Imperialism, Colonialism, and Opera in the 19th Century: Verdi's Aida and the Exhibition of Egypt

Turan N. S.

TURKISH JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY-SOSYOLOJI DERGISI, vol.37, no.1, pp.119-142, 2017 (ESCI) identifier


Imperialism and colonialism played a vital role in the 19th-century growth that redefined the global power structure and stimulated interest in the non-Western world, which had just joined the global economy. While the Industrial Revolution was being exported to the rest of the world, information regarding other cultures started to be imported to the West. The West was transforming the East, which it had already objectivized through colonization, into an object of display. Exhibition of the East was indeed a result of this colonization project. Not only spatially but also anthropologically, the East was being revitalized in the Western imagination and becoming transfigured. The image of Eastern people in terms of appearance, customs, music, and dress were being transformed into a collection of images and being exhibited. Musical forms, particularly opera, carried a special mission in these terms. This article will examine the role of the opera Aida, which had been ordered by Khedive lsma'il Pasha for the opening ceremony of the Suez Canal in 1869, under the exhibition of Egypt in the imperial age.