Opera as an art form is often regarded as elitist, esoteric and expensive. So, it may be surprising and amusing to learn that the opera theatres of 18th century Europe were boisterous, rampageous places, where the main objective was to see and be seen. Patrons would talk, stroll around, occasionally fight, and frequently play games. It was de rigueur for ladies to have a card table in their loge (box), for a game during the performance. In the aisles young men would parade, flirting with the young ladies. In fact the audience generally only stopped talking to listen to an aria that they liked and recognised.
The aim of our history of opera series, is to engage a wider audience in this rich, multi-faceted musical genre. We will illustrate its development over 400 years with respect to Italian, German language, French, English language, and Russian opera. But importantly, we will also showcase a wide selection of composers and their works from all across the continent of Europe, as we firmly believe this is necessary to tell opera’s full story. So for example, viewers will learn of one of the first Irish language operas Eithne as well as the Muslim world’s first opera Leyli and Majnun in Azerbaijan. We will look at the evolvement of operatic vocal technique, the development of the orchestra, and of course, we will bring viewers inside the most famous opera houses on the continent of Europe.
Dublin's Famous Writers
Dublin in the Republic of Ireland is a UNESCO City of Literature and for a city of modest size, it has produced three Noble Laureates of the art form. Our series on the life and works of Dublin’s famous writers features twelve of them who have made an important contribution to national or international literature – sometimes thriving in spite of the country rather than because of it.
We explore the possible reasons why the city had such a proliferation of literary talent, and what influenced the writings. Why, post-independence, were some of the city’s writers suppressed in a campaign of rampant censorship? How James Joyce, a name as famous as the city’s black beer, was so rigorously tested during his lifetime – rejection by publishers, objection by printers, confiscation by custom officials, attack by critics – but today his works are required reading in college courses.
The writers being featured in the series are; Beckett, Behan, Joyce, Shaw, Swift, Synge, Wilde, Gogarty, Yeats, Stoker, O’Casey, and Le Fanu.
The great Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote that travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind. It should, but recreational travel has been blighted by our compulsive need to ‘see & do’ as much as humanly possible in the shortest available time; to be ‘selfied’ in front of architectural and artistic treasures; and to seek out a pub or restaurant serving food from home.
The majority of today’s tourists seem to learn, or retain, little of any place’s history – what makes it what it is and its people who they are. It is these issues that have inspired our city histories series – to look at a city’s past events and how they have shaped its present. The Greek word ἱστορία (historia), was borrowed into Classical Latin and from there, possibly via Old Irish into Old English as stær (history, narrative, story). Though the word fell out of use in the late Old English period, we rather like that it is the essence of our series of programmes – the stories of our featured cities. Our first programme features Cork city in southern Ireland.