Opera

Rooms 103 – 106b

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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.

Exploring Opera

Photo of Poster advertising the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Missouri, 1978. Museum no. S.898-2015. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Poster advertising the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Missouri, 1978. Museum no. S.898-2015. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Set design for John Taverner’s opera Thérèse, designed by Alan Barlow, 1979, England. Museum no. S.843-1983. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Set design for John Taverner’s opera Thérèse, designed by Alan Barlow, 1979, England. Museum no. S.843-1983. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Libretto for Radamisto by George Frideric Handel and Nicola Francesco Haym, printed by Thomas Wood, 1720, London. Museum no. S.501-1985. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Libretto for Radamisto by George Frideric Handel and Nicola Francesco Haym, printed by Thomas Wood, 1720, London. Museum no. S.501-1985. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Costume for Boris Godunov worn by Feodor Chaliapin, designed by Alexander Golovin, about 1909, Russia. Museum no. S.459-to-E-1979. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Costume for Boris Godunov worn by Feodor Chaliapin, designed by Alexander Golovin, about 1909, Russia. Museum no. S.459-to-E-1979. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Costume for the Fairy Queen in Gilbert and Sullivan's opera Iolanthe, D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, designed by Bruno Santini, made by David Garrett, 1977, England. Museum no. S.348 to I-1985. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Costume for the Fairy Queen in Gilbert and Sullivan's opera Iolanthe, D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, designed by Bruno Santini, made by David Garrett, 1977, England. Museum no. S.348 to I-1985. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Opera glasses, 19th century. Museum no. S.320-1981. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Opera glasses, 19th century. Museum no. S.320-1981. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Print of D. Portland and Mrs Billington entitled The Bulstrode Siren, engraved by James Gillray, published by H. Humphrey, 1803, England. Museum no. S.213-2009. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Print of D. Portland and Mrs Billington entitled The Bulstrode Siren, engraved by James Gillray, published by H. Humphrey, 1803, England. Museum no. S.213-2009. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Costume design for Lisa in the party scene in Tchaikovsky's opera The Queen of Spades, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, designed by Oliver Messel, 1950, England. Museum no. S.186-2006. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Costume design for Lisa in the party scene in Tchaikovsky's opera The Queen of Spades, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, designed by Oliver Messel, 1950, England. Museum no. S.186-2006. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Photograph of Adelina Patti as Esmeralda in Campana's opera Esmeralda, 19th century, England. Museum no. S.138:357-2007. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Photograph of Adelina Patti as Esmeralda in Campana's opera Esmeralda, 19th century, England. Museum no. S.138:357-2007. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Engraving of a court ballet in Vlasislav Hall, Prague Castle, 1617, Czech Republic. Museum no. S.87-1 to 7-2010. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Engraving of a court ballet in Vlasislav Hall, Prague Castle, 1617, Czech Republic. Museum no. S.87-1 to 7-2010. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Rich's Glory or his Triumphant Entry into Covent-Garden, engraving, William Hogarth, 1811, England. Museum no. S.45-2008. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Rich's Glory or his Triumphant Entry into Covent-Garden, engraving, William Hogarth, 1811, England. Museum no. S.45-2008. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Costume for the Bonze in Stravinsky's opera The Nightingale, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, designed by David Hockney, 1983, England. Museum no. S.26:1 to 6-2003.  © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Costume for the Bonze in Stravinsky's opera The Nightingale, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, designed by David Hockney, 1983, England. Museum no. S.26:1 to 6-2003. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Watercolour showing Covent Garden Opera House, The Colonnade, Walter Bayes, about 1940, England. Museum no. E.1762-1949. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Watercolour showing Covent Garden Opera House, The Colonnade, Walter Bayes, about 1940, England. Museum no. E.1762-1949. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Ceramic figure of Jenny Lind as Alice in Meyerbeer’s opera Robert le Diable, 1847, England. Museum no. C.87-1928. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Ceramic figure of Jenny Lind as Alice in Meyerbeer’s opera Robert le Diable, 1847, England. Museum no. C.87-1928. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Relief of George Frideric Handel, Louis-François Roubiliac, 1750 – 60, England. Museum no. A.11-1961. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Relief of George Frideric Handel, Louis-François Roubiliac, 1750 – 60, England. Museum no. A.11-1961. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Souvenir Japanese fan commemorating The Mikado's 1000th performance at the Savoy Theatre, 1896.  Museum no: S.1210-1984. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Souvenir Japanese fan commemorating The Mikado's 1000th performance at the Savoy Theatre, 1896. Museum no: S.1210-1984. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Sheet of printed music for The Ladies Lamentation for the Loss of Sensesino, engraved by George Bickham Jnr, 1737 – 1738, England. Museum no. S.1137-1986. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Sheet of printed music for The Ladies Lamentation for the Loss of Sensesino, engraved by George Bickham Jnr, 1737 – 1738, England. Museum no. S.1137-1986. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Lithograph showing the building of Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sir William Rothenstein, 1897, London. Museum no. S.1012-1982. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Lithograph showing the building of Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sir William Rothenstein, 1897, London. Museum no. S.1012-1982. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Photo of Giuseppe Verdi, sculpture, Raffaello Romanello, 1890, Europe. Museum no. S.1694-2014. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Giuseppe Verdi, sculpture, Raffaello Romanello, 1890, Europe. Museum no. S.1694-2014. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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