TODAY - Ithaca Music Forum presents "Fake News and False Images: Sight, Sound, and Credibility in Handel's Operas"


Contributed by Peter Silberman

 The Ithaca Music Forum will present a Zoom lecture by musicologist Dr. Ayana Smith of Indiana University entitled "Fake News and False Images:  Sight, Sound, and Credibility in Handel's Operas."  This talk will take place today, Friday, March 26, at 5 pm.  See below for Zoom registration link.

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 Fake News and False Images:  Sight, Sound, and Credibility in Handel's Operas

What is truth?  How do we know whether we can believe our eyes, or our ears? In the Baroque era, debates between sight and sound, truth and illusion, and falsehood and fiction occurred in science, art, philosophy, literature—and in opera. Prompted by a spectacular comet in 1680, several incidents of “fake news” and false images circulated in print media, increasing public concerns about visual observation, rumor, and report—and whether to trust information conveyed by sight or by sound. This talk will discuss examples from three operas by George Frideric Handel—Agrippina (1709), Silla (1713), and Giulio Cesare (1724); these examples will demonstrate how Baroque audiences engaged with visual and sonic perception, and how scientific debates about sight and sound shifted during Handel’s career. 


Ayana O. Smith is Associate Professor in Musicology in the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. She completed her doctorate in music history at Yale University, and has received fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and an NEH/American Academy in Rome seminar. Her interdisciplinary background in vocal performance and classical Latin, with supplementary coursework in art history, has led to a research career engaging rhetorical meanings in text, image, and music. 

Ayana is the author of the 2019 book Dreaming with Open Eyes: Opera, Aesthetics, and Perception in Arcadian Rome (University of California Press). Her recent article, titled “Like the Light of Liberty”: Art, Music, and Politics at the 1897 Tennessee State Fair,” appears in the winter 2020 volume of the Journal of the American Musicological Society. She has also published in the journals Eighteenth-Century MusicMusic in Art, and Popular Music. She is currently working on a book project titled Race and Representation in Baroque Opera and is project director of a new collaborative research-driven curriculum laboratory titled Creating Real Change, supported by Indiana University’s Racial Justice Research Fund. She serves on the board of directors for the American Handel Society; the editorial board of the Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment; and is the incoming Vice President for the Society of Seventeenth Century Music.

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact Peter Silberman at or (607) 274-1496. We ask that requests for accommodations be made as soon as possible.