July 8, 2013 "A Night at the Opera" Exhibition Opens at Library of Congress on Aug. 15

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Raymond A. White (202) 707-1842, James E. Wintle (202) 707-2703

The grandeur of opera—its unforgettable music, stellar performers, and lavish scenery and costumes—has transfixed audiences for more than 400 years. The Library of Congress will celebrate the majestic art form with “A Night at the Opera,” an exhibition opening on Aug. 15, 2013.

The 50-item display will feature manuscript and printed scores, librettos, photographs, correspondence and set designs, dating from the late 18th century through the beginning of the 20th century. The exhibition will highlight the diversity and breadth of the opera holdings in the Music Division at the Library of Congress.

“A Night at the Opera” will open on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 in the Performing Arts Reading Room Gallery on the first floor of the Library’s James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington D.C., and will be on view through Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. The exhibition is free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Afterward, the exhibition will travel to Los Angeles, opening at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in the Library of Congress Ira Gershwin Gallery, on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, and running through Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014.

“A Night at the Opera” also will commemorate the bicentennials of iconic opera composers Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, both born in 1813. Highlights include holograph manuscript (in the composer’s own handwriting) scores by Verdi and Wagner, as well as extremely rare librettos from the premiere performances of Verdi’s “Aida” (Cairo, 1871) and Wagner’s “Lohengrin” (Weimar, 1850). Other items include early printed scores of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” and Verdi’s “Macbeth” with evocative illustrated title pages.

The exhibition will feature a number of items on display for the first time, including set designs for “Don Giovanni” and Georges Bizet’s “Carmen” by Oliver Smith (1918-1994) and a colorful set design by Italian Art Nouveau artist Galileo Chini (1873-1956), created for the first production of Giacomo Puccini’s “Turandot” at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan in 1926.

In addition, there will be a number of photographs of celebrated opera stars costumed for some of their most notable roles. Among them will be Enrico Caruso (1873-1921), Lauritz Melchior (1890-1973), Alexander Kipnis (1891-1978), Rosa Ponselle (1897-1981), Lily Pons (1898-1976) and Regina Resnik (born 1922).

An audiovisual program featuring opera-themed live action and cartoon excerpts from television and movies in the 1940s and ’50s will complement the exhibition objects.

“A Night at the Opera” is made possible through the sponsorship of the Library’s Music Division and the generous support of The Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trust for the benefit of the Library of Congress. The exhibition curators from the Music Division are Raymond A. White and James E. Wintle. The exhibition director from the Library’s Interpretive Programs Office is Martha Hopkins.

The Music Division, with more than 21 million items, holds the world's largest music collection. Particular areas of strength include opera (scores and librettos), stage and screen musicals, chamber music, jazz and American popular song. The Music Division is home to approximately 600 archival collections, most of them the personal papers (including music scores as well as correspondence, photographs, legal and financial documents, programs, clippings and other materials) documenting the lives and careers of stellar composers and performers. As well, the Music Division holds a significant and growing body of materials documenting dance and theater. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/rr/perform/.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 155 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov.


PR 13-129
ISSN 0731-3527