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Politics, Opera & Philosophy

Opera, more so perhaps than most other forms of art, is deeply intertwined with philosophy and politics. For some composers this was explicitly so. Think of Wagner’s relation with Nietzsche and Schopenhauer or Verdi’s role in Italian unification. But almost any opera raises, and tries to grapple with, an abundance of philosophical and political questions. Often, of course, those relevant at the time they where written. But these works still speak to us today, either when offered in a classical setting or imagined in radical new ways by stage-directors.

Christa Ludwig as Leonore/Fidelio, holding her husband’s chains after wielding a gun to save him.

Susanna Lindberg & Tim Meijers

We’re pleased to announce an independent study activity on Politics, Philosophy and Opera. We’ll focus on Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio, a revolutionary work.

We’ve invited wonderful guest lecturers. Leonard Evers, who has conducted and composed several operas, will come to talk about music and ideas. Luc Joosten, once a student of philosophy, is the head of dramaturgy at the Dutch national opera. He’ll come to talk about this production, but also about intellectual choices one has to make when staging and interpreting canonical works like Fidelio. We’ll also go on a field trip: the Dutch National Opera has made tickets to the dress-rehearsal of Fidelio available for students participating in this activity. Wout van Tongeren, who works as a dramaturg at the national opera, will join us to reflect on what we’ve seen.

There may be a possibility to get credit (2EC) for this activity.  A short (written) assignment would be required.

Students participating commit to coming to all meetings (except of course in case of emergency).

To apply: send an email to t.meijers@phil.leidenuniv.nl, with as a subject ‘OPERA!” before the end of January. Please provide a very short motivation for why you’d like to join. If we receive too many applications, we’ll set up a waiting list.


1. Tuesday 14th of May – Opera & Philosophy 15.00 – 17.00
Susanna Lindberg & Tim Meijers

2. Thursday 23th of May – Musical ideas 15.00 – 17.00
Guest Lecture Leonard Evers (Composer & Conductor)

3. Thursday 30th of May – Opera in the Theatre 15.00 – 17.00
Guest Lecture Luc Joosten (Head Dramaturgy Dutch National Opera)

4. Monday 3rd of June – FIDELIO (DNO) AMSTERDAM EVENING (19.30 – 23.00)
Field trip dress rehearsal at the national opera. Leaving from Leiden Centraal around 17.30.

5. Tuesday 4th of June – looking back 15.00 – 17.00
Tim Meijers, Susanna Lindberg & Wout van Tongeren (Dramaturgy Dutch National Opera).

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