A new and groundbreaking approach to the history of grand opera, Grand Illusion: Phantasmagoria in Nineteenth-Century Opera
explores the illusion and illumination behind the form's rise to cultural eminence. Renowned opera scholar Gabriela Cruz argues that grand opera worked to awaken memory and feeling in a way never before experienced in the opera house, asserting that the concept of "spectacle" was the defining cultural apparatus of the art form after the 1820s. Parisian audiences at the Acad�mie Royale de Musique were struck by the novelty and power of grand opera upon the introduction of gaslight illumination, a technological innovation that quickly influenced productions across the Western operatic world. With this innovation, grand opera transformed into an audio-visual spectacle, delivering dream-like images and evoking the ghosts of its audiences' past.
Through case studies of operas by Giacomo Meyerbeer, Richard Wagner, and Giuseppe Verdi, Cruz demonstrates how these works became an increasingly sophisticated medium by which audiences could conjure up the past and be transported away from the breakdown of modern life. A historically informed narrative that traverses far and wide, from dingy popular theatres in post-revolutionary Paris, to nautical shows in London, and finally to Egyptian mummies, Grand Illusion
provides a fresh departure from previous scholarship, highlighting the often-neglected visual side of grand opera.