisation of the 2013 conference. The conference was held at Brookes on 10 September 2013. It bought together in rich debate scholars from the UK, America, Germany and Italy, postgraduate and undergraduate students, opera critics, and members of the music industry.

In the past, OBERTO conferences have taken a historiographical focus and this year’s conference was no exception. 2013 is a key year for operatic anniversaries, with the bicentenaries of both Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner and the centenary of Benjamin Britten. Rather than discuss the music of these anniversary composers, the conference analysed the mechanics of operatic anniversary celebrations past and present.

The conference was organised into four sessions, exploring a broad range of approaches to operatic memorialisation. Topics addressed included 2013 celebrations of Verdi in Milan (Giuseppe Montemagno) and of Wagner in Leipzig (Mark Berry); the ways in which Johann Strauss was celebrated in four significant twentieth-century anniversary years (Corrina Connor); and the Nazis’ attempts to appropriate Mozart for political ends in 1941 (Erik Levi). In addition to the formal papers, the conference included a performance by Jamie McGregor of Rhodes University, who donned a tail-coat, waistcoat and period facial hair to recreate his one-man show ‘Wagner Reading Wagner’.

A full conference report is available on the OBERTO blog ( Part of Jamie McGregor’s one-man show, which was first recorded at Rhodes University on Wagner’s 200th birthday, can be found on YouTube titled ‘Wagner reading Wagner (The Flying Dutchman, Part 1)’.