Opera North: Race, Representation and Authenticity, 1979–2023

Tuesday 28 March 2023
10:00am - 5:00pm
Art Gallery, The Stanley and Audrey Burton
Every day
Friday 19 May 2023
General public

This exhibition explores 40 years of Opera North’s operatic storytelling, and the ways it has engaged with issues of race, representation and authenticity.

From the earliest 16th century Italian operas to the present day, opera has always offered its audiences representations of far-off times, cultures, and people.

By the 18th and 19th centuries, audience numbers began to expand due to the emergence of the middle classes. Opera houses sought to capture the attention of this growing market through theatrical spectacle, exoticism, and musical novelties reflecting distant lands and cultures.

More recently, opera companies, directors, and performers have become increasingly aware that traditional stagings of such works have the potential to communicate negative and stereotyped messages about race and culture. Productions have grappled with how audiences listen or who has the right to tell certain stories, and how they can facilitate authentic creative voices.

Over the course of the last four decades, Opera North has offered both traditional and innovative stagings of works that bring to the fore issues of race, representation and authenticity. This exhibition draws on materials held in the Opera North Collection held at the University of Leeds Library and from the Opera North stores to explore the company’s operatic storytelling.

This exhibition is part of the 2022–23 Sadler Series Telling Operatic Stories: Race, ethics, and authenticity, funded by the Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute.

View this event on the Galleries website