Opera at Oakhurst - March 30 - April 3, 2023
Opera and the Creative Artist
During the 19th century, creative artists and the impulses that drove them became one of the most striking themes of European opera and theatre. This arose in large part from the Romantic movement (1770-1850), when the creative imagination came to be regarded as the most important, sometimes the sole source of artistic production. Consequently artists, in whatever medium they worked, could lay claim to having a vital function in a society that was modernizing fast. Although such modernization brought the “Western” world vast wealth and power, such forces were also understood to have a dehumanizing impact. While opera and the theatre in many ways reflected and celebrated their society’s prosperity and dominance, they could also resist it. One of the ways in which that resistance manifested itself was in displaying the imagination of creative artists as transformative influences on their audiences, spectators, and readers.
In this seminar we will explore seven operas in which creative artists are the central figures. All have potential to change society, but in some cases that potential is never reached due to the failings of the artist whose imagination can both inspire those who admire their work and yet that work might destroy the artist. We will begin by viewing and discussing Massenet’s Werther (1892), where the central character is the archetype of the Romantic artist doomed by his self-absorption. This will be followed by two Wagner music dramas, Tannhäuser (1845) and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1868), which are among the most extended operatic explorations of artistic creativity; in Tannhäuser the Romantic artist is defeated by his volatility and unresolved splits within his imagination, while Die Meistersinger represents an artistic utopia, a Romantic artist’s dream. We will then consider Berlioz’s early operatic masterpiece, Benvenuto Cellini (1838), which climaxes with the casting of his famous statue of Perseus, presented as a triumph of the Romantic artist. This will be followed by a consideration of Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hoffmann (1870), one of the most penetrating depictions of a Romantic poet whose visions dissolve before he can realize them. We will then move into more modern times by exploring Benjamin Britten’s final operatic masterpiece, Death in Venice (1973), which centers on the experience of a dying novelist. Finally we will consider Richard Strauss’s final masterpiece, Capriccio, in which the entire action is taken up by determining what opera is from multiple viewpoints.
As always, Professor Williams’s talks will include video and recorded extracts that will provide access to the fascinating and mysterious world that links opera and religion. Participants will greatly benefit from familiarizing themselves with the four operas that form the central study of the weekend. Suggestions for preparation, including a bibliography, will be sent to participants after they have registered.
Our low price covers everything!
In addition to lodging and Professor William’s wonderful instructional seminars, our pricing includes all regular meals, from Thursday’s arrival social and dinner to Monday’s departure lunch, with Saturday afternoon tea and the grand finale social and banquet on Sunday.
$939.00 Per Person Double Occupancy; $1,099.00 Per Person Single Occupancy
$687.00 Per Person Commuter (includes everything but lodging)