Making Opera Work: Bricolage and the Management of Dramaturgy


  • Paul Atkinson Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University


opera, performance, sociology of work


Based on an ethnographic study of an international opera company, the paper reports a number of aspects of preparation, rehearsal and performance. It documents the creation of operatic productions as everyday, mundane work. Two themes are presented. First is the theme of bricolage. Starting from the concrete bricolage of creating artefacts in the ‘props’ department, the paper extends the metaphor to capture the dramaturgical work whereby cultural bric-à-brac is assembled in the process of creating an opera production through the rehearsal period. Second, this leads to a specific consideration of how vocabularies of motive are invoked by directors and performers in order to make sense of the narratives and characters of the opera. Motivational interpretation is shown to be a form of cultural bricolage itself.

Author Biography

Paul Atkinson, Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University

Pem>Co-Director of the ESRC Research Centre on Social and Economic Aspects of Genomics, Sociology of Cultural Production