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Faculty of Music

Dr Benjamin   Walton


Professor of Music History
Director of Studies, Jesus College
Degree Committee Secretary


As a student, I studied at the universities of Cambridge (BA) and Sussex (MA), before moving to the University of California, Berkeley for my doctoral research, where I completed a dissertation on musical culture in Paris during the 1820s, supervised by Mary Ann Smart. After Berkeley, I held the Kathleen Bourne Junior Research Fellowship at St Anne’s College, Oxford, and then took up a lectureship in Music at the University of Bristol. I joined the Faculty at Cambridge in 2006.

My research interests centre on the social and cultural history of music during the nineteenth century.  My recent work has focused on operatic globalization, with an emphasis on touring opera troupes beyond Europe in the first half of the nineteenth century, on the reception of Gioachino Rossini and Vincenzo Bellini, on the historiography of nineteenth-century music, on the intersections of opera and science in the nineteenth century, and on technologies of operatic staging.

My first monograph, Rossini in Restoration Paris: The Sound of Modern Life was published by Cambridge University Press in 2007, and I have edited three essay collections: The Invention of Beethoven and Rossini (CUP 2013, with Nicholas Mathew), Nineteenth-Century Opera and the Scientific Imagination (CUP 2019, with David Trippett), and Gioachino Rossini, 1868-2018: la musica e il mondo (Fondazione Rossini, 2019, with Ilaria Narici, Emilio Sala and Emanuele Senici).  From 2013-2018 I served as editor of Cambridge Opera Journal, with Stefanie Tcharos.

Recent and current PhD students have worked on a variety of topics: opera in Milan during the 1860s (Carlos del Cueto), music in French New Wave cinema (Denice McMahon), musical culture in Berlin around 1800 (Katherine Hambridge), cultural transfer of European music in Chile, Peru and Bolivia in the first half of the nineteenth century (José Manuel Izquierdo König), ideas of nationalism and pan-Americanism in early 20th-century Latin American opera (Vera Wolkowicz), French opera in New Orleans during the 1830s, '40s and '50s (Charlotte Bentley), Italian opera in Milan, Buenos Aires and New York in the decades around 1900 (Ditlev Rindom), Charles Garland Verrinder and nineteenth-century synagogue music in Britain (Danielle Padley), the singer and composer Manuel García in Mexico during the 1820s (Francesco Milella), music and society in late eighteenth-century Jamaica (Wayne Weaver), material histories of operatic props (Shadi Seifouri) and opera in Naples during the 1860s and 1870s (Terence Sinclair).


Globalization of opera
Social and cultural histories of nineteenth-century opera
History of operatic staging and opera house technologies
Historiography of nineteenth-century music


Key publications: 


Rossini in Restoration Paris: The Sound of Modern Life (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

The Invention of Beethoven and Rossini, co-edited with Nicholas Mathew (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Rossini, 1868-2018: la musica e il mondo, co-edited with Ilaria Narici, Emilio Sala and Emanuele Senici (Fondazione Rossini, 2019)

Nineteenth-Century Opera and the Scientific Imagination, co-edited with David Trippett (Cambridge University Press, 2019)

Academic Articles and Book Chapters

The Professional Dilettante: Ludovic Vitet and Le Globe, in Roger Parker and Mary Ann Smart, Reading Critics Reading: Opera and Ballet Criticism in France from the Revolution to 1848, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 69-85.

“‘Quelque peu théâtral’: The Operatic Coronation of Charles X”, 19th-Century Music 26/1 (Summer 2002), 3-22.

“Looking for the Revolution in Rossini’s Guillaume Tell“,Cambridge Opera Journal 15/2 (July 2003), 127-51.
[Winner of the 2004 Royal Musical Association Jerome Roche Prize "for a distinguished article by a scholar in the early stages of his or her career".]

“Rossini and France”, in Emanuele Senici, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Rossini, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 25-36.

“Romantic Opera”, in Michael Ferber, A Companion to European Romanticism (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), 522-37.

Introduction, annotation and edition of Joseph d’Ortigue, ‘Frantz Liszt’ for Christopher H. Gibbs and Dana Gooley, eds., Liszt and His World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), 303-34.

Rara avis or fozy turnip: Rossini as Celebrity in 1820s London’, in Tom Mole, ed., Romanticism and Celebrity Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

‘Rossini in Sudamerica’, Bollettino del Centro Rossiniano di Studi 51 (2011), 111-36; also in English as 'Rossini in South America', Tonkunst (October 2018), 364-80.

‘Italian Operatic Fantasies in Latin America’, Journal of Modern Italian Studies 17/4 (2012), 460–471; also in Portuguese as ‘Fantasias operísticas italianas na América Latina’, Atualidade da Ópera, Série Simpósio Internacional de Musicologia da UFRJ, ed. Maria Alice Volpe (Rio de Janeiro, 2012).

'L'italiana in Calcutta', in Operatic Geographies, ed. Suzanne Aspden (Chicago, 2018), 119-32.

'Introduzione', with Ilaria Narici, Emilio Sala and Emanuele Senici, Rossini, 1868-2018: La musica e il mondo (Pesaro, 2018).

'The Laboratory and the Stage', with David Trippett, in Nineteenth-Century Opera and the Scientific Imagination (Cambridge, 2019)

'Technological Phantoms of the Opéra', in Nineteenth-Century Opera and the Scientific Imagination (Cambridge, 2019).

'Canons of Real and Imagined Opera: Buenos Aires and Montevideo, 1810-1860', in Oxford Handbook of the Operatic Canon, ed. Cormac Newark and William Weber (Oxford, 2020).

'Escasez y abundancia en la historiografía operística del Río de la Plata', Revista Argentina de Musicología 21/1 (2020), 33-49.

'Operatic Encounters in a Time of War', Journal of War and Culture Studies 14/2 (2021), 211-29 (

'Epilogue', in Italian Opera in Global and Transnational Perspective: Reimagining italianità in the Long Nineteenth Century, ed. Axel Körner and Paulo M. Kühl (Cambridge University Press, 2022), 298-303.

'Society: Unthinking Musical History', in A Cultural History of Western Music in the Industrial Age, ed. Alex Rehding and Naomi Waltham-Smith (Bloomsbury, 2023), 29-50.

'Listening Through the Operatic Voice in 1820s Rio de Janeiro', in Acoustics of Empire: Sound, Power, and Media in the Long Nineteenth Century (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2024)

Articles for CDs

The Creation of La straniera’, Bellini, La straniera, Opera Rara ORC38 (2008)

The Sound of the Pirate’s Voice’, Bellini, Il pirata, Opera Rara ORC45 (2011)

'Bellini's First Opera', Bellini, Adelson e Salvini, Opera Rara ORC56 (2016)

'Semiramide in the Present Tense', Rossini, Semiramide, Opera Rara ORC57 (2018)

Reviews and Review Articles

in British Journal of Aesthetics19th-Century Music ReviewCambridge Opera Journal and Journal of the American Musicological Society.

Other Work

Dictionary entries for  New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and New Oxford Companion to Music.

Programme notes for the Royal Opera House, Edinburgh International Festival, Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona, Wexford Festival, Opera Rara etc.

Pre-concert talks and study days for Glyndebourne Opera, Edinburgh Festival, Opera Rara, South Bank Centre, BBC Proms etc.

Reviews for Opera magazine, etc.

Contributions to The Real History of Opera, BBC Radio 4 and Chopin: The Women Behind the Music, BBC4, 'Building a Library' on Record Review, BBC Radio 3, etc.

Teaching and Supervisions


Recent courses taught include a first-year course on music historiography, a second-year course on Schubert's Winterreise, a third-year course entitled 'After Napoleon: Music and Modernity in the 1820s', and MPhil courses on approaches to music history and on operatic globalisation.

Contact Details

Jesus College, Jesus Lane