Award-winning Handel scholar to give lecture

  • on 28 Oct 2013
  • Gailor Auditorium
ellen harris

Ellen Harris, professor emeritus and past provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will be on campus this month as the 2013 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar. Harris will give a public talk in Gailor Auditorium at 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28, on the topic “How Did Handel’s Audiences Hear His Operas?: Mary Delany and Floridante.”

This lecture addresses both music and history, looking at the relationship of Handel’s operas to the pressing concerns of their day. Royal succession was hotly debated as supporters of the Stuart monarchy opposed the Hanoverian Succession. The importance of international trade meant that issues concerning the East India Company were prioritized. More personally, marriages were brokered on the basis of social status and wealth, a situation women in particular decried. Mary Delany and Handel were close friends, and a consideration of her life shows how relevant Handel’s operas could be.

While at Sewanee, Harris will speak to several classes and will meet with groups of students outside the classroom as well.

Ellen T. Harris is Class of 1949 Professor Emeritus at MIT and served as Associate Provost for the Arts from 1989 to 1995. Her most recent book, Handel as Orpheus: Voice and Desire in the Chamber Cantatas, received the Kinkeldey Award (American Musicological Society) and the Gottschalk Prize (American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies). She is currently completing a book on Handel in London. Harris is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has just been elected president of the American Musicological Society. She has been a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College. Harris’s background is in opera singing, and she remains active as a vocalist, having sung the national anthem both at Fenway Park and with the Boston Pops under the baton of John Williams.