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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 opens at the V&A this autumn – Opera: Passion, Power and Politics. It tells the vivid story of the history of European opera from its origins in late-Renaissance Italy to the present day.

Focussing on seven premieres in seven 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 shows how the creation of a new opera can reflect the social, political, artistic and economic conversations that define cities, and reveals the process of making opera: from libretto to score, from design to performance.

The cities and premieres that are 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 of 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 FuturePlan, and one of the largest temporary exhibition spaces in the UK.

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