Comprehensive Research OrganizationWaseda University


Report of Monthly Regular Meeting November 2021 (The 198th Meeting of Opera Research Group)

Report of Monthly Regular Meeting November 2021 (The 198th Meeting of Opera Research Group)

Waseda Institute for Research in Opera and Music Theatre (WIROM), Comprehensive Research Organization, Waseda University

  • Time and Date : November 6th (Sat.) 2021, 16:30-18:00 (JST)
  • Format : Online meeting (Zoom)
  • Presenter : Newell, Anthony
  • Affiliation, Position: School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University (Professor)
  • Title : “Opera on 82 Keys: The convergence of opera and the piano in the first half of the 19th century”
  • Language : English
  • Abstract :
    In the realm of music, opera and the piano have long been established as major but distinct areas of interest, but in the first half of the nineteenth century, in particular the two decades of the 1830s and 1840s, there was a convergence of the two that gave rise to the notion that the piano—essentially a percussive instrument—could be made to “sing.” A new breed of piano virtuoso appeared whose exploits on the keyboard—not just in playing but also in producing compositions based on melodies from the most popular operas of the day—astounded their audiences, often driving them into a state that can best be described as one of hysteria.
    Both Western opera and the piano trace their origins back to Italy, but by the time of the decades of interest here, it was France’s capital—Paris—that dominated the musical scene in Europe. In this presentation, we will briefly consider the separate histories of opera and the piano, and then examine the influence that the music of the former had on the repertoire of the latter, leading to a dramatic expansion of keyboard technique beyond anything previously known.
    Among the profusion of piano prodigies that flocked to Paris, arguably the two greatest—at least in terms of keyboard proficiency—were Franz Liszt and Sigismond Thalberg, and it is in particular through the prism of their work using operatic melody for inspiration that this presentation will consider the issue.
  • Profile of Presenter :
    Tony Newell is a Professor of English at the School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University. As a linguist, his work at Waseda is mostly concerned with the teaching of English and Sociolinguistics, but for the purpose of this presentation, he will use as a basis his lifelong interest in opera and the piano. This interest was spurred by a three-year period spent as a high school student in Milan, Italy, where he lived just ten minutes on foot from the Teatro alla Scala and where, for a while, he received weekly piano tuition at the Conservatorio di Musica “Giuseppe Verdi” di Milano.
  • Moderator : KASAHARA, Mariko

*Comments : There were 18 participants.

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