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Abandoned or Washed Away?: Make (Big) Opera Listen to You

Thursday Lecture Series, Failure

dateApril 20, 2023 timeThursday, 12:15pm–2:00pm EDT location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University locationVirtual Event
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
Small group of people in white robes standing in a circle

About twenty years ago, Nina Eidsheim began studying the work of California performance artist and soprano Juliana Snapper. A superb classical singer, Snapper was on a mission to understand vocal failure—specifically the points and scenarios where the voice breaks down and can no longer function to deliver the professional results for which her own voice had been highly calibrated. When Snapper was a small girl, ExxonMobil chose to hide its research modelling the current climate change (1977) while publicly questioning science on the connection between fossil fuels and global warming. This decision was consequential in the US decision not to sign the 1997 Kyoto protocol. A few years later, Snapper began singing upside down and underwater. She was preparing to survive in a scenario where humans had failed the earth and sea levels had risen, flooding all livable spaces—including the opera house. In January 2023, 90% of California is under flood watches. This presentation returns to the story of Snapper and her work, in which she asks—indeed, demands—that still-dominant but failed narratives stop guarding their secrets and trying to convince the world of their own storylines, and instead just listen.


Nina Eidsheim has written books about voice, race, and materiality and is a Professor of Musicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is also a vocalist and the founder and director of the University of California, Los Angeles Practice-based Experimental Epistemology Research (PEER) Lab, an experimental research Lab dedicated to de-colonializing data, methodology, and analysis, in and through multisensory creative practices. Current projects include a book collaboration with Wadada Leo Smith and a multi-model project that maps networks of metaphors that structure musical community, discourse, and practice.

This event will be in person at the Heyman Center and live-streamed online. Please register for both in-person and virtual attendance via the link.

Please email [email protected] to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.