Migrant Artists of Western Opera in Southern Asia in the 1830s-40s | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


A beginning of the nineteenth-century musical migration in southern Asia, an oceanic space encompassing the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, came with the connected maritime journeys of migrant artists of Western opera from Italy, South America and France. These itinerant operatic performers intermittently presented the current works of Italian and French opera in Macau in 1833, Calcutta in 1833-1844, and Batavia in 1835-1843. This article argues that the transregional operatic passages to southern Asia were a product of the region-wide transition in the structure of international trade and urban culture that had been unfolding since the second half of the eighteenth century and accelerated in the 1830s. Macau, Calcutta and Batavia developed connections through their strategic involvement in the Indo-China trade, especially the trafficking of opium, and the vital roles they played in the transregional network of maritime transport. By the turn of the 1830s, the three trading outposts established themselves as the nodes of commercial and cultural contacts. The circulation of Western operatic troupes and their repertoires between the three port cities illuminates a hitherto overlooked undercurrent of maritime connections and trade networks in southern Asia in which the journeys of Western opera and its artists and the merchandise of the Indo-China trade coincided.


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