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Distinguished Lecture 9-22-19 at the Lenox Library: Eugene Johnson, “Inventing the Opera House.”

The Lenox Library begins its latest Distinguished Lecture Series, now in its 13th year, on September 22nd. Eugene J. Johnson, Amos Lawrence Professor of Art, Emeritus, will present “Inventing the Opera House: Theater Architecture in Renaissance and Baroque Italy.”

Johnson traces the invention of the opera house, a building type of world-wide importance. Italy laid the foundation theater buildings in the West, in architectural spaces invented for the commedia dell’arte in the sixteenth century, and theaters built to present the new art form of opera in the seventeenth. Rulers lavished enormous funds on these structures. Often they were among the most expensive artistic undertakings of a given prince. They were part of an upsurge of theatrical invention in the performing arts. At the same time, the productions that took place within the opera house could threaten the social order, to the point where rulers would raze them. Johnson reconstructs the history of the opera house by bringing together evidence from a variety of disciplines, including music, art, theatre, and politics. 

Johnson is the Amos Lawrence Professor of Art, emeritus, at Williams College, where he taught for 52 years. His particular interests are the architecture of Italy in the Renaissance and of the United States in the 20th century. His latest book, “Inventing the Opera House: Theater Architecture in Renaissance and Baroque Italy,” was published this year by Cambridge University Press. 

The Distinguished Lecture Series was established at the library in 2007 by Boston University Professor of Music Jeremy Yudkin. All Distinguished Lectures are free, thanks to the generosity of the speakers themselves and donations from the public. For further information about the series, including this season’s list of lectures, please call the library at 413-637-2630 or visit http://lenoxlib.org/about-the-library/the-distinguished-lecture-series/