Presentness and the past in contemporary British opera

Kolassa, Alexander (2018). Presentness and the past in contemporary British opera. In: Cook, James; Kolassa, Alexander and Whittaker, Adam eds. Recomposing the Past: Representations of Early Music on Stage and Screen. Ashgate Screen Music Series. Abingdon and New York: Routledge, pp. 155–173.



This chapter unpacks the presence of a distinctly British medievalism via case studies of two contemporary British operas: Taverner by Peter Maxwell Davies and Arianna by Alexander Goehr. By drawing new connections between spheres of contemporary opera and historically informed early music performance with popular music movements undergoing complementary folk and medieval revivals in the 1960s and 1970s, it seeks to demonstrate the interconnectedness of diverse cultural practices: avant-garde and popular, highbrow and lowbrow. The discussion is framed within the broader context of a forward-looking modernism looking for its inspiration—and innovation—in a distant (and often local) past.

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