Research Stream


Jane Davidson
The University of Melbourne

Alan Maddox (2012-2016)
The University of Sydney

Joseph Browning
City, University of London (The University of Melbourne)

Frederic Kiernan
The University of Melbourne



Voyage to the Moon

Voyage to the Moon is a scholarly and creative collaboration that re-imagines the high drama of baroque operatic form. The project is made possible though a partnership between the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (CHE), Victorian Opera and Musica Viva.


Academic Team:
Academic Curation - CHE Chief Investigator Professor Jane W. Davidson
Associate Investigator - Dr Alan Maddox
Research Assistants - Dr Joseph Browning, Frederic Kiernan and Donald Nicolson

Production Team:
Michael Gow - Librettist and Director
The late Alan Curtis & Calvin Bowman - Arranger/Composers
Richard Mills & Phoebe Briggs - Victorian Opera Company Music Production

Emma Matthews, soprano; Sally-Anne Russell, mezzo-soprano & Jeremy Kleeman, bass-baritone
Musical direction, Phoebe Briggs, continuo/harpsichord
Rachael Beesley (leader) & Zoë Black, violins; Simon Oswell, viola; Molly Kadarauch, cello;
Kirsty McCahon, double bass; & Emma Black, oboe (with Celia Craig on oboe in Adelaide)

Working through the lens of the history of emotions, the research project explores how emotions were constituted through the ‘pasticcio’ art form. By exploring artistic codes and means of delivery modeled on those of the baroque period, insight is gained into how performers moved the affections of their audiences. More than this, the project explores how modern day performers and audiences connect to these historical practices.

Pasticcio opera gained popularity during the mid-seventeenth century, when composers began assembling and compiling existing musical works, or fragments thereof, into new operas with either existing or newly-written libretti. These new creations were, practically speaking, a jumble of both new and previously-composed musical material, and by about 1730 such operas were commonly designated using the Italian term pasticcio (hotch-potch, pastiche).

The arias for such operas were often selected by the singers in the production, usually with the aim of showcasing one’s vocal abilities and strengths, with the recitatives and ensembles being provided by the house composer or music director. On the one hand, the ‘borrowing’ of musical material certainly resulted in time saved; there was little or no need to compose new music. On the other hand, however, the somewhat chaotic process of compilation and revision brought its own diplomatic and creative challenges. Librettists were often forced to ‘cook up the drama’ in order to accommodate the wishes of singers and composers, whose selected arias almost never fit neatly with the text of the new operatic production. Composers also had to find innovative ways of ‘bridging the gaps’ between the chosen vocal numbers in a way that made musical sense, with recitatives and instrumental interludes. Pasticcio opera is thus one of the most obvious examples of a musical genre relying on the concepts of shared intellectual and creative property for its development.

The current project re-imagines pasticcio opera with a modern day librettist and two composer/arrangers using the framework to bring eighteenth century repertoire to the contemporary audience’s attention, while simultaneously structuring a new opera.  This project gives the performers a role more akin to those of their historical forebears, exploring the issues of creative investment and ownership which arise in the collaborative ‘pasticcio process'. The work also provides audiences with opportunities to access affective meaning and understanding in both historical and contemporary senses. Additionally, and perhaps most crucially, the work offers the audience a chance to engage actively with the creative work. 

Four specific goals are identified:

  • i) to investigate how musico-dramatic ‘affect’ was staged in pasticcio works during the eighteenth century;
  • ii) to interrogate how such period ‘affect’ can be restaged today;
  • iii) to report the strategies undertaken by the modern creative team and research collaborators to develop the new ‘re-imagined’ work; and
  • iv) to devise, develop and appraise strategies to engage the Australian public.

Further Reading:

Davidson, J. W. and A. Trippett, eds. Bringing the First Latin-American Opera to Life: Staging La Purpura De La Rosa in Sheffield (Durham, 2007).

Burrows, D. ‘Handel’s 1738 “Oratorio”: A Benefit Pasticcio’. In Gedenkschrift Bernd Baselt, edited by K. Hortschansky and K. Musketam  pp. 11–38. Kassel, 1995.

Cross, E. ‘Vivaldi and the Pasticcio: Text and Music in Tamerlano’. In Con che soavità: Studies in Italian Opera, Song, and Dance, edited by I. Fenlon and T. Carter, pp. 275–311. Oxford, 1995.

Performances in Australian National Tour
In Partnership with: