Back to search

HUM-Fagkomiteen for humaniora

Power mise-en-scène: Opera, Aesthetics and Politics in the 18th Century

Awarded: NOK 5.9 mill.

Project Number:


Application Type:

Project Period:

2006 - 2011

Funding received from:


This inter-disciplinary project is an investigation of the relationship between opera and politics in the 18th century. It is an attempt to combine historical and musicological approaches in order to highlight the way music drama and politicial drama inte racted in a culture where staging was vital to social and political life. The project consists of four closely related studies. The first deals with Mozart's late operas to librettos of Da Ponte: The marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Così fan tutte. M ozart's operatic art is the most outstanding of the era. These operas stage politically delicate situations, and thus mark the borders of opera's aesthetical elaboration of conflicts in the aristocratic society where they unfold. The second study deals with Joseph Haydn, a composer who in aesthetical and political terms crossed the distance from composing within a feudal framework, the Hungarian court of Count Ezterhasa and into a new political landscape, where he wrote oratorios, closely connected to t he new educational and moral project of Enlightenment. Haydn also has success on the new, bourgeois music markets, with great sucesses in Paris and London. The third study deals with an outstandingly strong political figure in the world of 18th Centur y opera: the Swedish King Gustaf III, who created a new and important political arena in the form of a Swedish national opera. He also turned Sweden into an absolutist state. The fourth study deals with the Danish-Norwegian playwright and political t heorist Ludvig Holberg. He also worked as a musician, and in his writings, epistles, commentaries and - not least - critiques, we find a comprehensive involvement in opera. He represents a strong Enlightenment critique of baroque opera, but this critique does not restrict itself to aesthetics; it is as much a critique on social grounds, just as Holberg's plays contribute to society's own clarification of moral questions.

Funding scheme:

HUM-Fagkomiteen for humaniora