Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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Larry Wolff – The Singing Turk: Ottoman Power and Operatic Emotions on the European Stage from the Siege of Vienna to the Age of Napoleon

Thursday, February 16, 2017

12 p.m. – 2 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum

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This lecture will consider the huge cultural phenomenon of operas about Turks that played out across the stages of Europe from the 1680s to the 1820s.  Though the best-known of these operas, Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio, is still widely performed, most of these operas about Turks are unknown today.  They include operas by such important composers as Handel, Rameau, Gluck, Haydn, Mozart, and Rossini, as well as many others.  The lecture will try to understand this cultural phenomenon in the geopolitical context of European-Ottoman relations and the intellectual context of the Enlightenment, will address the significance of such operas for Christian-Muslim relations in European history, and will also consider why these operas featuring singing Turks disappeared from the repertory over the course of the 19th century.

Larry Wolff is the Julius Silver Professor of History at New York University, and Director of the NYU Center for European and Mediterranean Studies.  He received his A.B. from Harvard University and his Ph.D. from Stanford University. His research has focused on the relation between Eastern Europe and Western Europe, especially pursuing the argument that Eastern Europe was "invented" in the eighteenth century by the philosophes and travelers of the Enlightenment.   His latest book is The Singing Turk: Ottoman Power and Operatic Emotions on the European Stage from the Siege of Vienna to the Age of Napoleon (Stanford 2016). He is also the author of Paolina’s Innocence: Child Abuse in Casanova’s Venice (2012), The Idea of Galicia:  History and Fantasy in Habsburg Political Culture (2010),  Venice and the Slavs:  The Discovery of Dalmatia in the Age of Enlightenment (2001), Inventing Eastern Europe:  The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment (1994), The Vatican and Poland in the Age of the Partitions (1988), and Postcards from the End of the World:  Child Abuse in Freud's Vienna (1988).  He has received Fulbright, American Council of Learned Societies, and Guggenheim fellowships, and he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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Center for Middle East Studies