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Opera: Passion, Power and Politics

30 September 2017—25 February 2018
Victoria and Albert Museum

The V&A, in collaboration with the Royal Opera House, are creating a landmark exhibition presenting key moments in the story of opera from its origins in late Renaissance Italy to the present day.


Together the V&A and the Royal Opera House are creating a landmark exhibition that tells the vivid story of opera from its origins in late Renaissance Italy to the present day. Focussing on seven premieres in seven European cities, this immersive exhibition takes you on a journey through nearly four hundred years, culminating in the international explosion of opera in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The exhibition reveals how the creation of a new opera can reflect the social, political, artistic and economic conversations that define cities, and the process of making opera from libretto to score, from design to performance. The cities and premieres explored are: Venice and Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, 1642; London and Handel’s Rinaldo, 1711; Vienna and Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, 1786; Milan and Verdi’s Nabucco, 1842; Paris and Wagner’s Tannhäuser in its revised version, 1861; Dresden and Richard Strauss’s Salome, 1905; and St Petersburg and Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, 1934.

This is the inaugural exhibition in the V&A’s new Sainsbury Gallery, a purpose-built subterranean gallery opening as part of the V&A’s Exhibition Road Quarter, and one of the largest temporary exhibition spaces in the UK.

Find out more about the story of opera

#OperaPassion Day: Join us LIVE on 19 October

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News and features

  1. Watch #OperaPassion Day on demand

    13 October 2017

    The Royal Opera House, in partnership with seven of the UK's leading opera companies, BBC Arts and the V&A, is celebrating the passion and power of opera.