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The overarching aim of this group is to study the complex sociocultural and political aspects of opera from the point of view of heritage and memory studies in an interdisciplinary and transnational context. Its main endeavors are to develop methodologies for exploring opera as intangible heritage, a vehicle for social change and to understand how opera engages with digital technologies.

The questions to be addressed include: How does opera contribute to social inclusion and diversity? How does opera engage with processes of decoloniality? How could the sensory experiences of opera be used to promote audience cross-pollination and the creation of an aesthetic space fostering inclusion? What is the relationship between opera and democracy? How does opera contribute to social cohesion in the digital age, and what can opera reveal about urban, national, and transnational cultural memory?

Academic researchers, experts in the fields of the creation and public relations of opera, those who teach the art and craft of opera, heritage professionals, and policy makers participating in the group will work together to make opera more accessible and socially relevant through innovative forms of education and digital tools. Located in Amsterdam, the group will work together with the Dutch National Opera and aims to become a cultural humanities hub for the city of Amsterdam, creating a sustainable platform for dialogue on the potential of opera to create inclusive aesthetic experiences.

Opera as an intangible cultural heritage has played an important role in shaping the sociocultural and political life of most urban centers in Europe and worldwide. In 2023 Italian opera became part of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This marked an important moment of recognition not only for Italian culture and for Italy, the birthplace of “opera in musica” and the country that boasts a record number of sixty opera houses, but also for opera as an art form that has a wider appeal and is a relevant artistic expression for humankind. UNESCO describes opera as an art that promotes collective cohesion, shapes and preserves sociocultural memory, and promotes intergenerational dialogue.

This group will study the heritage of opera in the past and the present and explore how this heritage has been transformed in the digital age, and how it can be used to promote social change.

  • Envisaged results
    1. Decolonial Opera research platform – consortium grant application
    2. PhD dissertations, edited volumes, peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, workshops, and expert meetings. 
    3. Collaboration between academic partners, opera houses, “heritage professionals”, and policy makers to impact policy making regarding opera as an inclusive and accessible cultural institution.
    4. Dissemination of the research results through public lectures and discussions, publications, conferences.
    5. Co-creation of platforms for public outreach and education for a more accessible and inclusive understanding of the heritage of opera.
  • Social relevance

    Opera as a cultural heritage and institution is a significant site of European urban areas. However, its future and its social relevance is not self-evident. Despite having a reputation as elitist, opera has been deeply engrained in popular culture through a great number of artistic and social practices. It is of high societal relevance for cultural institutions, educators, and academic researchers to explore the ways in which 1) opera as cultural heritage can stay relevant for a wide public; 2) how it connects various sociocultural layers and registers; and 3) how it could become an artistic and cultural practice appealing to young people whose primary source of knowledge and entertainment comes from digital media.

    Nature of the group

    Reading group and network group.

Group coordinator

Dr. K.K. (Krisztina) Lajosi-Moore

Faculty of Humanities

Europese studies