Music Across the Ocean: Processes of Cultural Exchange in a Transatlantic Space, 1800–1950

Interdisciplinary and international symposium of the research project “Musical Crossroads. Transatlantic Cultural Exchange 1800–1950“

University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Austria

June 24th – 25th 2021

„As it is already known, artists (except mechanical) are among the people [in the USA] who are least in demand, and in recent times have even been cautioned against immigration.“ That is how critical a journalist of the German Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung in 1820 viewed career opportunities for European musicians in the “New World”, the United States of America. The author, who was located in the European musical culture system supported by courtly, bourgeois and sacred institutions, found it difficult to imagine that European artists could find a place in society and a financial livelihood in this relatively young state. But this is only one perspective that represents a snapshot of the transatlantic music cultural exchange between Europe and North America. Only a few decades later the journalist would have most likely revised his opinion in view of an increase in counter examples such as traveling music or singing ensembles like the Hutchinson Family Singers or the Parepa Rosa Opera Company, traveling virtuosos like Ole Bull, Louis Moreau Gottschalk or Jenny Lind, but also instrument makers like the Steinweg family. Important impulses for transatlantic exchange processes came from political upheavals and crises, but also from economic and cultural considerations.  

The international interdisciplinary conference Music Across the Ocean: Processes of Cultural Exchange in a Transatlantic Space, 1800-1950 will address music-related transatlantic cultural exchange processes in both directions, whereby culture is understood here not as a state or condition, but as a process connected with phenomena of overlapping and transmission and the interweaving and negotiation of power relations (such as cultural hegemony). The concepts of cultural exchange (Burke 2000), cultural transfer (Lüsebrink 2005) and cultural translation (Bachmann-Medick 2016) are just a few examples of possible methodological approaches. In this context, exchange processes are not only regarded as a transfer of individuals (musicians, music teachers and students, music dealers), but likewise on the levels of transferred practices (instrument making, running a musical, orchestra conducting, teaching), media (sheet music, instruments, images, film), concepts of society (heroic images, musical canon, democracy) and spatial concepts (private houses, theaters, concert halls, business premises). 

We welcome contributions from the fields of music, art, theater and media studies as well as history, American studies, (cultural) sociology, gender studies and related disciplines that investigate (music) cultural exchange processes in a transatlantic space on the basis of one or more of the five mentioned levels. Planning an international conference in these unpredictable times, in which also the scientific community must learn to deal with limited mobility, requires new ideas and creativity. Therefore, the conference scheduled to take place on site in Vienna will be extended by a “Transatlantic Web Session”. This additional web panel will explicitly include digital communication channels and especially address contributions that exploit the specifics of these channels: Possible ideas for submissions could include virtual visits to museums and archives, as well as the integration of location-bound source material and transatlantic dialogues. The conference will be held in German and English. We would also like to point out a supplementary program in which, with regard to modern science communication, the results of our research will be presented in the form of an exhibition and an intermedia theater performance.

Interested researchers are invited to submit a proposal for a 20-minute talk or an idea for a Web Session(max. 250 words) together with a short CV to the organizers by November 30th 2020. A budget is available for the support of travel and accommodation costs, especially for young researchers.


Prof. Dr. Melanie Unseld, Dr. Carola Bebermeier and Clemens Kreutzfeldt, MA

Institut für Musikwissenschaft und Interpretationsforschung 

Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien 

Seilerstätte 26
1010 Wien, Österreich
Tel.: +43/1/71155-3523


Symposium and Workshop: South African Opera Productions after the Apartheid

Venue: Universität Bayreuth

Date:   18th– 19th October 2018

Call for Papers:

Deadline: 15th August 2018

With the end of the Apartheid era, opera – stigmatized as ‘eurocentric opera’ – became a symbol of Western dominance/colonial imposition and seemed to be dead in South Africa.

But in fact, especially the so called ‘indigenous opera’ ‘flourishes’ as something of an anachronism and can be assessed as ‘black empowerment’ (Naomi André 2018).

The writing of a historiography of opera productions in South Africa although has academically just shortly started (Donato Somma 2016; Hilde Roos 2013, 2010; Martina Viljoen 2006) and is confronted with problems of different natures: political structures, post-colonization, globalization, unstable artistic standards and institutional relations.

The ‘bloom’ of opera presents itself neither through regular performances nor through crowded theatre halls. This is a consequence of the difficult political relations of artistic production in South Africa, which are among others characterized by a lack of funding and the re-organization of the Performing Arts Councils/ National Arts Councils. The existing significant multiple theatricalities of South Africa are thereby not having a platform to present themselves. The market pressure results often in overseas productions financing the few performances in the country itself. Thereby putting itself on risk to confirm with their opera productions transferred expectations of a South African identity rather than expressing an ‘authentic’ one.

This symposium will focus on South African Opera productions. Thereby the aim of the symposium is to represent the plurality of artistic concepts that deal in different ways with the multiple challenges of political and social transformation. How can opera in South Africa be involved in the process of societal transformation in a post-apartheid society? Which new artistic concepts are needed? How does themes for the libretti change? How did language, the style of composition and orchestration transform? Which new locations for performances are found to involve new audiences? How did the aesthetics change? And how are new media used either for a new aesthetic of performances, as with e.g. ‘Lamento’ (Umculo) or ‘U-Carmen eKhayelitsha’ (Isango Ensemble), or for marketing purposes?

For the first day of the symposium presentations shall focus on one opera productions. To ‘map’ the plurality of the field presentations are invited that cover one of the following topics.

  1. South African opera productions
  • Operas of different opera companies and composers
  • Different locations of opera performances (opera house, township, film)
  • Aesthetics of the opera opus itself
  • Analysis of compositions, libretti & performances

With Prof. Dr. Naomi André (University Michigan, USA), Dr. Donato Somma (University of Witwatersrand, SA) and Dr. Lena van der Hoven (among others) some experts in the field are invited. They will present on ‘Winnie – The Opera’ (Bongani Ndodana-Breen), ‘Princess Magogo’ (Opera Africa, Mzilikazi Khumalo), ‘Heart of Redness’ (Cape Town Opera, Neo Muyanga) and ‘Romeo’s Passion’ (Umculo, Cathy Milliken).

The workshop on the second day will cover transformation processes of Opera production in South Africa focusing on the following topics:

  • Opera institutions & opera companies
  • Finances/ Funding
  • Audiences
  • Marketing
  • Political impact

Abstracts (max. 2000 characters) for 20 minutes papers along with the technical requirements for the talk and a short CV with contact details should be sent by 15th August 2018 to Lena van der Hoven ( Contributions from both the humanities and social sciences are welcome (Musicology, Theatre Studies, History, Cultural Studies, Sociology). Early career researchers in particular are encouraged to contribute. The chosen speakers will be informed by 31th August 2018 and the conference programme published online at .



Ivan Zajc (1832-1914): Musical Migrations and Cultural Transfers in the ‘Long’ 19th Century in Central Europe and Beyond


Ivan Zajc (1832-1914): Musical Migrations and Cultural Transfers in the ‘Long’ 19th Century in Central Europe and Beyond

PLACE AND DATE: Zagreb, Croatia, October 16-18, 2014, the Palace of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Zrinjski trg 11

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS: Richard Taruskin (Berkeley), Stanislav Tuksar (Zagreb), Harry White (Dublin)

ORGANIZERS: Croatian Musicological Society and the Department for History of Croatian Music of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts

The Conference is organized on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the death of Ivan Zajc (1832-1914), the key personality of Croatian music during the last third of the 19th century.

Zajc was trained in his home town of Rijeka and at the Conservatory in Milan (1850-55). He was active as a teacher and conductor in Rijeka (1855-62), as an operetta composer, pedagogue and conductor in Vienna (1862-70), and as the Director of the Croatian National Theatre Opera, and Director and teacher at the Croatian Music Institute School in Zagreb (1870-1908). Zajc left a huge opus of more than 1100 compositions in various areas of art music. He composed church music (19 Masses, c. 50 sacral and secular oratorios and cantatas), solo songs (c. 170 on Croatian, Italian and German texts), c. 300 choral works, c. 80 orchestral pieces, and about 100 chamber and piano works.  Zajc remains most significant for his contributions to the musical stage: 19 operas, 26 operettas and 22 sets of incidental music. 


The first proposed thematic area is the life, oeuvre and importance of Ivan Zajc. We welcome contributions which will analyze and elucidate aspects of Zajc’s individual works and his oeuvre at large, as well as those which will deal with the range and scope of his activities within the 19th-century Croatian national movement. Zajc’s varied career included composing the mythological-historical operatic trilogy (Mislav, Ban Leget, Nikola Šubić Zrinjski) and other important works for musical stage, and serving as the organizer of professional ensembles and as an innovator in teaching methods at the Croatian Music Institute School. Equally welcomed will be contributions dealing with Zajc’s oeuvre and activities within the context of his time as well as the stricter national or broader central-European spaces.

The second proposed thematic area is the phenomenon of musical migrations, as is evident, for instance, in Zajc’s own life itinerary (Rijeka-Milan-Rijeka-Vienna-Zagreb). Musical migrations include temporary or permanent migrations or settling down of musicians (composers, performers, musicologists and music writers, instrument builders, etc.) and the transfer of musical artifacts (music sheets, music books, music instruments, documents, etc.) and ideas on music (by way of schooling, personal encounters, correspondence, stylistic and genre influences, etc.).  Migrations can occur between native places or places of artistic creation and other locations inside and/or outside local, regional and/or national areas. In the case of Zajc, these migrational phenomena are more strictly located in the central-European area, but – for example – the sporadic presence of his compositions in the USA and Japan in the 19th and 20th centuries expands the possibilities for research in this area.  This in turn leads to an understanding and evaluation of the idea of musical migrations beyond Zajc’s immediate geographic and temporal frames and determinants.

The third proposed thematic area concerns cultural transfer in the field of music, as well as in those areas of arts and culture which were traditionally connected with music, such as literature, theatre, visual arts, etc. As both in today’s processes regarding the intensification of cultural  interactions on a global scope, and – with various methods, with different accents and forms of realization – in Zajc’s era during the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, musico-cultural transfers encompass the influx and flow of information concerning general and individual art phenomena and facts. This also includes how such ideas are accepted, ignored, or rejected as well as their impact and dominance. In the case of Zajc a real whirlpool of such phenomena was created through the interaction and permeation of Verdian operatic concepts, Viennese operetta paradigms, fashionable flirtations with Orientalisms, ideas and emotions surrounding patriotic and national issues, direct social activities in the areas of music education and training, the building of national institutions such as national opera, the supporting of musical amateurism, etc.

Taking into account that Zajc’s life and the end of the so-called belle époque coincide in their endings in 1914, the temporal frame of the conference subjects was largely determined with the end of the ‘long’ 19th century and the beginning of WWI, but in investigating and presenting the second and the third thematic areas the organizers are encouraging participants submitting free papers to not feel bound by any strictly prescribed temporal, spatial and/or cultural limitations.


Proposals should be submitted per e-mail or by regular post with an abstract in Croatian or English (300-400 words) at:

Croatian Musicological Society, Opatička 18, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia

Website address:

E-mail address:

The deadline is: November 15, 2013.

The list of accepted participants will be announced by December 31, 2013.

A certain number of participants from Croatia and abroad will be invited ad personam (up to 20). The number of free papers and participants is limited.


Official languages of the conference will be Croatian and English.


Participants with free papers coming from outside of Zagreb are paying for the expenses of accommodation and sojourn by themselves. They also pay the fee of 70 Euro or the equivalent value in local currency (HRK).

The organizers will provide midday meals during the conference for all participants.

It is expected that travel expenses to and from Zagreb will be covered by all participants themselves.


Dr. Vjera Katalinić, Department for History of Croatian Music of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Dr. Koraljka Kos, Member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Dr. Sanja-Majer-Bobetko, Department for History of Croatian Music of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts

Dr. Nada Bezić, Croatian Music Institute, Zagreb

Dr. Stanislav Tuksar, Department of Musicology, Academy of Music, University of Zagreb, Member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts


The organizers are planning to publish multilingual Proceedings of the conference.


Please send all correspondence and queries to the official address or the website of the Croatian Musicological Society, as indicated above, or directly to the members of the Organizing Committee.