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Outstanding Edited Collection Award for School of Music academic

15 November 2021

Clair Rowden holding her book 'Carmen Abroad'

Carmen Abroad by Dr Clair Rowden has won the Royal Music Association/Cambridge University Press Outstanding Edited Collection Book Prize 2021.

The book, co-edited with Professor Richard Langham Smith (Royal College of Music), also topped the BBC’s Classical Music magazine’s ‘the best books about classical music released in 2021 so far’ list. It explores the performance of Bizet’s Carmen, from conception in 1875 to later translations, adaptations and appropriations across the globe until 1945.

Carmen Abroad focuses on the opera and the influence of various cultural lenses and therefore political perspectives in performance, in addition to the spectrum of artistic interpretations likely informed by these backdrops. Included also is a dissection of the opera’s cultural importance in Soviet Russia, in Japan in the era of Westernisation, in Spain, and in southern regionalist France.

The book is accompanied by a website featuring a record of performances around the globe from 1875-1945 as well as an interactive map and timeline pinpointing not only countries but the cities and exact venues of each performance.

As a transnational history of the performance of an opera which tells the story of a migrant woman from an ethnic minority, subject to a world of low-paid work, illegal activities and ‘soft’ prostitution, Carmen Abroad, deals with issues of gender, identity and exploitative economies, and how they were presented and received in widely differing cultural contexts. Of course, it also deals with the more traditional issues of Spanishness and bullfighting but Richard Langham Smith and I were keen to move away from a Eurocentric vision to encompass the exchanges and cross fertilisations which took place when Carmen was performed in say Tokyo or Havana, the original birth place of Carmen's most famous aria, the 'Habanera'. Winning this prestigious prize and making it onto a ‘best books’ list means we got the balance right between rigorous historical detail of performance and contemporary resonance for both academics and operagoers today.

Professor Clair Rowden Professor of Musicology

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