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This exhibition celebrates operatic history, from the 17th century to the present day.

The first exhibition to ever examine opera on a grand scale, this show tells a 400-year story. Beginning with its roots in Renaissance Italy and ending at the present day, it focuses on seven ground-breaking operatic premieres at theatres in Venice, London, Vienna, Milan, Paris, Dresden and St Petersburg.

Looking beyond the spectacle of the performances, the display examines the distinct cultural and political that landscape surrounded them. It highlights how the concerns of the time were played out on stage through composition, sound, set and costume design.

Significant loans include Salvador Dali’s creations for Peter Brook’s 1949 production of Salome; Manet’s Music in the Tuileries Gardens, which revealed the works as a counterpart to Wagner’s modernist approach to music in the 1860s; and a fantastic selection of original manuscripts including Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, from 1642.

Moments of controversy are also explored; whether that be the sensational, elaborate staging of Handel’s Rinaldo in 1711, or Shostakovich’s avant-garde Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, which was banned under political censorship in 1936.

Contemporary interpretations include Philip Glass’s minimalist, non-narrative Einstein on the Beach.

V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum)

Cromwell Road, London, Greater London, SW7 2RL

020 7942 2000


Opening times

Temporarily closed

The Fashion Gallery will be closed for refurbishment 18 Jan 2021 – 20 April 2022

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