Play it again, Romeo

Event Information

Share this event
Date and Time
Location
Location

Chapel

Strand

London, United Kingdom

View Map

Event description

Description

Play it again, Romeo

Little known today, the aria Ombra adorata aspetta (wait, shadowy beloved) was incredibly popular in Napoleonic Europe. It first appeared in the Neapolitan composer Niccolò Zingarelli’s Romeo and Juliet in 1796. The version which travelled across Europe, however, was an adaptation by the castrato Crescentini. Crescentini was the opera’s first Romeo, and Ombra adorata is his swan song in the piece. After drinking poison in the Capulet tomb, he announces the aria as his ‘last lament’, and in singing it calls on his beloved to expect him in Elysium.

Like modern hits, the aria was covered by innumerable artists and amateurs, remixed, rewritten, and retold in settings ranging from operas to domestic music-making, vocal concerts, and instrumental arrangements. Textually, it appeared in printed scores, private albums, singing manuals, and libretti, and was discussed in newspapers and periodicals, memoirs, autobiographies, reflective essays, and at least one short story. It launched careers; won a knighthood for its composer; made an Emperor (Napoleon) weep; and even featured in a parody devised by an Empress, Maria Theresa, where it was comically interrupted by a chorus of coughs, snores, and sneezes. Strikingly, from 1800 Romeo’s aria was increasingly sung by women, as the rage for castrati waned and as prima donnas, not without friction, took their place at the centre of operatic culture.

Through musical performances, literary reflections, and contemporary images, this event explores the transformations of this single aria, revealing the ways in which performers and writers played with sound, character, gender, and, not least, with listeners’ hearts, in Romantic-era Europe.

Miranda Stanyon is Lecturer in Comparative literature at King’s, and specialises in British and German literature and musical culture in the long eighteenth century.


Share with friends
Date and Time
Location

Chapel

Strand

London, United Kingdom

View Map

Save This Event

Event Saved