This volume aims to connect discourses pertaining to the staging, production, and reception of European opera with those accompanying scientific innovation and technological thinking between ca. 1791 and 1914.
During the exponential growth of the natural sciences and empiricism of the time, everything from natural philosophy, literature, and educational methods, to military strategy, and of course music, became implicated within the scientific enterprise. And so did their agents, in a variety of different ways: Berlioz and Wagner, for instance—alongside their well-known interests in new musical
ed. D. Trippett and B. Walton
technologies—both underwent “galvanic” treatment for ailments; Wagner medicated regularly (Bromine), and reluctantly recommended train travel and steamers to friends as the fastest means of getting around; Berlioz, meanwhile, utilised telegraphy to coordinate offstage effects, and foresaw a future of transcontinental balloon travel.
Yet the idealist heritage of musicology has meant that scholars have tended not to look at nineteenth-century music in this way, and seemingly never at opera. Questions about how an awareness of scientific innovation and nascent technologies might relate to musical production, staging, and vocal training, as well as theories of the creative process and of our perception of music have largely gone unasked for opera of this period. Nineteenth-Century Opera and the Scientific Imagination seeks to remedy this, and contains fourteen interdisciplinary chapters.