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Seattle Opera Podcast

Jan 25, 2023

Seattle Opera scholar-in-residence Dr. Naomi André, explores issues of orientalism, cultural representation, and musical exoticism in opera. French composer Camille Saint-Saëns wrote his biblical epic Samson and Delilah (1877) at a time when European powers were aggressively pursuing imperial expansion. As part of the cultural project of colonialism, Europe’s artists became fascinated with the representation of non-European peoples, frequently turning to caricatures and stereotypes to justify European incursions. Such orientalist portrayals present numerous challenges when presenting these works in the 21st century. When does inspiration become exploitation? Who gets to tell stories about whom? And what happens when issues of gender, religious belief, and nation intersect with the power dynamics that underlie these works?