Opera, as cognoscenti know, is the ultimate form of creative expression. How better to explore this all-inclusive art form, which incorporates all others, than to explore it through a kaleidoscopic array of media? The Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibit “Opera: Passion, Power and Politics” makes a bold attempt to realize that goal without alienating the neophyte who might feel put off by the art form’s pall of obscurity and elitism. Structured as a kind of maze in the museum’s basement-level Sainsbury gallery, the self-guided tour leads the visitor through seven specially themed rooms, each dedicated to a “quintessential” work that marks a watershed in opera’s development, from Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea (1642) to Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (1934), along with a presentation of...


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