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

The Ithaca Music Forum will present Dr. Ayana Smith, associate professor of musicology at Indiana University, who will give a talk via Zoom entitled "Fake News and False Images:  Sight, Sound, and Credibility in Handel's Operas."  This talk will take place on Friday, March 26, at 5 pm and is free and open to the public.  The Zoom registration link appears below or contact psilberman@ithaca.edu.

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.

Dr. Smith 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.

Dial-In Information

Zoom registration link

Friday, March 26, 2021 at 5:00pm to 6:30pm

Virtual Event

Individuals who would like to request accessibility accommodations should contact psilberman@ithaca.edu. We ask that requests be made as soon as possible to ensure they can be met.

Event Type



Music, STEM


School of Music





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Peter Silberman

Peter Silberman posted a photo 3/18/2021