In his Academy project, Mark Pottinger examines the role of the natural sciences in the definition of the supernatural in early Romantic opera in France, Germany, and Italy. More specifically, his ...
Nina Maria Gorrissen Lecture
Science and the Romantic Vision in Early Nineteenth-Century Opera
After the final defeat of Napoleon, the nation-state began to reflect concepts of freedom and unity that contrasted with earlier political thought. This dynamic perspective influenced the era’s leading scientists (Alexander von Humboldt, Johann Ritter, and Marshall Hall), who developed a fascination with the physical forces that define the natural world, including light, heat, electricity, and magnetism. In this lecture, musicologist Mark Pottinger explains that the desire to harness nature’s power was not just an aspiration for the sciences; it was shared by the arts—especially opera. By examining the sound and the representation of nature in the dramatic works of Giacomo Meyerbeer, Carl Maria von Weber, and Gaetano Donizetti, Pottinger illuminates not only the artistic goals of early nineteenth-century opera but also the overarching theories of the scientific community and their connection to a romantic vision for society.