Past Event

Opera and Laughter

In 1783, W. A. Mozart composed the music and plot for a commedia dell’arte pantomime intended for Vienna’s upcoming carnival season. Although written for string quartet, only the first violin part and the sketchiest outline of his scenario survive.

In this session, University of Chicago faculty present an excerpt of Mozart’s pantomime and a conversation centered on opera and laughter as they relate to performance, audience, politics, and improvisational comedy in the 18th century.

Participants include faculty members Martha Feldman, David Levin, and Roger Moseley. The ensemble Impromptu performs the pantomime, directed by Moseley.

About the Participants

  • Roger Moseley is a lecturer in music history and theory at the University of Chicago and musical director of Impromptu, an ensemble drawn from members of the University of Chicago’s Historically Inspired Improvisation Workshop. As a pianist, he specializes in chamber music and song accompaniment. His musicological research deals with topics ranging from Brahms’s chamber music to video games.
  • Martha Feldman is a professor of music and the humanities at the University of Chicago. She is also a cultural historian of European vernacular musics, ca. 1500-1840. She is the co-editor of the Ruth A. Solie Award-winning The Courtesan’s Arts: Cross-Cultural Perspectives. In 2007, she published Opera and Sovereignty: Transforming Myths in Eighteenth-Century Italy. Currently, Feldman is working on two books on the castrato.
  • David Levin is associate professor at the University of Chicago in the Committee on Cinema & Media Studies, the Committee on Theater and Performance Studies, and the Department of Germanic Studies. He is also co-director of the M.A. Program in the humanities. His books include Opera Through Other Eyes; Richard Wagner, Fritz Lang, and the Nibelungen: The Dramaturgy of Disavowal; and Unsettling Opera: Staging Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, and Zemlinsky.
  • Impromptu comprises student and faculty participants of the university’s ongoing historically inspired musical improvisation workshop.

Nearby street parking is available. Campus parking lots are free for visitors on weekends. Parking is also available at 5500 S Ellis Ave.

This event is part of the Chicago Humanities Festival’s (CHF) annual fall festival. For more information, please visit the CHF’s website.