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Sun, Dec 05


Zoom Event

Opera’s Origins: Musical Experimentation in Florence and Mantua

Explore opera's roots in Northern Italy at the turn of the 17th century with scholar and theater artist Dr. Ariane Helou.

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Opera’s Origins: Musical Experimentation in Florence and Mantua
Opera’s Origins: Musical Experimentation in Florence and Mantua

Time & Location

Dec 05, 2021, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Zoom Event


About the Event

Opera’s Origins: Musical Experimentation in Florence and Mantua

Before Verdi’s grand orchestrations and Puccini’s sweeping melodrama, before crowds thronged La Scala, what did Italian opera sound like? How did cultural, political, and aesthetic concerns at the turn of the seventeenth century launch what would become the dominant musical-theatrical genre for centuries, eventually developing into a global industry? This talk will introduce audiences to the very first operas composed in Italy, from their roots in the formal, quasi-academic musical explorations of the Florentine Camerata (ca. 1580-1600) to the dramatic sophistication of Claudio Monteverdi’s Orfeo (1608). In particular, we will look at how the first three operas ever written—by Giulio Caccini, Jacopo Peri, and Monteverdi—take different musical and dramatic approaches to the Orpheus myth, the ultimate fable of music’s transformative power. And we’ll listen to some of this beautiful music along the way!


Dr. Ariane Helou’s research focuses on drama, music, and poetry in early modern Italy, England, and France. Dr. Helou was a faculty member at UCLA in the department of French & Francophone Studies, and at UC Santa Cruz (where she also earned her PhD in Literature) in Theater Arts, Classical Studies, and French. Dr. Helou has held fellowships from the Mellon Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies; the Huntington Library; and UCLA’s William Andrews Clark Memorial Library & Center for 17th– and 18th-Century Studies, among others. She currently works as a grant writer at Caltech’s Beckman Institute. Dr. Helou has published research on early modern Italian drama, music, and Shakespeare. She is also a translator; a dramaturg; and a performing artist whose background spans early music, theater, and opera. Ariane was a company member of the Santa Cruz Shakespeare festival from 2012 to 2020, and served as dramaturg for LA Opera’s streaming production of The Anonymous Lover by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. She is Associate Artistic Producer of the choral ensemble Artes Vocales and Dramaturg/Producer of the Los Angeles-based theater company Collaborative Artists Bloc.


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