1st Symposium: Opera Through the Eyes of Film
Committee on Theater and Performance Studies
Department of Cinema and Media Studies
University of Chicago
May 10-11, 2018
Organization: João Pedro Cachopo & David J. Levin
Thursday, May 10
Film Studies Center
5811 South Ellis Avenue
4:00p: Opening Remarks
4:10p: Introduction to the screening by Jonathan Rosenbaum
4:30p: Screening of Mark Rappaport’s Mozart in Love (1975)
6:00p: Debate conducted by Jonathan Rosenbaum
Friday, May 11
Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society
5701 South Woodlawn Avenue
9:30a-11.45a: Panel I – Appropriation, Derivation, Performance
- João Pedro Cachopo, The Importance of Being Passionate: Parody and Satire in Marc Rappaport’s Mozart in Love
- Marco Ladd, Silent Cinema Through Italian Opera Glasses: Three Perspectives on Rapsodia satanica
- Jelena Novak, Cinematography with Scent of Opera: Films and their Singing Derivatives
1:15p-3:30p: Panel II – Tales of Liveness and Deadness
- Christopher Morris, The Deadness of Live Opera
- Marissa Fenley, When the Puppets Get Together: Intermediality and Intersubjectivity in Powell and Pressburger's Tales of Hoffmann
- Tien-Tien Jong, Lip-Synching to My “Song of Love”: The Dancing Doll in Powell & Pressburger’s Tales of Hoffmann
3:30p-4:00p: Coffee break
4:00p-5:30p: Panel III – Erotics and the Image
- Dan Wang, The Erotics of Fictional Worlds
- David J. Levin, Sensation & Citation: Peter Konwitschny stages Verdi via Visconti in Vienna
5:30p-6:00p: Final Discussion
The encounter between opera and film dates back to the birth of the motion picture at the dawn of the twentieth century. Back then, opera was a prestigious and flourishing cultural practice: the stream of new works was far from drying out, or so at least it seemed, whereas the motion picture was struggling to define its own identity both artistically and technically. In this context, cinema – its early practitioners, theorists, and enthusiasts – often invoked opera as an eminent precursor whose legacy the new art form might lay claim to and enrich. Much has changed since then. With the rise of the avant-garde in music, opera experienced a major crisis – one whose effects are still keenly felt. Suddenly, and not without surprise, film – both as a medium and as an art – has come to be seen as a possible means for opera to survive within a media-saturated world.
In all its complexity and ambivalence, the interplay of opera and film is not only a fascinating but also an intricate topic. Needless to say, to disentangle its many threads in a theoretically rigorous way requires more than a teleologically oriented narrative about the rise and fall of two genres – often, perhaps all too often, portrayed as the nec plus ultra of “high” and “low” culture. Indeed, despite the current momentum of intermedia and interart research, caution is still needed to avoid historical or theoretical over-simplification and political stereotyping when it comes to the debate on opera and film.
In keeping with these concerns, the aim of this symposium is to reassess the aesthetic and political aspects of the relationship between opera and film, taking the following question as a point of departure: how does looking at (and listening to) opera through the eyes (and ears) of film – i.e. by means of a detour through the various ways in which film remediates, represents, reappropriates, or evokes opera – change our perception and understanding of both genres? Taken in its broadest sense, this question is meant to trigger a fruitful and intensive exchange whose contours and trajectory will only emerge in the course of this symposium at the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society on May 11, 2018. In anticipation of the talks, the Film Studies Center will host a screening of Mark Rappaport's Mozart in Love (1974) on May 10 at 4:00 p.m. Jonathan Rosenbaum will introduce and comment on the film.
This symposium is organized within the scope of the project “PROPERA – The Profanation of Opera: Music and Drama on Film” (funded by the European Commission under a Marie Skłodowska Curie Action) and is co-sponsored by the Committee on Theater and Performance Studies and the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. We are grateful to the Neubauer Collegium and the Film Studies Center for their generosity and willingness to host events at their premises. Very special thanks, for their invaluable help in making this symposium possible, go to Felix Chaoulideer and Vicki Walden, as well as to Carolyn Ownbey, Corrie Besse, Cristiana Vicente, Julia Gibbs, Traci Verleyen and Vera Inácio Cordeniz.