Ranging from costumes and accessories to set designs, engravings, photographs and sheet music, objects from our collections come together to tell the fascinating 400-year history of opera – documenting the evolution of the 'play that is sung', from its 17th century origins, through to experimental contemporary productions.

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These objects explore the staging of opera in its many forms – tragic, comic, serious and popular – as well as the lives of its most influential performers. Highlights include set designs by Derek Jarman, costumes by David Hockney, music scores by George Frederick Handel, and cartoons by William Hogarth.

Collection highlights