Fictions of the Opera Box

Ruth A. Solie

in Music in Other Words

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2004 | ISBN: 9780520238459
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520930063 | DOI:
Fictions of the Opera Box

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The chapter provides an overview on the status of opera during the nineteenth century. Opera gradually became detached from other areas of the theatrical world during the nineteenth century. Opera gratified the Victorian taste for theatricality in all its forms from charades to tableaux vivants. Its notorious reputation as a specular site marked it as peculiarly adapted to the expression of class difference and resistant to modernism and social change. Opera is taken for granted in the world of The Age of Innocence but it is a common enough feature of daily life, and references to it and to the rhythms of its season are scattered almost negligently through the book. Operagoing, like other fixtures of high culture in turn-of-the-century America, encapsulated and focused an ambivalent relationship to Europe. Opera, in its glorious contrast, offered the opportunity to engage vicariously with bohemian, foreign, or otherwise exotic lives not admitted to fastidious bourgeois circles, and to experience supercharged emotions not otherwise permitted.

Keywords: opera; modernism; social change; social geography of cities; social distinction

Chapter.  14127 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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