Manchester, 14th-18th July 2004


Sandy Thorburn (McMaster University, Ontario, Canada)

Seventeenth century Venetian opera as rhizome of the culture

Venetian opera was a vital part of cultural life in seventeenth-century Venice, at once interdependent with the culture and self-contained.  As an art form dependent upon the collaboration of many individual artists – musicians, dramatists, performers, designers, painters, publicists, and engineers – as well as willing investors, a supportive critical community and a receptive public, it was dynamic, changing to keep up with current fashion trends; a kind of rhizome. The term “rhizome” as a cultural framework (coined by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guatteri) describes a cultural artefact with multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points in data representation and interpretation, like the internet.

Current scholarship about Venetian opera is unable to know precisely what comprised the productions of these operas, since many of the most effective and lauded aspects of the work were unrecorded in any reliable way.  Furthermore the contemporary scholar has different interests and expectations from the multitudes that dashed through the doors of the opera every night, commenting, discussing, and passing judgment throughout, before, and after the show.

Drawing on archival documents, historical evidence from the politics, business, and the philosophy of the time, this paper will attempt to locate cultural form and social process as the two prime elements in determining the socio-political relationship of the mercantilist state of early modern Venice to commercial operas of the mid-seventeenth century.

Last updated on 10 May 2004