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Episode 2

Lucy Worsley explores how history and opera go hand in hand. Lucy visits Paris, where two operas captured the spirit of Bohemianism - Bizet's Carmen and Puccini's La Boheme.

For centuries in western culture, opera has been the greatest show on earth. Historian Lucy Worsley explores how history and opera go hand in hand. She visits the great European cities where some of the most famous operas were written, tells the stories of the colourful characters who composed them, and shows how they reflected the turbulent times they were composed in and the lives, hopes and fears of the people who lived in them. Whilst Lucy visits the cities and European opera houses, Antonio Pappano, music director of London's Royal Opera, helps us understand some of those operas' greatest musical moments.

In this second programme, Lucy investigates four cities in France and Germany and four operas of a new kind that swept away conventions in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They delved into the realities of people's lives and their deepest desires, especially those of women - for freedom, identity and sex. She visits Paris, where two operas captured the spirit of Bohemianism that swept the city - Bizet's Carmen, that showed the gritty realities of life for Paris's underclass and the upper classes' fear of them, and Puccini's classic opera La Boheme, about the lives and loves of a group of young people exploring the new personal and sexual freedoms available. Then to Bayreuth in Germany, where Wagner's monumental Ring Cycle set out create a 'total work of art' to that would tap into and transform German identity. Finally Lucy travels to Dresden, where Richard Strauss premiered Salome, a work that explored perverted female pleasure in a way that is still shocking even today.

59 minutes

Last on

Thu 28 Mar 2019 00:15

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Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:14

    Georges Bizet

    La Garde Montante (Carmen Suite no 2)

  • 00:21

    Hector Berlioz

    Romeo Et Juliette: Symphonie Dramatique Op 17: Scherzo of Queen Mab of The Dream Fairy

  • 00:26

    Giacomo Puccini

    Edgar: Prelude To Act III

  • 00:30

    Natasha March

    Quando M'en Voi

  • 00:36

    Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    Symphony No 5 (4th mvt)

  • 00:59

    Richard Strauss

    Concerto No. 1 In E-Flat Major For Horn and Orchestra, Op. 11: I. Allegro


Role Contributor
Presenter Lucy Worsley
Presenter Antonio Pappano
Director Guy Evans
Producer Guy Evans
Executive Producer Ben Weston
Executive Producer Elizabeth Hartford
Production Company Reef Television


  • Sat 21 Oct 2017 21:00
  • Sat 21 Oct 2017 22:30
  • Tue 31 Oct 2017 00:15
  • Thu 28 Mar 2019 00:15

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BBC Opera Season

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