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Your Reaction: What did you think of Opera: Passion, Power and Politics at the V&A?

Audience responses to the new exhibition exploring 400 years of opera, created in collaboration between the Royal Opera House and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

6 November 2017 at 5.09pm | 30 Comments

Press reviews:
Arts Desk ★★★★★
Evening Standard ★★★★★
Guardian ★★★
Times ★★★★
Telegraph ★★★
BBC (No stars, editorial)
The Stage (No stars, editorial)

What did you think of Opera: Passion, Power and Politics?
Share your thoughts via the comments below.

Opera: Passion, Power and Politics runs until 25 February 2018. Tickets are still available.

By Mel Spencer (Senior Editor (Social Media))

6 November 2017 at 5.09pm

This article has been categorised Off stage and tagged #OperaPassion, exhibition, Opera: passion power and politics, review, Social Media, Victoria and Albert Museum, your reaction

This article has 30 comments

  1. Ann O'Shaughnessy responded on 8 November 2017 at 5:03pm Reply

    This exhibition is sensational in every respect. Cutting edge technology is used to bring us an experience not to be forgotten. I cannot wait to go again when I am sure I will find even more to enjoy.

  2. Nadine Risso responded on 8 November 2017 at 10:59pm Reply

    Left me soaring, what an incredible exhibition and so brilliantly curated. More please!

  3. Heather Mackinlay responded on 9 November 2017 at 12:56pm Reply

    Simply stunning exhibition at the V&A! Amazing integration of visual images, videos, factual elements and complete immersion in the magical sound world of opera including wonderful back stage linking elements. I have so far spent over six hours in the exhibition and plan to return. Hurray to all for such a fabulous exhibition!

  4. Susannah Wight responded on 9 November 2017 at 3:49pm Reply

    The headphones are somewhat wayward unfortunately. It would be helpful to know what the audio options are as A Pappano started to say something at one point then there was a very loud noise and I couldn't get back to whatever he was talking about (in the penultimate section on Russian opera). Also the final section seemed much less sophisticated than the others.

  5. Stephen Lamb responded on 9 November 2017 at 4:47pm Reply

    I enjoyed this a lot. Well presented and informative. Found it difficult to listen to Callas singing from Nabucco as floor area in which it played was small - step back and you are in the chorus rehearsal, but otherwise superb.

  6. Nicky Road responded on 9 November 2017 at 4:53pm Reply

    My second visit to this wonderful exhibition. Fascinating exploration of relationship between opera, cities and periods. Technology fantastic and overall a really exciting and rewarding experience.

  7. Lesley Ball responded on 9 November 2017 at 5:26pm Reply

    Brilliant, my husband and myself decided that it was the best exhibition we have ever seen! Well done to everyone involved.

  8. MICHAEL BRAITHWAITE responded on 9 November 2017 at 5:32pm Reply

    A most wonderful exhibition, one of the best in London.

  9. Charmian Bollinger responded on 9 November 2017 at 5:35pm Reply

    As an opera lover I found it unsatisfactory and irritating. Snatches of music with no control over their beginning and ending. Had to turn off the audio in order to concentrate on the displays. Wanted an audio version of the written displays so as not to have to go up close (when there was room). Last room was tantalising as there were no captions. Pity we had to endure extremely loud Caribean music playing immediately above the Opera exhibition. Ambitious idea but for me it failed.

  10. Nicholas responded on 9 November 2017 at 5:51pm Reply

    I found the idea a little confusing. The omission of Fidelio baffled me as it is a very political opera. I would have preferred a more chronological apraisal of opera generally. The end seemed confused. Having said that, i am very glad it was shown. The good parts were very good, and anything which promotes opera is to be welcomed.

  11. Anne Jonathan responded on 9 November 2017 at 5:55pm Reply

    Agree about the headphones being rather erratic as too were you were standing !
    Excellent exhibition but how COULD you leave out Puccini ??? Not the best representation of Richard Strauss, and Salome is very off putting to some !!

    • William Hughes responded on 11 November 2017 at 7:25am

      Indeed why not Puccini?
      Must have been very dull.
      Why was verismo badly neglected?
      Must do better next time.

  12. James Gordon responded on 9 November 2017 at 6:02pm Reply

    I visited the exhibition a week ago. Full marks to everyone involved for trying something new, although I left feeling more could have been done with the material. Perhaps significantly, the earliest sections with which I was least familiar were the most convincing. The replica 18th century stage machinery is fascinating.
    The headphones were irritating and I frequently muted them. I don’t want to be constantly bombarded with music which demands total attention while reading lengthy captions and looking at objects often not directly related to that music. The automatic cueing of tracks is a problem when an aria cuts off in mid-flow and something else kicks in simply because you pass an invisible point on the ground. Having said this, of course it would be absurd to have an exhibition about opera without hearing as well as seeing opera.
    I noticed two minor errors in the captions, both in one of the sections I am most familiar with so I suspect there may be others. One caption says that Nabucco was Verdi’s second opera (others say correctly it was his third). The English caption for the picture of Nourrit says he is playing Bertram – unlikely for a high tenor, and the Italian text on the picture itself says he is costumed as Roberto.
    I’m not convinced about putting Salome after the Paris Tannhaüser if the message is supposed to be that Strauss was radical. Having just watched and listened to seven simultaneous orgies (one of the high points of the presentation!), one inevitably too-old soprano slobbering over a plastic head is merely a bit tawdry.

  13. Joh responded on 9 November 2017 at 6:55pm Reply

    Nothing new here for an opera lover
    And the headphones were very erratic according to where you were standing.
    And a very selective choice of operasespecially in the last election which was just confusing with so many screenstudents.
    Don't think it would make many converts to the real thing.

  14. George responded on 9 November 2017 at 9:17pm Reply

    I agree with Nicholas. The concept had great potential but the implementation was very confusing. Choice of operas seemed rather random. As an opera lover keen to encourage others to explore its potential, I felt this is a missed opportunity. I took both my teenage sons who are both interested in music including opera and I regret to advise they were not enthused.

  15. Snapper responded on 10 November 2017 at 8:56am Reply

    I enjoyed the exhibition but I felt it overly dwelt too much in the distant past. There was no mention of more recent and more popular operas such as Madame Butterfly, La Boheme, La Traviata etc.

  16. It's a dreadful exhibition. Emperor's new clothes. Arbitrary nonsense with almost nothing to say. The technology we're led to believe is "immersive" and amazing. Nothing of the sort. So music plays as you move to different rooms...... doesn't account for the fact you end up with the same music playing over and over again on a loop without reference to what you're looking at. It's confusing and messy. It trivialises. It's as if hearing some segments of opera should be enough to impress. You can do that on flippin Spotify or Classic FM. I agree with those above who found the headphones to be problematic. Many people seemed to when I visited and their orientation was affected in the dark, dingy, blacked out rooms....bumping into each other and into glass stands. All this I could forgive if the exhibition has content. It has very little and you learn almost nothing new here. It's random, uncomfortable and unattractive.

  17. Fascinating throughout - took my eldest Granddaughter and she was mesmerised too.
    Such a brilliant idea to provide headphones which played the apposite music in front of each of the different tableaux. Two to three hours brilliantly spent, and we learned a lot.

  18. James Gordon responded on 10 November 2017 at 1:58pm Reply

    Fidelio is a deeply political opera but Beethoven, at the time of Metternich's rise to pre-eminence, was a voice crying in the wilderness. By contrast, Nabucco seems to have connected with the public mood at once. In Italy it still does - just type "Nabucco Muti bis 2011" into a search engine.
    I can't see how Puccini would fit with the overall theme - Turandot and the rise of fascism, perhaps?

  19. Stephen Shatz responded on 10 November 2017 at 4:45pm Reply

    I particularly enjoyed the Monteverdi and Richard Strauss portions. In fact since returning to the States have listened to the Gardiner recording of the Coronation of Poppea. Hearing Anne Sophie Von Otter when I walked into the exhibition was a treat. The only part of the show which was weak was the Wagner. I would not have chosen Tannheuser. Otherwise a sensual pleasure. Went to see Sicilian Vespers later which was about passion (not necessarily the right kind) and power. No one understood those themes better than Verdi.

  20. Brit Armstrong responded on 10 November 2017 at 9:00pm Reply

    I too found this exhibition deeply disappointing and frustrating. The graphics around the walls were the sort of thing one would expect to see if “The Idiot’s Guide to Opera” appeared as an abbreviated, Ladybird book, they gave so little information. There was no opportunity to go deeper into anything one encountered and, as so many people have said, the audio equipment was not fit for purpose. The Milan room claimed to have a recording of Callas singing an aria from Nabucco but I was unable to hear more than ten or twenty seconds of this, before picking up either Porgi Amor (from the previous room) or Va Pensiero and this was without moving, standing right next to the place where the Callas was supposed to be playing.
    My frustration was such that I left the exhibition and asked for (and was given) a full refund.
    The Royal Opera House should be ashamed to be associated with something so shambolic.

  21. D Bean responded on 11 November 2017 at 3:57pm Reply

    Good in parts but I was so disappointed with the audio. It jumped about even when I was standing still and the staff were unable to give any advice that worked. I never did manage to hear Maria Callas because Nabucco kept interrupting. I enjoyed the visual displays more, particularly the hand written scores. There was a lot more I would have liked to have seen included but understand that space was limited.

  22. Michael Lyle responded on 11 November 2017 at 4:06pm Reply

    Exemplary. I was with an inquisitive thirty-year-old with very little experience of opera, and she was fascinated, and hopes to make a second visit (as do I). I note some unfavourable comments here, but a curator _must_ leave something out, after all, and cannot expect universal approval for the decision.

  23. Christopher Beauman responded on 13 November 2017 at 9:42am Reply

    The exhibition started off very effectively and interestingly with the exploration of the links between society and the early years of opera in Venice (Monteverdi), London (Handel) and Vienna (Mozart), assisted by the wonderful singing on the very useful headphones.

    But then it went seriously off the rails. Nabisco hardly did justice to Verdi. More fundamentally we then descended into Paris-linked erotic dances in Tannhauser to illustrate the whole of Wagner, followed by a blood-soaked Salome writhing round the floor with a large severed head. All this suggested that the role of opera has evolved from quite a civilised art-form into a seeker of melodramatic sensationalism, designed to thrill the jaded palates of over-civilised opera-goers. (Written on Skin at the end, within some superb technology for illustrating modern opera, is more of the same visceral primitivism.)

  24. Morgan responded on 14 November 2017 at 3:53pm Reply

    Providing you accept that there are going to be some huge ommisons ( inevitable!) this is a truly exhilarating exhibition. In the Handel room I got swept off my feet by an aria from Rinaldo that I'd not heard before, and I liked Pappano's chat about Figaro. Appealing for both novice and expert I'd imagine.
    One of the richest periods : 1923 to the present day is shoehorned into one room and is a reminder that there's potential for a more specialised exhibition in the near future.

  25. MIssed it. Darn it. Will there be a next one soon?

  26. Alison Kelnar responded on 30 November 2017 at 3:54pm Reply

    I’m afraid I didn’t enjoy it very much, neither did I learn much from it, perhaps because I have studied opera. I felt it was too ambitious and it would have done better to concentrate on one period only but in more depth. However, if it converted some people to experience opera live for the first time then I am delighted. Incidentally the little free exhibition on plywood that I visited on the same day was hugely informative and very enjoyable, for me anyway!

  27. Richard Masterson responded on 28 January 2018 at 4:02pm Reply

    I agree with a comment above about the first three cities and excerpts working well but it went down after that despite some interesting bits of Strauss and Shosokovitch and accompanying visuals. No French opera at all in the whole exhibition? Maybe I missed some in the last "melee" segment. Informative overall mainy for the newer opera lovers
    ( ingenus). I got the book for the exhibition as a Chrismas present so maybe I should check the overall rationale for avoiding major composers in four hundred years of French opera, alors la with a grave accent,
    Still, a brave effort nonetheless.

  28. Naomi Cockshutt responded on 22 February 2018 at 8:38am Reply

    Visited Monday 19th February. Bought ticket for my dad who is both an opera singer and opera lover. Fascinating first rate exhibition with lots to take it, but very disappointing, unfitting, shabby sing-a-long performance from TriOperas which did not in anyway reflect the standard of the Royal Opera House. Sadly due to this embarrassing finale, to what would have been a wonderful event, we had to leave early.

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