Daniel Snowman: writer, lecturer, broadcaster


Daniel SnowmanDaniel Snowman is a frequent speaker for a number of British arts festivals, cultural organisations, luncheon clubs, NADFAS (National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies) etc, and in a typical year delivers some 40-50 illustrated talks and lectures in the UK and abroad.

Recent highlights have included

  • Public interview with Daniel Barenboim at the Royal Academy of Music (Feb 3, 2010)
  • 'Introduction to Opera’ day at Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (Feb 20, 2010)
  • Annual Fellows’ Lecture at Institute of Historical Research, University of London (June 1, 2010)
  • Paper to the 2010 Royal Musical Association conference (July 15, 2010)
  • Public Lectures on the Social History of Opera at the Royal Academy of Music (monthly, from September 2010 to March 2011)
  • Introduction to Aida: 'Insight' evening at Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (March 3, 2011)
  • Lectures in Canada and USA, incl speech at New York's University Club (March 2011)
  • Paper to the 'Music in Britain' social history seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London (May 9, 2011)
  • Introduction to Die Meistersinger: Education Day at Glyndebourne (May 15, 2011)
  • Paper to the Anglo-American Conference of Historians, Senate House, London (July 6, 2012)
  • Paper to the Institute of Musical Research (Senate House, London; October 22, 2012)
  • Lecture on 'Puppetry and Opera': Puppet Centre conference (Barbican, London; November 9, 2012)
  • Lecture on opera history at the Juilliard School of Music, New York (January 31, 2013)
  • Lectures to the New York Metropolitan Opera Guild (February 1 and 2, 2013)
  • Lecture (Verdi and Victoria) for the "Viva Verdi!" festival at the Italian Cultural Institute, London (February 7, 2013)
  • Martin Miller and Hannah Norbert-Miller Memorial Lecture: The Hitler Emigres Re-visited (Senate House, London; February 21, 2013)
  • Chaired final plenary session, Institute of Historical Research annual Winter Conference ('History and Biography', Senate House, London; March 8, 2013)
  • Delivered pre-concert talk about Michael Tippett's: A Child of our Time (London Philharmonic Orchestra), and sang in the performance: Royal Festival Hall, London (May 1, 2013)
  • Lecture to the 120th annual conference of the Jewish Historical Society of England (August 28, 2013)
  • Lecture at National Gallery (London) to introduce their exhibition Facing the Modern: Vienna 1900 (Study Day: November 30, 2013)
  • Lecture at Royal College of Music (London) to introduce their 3-day international Symposium "Singing A Song in a Foreign Land" (February 21, 2014)

Public interview with Daniel Barenboim - photo: Mark Whitehouse
Interviewing Daniel Barenboim before an audience at the Royal Academy of Music, London

Principal Lecture topics for 2014/15

Guerra! Guerra!” Music, the Arts and War: 1800-2000

Art has often been stimulated by war, from the Iliad and Aenead to novels such as War and Peace, the poetry of Wilfred Owen, the visual images of Goya’s Horrors of War, Picasso’s Guernica, Henry Moore’s huddled masses and the sculpture of countless war memorials. Then there’s music. Upbeat anthems like the Marseillaise or choruses belting out “Guerra! Guerra!” in operas such as Aida - and the sadness of Nimrod every year at the Cenotaph.

With the approaching anniversaries of the First World War and of Waterloo, we examine the links between art and war across Europe over the past two centuries. During the course of our artistic explorations, we encounter the triumphs and tragedies of Napoleonic times, visit mid-century Italy during its struggle for independence, learn how the arts in France portrayed the regime of Napoleon III before and after he was toppled by the Franco-Prussian war, and examine artistic responses to the Boer War and the two World Wars - at the time and since.

This lecture places art in a powerfully resonant historical context. It is richly illustrated with imagery taken from throughout Europe, and it also draws upon the messages (sometimes disturbing, sometimes comforting) embodied in music, drama and literature and that most multimedia of art forms, opera.

The Gilded Stage: A Social and Cultural History of Opera

In Mozart's day, who would have known who he was, and how? Why did the 'prima donna' get her fiery reputation? Which have been better for opera: dictatorships or democracies? Has opera ever been truly self-financing? When did opera audiences begin to turn up on time and remain quiet during performances? And how did a supposedly 'elitist' art form take root in such egalitarian societies as Australia and the USA?

These are some of the questions addressed in a richly illustrated Lecture about the history of an art form that incorporates all the others. From the birth of opera in late Renaissance Italy we move to Louis XIV’s Versailles, Handel’s London, Mozart’s Vienna, Verdi’s Italy, Wagner’s Germany, Gilded Age America and the world-wide spread of opera in the 20thC. The Lecture concentrates on the 'demand' rather than the 'supply', and considers eg: patronage of the arts, the changing nature of the operatic professions, opera and politics, theatrical architecture and stage design, and the impact of new technologies from gaslight to digital downloads. By the 21stC, opera had become truly global in its appeal. Yet, with the core repertoire seeming to slip into an ever-receding past and the world plunged into economc recession, the question must be addressed: does opera have a future?

Verdi and Victoria: National Icons

Queen Victoria and Giuseppe Verdi died within a week of each other in January 1901, two octogenarians widely revered as the embodiments of their respective nations. They had much in common: Victoria loved music and opera, while Verdi cared deeply about the politics of Italian unification. Each achieved early celebrity, later ‘retiring’ from the public eye (thereby attracting some resentment) before becoming a national treasure once again in old age.

Both became encrusted in layers of mythology, during their lifetimes and thereafter, as British and Italians alike refashioned their past in the service of an ever-shifting present.  Drawing on a rich multiplicity of images, this Lecture examines the changing iconography of the two ‘V’s’ against the background of the wider cultural history of their respective nations.

The Hitler Emigrés

What do these have in common?  The Penguin Pool at London Zoo; the Glyndebourne and Edinburgh Festivals; the art publishers Phaidon and Thames & Hudson; the cartoon character "Supermac"; The Buildings of England; the film The Red Shoes; the Amadeus Quartet.

Each was created by émigrés from Central Europe who, escaping the shadow of Nazism, found refuge in Britain.  Artists and architects, film makers and philosophers, musicians and publishers, historians, psychologists and scientists - all brought something of their continental legacy to Britain. Their collective talent was enormous and their influence far in excess of their numbers.  The Lecture is richly illustrated: a colourful and provocative introduction to the art and culture of our own lifetimes.