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Details of gondola on a Venice canal
This exhibition is in the past. View our current exhibitions.

Opera and Theatre

Eighteenth-century Venice was a city of performance and spectacle. The staging of opera was a thriving part of the city’s cultural scene. Venice had nineteen opera houses, and the opera season coincided with Carnival. Both took place from St Stephen’s Day on 26 December until the beginning of Lent.

The demands of the opera season provided plenty of work for Venetian artists. Like Canaletto, the painters Sebastiano and Marco Ricci began their careers as stage painters, and Canaletto’s manipulation of perspective in his paintings and drawings can be traced to his theatrical origins.

Joseph Smith was an avid theatregoer. In 1717 he married Catherine Tofts, a retired opera singer, and he collected stage designs and operatic caricatures. Many of the most famous singers were men who had been castrated as boys to preserve their high voices. Although the practice was illegal, their voices were admired for their purity and endurance, and castrati such as Farinelli achieved great fame and fortune.

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.