Department of Music

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Image of Sarah Hibberd

Sarah Hibberd

Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts



I joined the department in 2003, and served as Head of Department 2010-13. Before coming to Nottingham I was an editor for The New Grove Dictionary of Music, coordinator of RILM-UK, and taught at the University of Southampton, Royal Holloway (University of London) and the University of Rouen.

Expertise Summary

My research interests focus primarily on musical culture in nineteenth-century Paris and London, including opera and other forms of music theatre such as melodrama, pantomime and ballet. I have published journal articles and book chapters about French, Italian and English opera and drama, participated in broadcasts on Radio 3 (Music Matters, Opera on 3, the Proms), BBC4 (Revolution and Romance), and given pre-performance talks and/or written programme notes for Opera North, The Royal Opera House, the Philharmonia Orchestra, etc. I have been a co-editor of Music & Letters since 2009, and serve on the AHRC peer review college.

I was Writer in Residence at The Royal Opera House in summer 2015, and you can read my blog here. To see the Royal Opera Insight Event on Verdi's Trovatore (June 2016), including my contribution, click here.

Teaching Summary

I am on research leave for the autumn semester, 2016/17.

My teaching interests include opera, French musical culture, romanticism, music and visual cultures. I currently teach Opera and 19th-Century Music (as part of the Repertoires modules) (year 1), Opera & Politics (year 2/3), the Romantic Imagination (year 3), Verdi and Wagner (year 3), supervise dissertations on a range of topics, and contribute to the MA modules. I am involved in occasional outreach events and with continuing education.

Opera & Politics

This module aims to develop a critical understanding of opera's relation to aesthetic, socio-political, cultural and ideological issues during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; to establish a familiarity with some key repertory works; and to analyse the approaches of some leading musicologists. We explore the ambiguity and fluidity of political 'meanings' embedded in individual operas, examine the ways in which stereotypes are reinforced and challenged, and relate the political to the aesthetic dimension of opera. Above all, we are concerned with how music can shape meaning. The themes and case studies typically include: Race (Puccini, Mma Butterfly; Verdi, Otello); Gender (Strauss, Salome; Shostakovich, Lady Macbeth); Nationalism (Wagner, Die Meistersinger; Glinka, Ruslan y Lyudmila); and religion (Halévy, La Juive; Adams, Death of Klinghoffer). The module is assessed by means of a short exam and an essay.


I am interested in supervising doctoral research into music theatre (including opera, ballet and popular theatre), and French musical culture (especially the nineteenth century), and am particularly interested in ideas about history and historiography; reception; nationalisms; the relations between popular and elite art forms; the interrelation of musical and visual cultures; the interface between theory/history and performance; staging practices; cultural transfer. I am happy to set up co-supervision arrangements with colleagues in other departments where appropriate.

Research Summary

My research interests focus primarily on nineteenth-century French musical culture, nineteenth-century opera (French, Italian), and other forms of music theatre including melodrama and ballet. I am… read more

Current Research

My research interests focus primarily on nineteenth-century French musical culture, nineteenth-century opera (French, Italian), and other forms of music theatre including melodrama and ballet. I am currently working on an AHRC-funded project, French Opera and the Revolutionary Sublime, in which I analyse the cataclysmic denouements of a series of works performed in Paris between 1789 and 1830, in the context of France's evolving relationship to revolution, and with particular attention to staging technologies (including lighting and special effects) and audiences' sensory and emotional experience. I am also researching the activities of the 'Puritani Quartet' in London and Paris during the 1830s and 40s, with a particular focus on the bass, Luigi Lablache.

I have recently written a number of chapters/articles: Frankenstein on the London stage, melodrama and spectacle in Paris, Auber in London, and I guest edited a special issue of 19th-Century Music devoted to music and science in London and Paris. I am a visiting scholar for the ERC-funded Music in London, 1800-1851 project, and have been involved in a project led by Liz Evans (Culture, Film and Media) on pervasive drama: Moving Experience - click here for a taster. I am a member of the Nottingham Health Humanities Group and the Nottingham Sensory Studies Network.

During the spring/summer 2015 I was Writer in Residence at The Royal Opera House for their production of Rossini's Guillaume Tell. My blog explores the challenges of staging French grand operas and responds to the (lively!) reaction to Damiano Michieletto's controversial production .

Past Research

I have contributed articles on French and Italian opera and drama to a variety of journals and edited volumes. My article examining sleepwalkers on the Parisian stage for the Cambridge Opera Journal was awarded the 2005 Jerome Roche Prize from the Royal Musical Association. My monograph French Grand Opera and the Historical Imagination (CUP, 2009) relates a number of operas written during the July Monarchy to the ways in which the French were thinking about their identity and the (Revolutionary) past. I have edited a volume of essays entitled Melodramatic Voices: Understanding Music Drama (Ashgate, 2011), which includes contributions about spoken drama, opera, dance and film; and co-edited with Richard Wrigley Art, Theatre and Opera in Paris 1750-1850 (Ashgate, 2014).

As founder-director of the department's Centre for Music on Stage and Screen (MOSS, 2006--10, 2014--), I organised series of guest lectures and workshops, and an AHRC-funded Research Workshop, Music and the Melodramatic Aesthetic (2007-8), which comprised study days, workshops, performances (with the participation of Opera North and the British Silent Film Festival), an interactive website, and an interdisciplinary conference. I oversaw the RILM-UK project at Nottingham (funded by the Institute of Musical Research and by the Royal Musical Society), following a period of AHRC funding, 2005-2014. I have also been involved in a number of cross-disciplinary initiatives (notably with the School of English and the Institute of Film & TV Studies) at Nottingham, and have been on the steering committees of two AHRC-funded Research Networks: Francophone Music Criticism, 1789-1914, and The Sounds of Early Cinema in Britain. In June 2012 I convened a British Academy-funded workshop 'Opera as Spectacle: staging practices in French and Italian opera during the nineteenth century' (Institute of Musical research, London, 25-26 June 2012).

Department of Music

The University of Nottingham
Lakeside Arts Centre
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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