Opera, Staging, Technologies
Starting with the Metropolitan Opera’s paradoxical emphasis on both authenticity and technological innovation in its 2010–12 Ring cycle, the introduction highlights the longstanding dissociation in European thought of the technical and the cultural, a distinction that influenced both the aesthetics and the study of nineteenth-century opera. A post-revolutionary appetite for realism and spectacle was fed by the ever more advanced stage technologies that composers deployed to realize their creative visions. But, as Richard Wagner championed in his 1849 essay “The Art-Work of the Future,” the artificiality of these supplementary machineries had to be veiled so that they might appear a natural part of the illusionist stage image. Novel “Wagnerian technologies” were designed to be perceived as media interfaces and thus to promote opera’s intended seamless multimediality. The study of their application and reception over time sheds new light on the materiality, ephemerality, and historicity of operatic staging.
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