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Dr Verena Liu

Verena Liu is a musicologist at the University of Greifswald and associate member of the IRTG “Baltic Peripeties”. After her studies in Weimar, Jena, Göttingen and Hanover, she received a PhD from the University of Oldenburg in 2021 with a dissertation on women as entrepreneurs in historical music education. She is currently working on contemporary opera practice in the Baltic Sea Region as well as on popular music and publishing houses during the period of Nazi Germany and Austrofascism. Her research on opera is part of the project “Fragmented Transformations/Shared Heritage” at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Baltic Sea Region Research – IFZO – in Greifswald.

The Operatic Canon as Cultural Heritage. Observations at National Operas and Regional Cultural Centers in the Baltic Sea Region

(Part of: IFZO FragTrans > Shared Heritage)

Recently, there is an interesting shift taking place in how big opera houses around the world present themselves and what terms they use: Instead of ‘repertoire’ or ‘canon’ we hear and read of ‘cultural heritage’ when it comes to describe the practice of opera as a sustainable concept for future generations. The concept of opera as cultural heritage does not only include aspects like the preservation of opera buildings, theater costumes or stage settings, it even more addresses the accessibility of opera for a social and culturally diverse audience, for new media as well as for the discussion about sustainability regarding global opera tourism and climate change.

The project examines the changes induced by this new framing to the operatic life of the Baltic Sea region, i.e. its impact on the repertoire, the architecture and public relations of opera houses as well as on the practices of opera production and reception. In a first step, the Royal Danish Opera House Copenhagen and the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet Oslo will be explored. In order to pursue the question of the extent to which opera as a cultural heritage is a phenomenon concentrated in the capital cities or which developments can be traced in the Baltic Sea region in general, a second focus is on the opera houses in Bydgoszcz (Poland) and Umeå (Sweden), which were conceived as regional cultural centers.

Research interest lies on local adaptations and extensions of globally disseminated repertoires as well as staging and reception practices between opera and music theatre, bourgeois practices and popularization, exoticism and interculturality in the four above-mentioned venues. The aim is to describe the contemporary ontology of opera between immaterial (musical genre of opera, opera-specific professions) and material cultural heritage (opera buildings, stage design, costumes), using an integral approach of sociology of architecture, history of institutions and ethnographic methods to study musical practices.