Lectures & Conferences

Engraved & etched image of a knight with a young woman behind him on a rearing horse fleeing a hose of skeletons reaching out to pursue them

The 26th Lewis Walpole Library Lecture

Music on the Dark Side of 1800: Listening to the Blind Virtuosa, Mademoiselle Paradis

Thursday, March 28, 2024

5:30 pm

Yale University Art Gallery, 1111 Chapel St, New Haven, CT 06510

will be delivered by Annette RichardsGiven Foundation Professor in the Humanities and University Organist, Cornell University

In concerts across Europe in the 1780s, the young Viennese virtuosa Maria Theresia Paradis made blindness visible, even audible. Her performances invited listeners and viewers primed by horror ballads and literary romance to experience her story of trauma and misfortune within the frame of fictional narratives of doomed innocence and victimized Gothic heroines. Yet her outspoken views on blindness, informed by her own experience and contemporary philosophical discourse (by Diderot, Condillac, and Herder, among many others) explicitly resisted the language of victimization, even as she sold pity for profit. This lecture brings to sounding life the Paridisian contradiction between performing disability for money and resisting pity. It asks what 18th-century music culture can tell us about contemporary views on blindness and explores the ways the public performances of a young female virtuoso simultaneously embraced and critiqued a culture of gawking spectatorship, freak show aesthetics, and the ethics and economics of pity. How did this Gothic musical heroine capture the public imagination, and what does she reveal about how music looked and sounded on the dark side of 1800?

Color headshot of Annette Richards, a woman with short blond hair looking toward the right, a slight smile and raised eyebrows

Annette Richards is Professor of Music and University Organist at Cornell, and the Executive Director of the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies. She is a performer and scholar with a specialty in 18th-century music and aesthetics, and interdisciplinary research into music, literature and visual culture.

Dr. Richards was educated at Oxford University, (BA, MA) Stanford University (PhD) and the Sweelinck Conservatorium Amsterdam (Performer’s Diploma, Uitvoerend Musicus).
At Cornell Prof. Richards teaches courses on eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century music aesthetics and criticism; intersections between music and visual culture; music and the uncanny; the undergraduate history survey; the organ, culture and technology; as well as organ performance.


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