Operatic Immersions
Inaugural conference of the Northern Opera Research Network

We are grateful for the financial support of the Music & Letters Trust, University of Huddersfield, University of Leeds, and University of Nottingham

22-23 April 2016
22 April: Heritage Quay (University of Huddersfield)
23 April: Clegg Studio (University of Leeds)


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FRIDAY 22 April 2016

Heritage Quay, University of Huddersfield, Queensgate, HD1 3DH

9.45 Welcome + coffee

Rachel Cowgill (University of Huddersfield), Sarah Hibberd (University of Nottingham), Kara McKechnie (University of Leeds)

10.00 Panel 1: Nineteenth-Century Practice

Annelies Andries (Yale University): ‘Living the Operatic Spectacle: Immersive Experience in Early Nineteenth-Century Paris’

Michael Richardson (Stony Brook University): ‘Reliving the Past, Envisioning the Future: Operatic Immersion and National Identity Formation in Schumann’s Genoveva and Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Scott Palmer (University of Leeds): ‘Immersion through Light and Darkness: Appia, Wagner and the Evolution of Modern Scenographic Practice’

11.30 Coffee

11.45 Roundtable 1: Composing, Commissioning and Producing Contemporary Opera 

Rachel Cowgill (University of Huddersfield),  Dominic Gray (Projects Director, Opera North),  Emily Howard (Royal Northern College of Music), Kevin Malone (University of Manchester)

1.15 Lunch

2.15 Panel 2: Productions

Lauma Mellēna–Bartkeviča (University of Latvia): ‘Immersion Rationalized: Das Rheingold Directed by Stefan Herheim at Latvian National Opera’

Hyun Höchsmann (East China Normal University): ‘Prometeo, Tragedia dell’ascolto: A New Way of Thinking Music in Nono’

3.15 Pause

3.30 Panel 3: Wagner

Carolin Rindfleisch (University of Oxford): ‘Emulating Performance? Richard Wagner’s Descriptions of his Leitmotifs’

Olena Ushchapivska (Donetsk State University): ‘Seeing the Future, by Looking Back at the Past’

Kara McKechnie (University of Leeds) Introducing the Royal Opera House Opera Machine

4.30 Tea

5.00 Keynote 1: Rhian Hutchings (Creative Director, Operasonic), with guests: ‘A garden by the river in the evening’

6.00 Wine reception

6.30 Performance:

Francis Poulenc/Jean Cocteau, La voix humaine (1959)
(St Paul’s Hall)
Director: Emma Black
Elle: Lorna James
Musical Director and Pianist: Chris Pelly

Supported by the University of Huddersfield’s Centre for Music, Gender and Identity (MuGI)

7.30 Dinner: Hot Buffet at Coffeekabin, Queensgate, Huddersfield


SATURDAY 23 April 2016

Alec Clegg Studio, School of Performance, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT

10.00 Keynote 2: Clemens Risi (Institut für Theater-und Medienwissenschaft, Erlangen/Nürnberg): ‘Opera and/as bodily participation’

11.00 Coffee

11.30 Panel 3: Simulcasts

Aoife Ní Drisceoil (Maynooth University): ‘The NFL’s Ties with Mediatized Opera: Mega Sporting Events and Opera Performance-Events’

Tereza Havelkova (Charles University in Prague/ University of Amsterdam): ‘The Politics of Closeness in Opera as Hypermedium’

12.30 Lunch

1.30 Screening:

I am the Ferryman (Adam Strickson, University of Leeds)

2.00 Panel 4: Performers

Ditlev Rindom (University of Cambridge): ‘Celluloid Diva: Staging Leoncavallo’s Zazà in the Cinematic Age’

Francesca Placanica (Maynooth University): ‘Monodramatic Immersions: Repositioning the Solo Performer’s Embodied Voice’

Ben Spatz (University of Huddersfield): ‘Gesamtpraxis: Immersion and the Craft of Song-Action’

Kevin Malone (University of Manchester): ‘Mysterious 44: An Operatic Sensorium’

Tea available between sessions

4.00 Roundtable 2: The Ring

Kara McKechnie (University of Leeds), Stuart Leeks (Opera North), Martin Pickard (Opera North), Jenny Daniel (University of Leeds)

5.00 Dinner (delegates to make own arrangements)

7.30 Performance (optional extra): Opera North presents: Wagner, Das Rheingold (Leeds Town Hall)



Call for Participation (Now closed)

Immersion is a term much debated in the field of performance and an aesthetic ideal that has shaped key developments in operatic history. One of the first associations we might make is with Wagner’s Ring (or rather his concept of Gesamtkunstwerk) and this conference coincides with the start of the 2016 Opera North Ring Cycle, offering an opportunity for delegates to attend Das Rheingold at Leeds Town Hall on the evening of 23 April.

Immersion can relate to the way performance spaces are or have been constructed, to sensory phenomena, to the use of new technologies, to emotional, phenomenological perceptions of performance, to the role of performers as active agents, and to an opera’s relationship with real-world events. Opera’s visceral and sometimes overwhelming effects on audiences invite investigation of its own specific immersive attributes. Recent trends in making new operatic work pick up the attraction of immersive environments among practitioners and academics, while historical works are experienced anew with digital technologies, improvisation, audience interaction, and in unconventional and surprising spaces (the pop-up operas of tête à tête, Silent Opera’s use of smartphone technology, Christopher Cerrone’s headphone opera Invisible Cities for LA Union Station, and Opera North’s opera installation I am Yours, Yours am I). Additionally, the rise of the opera ‘livecast’, experienced online and via cinematic platforms, opens up new questions about immersion, mediatised opera, and adaptation.

Clemens Risi, Institut für Theater- und Medienwissenschaft, Nuremberg
Rhian Hutchings, Creative Director, OperaSonic

For the purposes of this conference, the term ‘immersion’ is defined broadly and provides a focus for both historical and contemporary perspectives. Proposals (200 words max.) for 20-minute papers are invited, offering discussion of any aspects of operatic immersion, particularly relating to themes outlined above and/or including:

· immersion in the rehearsal process
· backstage perspectives and their immersive qualities
· temporal immersions (including operatic marathons)
· opera as macrocosm and/or microcosm
· opera’s relationship with the sublime
· opera and fandom

Proposals should be emailed to norns@norn.network

Deadline: 11 January 2016

Programme Committee: Rachel Cowgill (University of Huddersfield); Sarah Hibberd (University of Nottingham), Kara McKechnie (University of Leeds).