The project investigates the politics of opera in the Habsburg Empire between the Congress of Vienna and the beginning of World War One. Its emphasis on transnational exchanges between the Empire’s different parts and on Austria’s multinational concept of state challenges traditional narratives that have tended to highlight the role of opera as a tool of political nationalism. Instead, this project will investigate the extent to which the Empire supported opera (both the form and the repertoire) as a means to create cultural and intellectual connections between its many lands and peoples, as well as between its political centre and its peripheries. Following a cross-disciplinary agenda, the project responds to two distinct fields of scholarship: the contextual analysis of opera production and its reception; and new trends in Habsburg history, which have moved away from a focus on ethnic and linguistic conflict to examine the role of imperial identity, national hybridity, dynastic loyalty, and factors such as religion, class and gender that cut across national ideology. The project connects these two fields by focussing on operatic exchanges in Habsburg Europe and on interactions between different levels of imperial administration and the public. It combines cultural and intellectual history to investigate five areas of opera production that deeply marked the monarchy's life: the role of Italian opera in building cultural bridges across the Empire’s different crownlands and nationalities; the use of national vernaculars in opera production; the function of opera as a distinctive feature of dynastic representation; the idea of grand opéra as a genre for the representation of historical narratives that connect the monarchy to events elsewhere in Europe; and a focus on opera in the Empire’s Southern and Eastern peripheries, as a way of building cultural bridges with its political centre.
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