Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre presents its recently published book In the World of New Media. A Historical and Critical Overview (editors Beata Baublinskienė, Laima Vilimienė. Vilnius: Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, 2015). It is a collection of scholarly articles and critical essays based on opera seminars that have been organized at the LNOBT over the last decade.
The First International Seminar of Opera Critics “Opera in the World of New Media” was held at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre on 27th November 2006. It was conceived as a platform for developing a critical discourse on opera and strengthening the intellectual and international dimension of the local opera scene, which assembled Lithuanian music, theatre and performing arts critics and writers, as well as their international colleagues to contribute to the building of the critical discourse on the contemporary opera scene. (Undoubtedly, a strong stimulus to organize the seminar was the launching of the opera magazine Bravissimo a year earlier, which was aimed at attracting more writers and encouraging their interest in the opera genre, as well as promoting the magazine in the field of international media of similar type.)
Ten years after we can assert that the opera seminars held by the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre have not only become a traditional annual forum that assembles opera critics and connoisseurs, but have also been consistently veering towards opera studies. As noted by the authoritative Lithuanian opera researcher Jonas Bruveris in his opening speech at the 10th International Opera Seminar, this event already deserves to be defined as a conference.
Paradoxically, but also quite naturally, it is the country’s main opera stage rather than an academic institution that regularly holds symposiums of opera scholars and, alongside that, it encourages opera studies in Lithuania. The acquired competence, knowledge and the accumulated texts have allowed the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre to take a step forward by publishing a collection of scholarly articles based on these seminars. The result is the book Opera in the World of New Media. A Historical and Critical Overview.
The title of the present book (originally coined by musicologist Rūta Stanevičiūtė-Kelmickienė) was borrowed from the first Seminar: a discussion that took place during the seminar is included in the Preface of the book as a testimony of the live polemics typical of these opera forums. However, the definition “Opera in the World of New Media” aptly sums up the more general situation of opera today, when the genre of the musical theatre faces new challenges raised by our contemporary world. A multi-layered medialized space has also had an impact on opera research, which no longer fits in the traditional canon of musicology.
Opera studies is quite a young field of musicology, which is closely related to the cultural turn that this subject has taken. Although in Western universities it has been cultivated over the last two decades only, it has been a particularly lively area of musicological research nurtured and inspired by the vigorous and expansive field of opera practice and the historical research of opera culture. Opera studies embraces not only the traditional disciplines of musicology, such as the history of opera and genre issues, but also cultural history, reception history, performance practice and history, textual criticism, nationalism, gender studies etc.
The four chapters of the book Opera in the World of New Media reflect the variety of fields of opera studies. The first chapter “Opera and National Theatre” consists of six historical texts that also touch upon some aspects of the development of nationalism. These are scholarly publications by the musicologists Jonas Bruveris and Vytautė Markeliūnienė on the problems of the history of Lithuanian national opera, and an essay by one of the most respected Lithuanian opera critics Edmundas Gedgaudas. Three articles by our international colleagues Mikus Čeže (Latvia), Magdalena Dziadek (Poland) and Kristel Pappel (Estonia) present the history of national opera theatres of the neighbouring countries.
The second chapter “Works and Contexts” focuses on the analysis of stage works – operas and ballets – and their characters. It contains texts by the musicologist Damien Colas (France), who explores the relations between the traditions of French and Italian operas, Ryszard Daniel Golianek (Poland), whose research interests lie in Polish studies in opera, the art sociologist Olga Borshchova (Belarus) and the musicologist Beata Baublinskienė.
The third chapter of the book “Opera as a Performing Art” is comprised of texts by the leading international opera critics Boris Kehrmann (Germany), Daniel Cichy (Poland), John Allison (UK) and Paolo Patrizi (Italy), commenting on opera productions and performing practice.
Last but not least, the texts in the fourth chapter of the book “Opera as a Social Phenomenon” present opera as an object of cultural anthropology, art management and creative work. These are the publications by the opera anthropologist Vlado Kotnik (Slovenia), the musicologist Beata Baublinskienė and the cultural manager Laima Vilimienė, as well as an interview with one of the most successful contemporary European opera composers Peter Eötvös (Hungary).
At the end of the book programmes of all ten opera seminars are presented.
The book Opera in the World of New Media aims to consolidate the direction of opera studies that is still under formation in the academic space of Lithuania, and to develop a critical discourse on opera.
Sincere thanks are owed to the authors of the articles and those who helped to prepare the book, as well as the reviewers, Dr. Rūta Stanevičiūtė-Kelmickienė and Dr. Helmutas Šabasevičius, for their valuable advice and suggestions.
We are grateful to the Lithuanian Council for Culture for consistent support for the opera seminars and partial funding for the publication of this book.
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