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Opéra sans frontières? Musicians and migration in a globalised world

A one-day conference organised by OBERTO, the opera research unit at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, 12 September 2017.

From prima donnas of the past travelling with their favourite ‘suitcase arias’ to contemporary directors designing collaborative productions for multiple international opera houses, operatic personnel have always worked across territorial boundaries. Travel is an inherent part of the opera singer’s, composer’s or conductor’s lifestyle. Historically speaking, there have of course been frequent backlashes against such freedom of movement, stressing the uniqueness or superiority of homegrown traditions or campaigning for greater protectionism. These have typically pitted the national insider against a (threatening) foreign “other”, whether protests against the dominance of foreign singers at the Bayreuth Festivals in the 1890s or the successive attempts to establish a national English opera.

These debates have taken on added urgency in light of recent political developments, which have witnessed a resurgence of nationalist fervour that may herald a more difficult climate for the practitioners of an international artform such as opera. This conference will reflect on the transnational nature of the opera profession through presentations, round tables and free-ranging discussions. As with previous OBERTO conferences, we aim to bring together in fruitful debate academics, performers, conductors, directors, agents, opera company managers, journalists and any other stakeholders in the opera industry. We therefore invite papers addressing a wide variety of topics – both historical and contemporary – including (but by no means limited to):

  • Crossing borders – literally and figuratively
  • The international careers of composers, performers, conductors, directors and other operatic personnel, past and present
  • Protectionism and advocacy for native performers and national opera institutions
  • Potential challenges to the opera industry in post-Brexit Europe and worldwide
  • Critical and polemical debates about opera, nationalism and cosmopolitanism
  • Language, communication and a lingua franca in the opera industry
  • Opera singers and travel writing

Proposals of up to 250 words are invited for individual papers of 20 minutes duration. We also welcome suggestions for alternative format sessions and expressions of interest to participate in panel discussions or roundtables. These should be submitted by email to Dr Barbara Eichner (barbara.eichner@brookes.ac.uk) no later than 31st May 2017.

Please feel free to share this call for papers with anybody who might be interested.

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