Applications are open for the DARE Academic in Residence 2023-24

With applications being accepted for the next DARE Academic in Residence, Professor Edward Venn shares insights and reflections from when he held the position last year.

Applications are open for the DARE Academic in Residence 2023-24, September 2023

For 15 years, DARE has been the flagship partnership between the University and Opera North, making a joint contribution to learning and practice in the cultural sector.  

Over the years, DARE has worked with academics who have been granted honorary status as DARE Academics in Residence.  

Open to academics in any discipline, applications are being accepted for the DARE Academic in Residence 2023-24

Edward Venn, Professor of Music and Director of Pedagogic Research in the Arts from the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures, reflects on his time as Academic in Residence 2022-23. 

Why did you initially apply for the Academic in Residence position? 

My academic in residence role at Opera North (ON) grew out of an earlier collaboration with ON during my AHRC Leadership Fellowship. In particular, a symposium that ON and I co-designed on Carmen (leading to a recent podcast as part of the DARE series Thinking with Opera) led to conversations with Dominic Gray, the Projects Director of ON, about the problematic nature of operatic depictions of race. From this emerged the idea of a project that would bring together academics, creative practitioners and industry voices to enable us to begin to explore in greater detail the issue of opera and race. From this we developed a Sadler Seminar Series and the academic residency was born.   

Did anything surprise you or exceed your expectations during the year? 

The speculative nature of this project meant that I went in with few expectations, and as such I was continually (and pleasantly) surprised. But perhaps most unexpected was the way in which the residency enabled me, in essence, to become part of the furniture at ON for 12 months. Through sitting in on rehearsals and meetings I got to encounter and have extended conversations with many singers, instrumentalists, conductors, composers and directors, as well as those involved in the administrative, managerial and publicity arms of the organisation. This provided me with an unrivalled opportunity to understand not just the mechanics of how an opera company stages performances, but the thoughts and motivations of those who bring them to life. This was not just one-way traffic: those I spoke to had a genuine interest in my role as academic in residence, and were keen to engage with it. Having spent much of my career as the archetypal lone scholar, the warmth, generosity and authenticity of those I worked with at the company (and on the Sadler Seminar Series) have offered more than just a corrective: the experience has been transformative. 

What are you most proud of from your time as the Academic in Residence? 

The collaborative aspect of my academic residency is something I’m especially proud of. In my undergraduate lectures on opera, I stress from the outset how opera (both in performance and as an industry) is the sum of many diverse parts and individual specialisms, and that works well enough as a metaphor for my own residency. Quite simply, the residency couldn’t and wouldn’t have worked without the involvement of ON staff, academics from around the world and multiple disciplines, research assistants, creative practitioners, technicians, colleagues from the library (who were instrumental in helping bring to fruition our exhibition on ON and race), audiences, and many more. No-one expected us to come up with answers to the challenges of operatic representation in a single year, but through this residency, and by virtue of the many productive conversations had between such a diverse group of collaborators, we’re drawing closer to better understanding the questions that need to be asked going forwards. 

Is there something, or someone, that has inspired you in your career? 

It’s impossible to single out any one event or person that has inspired me in my career! I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have encountered a range of inspiring figures: although I grew up in a non-musical household in a relatively rural area, I belong to a generation that was still able to benefit from adequately funded music provision at state school. Without the opportunities that I received there to explore and further my practical and theoretical interests in music, I couldn’t have gone on to university (as a grant-supported first-generation student) and learn from my peers and tutors there. Somewhere along the way in this journey I first encountered opera – and was profoundly baffled by it – and my academic residency at ON is just the latest stage in my ongoing attempts to benefit from the wisdom and example of others in order to deepen my appreciation of the genre. If I might single out one person from this year for special mention, it would be Jasdeep Singh Degun, who was ON’s Artist in Residence 2022-23. His Orpheus, a collaboration between ON and SAA-uk, was one of the most remarkable and life-affirming operas I’ve had the pleasure to attend, and my many conversations with Jasdeep over the last 12 months have been continually revelatory.  

What is your favourite opera? 

One of the many joys of opera is the capacity for different productions to not just provide diverse theatrical experiences, but to change the meanings we might attribute to the music itself (this is one of the things that I explored in my AHRC Leadership Fellowship). This is one of the reasons why I could never be so bold as to name my favourite opera: each opera is like a living thing in its own right, continually being made and remade in successive performances and (when it all comes together!) casting new light on the work, our culture, and ourselves. As the ON academic in residence, I was able to observe first hand these meanings taking shape in the rehearsal studio and later springing into existence on the stage, and was able to reflect on past and future ways opera might help us think about our lives and our encounters with others. And what a privilege that has proved to be!   

DARE Academic in Residence 2023-24 

Applications for the Academic in Residence 2023-24 close on 2 October 2023.

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